When someone says the word “safety,” we usually think of defending ourselves against someone who means us harm. But as September and Realtor Safety Month, comes to a close, I think it’s important to think of safety inside the home, specifically electrical safety. According to The Electrical Safety Foundation International, the leading cause of home fires is due to electrical mishaps. Certain habits of homeowners may be putting their homes and themselves at risk.
It’s impossible to think of all the ways electricity has made our lives easier, and it’s something I can easily take for granted.
But there are still risks associated with electricity, no matter how familiar we are with it. A recent article from Apartment Therapy asked electricians to chime in with the most dangerous things they often see homeowners do that could be putting their home at risk, including:
Using adapters on two-prong outlets. “Three-prong outlets didn’t become standard in North American homes until the late 1960s, so while modern homes should be in good shape, there are plenty of homes out there with old two-prong outlets,” Mark Dawson, chief operating officer at Mister Sparky, told Apartment Therapy. Many new appliances use three prongs so owners may use an adapter to plug it in, but electricians warn against it. Instead, you should consider upgrading the outlet if you need to regularly use three-prong plugs.
Using loose electrical outlets. Electricians warn plugging in loose electrical outlets can lead to fires and be dangerous to others too. If the cord falls out easily, this means that the blades inside the outlet have become loose, and can now generate a lot of heat.
Using the wrong extension cords outside. Make sure the extension cord is rated for outdoor use. Otherwise, it could overheat and potentially cause a fire, electricians say. Check extension cords for letters on it. A “W” on it means it can be used outdoors; an “S” marked on the cord means its rated to be used only inside the home.
Overloading a circuit. Look for signs that you may be overloading the circuit, such as blinking or dimming lights, frequently tripped circuit breakers, discolored outlet covers, or even buzzing sounds near outlets. If you suspect an overloaded circuit, contact a licensed electrician to inquire about upgrading your panel.
Overlooking the importance of ground fault circuits. All outlets in the bathroom and kitchen should be equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters. These will shut off the power when they sense water near. That could be lifesaving in avoiding an electrical shock.
Safety should always a priority, but inside your own home is a great place to start.