What do you know about the electricity supply in your home? Chances are the answer is: not a lot. As long as it’s working just fine, you probably don’t give the subject a lot of thought.
But that could be a shortsighted approach – because when things do go wrong, it could result in injury or damage, or just sheer misery, all of which could be costly to put right. For instance, did you know that electrical problems account for around 60,000 home fires in North America every year? Or, that homes in the US built before 1973 are at greater risk of fire because they were built before many of the appliances and devices we use today were around.
According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (EFSI), a third of US homes were built before hair-dryers or electric can openers were invented!
There are literally scores of electrical safety checks you could do in your home. Here are some of the key ones:
- Check light bulb wattages to ensure they’re not too high.
- Check all lamp and extension cords for condition and location. Are they worn? Could they trip up someone?
- Check all counter top appliances, ensuring cords are away from hot surfaces and water. Do you hear any crackling or sizzling?
- Check major appliances in the kitchen and laundry rooms for overheating, poor balancing or vibration. Have you ever received even a mild shock from one?
- Check for placement and correct functioning of smoke alarms. See our March issue for more on this. Bottom line – alarms are cheap so better to have too many than too few.
- Check for tamper-resistant power outlets to protect children and pets.
- Make sure portable heaters are stable and correctly positioned away from flammable materials.
- Check ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) on power outlets, which, as a minimum, should be located in kitchens and bathrooms.
- Keep small electrical items, like hairdryers, clear of water in bathrooms. They can cause a shock even when switched off.
- Some of the potential hazards outlined here are beyond the scope of a homeowner to repair – incidence of shocks or crackling sounds for example. That’s when it’s time to call in a licensed electrician to identify and repair the cause. Don’t take chances on this – there’s too much at risk.
To learn more and access lots of useful material for getting to know and understand the power supply in your home, visit www.esfi.org.