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Electrical Safety 101

Electricity gives us the ability to light, heat, and cool our homes. It allows us to store and cook our food, charge our phones, and so much more.

As many of us know from times when the power has gone out, it requires major adjustments to our normal routines to live even a few hours without it.

Because electricity is such a fundamental aspect of our daily lives, however, it’s easy to forget how dangerous it can be. Unfortunately, it’s responsible for thousands of injuries and even a few hundred fatalities each year among both electrical workers and residents.

That’s why it’s crucial to get acquainted with basic electrical safety, so you can protect yourself and your family from hazardous run-ins with the electrical systems in your home.

Common residential electrical hazards

Before we dive into how to protect yourself and your family from electrical hazards, it’s important to be aware of how they commonly come about. In a typical residential home, electrocution and electrical fires can happen if you’re not conscientious and vigilant about how electricity is used in your space. These can happen due to any number of different causes, including:

  • Short circuits in power cords due to wear or damage
  • Overheating of overloaded outlets
  • Faulty outlets
  • Worn-out wiring
  • Water exposure

To help avoid electrical injuries or property damage from any of the above, let’s talk about some basic electrical safety tips you can implement in your home. Getting familiar with these can help protect you and your family on a daily basis.

Electrical safety tips

You probably don’t give it much thought, but you and your family interact with electricity multiple times a day, every day.

While residential electrical systems are set up for the safety of the residents, that doesn’t mean accidents can’t still happen. Read on for the most important tips and guidelines you need to know when it comes to avoiding electrical injuries.

Inspect cords regularly

Most every home contains dozens or more appliances with electrical cords. From coffee pots to TVs, many of the items we use every day connect to power sources via a cord.

However, many people don’t consider electrical cord safety when it comes to these types of appliances. Damaged cords can easily become dangerous hazards in your home.

That’s why you should inspect them regularly to make sure they’re in good shape. If you notice any type of damage, fraying, or exposed wires, stop using the appliance immediately and either get it repaired by an expert or replace it.

You should also make sure to take good care of power cords to avoid this type of hazardous damage. Don’t run cords in a place where they might be walked on or tripped over, for example.

Avoid setting furniture on top of power cords. Keep cords out of direct sunlight, and out of reach of small children and pets. Damage to cords from any of these sources can result in short circuiting or fires.

Don’t mix water and electricity

This tip is common knowledge for most adults, but it’s worth reiterating (and important to teach to children, too).

Electricity and wet conditions don’t mix, and the results of doing so can be disastrous. Since water is an excellent conductor of electrical currents, water that you and electricity are both in contact with can conduct the electricity directly to your body. To avoid sustaining electric shocks this way, keep all objects that use power well away from water.

There are some cases, however, when it’s necessary or simply convenient to have appliances near water. Think of a hair dryer near a bathroom sink, for example. To keep yourself and your family safe from potential electric shock in cases like these, the electrical outlets in areas that might be exposed to water (bathrooms, kitchens, poolside) should be equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).

GFCIs are a special type of outlet that’s designed to cut power immediately if exposed to water. Although it’s still a good idea to keep water away from these outlets, they can potentially save your life if accidental contact does occur.

Take care when using extension cords

Extension cords are useful tools for when there’s no outlet near the item you need to plug in. However, there’s a lot that many people get wrong about extension cords, and this lack of knowledge can end up causing injuries.

First, make sure you’re using the right cord for the right situation. Each extension cord is designed to handle a certain amount of power, so don’t choose one with too low a voltage capacity for high voltage appliances. Also, if you’re using extension cords outside, make sure they’re designed for outdoor use. Otherwise, they’ll be more prone to damage which can cause fires or electrocution.

Additionally, just like with the power cords on your appliances, you should take care to protect your extension cords and keep them in good condition. Don’t store them outside where sun and rain can weather and damage them. Don’t put them in a place where they’ll be regularly walked over, or flattened by heavy furniture. Avoid situations that might cause tears or punctures in the cord, like stapling.

Lastly, don’t use extension cords as permanent power sources. They’re meant for short-term use for specific activities, after which they should be properly stored away until next time. They’re not made for regular, long-term wear and tear, and using them this way can increase the likelihood of dangerous damage.

Check fixture wattage

Whenever you’ve purchased light bulbs, you’ve surely noticed all the different wattages in which they’re available. Although bulbs of different wattages often look exactly the same, they’re each designed to be compatible with certain types of fixtures only. If you fail to match up your bulb with your fixture’s wattage, you’ll have a fire hazard on your hands.

Most lamps and other light fixtures will list the type of bulb they’re compatible with right on the fixture. In this case, only use the type of bulb listed there. If none is listed, your safest bet is to use a 60-watt bulb to avoid the chance of dangerous consequences.

One more thing to note: Older lamps and light fixtures tend to be less energy efficient and use bulbs with higher wattage, if the proper wattage is listed on them at all. If many of your fixtures are dated, it might be time to consider replacing them.

If you’re looking to upgrade your lighting, give us a call! At Burnett Electric, we specialize in track lighting, LED retrofits, exterior lighting, recessed lighting, and custom lighting packages.

Hire a professional

It’s important to keep all of the tips we’ve covered here in mind, and make sure those you live with are aware of them too.

However, the best way to practice electrical safety is to call a reputable, qualified electrician. If you live in Northern Nevada, that’s Burnett Electric!

Our electricians are highly trained experts who know everything about residential electric safety and safe work practices. Call us at (775) 857-5229 today! We’d be happy to help with all of your residential electrical needs, from wiring upgrades to GFCI installation and more.

Trying to do electrical work without the proper qualifications can be highly dangerous—and that’s where our team comes in.

Our priority is to make sure your home is outfitted with the right electrical system so you and your family can be comfortable and safe at home. Contact us today to learn more about how our experienced electricians can help you with whatever electrical safety questions you have or electrical projects you need done in your home.