Indoor Electric Safety

Warning: 

  • Portable heaters and burning candles that are left unattended, especially around children and pets, can create a fire hazard. 
  • Gasoline- or diesel-powered generators can produce deadly levels of carbon monoxide and should never be operated inside the home or garage. 

The following tips can help you avoid common electrical problems and prevent accidents in and around your home.

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Circuit breakers/fuses

Circuit breakers and fuses are safety devices. They cut off power to an electrical circuit if it becomes dangerously overloaded or if a short circuit occurs. Your breakers or fuses are located in a service panel in your basement, in your attached garage, or somewhere near your electric meter.

If you lose power to one of your house circuits:

1) Check the equipment on the circuit to determine what caused the interruption, such as:

  • A defective lamp or appliance
  • An overloaded motor
  • A faulty socket or fixture
  • A worn-out or frayed appliance cord or extension cord
  • Too many appliances or lamps on one outlet

2) Make sure your hands, and the floor you are standing on, are dry.

3) Push the breaker switch to the full OFF position, then back to ON. Or carefully replace the fuse.

If you cannot find the problem and the breaker or fuse keeps shutting off power, call an electrician.

Wiring

If your fuses blow or circuit breakers trip frequently, or appliances such as toasters or irons take a long time to heat up, or lights dim when other appliances are in use, you might need more power. A typical home today uses twice as much electricity as in the 1960s. As a result, your home's electrical system may need to be upgraded:

  • Single-family homes and apartments should have a service capacity of at least 100 amps, although 150 to 200 amps are better for running appliances at full efficiency. Old two-conductor circuits should be updated with safe, modern three-conductor wiring, too.
  • Use ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) breakers for outdoor circuits and for circuits used indoors around water, such as bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms. When the potential for an electrical shock exists, these highly sensitive, fast-acting devices shut off power to prevent injury.
  • Make sure your home's wiring complies with the National Electrical Code as well as state and local ordinances. Have electrical updates, additions, or modifications performed and checked by a qualified electrician.

Electric Cords

Treat electric lamp or appliance cords and extension cords with the same respect as house wiring:

  • Protect cords from damage. Do not place a cord where it's likely to be walked on. Avoid twisting, kinking, or crushing the cord.
  • Keep cords away from heat or water.
  • Never wrap a cord around a metal pipe or appliance.
  • Check cords occasionally for signs of wear or damage. Replace damaged cords promptly.
  • Avoid using extension cords whenever possible. But if needed, use the right size cord for the job. Do not exceed the cord's recommended rating.
  • Do not string a series of extension cords together.
  • When using power tools, use a heavy-duty cord. If working outdoors, make sure the cord is weather resistant.
  • Never use an extension cord as a permanent substitute for adequate, safe wiring.
  • Unplug a cord from a wall outlet when not in use. When unplugging a cord, pull on the plug not the cord.

Appliances

Review these tips to ensure safe operation of electrical appliances:

  • Make sure appliances are approved by Underwriters' Laboratories or another authorized laboratory.
  • Never operate an appliance while touching a metal object - especially plumbing - or while standing on a wet surface or while taking a bath or shower. Teach children not to touch appliances with wet hands.
  • Always locate appliances away from sinks and tubs in the kitchen or bathroom.
  • Never use a metal object such as a fork or knife to dislodge something from an appliance.
  • Keep motors clean and free from lint, dust, and dirt. Always unplug appliances before cleaning them.

Televisions and heat-producing appliances, such as toasters and irons, require special care:

  • Keep these appliances in proper working order and away from high-traffic areas.
  • Do not place these appliances near combustibles such as paper, drapes, or furniture.
  • Unplug these appliances and store them in a safe place when not in use.
  • Make sure heat-producing appliances are cool before putting them away.

Power tools

Here is how to ensure your safety while operating a power tool:

  • Read the tool's instructions, especially all safety precautions, before use.
  • Plug the cord into a three-hole outlet on a three-conductor circuit. This provides the added safety of the neutral-to-ground connection provided by the third wire.
  • Inspect the tool after each use. Keep it in good working order. Replace or repair worn or defective equipment immediately.
  • Keep the tool clean and store it in a dry place.
  • Never use a power tool around flammable liquids such as gasoline or solvents.
  • Keep the work area clean of sawdust, shavings, or anything else that could pose a fire hazard.

 

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Last Modified: July 19, 2017