15 Electrical Safety Tips You Can't Ignore
Electrical Safety in the Home
It’s easy to forget about electrical safety in the home. Most of us (hopefully) have never been shocked, so we don’t have a natural fear of electricity as we do of touching a pot of boiling water, for example.
As a result, we probably take many electrical safety risks in our daily lives. But being injured or killed by electricity, unfortunately, isn’t that difficult. After all, the human body, with all its water content, is an excellent conductor of electricity.
So, please, follow the electrical safety tips in this article to protect yourself and your family.
Electrical Safety Tips: Power Cords
Check for Damaged Electrical Cords
If any electrical cord you’re using has frays, cracks, or otherwise exposed wire, stop using it. The cord insulation must be intact to protect you from the electric current running inside. For example, if your phone charging cable is punctured or torn, replace it. Sure, you might have been using a damaged cord for a while without any problems, but your luck may run out eventually.
Keep Cords Away from Foot/Paw Traffic
Avoid having electrical cords running across hallways or other high-traffic areas. Not only do they pose a tripping hazard, but they’ll take abuse. Also, keep lines away from pets who will attempt to bite or chew on them, which can be dangerous.
Don’t Run Cords Under Carpeting
I get it. A mess of cords can look ugly, and as tempting as it may be to hide them under a carpet or piece of furniture, the carpeting may cause them to overheat and catch fire, which is obviously less preferable than having a mess of cords.
Keep Cords Straight
Sometimes cords bend. Extension cords are often long enough to create knots. Over time, the bending can damage the cord’s insulation and expose the wire. Bent cords can also overheat and cause a fire. That’s why you should always keep your cords as straight as possible. Even when storing cables, don’t wrap them up too tightly.
Don’t Overuse Extension Cords
Extension cords are handy for one-off applications, but if you’re regularly using them, that means your home lacks outlets. Overusing extension cords can cause excess wear and eventually lead to a safety hazard. You should also never plug multiple extension cords together as it can cause a meltdown.
Use Properly Rated Extension Cords
Not all extension cords work for every application. Each is rated for a wattage limit, and their rating is based on the cord’s gauge, or thickness, and length. Using an improper cord can cause overheating, electric shock, and fire. Cords are also rated for indoor and outdoor use. An indoor-rated cord used outdoors won’t be able to handle the elements and will easily become damaged.
Never Tug a Power Cord
If you regularly unplug a cord from its outlet by tugging on it instead of carefully pulling out the plug, you need to stop. Tugging on the cord causes damage over time, exposes wire, and could even pull the outlet off the wall. Always take the time to unplug it properly.
Electrical Safety Tips: Outlets/Circuits
Cover Outlets if Children Are Present
Children like to stick their fingers in things, including electrical outlets. In fact, 89% of all electrical outlet-related injuries occur in children under age 6, according to Indiana Electric Cooperatives. Parents should install plastic outlet caps or invest in tamper-resistant electrical outlets to protect their children from electric shock. It’s one of the most important electric safety tips for kids you should take away to protect what matters most.
Use GFCI Outlets Near Water
First, never use electrical items near water (i.e., no hair drying in the bathtub). Obviously, you’ll still need electrical outlets in the bathroom and kitchen, which is why you need a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) switch in those places. A GFCI switch will cut power to your blow dryer, electric shaver, etc. if you accidentally come into contact with water. That doesn’t mean you can be careless. Always use the electric appliance as far from water as possible. The GFCI switch is a last resort safety measure.
Don’t Overload a Circuit
Have you ever tried using your toaster, microwave, and blender at the same time only to blow out the fuse in your kitchen circuit? Each electrical circuit in your home is designed to handle a specific amount of current before overloading and shutting down. If you don’t have overload protection on your circuits, you could start a fire.
Check for Hot Outlets
If an electric switch or outlet in your home is hot to the touch, turn off its circuit and call your electrician. Hot wires/outlets are a potentially dangerous situation caused by an overloaded circuit, loose wiring, or damaged plugs.
Electrical Safety Tips: Appliances/Generators
Never Backfeed an Electric Generator
Electric backup generators are becoming more popular as increasingly powerful storms threaten our power systems. Unfortunately, some folks think it’s OK to plug a generator into a dryer outlet or other home outlet. It's called backfeeding and is dangerous and illegal in many places. Not only is backfeeding a fire hazard, but it can injure or kill a lineman who’s fixing a power line outside. You may find wise guys on the internet who claim to have a “safe” way to backfeed—do NOT listen to them.
Get an Automatic Standby Generator
Portable generators are great, but they require a bit of hands-on setup and maintenance. A permanently installed standby generator, on the other hand, automatically turns on and backs up your home when it detects a power outage. No cords are necessary because it powers your circuits. If you have small children in the house, it’s harder for them to tamper with a standby generator than with a corded portable generator. So, from an electrical safety tip standpoint, a standby is the better option.
Unplug Unused Appliances
Plugged in appliances still draw power even when you’re not using them. They are called “phantom loads” and may account for 20% of your electrical usage, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. From a safety standpoint, these forgotten cords could be damaged or become a fire risk, and you wouldn’t even know it. So, either unplug them or use a smart power strip that will automatically cut off their power supply.
Use the Right Wattage Bulbs
Changing a lightbulb is so common that you probably don’t even think about electrical safety when doing it. Obviously, you should never change a bulb when the light is still powered ON. Also, be careful to put in the right wattage bulb to handle the light. A mismatched bulb could cause overheating and a fire.
Besides these 15 basic home electric safety tips, each appliance you buy has its own set of safety instructions, which is why you should always read the owner’s manual. The manual will outline the necessary electrical safety procedures. Stay safe, everyone!