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Avoiding Electrical Hazards at Home

By Melissa Viteri

Electricity is something we all need and use every day. Under normal circumstances, electricity is safe and efficient. There are many situations, however, where preventable accidents can easily be avoided. Here are a few tips to make sure your home is free from electrical hazards:

  • Have a home safety inspection. A certified electrician will look for safety hazards and offer energy-saving advice within your home. This should include checking the condition and operation of switches and outlets, as well as examining proper function and labeling of the electric panel box. Regular maintenance of your home’s electrical system will provide a safe living environment and peace of mind.
  • Next, consider using tamper-resistant outlets. These outlets use a spring-loaded shutter system to prevent accidental electrocution. The outlet does not produce an electrical current unless both openings are simultaneously plugged into. Meaning, if your toddler inserts a paper clip into one of the holes of the outlet, it will not activate. Using Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GCFI) outlets could save 200 lives annually in the U.S.
  • Extension cords should be used on a temporary basis only. Use UL listed power cords only, as these have been tested for all foreseeable safety hazards. Cords that are worn or damaged should never be used, as just one exposed wire can cause electric shock or burn. Remember that each power cord has a wattage rating. If the appliance you are plugging into has a higher wattage than the cord can handle, this can cause a fire.
  • The most common reason for your panel box to trip a circuit breaker is an overloaded circuit. That is, if you have more current running to that specific breaker than its capacity, it will break the connection. If this is a recurring problem in your home, you are at risk. A few other, more serious reasons this may occur include a short circuit or ground fault. Both of these need immediate attention from an educated and experienced electrician.
  • When it comes to appliances, use your senses. If you touch an appliance and receive a tingling sensation, this is mild electric shock and shouldn’t be ignored. Visually look for darkening or discoloring of the outlet to which the appliance is plugged. This could be a sign of burning from behind the wall. A sizzling or popping sound coming from an outlet is cause for concern as well. The smell of burning rubber requires immediate attention.

DIY or hire a pro? First, be certain that you are legally allowed to do the work yourself. The state of Virginia does have some exceptions that must be done by a licensed electrician. Now double-check the fine print of your homeowner’s insurance policy. Many policies will not cover fire or damage caused from work done by the homeowner and not a licensed electrician. Finally, your safety is most important. Electrical work is probably the most dangerous DIY project you can attempt. Hiring a professional could save your life!

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, more than 26,000 fires and over $1 billion in property losses are caused each year by electrical problems. Most of these fires are easily prevented with proper planning and maintenance. By using these tips you will ensure the electrical safety of your home and family.

Melissa Viteri is Marketing Director with Beacon Electrical. For more information, visit BeaconElectricalServices.com or call 703-367-0900.

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