Home electrical hazards are amongst the leading causes of fire. It results in more than one billion in property damage annually.
Worse, it is also responsible for tens of thousands of injuries, and even deaths. As a responsible homeowner, it is crucial to identify the most dangerous home electrical hazards, and more importantly, what you can do to avoid them.
A proactive approach is essential in minimizing risks from home electrical hazards. Prevention is better than cure, so you should act early before a problem is apparent. It requires a long-term and continuous approach, not just a one-time fix. Keep on reading and learn more from the insights we’ll be sharing in this short post.
Minimizing risks from home electrical hazards
1. Poor Wiring
One of the leading causes of electrical accidents at home, including deadly fire, is poor wiring. It is the main reason for residential fires. Poor wiring does not only mean improper wire installation. Instead, it also means having outdated wires. Old wires are less effective in transmitting current and also a significant safety hazard, especially when they are near potential fire sources. If there are cracks and corrosion, take this as a sign that the wire can be an electrical hazard. Not to mention, poor wiring will limit the functionality of the appliances, resulting in a dismal performance.
What to Do
One of the best things to do is to pick the right type and size of the wire. Consider the amount of current from a circuit to identify the wire that you should be using. The insulation of the wire is also an important consideration, which will protect against a high voltage. Aside from picking the right wire, make sure that they are in excellent condition. A careful inspection is warranted at least once a year, especially of the exposed wires. Look for signs of damage and act immediately. There can be rodent activity and other indications of wear. Do not wait for the problem to worsen. Change the wires immediately with the help of a qualified electrician.
2. Wrong Outlet Placement
Another main reason for electric home hazards is the wrong outlet placement. It is a decision that requires thorough thought. You must consult an electrician when determining the right outlet position. This is especially important in the kitchen and bathroom, among other places where there is water and moisture. The wrong outlet location can result in electric shock and fire. There should be enough clearance and proper spacing. So, when putting outlets at home, do not just prioritize what is convenient. Instead, you should also think of what is safe.
What to Do
The most important is to be familiar with the building code. This will depend on the laws where you live. Look at the regulations and consult with the experts. As mentioned earlier, you need to work with an electrician who knows better. In general areas, such as the living room, the outlets should be spaced at least 12 feet apart. In the bathroom, on the other hand, the outlet must be three feet from the outside edge of the sink basin.
If possible, you should install the outlet above the sink, which will make it less prone to getting wet. Meanwhile, the outlets in the kitchen should be three feet apart. The countertop should be at least two feet from the receptacle. It is also important to not used plugged devices when you are in the water, such as in a bathtub or shower. As a rule of thumb, keep the receptacle away from any flammable object or any potential source of fire and electric shock.
3. Old and Damaged Appliances
We know how expensive appliances can be, especially the big ones. Understandably, a lot of people try to save money by not replacing their appliances often. While such is a good thing to do if you have a tight budget, this may not always be a good idea. While your intention is to save money, when the appliances are too old, they can be inefficient, and worse, can be potential electrical hazards. Their wires and other components may no longer be working properly, and hence, can start an unfortunate incident. They have loose and frayed wires, which can easily catch fire.
What to Do
Pay attention to the appliances at home. In some cases, you might not need to replace the appliance itself, but you should change the wires. Watch out for the most common signs that it warrants a replacement. If it makes a strange sound or if it heats quickly, then this can be an indication that there are electrical problems. Watch out for the performance of the appliances. If they do not function as expected, then it can be another sign that there is a problem. Have the appliance checked by a competent electrician immediately before it catches fire. It is cheaper to replace or repair the appliance compared to dealing with the cost of fire.
4. Improper Use of Extension Cords
According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, more than 3,300 home fires annually are caused by extension cords. It results in 50 deaths and 270 injuries. The most common cause of the problem is overheating due to overloading. When this happens, fire can start. It is also a result of using poor-quality extension cords, especially those with wires that are not thick enough to handle the load of the appliances that are plugged. Over time, extension cords are prone to damage because they are exposed, which can also affect their performance and safety.
What to Do
To prevent electrical hazards caused by extension cords, one of the most important is to pick the right product. The options are plenty, but this does not mean that they will all work for your needs. Be a responsible buyer and look at the technical specifications, making sure that they match your power requirements. It should be properly rated for its intended application, such as whether you will use it indoors or outdoors. Be familiar with the designations to find one most suitable for your needs. O is for oil-resistant while W is for outdoor use. Also, make sure to do not plug one extension cord into another extension cord. Use only an extension cord with approval from independent testing laboratories, which means that it passed stringent quality testing. If you are using an extension cord outdoors, plug it into a GFCI outlet.
5. Faulty Outlets
Worn out receptacles are also among the leading causes of home electrical hazards, especially fire. As the outlets get older, they become more dangerous. Most of the time, they might look good on the outside, but they are already faulty inside. This is dangerous because you have no idea that it is already a huge risk. The wires inside can crack and loosen, which can eventually start a fire. Outlet fires are common during the holidays when they are overloaded. Most outlets can run a maximum of 120 amps. When you use more than 80% of that, there is a higher risk of a ire.
What to Do
Inspect the outlets frequently. Watch out for signs of damages, such as cracks, holes, and dents. If there are missing or broken wall plates, replace them as soon as possible. Touch it lightly from the outside, but make sure that you do not poke your fingers directly on the hole. If it is too hot, this can be a sign of a problem. Also, put your ear near the outlet and listen for hissing or any unusual sound, which can also be an indication of a fault. It is also important that you use only the right plug that matches the outlet. One common mistake a lot of people commit is to remove the ground pin in a plug so that it will fit a two-prong socket. This can result in electrocution.
6. Misuse of Space Heater
A space heater is a lifesaver! It is a cheap way to heat a small space, making you more comfortable when the temperature is too cold to bear. It runs at up to 40,000 BTU, depending on the model chosen. While it is a convenient addition to any home, take note that it is also an electrical risk, especially when misused. In the United States, space heaters are known as the second most common cause of home fires and the third most common cause of home fire deaths. Without the proper safety features, your heating equipment can be a nightmare.
What to Do
Choose the right space heater. Pick one made by a reputable manufacturer. Check the safety certifications, making sure it has been inspected by a third-party. Read reviews from other users to guarantee the safety of the space heater you will choose. Inspect it frequently and watch out for signs of damage, such as wire cracks. Position the space heater at least three feet away from any material that can easily start a fire, such as paper and fabric. Plug the space heater directly into a suitable wall outlet. Do not use an extension cord. Position it on a level surface and keep it out of kids. Do not leave it unattended. When not used, unplug the appliance.
7. Defective Light Fixtures
Lighting is essential in a home. However, be careful as it is also a common source of electrical hazards. Incorrect use of home lighting, especially incandescent bulbs, can start a devastating fire. Brittle wiring is one of the reasons for this. When there is more heat than what the bulb can handle, the wires turn brittle and will eventually start a fire. This is more common when wires are near materials that can easily flame up. Those that are in enclosed fixtures are also at higher fire risk.
What to Do
Choose the right type of light. Do not choose a bulb with a wattage that is too high as it can start an electrical fire. Watch out for the label and pay attention to proper installation. Look for safety certifications, guaranteeing that the light has been thoroughly tested before it is released. Position the light bulb away from flammable materials, such as curtains, bedsheets, and upholstery, among others. If you are replacing a light bulb, turn off the switch first. Otherwise, there is a risk of electric shock.
8. Playful Children
By nature, children are playful and inquisitive. They move a lot, going to places where they should not be. At times, this also means playing with wires and outlets. One minute they are playing with you, and in a jiffy, they can already be near an electrical source playing with wires. When they accidentally touch wires and outlets, burns and shocks are common. Worse, it can even result in death. If the cord is too long, this can also strangle them.
What to Do
The best preventive measure is to keep an eye out. Watch children all the time and do not leave them on their own. Another easy fix is to add a safety plug cover. This will prevent kids from poking outlets and being accidentally electrocuted. Do not place appliances near water and other dangerous places where kids are often present. Avoid using extension cords as they have long wires that can strangle kids when they are playing unattended. Unplug appliances when they are not used. If kids are old enough, educate them about the possible electrical hazards and how to behave responsibly.
In sum, electrical hazards are present almost anywhere at home. They can be lurking in the most unexpected places. As a responsible homeowner, you should do a safety inspection at least once a year. It is also crucial to work with a licensed electrician if you need help with electrical repairs. From poor wiring to damaged outlets, this article quickly listed some of the things that warrant attention. Take note of our recommendations to minimize the electrical risks and make your home a safer place for the family.