As a homeowner, you know that electrical problems can be catastrophic. In 2011 alone, almost 50,000 homes suffered structural damage from electrical fires. These fires resulted in over a billion dollars in damages and over 400 deaths. Not all electrical issues can be avoided, but you can protect yourself and your home by looking for the most common electrical hazards. Here are common electrical hazards you’ll find in a home:
Extension cords are incredibly useful, but they’re often overused. Extension cords are not meant for permanent use, so use them sparingly. They’re not intended for a heavy load, so never use them for multiple devices or heavy-duty appliances. Avoid using an extension cord that’s been dormant for several years, as they can become hazardous. Make sure to use extension cords specifically for outdoor use when appropriate, even if it’s for a couple of hours. Extension cords should never be ran through a wall or under a surface, as it can be a potential fire hazard.
Frayed or Outdated Wiring
Electrical wiring can last 20-30 years, but older wiring probably isn’t able to properly handle modern appliances and electronics. You should have your home’s wiring inspected once every three or four years to make sure the outlets and wiring are fine. The older your electrical system is, the more often you should consider an inspection.
Your home’s electrical system isn’t the only hazard in your home. Your appliances and electronic equipment can pose one, too. If the wiring inside them is frayed or worn down, it can short out electrical outlets and cause fires.
Unsafe Light Bulbs
It’s easy to accidentally purchase the wrong light bulb for your lamp. You might even purposely purchase a light bulb with higher than recommended wattage to lighten up your room. This is extremely dangerous because the lamp simply isn’t made to handle a more powerful bulb. As a result, it puts you at serious risk for an electrical fire. Additionally, fluorescent lights contain mercury and can be hazardous if broken or cracked.
Overloaded Power Strips
Power strips are handy, but keep in mind that your home’s outlets are designed to handle a specific amount of electricity. If you use a power strip to plug in a ton of things at once, it might be too much for your home to handle, even if you have a surge protector. Avoid “daisy-chaining,” or plugging in surge protectors with another surge protector. Similar to extension cords, don’t cover them when in use to avoid overheating. Use a power strip that has a circuit breaker, and always inspect it for degradation or damage.