Electricity plays many roles in our lives, from powering baby monitors, cell phones and lighting, to running HVAC systems and appliances. No wonder we get so comfortable with its instant availability that when we flip a switch, we expect most systems or devices to do the job.
With some cold evenings still ahead before spring, some members may opt to use a space heater to chase the chill. But before you plug-in that heater and snuggle under the electric blanket for one more warm winter’s nap, take the time to look around your home and check for potential safety hazards.
Remember, every electrical device has a purpose and a service lifespan. While we can extend the use of our favorite gadgets with maintenance and care, nothing will last or work properly forever. When electricity is involved, failures can present electrical hazards that might be avoided with a periodic inspection.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters
Outdoor outlets or those in potentially damp locations in a kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room often include GFCI features. They're designed to sense abnormal current flows, breaking the circuit to prevent potential electric shocks from devices plugged into the outlets.
The average GFCI outlet will last about ten years, but in areas prone to electrical storms or power surges, they can wear out in five years or less. Check them frequently by pressing the red test button. Make sure you hit the black reset button when finished. Contact a licensed electrician to replace any failing GFCI outlets.
Loose or Damaged Outlets or Switches
Unstable electrical outlets or wall switches with signs of heat damage or discoloration can offer early warnings of potential shock or electrical fire hazards. Loose connections can allow electrical current arcing. If you see these warning signs, it may be time to contact an electrician.
Power strips with surge protectors can help safeguard expensive equipment like televisions, home entertainment systems, and computer components from power spikes. Voltage spikes are measured in joules, and surge protectors are rated for the number of joules they can effectively absorb. That means if your surge protector is rated at 1,000 joules, it should be replaced when it hits or passes that limit. When the limit is reached, protection stops, and you’re left with a basic power strip.
Some surge protectors include indicator lights that flicker to warn you when they’ve stopped working as designed, but many do not. If your electrical system takes a significant hit, or if you don’t remember when you bought your surge protector, replacement may be the best option.
If you use extension cords regularly to connect devices and equipment to your wall outlets, you may live in an underwired home. With a growing number of electrical devices connecting your family to the electricity, you get from Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, having enough outlets in just the right spots can be challenging. Remember, extension cords are designed for temporary, occasional, or periodic use. Never use an extension cord or power strip for a space heater. If an extension cord or power strip gets noticeably warm when in use, it could be undersized for the intended purpose, and the power strip could melt.
If the cord shows any signs of frayed, cracked, or heat-damaged insulation, toss it out and replace it. If the grounding prong is missing, crimped, or loose, a grounded cord will not provide the protection designed into its performance. And always make sure that extension cords used in outdoor or potentially damp locations are rated for exterior use.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 51,000 electrical fires are reported each year in the United States, causing more than $1.3 billion in annual property damage.
Electricity is a necessity for modern living, and UCEMC is committed to providing safe, reliable, and affordable power to all of our members. We hope you’ll keep these electrical safety tips in mind so that you can note any potential hazards before damage occurs.