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How to Not Burn Your House Down

Posted on Monday, October 17 2011

Preventing Electrical Hazards in your Home or Business

Numerous electrical hazards exist in your home or business. Identifying these problems and following the tips on this page is a good way to prevent fires or electrocution.

1. Mind Your Extension Cords

Never run extension cords under carpet or through doorways — crushing extension cables can short wires together and cause an electrical fire. Additionally, an enclosed space such as under carpet traps heat and increases the risk of fire.

Never use extension cords in their “coiled” state — always unravel extension cords fully. This is to prevent fire as a result of heat generated from coiled cable. This is why it is important to use an extension cord that’s the correct length (your extension cord arsenal should not consist of a single cord).

Don’t go “overboard” with one extension cord. If you’re already running multiple lights or power tools and are thinking about plugging in your air compressor, think again. Extension cords are relatively inexpensive and it’s always safer to run a second cord (preferably to a separate outlet).

Extension cords are not meant to be a permanent installation. Many people think that if there isn’t an outlet near the area they need power, they can run an extension cord and leave it there for years. This is not good practice; extension cords are often worn and their conductors degraded. Having a licensed and insured electrician add a new outlet to your home is a quick and inexpensive alternative.

2. Replace Worn Electrical Outlets and Faceplates

If you have an outlet or two that have stopped working and you’ve reset your circuit breaker to no avail, it’s probably a good idea to have an electrician investigate. This could be an indicator of a problem that may result in damage to your electrical devices or a fire in your home or business. It’s better to play it safe.

Replace any outlet faceplates that are cracked or missing chunks. Faceplates are there not only to prevent your little ones from electrocuting themselves, but also to prevent dust and other particulates from collecting on your outlet’s electrical contacts.

3. Test All GFCI Outlets

These are the outlets in your kitchen or bathroom with the “Test” and “Reset” buttons. If you’ve never used the “Test” button, give it a shot. Plug anything into one of these outlets and hit the “Test” button. If the device does not turn off, it’s time to replace the GFCI outlet.

4. Check Light Fixtures

Light bulbs (especially incandescent/non-CFL bulbs) can generate quite a bit of heat. Check electrical fixtures around your home for particles and dust that have built up around bulbs. A commonly overlooked area is exterior lights that can collect leaves, going unnoticed for years.

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