Using Electricity Safely and Efficiently
Each May, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) sponsors National Electrical Safety
Month to increase public awareness of electrical hazards around us. Check the following areas:
The Heart of the Home
The kitchen is where families gather to cook favorite
recipes, share meals and reconnect. It also is where
two-thirds of home fires start.
• Keep your stove, oven and exhaust hood clean.
Keep the cooking area around the stove/oven clear of
combustibles, such as towels, napkins and pot hold-ers, and keep appliance cords away from hot surfaces.
• Plug counter top appliances into GFCI-pro-tected outlets and unplug them when not in use.
• Keep all appliances away from the sink. Do not
use electrical appliances that have been wet. Water
can damage the motors in electrical appliances.
• Make sure there is room behind the refrigerator for air to circulate. Vacuum refrigerator coils.
• Even a slight shock from an appliance can indicate a hazardous wiring condition. Turn the power to
the appliance off at the circuit breaker. Do not touch
it until it has been checked by a licensed electrician.
Plug Into Safety in Your Family Room
The family room is where many people go to unwind
and relax, but a lot of appliances are powered there.
According to the Consumer Electronics Association,
the average home has three televisions, two DVD
players, at least one digital camera, one desktop computer and two cell phones. Many homes and their
electrical systems were built before most modern-day
home electronics and appliances were invented.
• Make sure electronics and computer equipment
have plenty of space around them for ventilation.
• Examine extension cords before each use.
Replace cracked or damaged cords. Do not place
extension cords in high traffic areas, under carpets
or across walkways. Extension cords are for temporary use, not as a permanent power supply.
• Use a surge protector to protect your computer
and other electronics from voltage changes. Look for
surge protectors with cable and phone jacks to protect your phone, computer modem and television.
• Heavy reliance on power strips is an indication
you have too few outlets to meet your needs. Have
additional outlets installed by a licensed electrician.
• Keep liquids, including drinks, away from electrical items such as televisions and computers.
Wake Up to Safety in the Bedroom
The average adult spends one-third of every day
in the bedroom. We are vulnerable while asleep.
Thirty-six percent of people killed in home fires
never wake up.
• Before installing a portable air conditioner, make
sure the electrical circuit and the outlet can handle
the load. Large window units should have their own
electrical circuit so the system is not overloaded.
Clean the unit at the beginning of every season.
• Check ceiling fans for a wobble, which will
wear out the motor. To fix the wobble, turn off
power to the ceiling fan and tighten the screws.
• Replace any lamp whose cord is damaged or
cracked. Use the correct bulb wattage in fixtures.
Bulbs with wattages too high for the fixture can
overheat and start a fire. Always turn lamps off
when you leave the room for an extended time.
• Unplug battery chargers or power adapters
when equipment is fully charged. Use the proper
charger for the size and type of battery you have.
Build a Foundation of Safety in the Basement
The basement is where some of your most essential—and expensive—home electrical equipment is
kept. Heating equipment and electrical distribution
systems are two of the leading causes of home fires.
• Check inside your electrical service panel to
see when your system was last inspected.
• Be sure circuit breakers and fuses are correctly
labeled with their amperage and the rooms, circuits
or outlets they service. Use correct size and current
rating for breakers/fuses. Consider replacing standard circuit breakers with AFCI breakers.
• Have your furnace cleaned and inspected
annually by a licensed professional.
• Make sure all fuel-burning equipment is vented
to the outside. Install carbon monoxide alarms on
each level and outside each sleeping area.
• Clean the dryer lint filter after each load.
Check periodically for excessive vibration or movement when the washing machine or dryer is operating, which can stress electrical connections. n
Maintaining a Safe Home
to check for
Vacuum your refrigerator coils every three
months to eliminate
dirt buildup, which
reduces efficiency and
creates fire hazards.
Photo by Megan McKoy-Noe