Your home is your castle and keeping it safe also keeps you and your family safe. Many people take electricity for granted and many don't stop to think just how dangerous it can be or how to avoid such dangerous situations in the home. There are some things you can do to help keep your home safe from these dangers. Following a few simple guidelines can greatly reduce your chances of experiencing any such hazards.
- Avoid the use of extension cords
There never seems to be enough power outlets in the home to accommodate all of the appliances and gadgets that needs power to operate. This is where many people grab the extension cords as a solution to this problem. A better way to attack this problem would be to purchase a good plug strip with a 2 to 3 foot cord that you can plug in to the wall outlet and gain several more power openings a little further down the wall. You get what you pay for with these items so please do not buy the cheapest one because that is exactly what you will get. Adding a wall outlet is the best way to approach this problem but that is not always the cheapest or the easiest fix.
- Install the proper wattage bulbs in your light fixtures
Most ceiling mounted light fixtures are rated for no more than 60 watt bulbs due to the heat that they produce. Fixtures that hang down and do not touch the ceiling are usually rated to carry higher wattage bulbs due to the bulbs being away from the ceiling. Many times people will blow a 60 watt bulb and then replace it with a 100 watt bulb. This is not a safe practice because the fixture can not dissipate the extra heat that the higher wattage bulbs produce and it can heat bake the sheetrock above the fixture and the house wires inside the electrical box. There should be a tag on the fixture stating the maximum wattage rating for that fixture.
- GFCI protected outlets
Ground fault circuit interrupters are receptacles that are designed for use around water or outdoors power requirements. Kitchens, bathrooms and any outside outlets should have GFCI protected outlets installed. These receptacles measure the amount of incoming and outgoing current and will trip out if there is a difference in the amount. This amount should be the same on what comes in on the hot side and leaves on the neutral. If not there is a ground fault and the receptacle will trip and shut down the power for safety purposes. If you do not have GFCI protected outlets installed in your home then you really should have this work done for the safety of everyone in the home.
- Proper sized fuses or circuit breakers
Most homes are wired with #12 awg wire that is rated for 20 amps and some have #14 awg wire which is rated for 15 amps on the lighting and branch circuits. Older homes have fuses instead of breakers. Fuses can be easily changed when one blows but many times are not replaced with the proper sized fuse for the size of wire that it feeds. This is a dangerous situation when they blow a 20 amp fuse then replace it with a 30 amp to keep it from blowing again. This puts a strain on the house wiring because the larger fuse allows the wire to carry more amps than it is legally rated to carry. If you have fuses in your home it is a good idea to this checked by a certified electrician to insure that the proper sized fuses or even circuit breakers are installed according to the size of the wire that it feeds.This would also be a good time to have the connections in the electrical panel checked and tightened to avoid any future problems.
- Check those drop cords for safety that you have hanging in the shop
Are your drop cords safe to use? Many times the ground prong on the extension cords will be missing or broken off and this can be an accident that is waiting to happen. That third round prong on your cord is the single most important part of your drop cord to keep you safe while using power tools and any type of equipment or appliances. You can purchase a replacement cord cap for the end of your cords and you really should do this if the ground prong is missing. Without the equipment ground intact the metal casing on a faulty power tool can become energized risking electrocution to the user. Check those cords for any other type of damage and replace them if needed.
- A few bonus tips of the day for you
Be sure and clean the lint screen on your clothes dryer after each use. Lint can build up inside the dryer and cause problems or even a fire if not properly cleaned and maintained.
Do you have fire extinguishers strategically mounted in your home? The kitchen and garage or shop area would be a perfect place to have one or more mounted for quick access.. Just remember that an accidental fire can happen quickly and a readily accessible fire extinguisher can help avoid a disaster.
Electrically powered 120 volt smoke detectors with battery back up are an essential part of a reliable early warning system for the safety of the entire family. If you do not have these installed in your home this is a small price to pay for the added security that they can provide.