According to the National Fire Protection Association, electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in an estimated 46,500 home fires in 2010. These fires caused 420 deaths, 1,520 injuries, and $1.5 billion in property damage.
Electrical outlets— Check for loose–fitting plugs, which can be a shock or fire hazard. Replace missing or broken wall plates so wiring and components are not exposed. If you have young children in the home, check that unused outlets are covered.
Plugs —Never force them into outlets. Don’t remove the grounding pin (third prong) to make a three-prong plug fit a two-conductor outlet. Avoid overloading outlets with adapters and too many appliance plugs.
Cords— Make sure they are not frayed or cracked, placed under carpets or rugs, or placed in high traffic areas. Do not nail or staple them to walls, floors or other objects.
Extension cords —Use them on a temporary basis only. They are not intended as permanent household wiring. Make sure they have safety closures to protect young children from shock and mouth burn injuries.
Light bulbs —Check the wattage to make sure light bulbs match the fixture requirements. Replace bulbs that have higher wattage ratings than recommended on the fixture. Make sure they are screwed in securely so they don’t overheat.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs)— Make sure GFCIs are installed in your kitchen, bathrooms, laundry, workshop, basement and garage as well as on outdoor outlets. Test them monthly to ensure they’re working properly.
Circuit breakers/Fuses— Fuses should be properly rated for the circuit they are protecting. If you don’t know the correct rating, have an electrician identify and label the correct size to be used. Always replace a fuse with the same size you are removing. Check that circuit breakers are working properly.
Appliances/Electronics— If an appliance repeatedly blows a fuse, trips a circuit breaker or has given you an electrical shock, immediately unplug it and have it repaired or replaced. Look for cracks or damage in wiring and connectors. Use surge protectors to protect expensive electronics.
Electrical wiring— Wiring defects are a major cause of residential blazes. Check periodically for loose wall receptacles, loose wires, or loose lighting fixtures. Listen for popping or sizzling sounds behind walls. Immediately shut off, then professionally replace light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that spark and flicker.
Service capacity— As you continue to upgrade your home with more lighting, appliances and electronics, your home’s electrical service capacity may become overburdened. If fuses blow or trip frequently, you may need to increase the capacity of your electrical service or add new branch circuits. A qualified, licensed electrician can determine the appropriate service requirements for your home.
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