It’s easy to overlook the importance of electricity, an invaluable source of energy that powers most of our daily lives. Electricity is used in lighting, heating, cooling, refrigeration, computers, and electronics, making it an essential part of our homes, offices, and stores.
In addition to overlooking the role of this energy source in our daily lives, though, we also forget the importance of safety around electricity. Thousands of people in the United States are injured as a result of electrical fires and accidents in their own homes each year, according to Electrical Safety Foundation International.
To help keep you and your loved ones safe, you can perform routine inspections on your home electrical systems. We recommend taking these five steps.
1. Check outlets
Outlets don’t just provide electricity: they can also act as life saving devices by preventing fires, shock, and burns. Because outlets are the electrical entrance point for home appliances, they should be checked regularly to ensure your entire home’s system is working safely and properly.
When you inspect your outlets, check for loose connections. If you plug in an appliance and hear a popping sound or hear smoke, there may be a loose connection inside the outlet.
If your home has ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI), you can test them to confirm that they’re properly working. GFCI is a fast-acting circuit breaker that shuts off electric power in the event of a ground fault. It’s located on outlets with “Test” and “Reset” buttons and it’s typically installed where electrical circuits may come into contact with water, like in the kitchen, laundry room, bathrooms, and outdoors.
The best way to make sure your GFCI-protected outlets are in working condition is by having an electrician inspect them.
2. Examine the electric panel
The main electric panel is the heart of your home’s electrical system. The fuses and circuit breakers in the panel are designed to protect an overloaded electrical circuit from being damaged by excess currents.
As a homeowner, you can check the circuit breakers without calling an electrician. Simply switch each breaker on and off, as they can become stiff over time. The breakers’ main job is to automatically turn off the moment something goes wrong, so they should be able to move freely. In addition, label your panels if they’re not already identified so that you can flip them on and off quickly to restore normal electricity as needed.
When inspecting your electric panel, look for any cracks, burns, or water corrosion. If your home is over 40 years old, you should have the panel inspected by a professional electrician.
3. Install home surge protection
Consider installing a whole-house surge protection in the electric panel to prepare for an indirect lightning strike. This will protect everything connected by power lines, such as landline phones, cable, and electrical.
A surge protector will also absorb and protect the home from surges that aren’t storm related. Vacuum cleaners, hairdryers, space heaters, and other appliances may also cause normal surges within the home.
4. Update your panels, outlets and bulbs
Simple updates can make your home electricity much safer. Outdated electrical panels and breakers can cause house fires, and if your panel is more than 40 years old, you may want to have it replaced.
Between 2015 and 2019, U.S. fire departments responded to a yearly average of 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in almost half of these. To help prevent electrical fires due to holiday decorations, you can install smart plugs and set timers for your decorations to automatically turn off, especially when you’re not home.
Finally, consider using LED bulbs instead of incandescent lightbulbs. LEDs generate less heat and stay cool to the touch, so there’s less of a risk of a fire than with heat-generating incandescent bulbs.
5. Take basic safety precautions
In addition to these steps, there are simple safety precautions your family can take to keep the entire home safe:
- Consider using outlet covers to avoid any pets or family members getting shocked or injured.
- Eliminate the use of overcrowded extension cords, and avoid plugging in multiple cords to the same power strip. This can increase the risk of fires.
- Have a professional electrician come and inspect your home, especially if you think you may need a repair. They can help you and your family safe.
At ALE Solutions, we understand that sometimes homes and lives are devastated by fire or other electrical-related disasters. We work with insurance adjusters and their policyholders to ensure the needs of both parties get met in a timely and effective manner. For more information, visit alesolutions.com.