According to a recently-released report by the National Fire Protection Association, over 45,000 house fires involving electrical malfunction or failure occurred between 2010-2014. Electrical fires have caused $1.4 billion of damage each year, as well as hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. Do you know the basics of protecting your family from this danger? Let’s learn what Austin electricians recommend to keep your home safe.
Home Field Advantage
If you haven’t done so recently (or ever), it’s a good idea to have a home electrician out to visit for an electrical safety inspection. Older homes, in particular, were not built to handle the amount of electrical current a modern family uses. Making sure your system is up to date is a major safety step. You should also spend a few minutes getting to know your electrical panel. Some brands from as recently as the 1990s are no longer used because of their tendency to malfunction. Beware of Federal Pacific, ITE Pushmatic, Zinsco and GTE/Sylvania. Also note that your electrical panel should never feel hot to the touch. Finally, pay close attention to your circuit breakers. If they’re tripping frequently, that’s a definite sign there’s a problem. The solution might be as simple as adjusting which appliances connect to which circuit to avoid overloading them, but if that doesn’t work, make sure to get help from your home electrician.
Much like your electrical panel, outlets should never feel warm or hot to the touch — this means there’s a major problem. Possibly the electrical load on that circuit is too high, or perhaps there is an issue with loose or melted wiring. Check that outlets hold plugs securely and that they are firmly attached the wall. Two-pronged outlets are definitely out-of-date. Replace them with grounded, three-prong outlets. This is especially important for your appliances. To reduce your risk of a safety issue, get rid of appliances with two-pronged plugs and replace with ones that can be connected to a grounded, three-prong outlet. Kitchen and bathroom outlets (or any outlet in close proximity to water) should be GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets to protect against electrical shock. Finally, it’s a good idea to cover all outlets that are not in use.
Shed Some Light on the Subject
When it comes to lightbulbs, less is more. Never use a higher-wattage bulb than the fixture calls for- this can cause it to overheat. If the lighting level is too dim, CFL bulbs can give you more light at a lower wattage level. Make sure bulbs are screwed in tightly to avoid sparks or shorts, and keep an eye out for flickering lights, another sign that your electrical panel needs repairs or that you’ve overloaded a circuit.
Fire Extinguisher Facts
Never throw water on an electrical fire, as water conducts electricity. A fire-retardant chemical extinguisher is the only way to put out an electrical fire. Have these extinguishers available on every floor of your home and make sure all family members know where they are and how to use them. Be sure to keep extinguishers up-to-date- recharge or replace as needed.
Protecting your home and your family largely entails keeping an eye out for the issues listed above. If lights are flickering or any part of your system is running hot, contact an Austin electrician immediately to uncover the problem and restore your home to safe working order.