Since the advent of smart technology, our homes are littered with cords everywhere. There is just no escaping them. Even in low-income households, you can find a mobile phone more often than not, for it has become our closest ally living in the ‘fast-paced’ 21st century. As the use of electricity has increased, so has the potential of accidents that can cause harm to living (and non-living!) members of the house. Don’t believe your home could be at risk? Read on to find out.
Assuming the safety of the installed wiring is one of the worst mistakes you could make for your family and yourself. When buying a house that was built years ago, it is especially important to get the wiring inspected by a licensed electrician for homeowners. They will be able to check if any of the wires have started smouldering, leaving parts of it naked and prone to electric shocks. Damaged or non-insulated wiring is a fire hazard. Upgrade old or corroded wiring in a timely manner; this will also allow your electrician to catch any blunders that you or the previous homeowners may have made.
Frayed wires need to be replaced, whether it is due to age, use, overheating or rodents. It is better to call in an electrician for replacements and installation rather than doing it yourself. The latter may save you some bucks but is also likely to blind you to accidents waiting to happen. A plug loose and about to fall off due to use is very unsafe and must be replaced immediately. One good practice is to ensure that your wires are locked in place; not pinched under an appliance or furniture, or hanging loose. That way, they are more likely to cause tripping accidents. “An electrical fire rarely gives off a smell,” says Clarence Williams, licensed electrician and founder of W M Electrical Services in the greater Washington D.C. area. “It does not smoke, so the smoke detectors do not go off right away.”
With your outlets, those that are near the water source are very unsafe for the inhabitants. These can cause electric shock, should any water get into the socket. Note that operating electrical machinery or outlets with wet hands present a serious danger of electrocution. If you cannot do anything about the electrical system already in place, hazardous electrical outlets must be covered with snug-fitting plastic closures. This is also an easy measure to put in place in case of any little children in the house who may fiddle with the open outlet and come to harm.
Using multiple plugs on a single outlet is an electrical hazard. Overloading can cause an eruption of fires, or let lose a harmful surge. Care must be taken with respect to the amperage in use. The same holds true for extension cords; their misuse consists of overloading or using them as a permanent substitute for absent outlets. Install an outlet if you have to use an extension cord to bring power to a part of your home that does not have sockets.
Extension cords must be unplugged when not in use and replaced soon as their insulation starts wearing off. A good practice is to use thicker cords, of low gauge, that is able to handle the load and run for longer. Ensure that they are not trapped under rugs or furniture that will prevent dissipation of heat.
Tripped Circuit Breaker
Flipped breaker, blown a fuse, melted wires or hot outlets are not things that you can brush off. They require looking into. The foremost thing to do in order to uphold the safety of the household is to reset the circuit breaker and replace the fuse. The replaced fuse must be of the same amperage as before. You must understand that it protected you by blowing when it did— it will be a hazard should you replace it with a higher amperage fuse.
The next step requires you to look into the reason for the incident. If it’s a new appliance that is drawing extra current, you may be able to move it to another safe outlet and restore power by resetting the breaker. If the problem continues, however, your best bet is to call in a licensed electrician to look into the matter for you, because it may as well be faulty circuit wiring which is not something that you want to have on the back burner. Note that blinking lights, live surfaces (of an appliance with a metal body or a metal outlet, etc.) or frequent tripping incidents must be looked into without delay. They present a safety hazard.
Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI) and Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters are now in common use and may be mandatory according to your building code. AFCI is essentially a breaker that protects against arcing mishaps in addition to overloading and short circuits. It can detect problems early. GFCI is particularly useful for tripping when water and electricity (or metal and electricity) have an unfortunate meeting that causes a ground fault. These breakers are reset the same way as ordinary breakers.
High Wattage Lamps
Remedy this issue by staying within power limits for light fixtures, and using power saving, low wattage bulbs when possible. High wattage lamps give off intense heat which can burn through the socket and insulation, increasing the risk of arcing. In fact, arcing is the principal cause of electric fires. Once the lamp has been replaced, you must also assess the damage to wiring and socket and make appropriate replacements as necessary.
An old practice, it was often installed as a cheap alternative to copper. This poses a high level of danger because aluminium corrodes in contact with copper, and the high level of expansion and contraction can lead to arcing due to loose connections. A viable solution is to retrofit an Aluminium approved dielectric wire nut to all such connections in fixtures to stop corrosion and aid conductivity.
A malfunctioning electrical appliance like a machine that smokes, not grounded appropriately, or keeps tripping your breakers is not one that should be in use unless it’s been inspected and fixed or found harmless. Unsafe appliances are a danger to non-users as well.
Arming yourself and your family with basic tenets for safe use of electricity is imperative. You should never compromise on safety, and to that end, perhaps the most important rule for oneself is to call in a professional instead of tackling an issue yourself with limited knowledge.
Self-care is the most important aspect, and one cannot ignore the importance of self-care. Electrical appliances are always quite dangerous; therefore, it is important for an individual to be careful of them and take all necessary measures in order to avoid any problem.
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