Winter Safety Tips for Home Electrical Systems
The winter period in a cold location like Utah involves greater use of electricity for warmth and other purposes, and this means homeowners around the state need to take a little greater care around their electrical systems this time of year. Between increased electrical usage and greater presence of moisture, which can introduce a few minor safety risks, it’s understandable that winter is the season where the most electrical accidents and issues tend to occur.
At My Buddy the Plumber, we’re proud to assist clients with not only a comprehensive range of plumbing and HVAC services, but also with commercial and residential electrical solutions. We handle everything from dead or sparking outlets to flickering lights, tripping circuit breakers and any safety risks associated with your electrical system. In addition, our experienced electricians are happy to offer tips and advice on staying safe around your electrical system this winter while also ensuring it’s working properly — here are a few simple suggestions.
Monitor Outlet Usage
One of the simplest and most important continuous tasks for any homeowner this winter is to monitor how much electricity each electrical device in your home is using. Ensure the lights are turned off when you leave a room, and if they seem to take longer than usual to turn back on, make sure you’re not simply turning them off at the wrong time!
It’s also important to limit the overall load being carried by singular outlets. Specifically, there should never be more than one high-wattage appliance being used per outlet. This can not only overload the electrical system in your home but also create a fire hazard. This means you should never have a space heater and a lamp plugged into the same outlet at the same time, for instance, even if the total wattage doesn’t appear to be too high.
Space Heaters and Dedicated Outlets
Speaking of space heaters, these are an example of certain high-wattage and high-heat items that should not be plugged into power strips or extension cords. No matter how short the cord is, it’s never safe to plug a space heater into an extension cord or power strip — instead, make sure you have enough outlets in each room where you’ll be using this appliance, and if not, perhaps consider getting one with extra plugs for multiple rooms.
In some cases, using a power strip or extension cord for this need will cause the strip to melt, burn or even catch fire. In addition, never plug a space heater into a wall outlet that has been chewed through or damaged in some way — this is an invitation for disaster since you can’t be sure there’s enough insulation to keep your family safe.
Keep Flammable Objects Away from Electrical Heat Sources
Another important area for electrical safety during the winter is fire prevention. If you have a fireplace or wood stove in your home, for instance, make sure to keep flammable objects — such as curtains, pillows and nearby furniture — at least one foot away from any heat source.
Likewise, if you use an electric blanket that features internal heating coils, don’t place it too close to another heat source, not just because of the risk of fire, but also because it will take much longer to warm up. If you do have any flammable objects too close to heating sources in your home, don’t panic — simply turn off or unplug the source before carefully moving these items away.
Note Any Problem Signs
One approach that’s valuable throughout the year, including during the winter, is keeping a regular eye out for any signs that there might be a problem with your electrical system. Signs that indicate something is wrong include flickering lights, which point to loose or damaged wiring; outlets or switches that are warm to the touch, which can signal an unsafe connection; and doors on exterior electrical panels that don’t close properly.
If you notice any of these common signs of trouble, don’t take any chances — call in your local electrician to inspect things and find out if you need professional help.
Don’t Keep Using Faulty Electronics
If you’ve seen any of the above signs, or even additional concerns like sparks, shocks, smells or smoke during electrical use, make sure you resolve the problem right away. If you can’t find the source of the issue yourself (or aren’t sure how to do it), call your local electrician to come out and help quickly.
And while you’re waiting for your electrician to arrive, you should avoid using anything electrical until all of these problems are resolved. If there’s a damaged outlet, for instance, you could receive a severe shock even if the problem only affects the “hot” wire and not ground or neutral — so don’t take any chances by plugging something into a socket that might fail to properly insulate you from electricity.
Don’t Run Cords Under Rugs or Behind Furniture
Another possible fire risk associated with winter electrical usage is covering or hiding cords along baseboard heating. If you have to run any cords along your baseboards, choose something like a plastic cord cover to help insulate the wires and avoid heat damage.
If you place furniture right up against an outlet, there’s also some risk here — if the wall socket behind this piece of furniture is covered by insulation, you could have trouble getting the cord to plug in properly — or worse, have a loose connection that can lead to shocks.
For more on how to stay safe around your home’s electrical system this winter, or to learn about any of our electrical, plumbing or HVAC services, speak to the pros at My Buddy the Plumber today.
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