Electrical safety dos and do nots for homeowners

Ensuring you stay safe when dealing with electricity is essential

Can you imagine your home without electricity? It would be a real challenge because electricity is part of our daily lives. However, electricity needs to be treated with care as it is also dangerous and is the leading cause of home fires. Electricity has been known to kill, maim, burn and injure very badly human beings. Therefore, knowing what to do and what to not do while handling electricity at home is important.

Read on and learn about the dos and don’ts, that can help to keep you and your family safe.

What can you do around electricity that can help and keep you safe

If you are not using your electronics or appliances unplug them

Unplugging electronics and appliances saves power by reducing phantom drainage. Phantom drainage occurs, even when you are not using your appliances or electronics, as they will still consume energy if plugged in. For instance, your DVD or TV uses the standby power. The below section is a brief summary of phantom drainage and what it means.

Phantom Drainage

Electricity is a form of energy that is transmitted through a metal or conductive medium or conduit, and transmits power to a device or appliance. You can't see electricity, but it can me measured by the potential difference of energy when transferred between two points in a connected circuit, this uses OHM's law and is represented by the formula V=IR where V = Voltage, I = current and R = Resistance.

Whenever you turn off a light, a device or appliance, they still draw power to support the status of standby mode. You will probably notice these on consoles, TV's computers, appliances etc. This enables the devices to be in both a ready state and boot up more quickly and have some power to support that boot up. Naturally, this means your electricity costs will continue to increase, whilst your device are not being used per se, but in a state of readiness.

To prevent this you should unplug the device from the power source, which removes it from the grid and is a clear hard solution to prevent phantom drainage. A smarter solution is to use a power strip, this device has several outlets to plug into, a surge protector and a short power extender. It has sensors embedded that detect whether all devices are off, and then shuts itself off from the main grid As long as you have a Tier 1 plug solution, it will turn itself off simulating the results you would achieve as if you had unplugged the device from the grid, the result, no phantom drainage and no increasing bills from non use drainage.

Additionally, unplugging the electronics and appliances reduces the risk of electric shock. Even if you accidentally touch them with wet hands, you can’t get shocked because there is no running power or power supply to the device. Unplugging also protects your appliances and electronics from damage by unexpected power surges and overheating.

Replace damaged power cords

Damaged power cords are a safety risk for you and your family. Broken insulation exposes the live wires, and they can cause you or a loved one an electric shock when touched with bare hands, as the electricity will be transferred through the body. Additionally, damaged cables can overheat, spark or spark out, and even cause an electrical fire. If you are unsure of what you are doing, when it comes to exposed, frayed or damaged wiring, you should either safely switch off and unplug the device, or wire, and if cheap, dispose of it safely and in an environmentally safe way. If it is an expensive wire it may need replacing, only if it can be unplugged in a modular way, if not and it is integrated into the unit or device, call and use the services of a reliable and trusted electrician.

You should keep your sockets, electronics and appliances away from water. All electronics, appliances, extension cords, and outlets in your home should be located far from wet areas. Water quickly conducts electricity which can lead to electrified puddles, or to cause am electric shock. You should also avoid touching your appliance, sockets, and switches with wet hands. Additionally, water can cause your electronics and appliances to short-circuit, which will damage them.

Use fixtures and light bulbs with the same wattage

Using the right fixtures prevents electrical problems such as permanent damage to the light fixtures or quick burnout for the light bulbs. Also, using the same voltage protects your light bulbs from overheating, which could melt the insulation on the wires and the light bulbs.

Install safety covers on your sockets

Your sockets should be covered with protective material, especially when you have children in your home. It prevents them from inserting objects into the outlets, which might cause electrical shocks. Also, the protective cover prevents water from ingression (getting into something through a small area) into the sockets.

Feel the plastic surface of your outlets

Touching your sockets is the surest way to know if your home has wiring issues. When the outlets are warm, the socket is overloaded, or the insulation is melting due to the heat. Additionally, hot or warm outlets could also indicate wiring issues, or the casing on the outlets could be unfit. Touching the casing can tell this, but:

Do not insert anything into the sockets that are not designed to be inserted there.

In case of an electrical fire, switch off the mains power immediately.

An electrical fire is difficult to put out, therefore, switching the power off prevents the fire from spreading. It also reduces the risk of getting electrical shocks when trying to put the fire off. Call an electrician as soon as possible.

- (1) Unplug the device and switch off the mains

- (2) Use baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to smother the flames, fires need fuel, oxygen and heat to exist. baking soda removes the oxygen from this setup and thus kills the fire.

- (3) Use a fire blanket to put out small flames

- (4) Use a Class C fire extinguisher to put out small flames, these are defined as having an agent that will not conduct electricity, and they usually are filled with a dry powder formulation in the canister

- (5) Contact emergency services

- (6) Arrange for an electrician to come out to do an inspection and quote for reparations

What should you not do around electricity and what should you do instead

Don’t overload your sockets.

Do not overload your sockets because it can cause your lights to flicker and the wiring to melt which could again lead to an electrical fire. Instead, understand the voltage your outlet can handle and only use appliances with the same amperage.

You can also reduce the overload by using one appliance at a time per socket and distributing the other appliances to other outlets. If your home has few outlets, you can call an electrician to install more.

Do not attempt to repair or fix any electrical issue if you are not qualified

Never try to do your own electrical repairs or replacement because you would be putting yourself and your family at risk. Also, you could end up damaging your wiring or electrical component in your system, which can cost more in the long run.

Also, since you are not trained, you could replace unsuitable components. For example, you could fix a fixture with amperage less than your light which could spark and cause a fire. Call your electrician instead of doing a DIY project for your electrical issues. Hiring an electrician keeps your family and property safe.

Never assume that power is disconnected before plugging in your appliance

Plugging your device when the outlet is on might cause a power surge and sparks. The power surge might damage your appliance, while the sparks might cause an electrical fire. Therefore, before plugging in your appliance, always confirm that your outlet is switched off.

Don't ignore any electrical warning signs

If your lights keep flickering or your circuit breakers trip often, you might be having serious electrical problems. For instance, flickering might be caused by power sags and dips, while tripping might be due to wiring issues.

Therefore, call an electrician if you notice electrical issues. You can also cut off the power supply to your home at the breaker box while waiting for the electrician to prevent more damage. If you notice anything amiss, hire an electrician.

Don’t use extension cords as a permanent solution in your home

Extension cords are meant for short term use. Because the cords are long, as electricity passes through they may weakens. Only a weak current reaches the devices connected to the extension cords, and the power outlet has to work harder to reach the required supply being demanded from the system. Since the outlets provide more electricity than it is supposed to, they might overheat which can cause an electrical fire.

Instead of using your extension cord permanently, only use the cord when in need for a few hours. Also, you can call your electrician to install additional outlets in specific areas where you use the extension cords.

Don’t pull the cord while plugging out an appliance from the socket

Be careful while unplugging your appliance. If you pull the cord, you might damage it. For example, the cord may become frayed, or the insulation may become loose and expose the wires. Since the wires are live, exposing them might cause electrical fires or shocks. While unplugging your appliance, you should pull the plug itself after you have switched off your outlet.

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About the Author

Tom Cakebread
Hi, I'm Tom I enjoy writing about the trades, and supporting tradespeople and customers where I can as an independent consultant.