Electrical Safety at Home“If every household installed ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI’s), deaths from electrocution in and around the home could be reduced by one-half. I urge consumers to look around their homes and correct electrical hazards.” National Electrical Safety Foundation Chairman Don Mader agrees, “Electricity is a useful convenience that enhances our lives and homes.
The statistics on residential electrical injuries are alarming. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are 40,000 residential fires caused annually by electrical wiring system problems. Most of these fires could have been prevented by homeowners performing a simple safety check.
You can easily protect yourself from electrical accidents by checking your home for unsafe electrical conditions. According to CPSC Chairman Ann Brown,
Too often, we tend to forget that electricity is a powerful energy source that must be treated with care and respect. They [safety checks] are simple things to do, but they’re important for the safety of you and your family.”
What can you do?
• Check for frayed or cracked electrical cords and replace any that you find with UL approved cords.
• Make sure that outlets and extension cords are not overloaded. Either change the cord to a higher rated one or unplug some of the appliances.
• Provide GFCI protection for every outlet in the kitchen, bathroom, and outdoor receptacles. This will greatly reduce the risk of electric shock.
• Check to see that all lamps and light fixtures are outfitted with bulbs of the correct wattage. This will prevent overheating which could lead to a fire.
• Make sure that all fuses are the correct size for the circuit. The wrong size fuse can create a serious fire hazard.
• If an appliance has repeatedly blown a fuse, tripped a circuit breaker, or shocked you, unplug it and have it repaired or replaced.
• If an outlet or switch is unusually warm or hot to the touch, an unsafe wiring condition could exist. Have it checked by an electrician as soon as possible.
• Check your smoke detectors and replace batteries annually.
• Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions when it comes to appliances.
What is it?
GFCI - Ground fault circuit interrupters are electronic devices that protect people from serious injury due to electric shock. They monitor the electricity flowing in a circuit and if the amount flowing into the circuit differs from the amount returning, the GFCI will shut off the current. Although they prevent electrocution, there is still a risk of electric shock.
Three Prong Plug - This plug on a three-wire cord set provides a path to ground for electricity that is straying or leaking from a product. It helps to protect the equipment and can prevent electric shock.
Polarized Plug - A plug with one large or wide prong and one narrow one; it ensures that the plug is inserted correctly in a socket and reduces the risk of injury by electric shock.
Some common questions
What is the best size of extension cord for a consumer to use?
Before purchasing an extension cord, you should consider how you might be using the cord. Make sure that the rating on the cord is the same or higher than the number of watts needed by the product that will be plugged into the cord. Remember, extension cords should never be used as a substitute for permanent wiring.
What is the difference between a circuit breaker and a fuse box?
Circuit breakers can be reset, while fuses operate only once and must be replaced. If your breakers or fuses trip repeatedly, contact an electrician. There could be an underlying problem with your electrical system.
What is the big plug found on appliances such as hair dryers?
This can be one of three things: an appliance leakage circuit interrupter (ALCI), an immersion detection circuit interrupter (IDCI), or a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Although they each work in a different way, they are all intended to shut off the power to an appliance under an abnormal condition, such as immersion of the hair dryer in water. Electricity and water don’t mix.
Is a GFCI necessary for a product that has a three-prong type plug?
Yes. GFCI’s provide specialized, very sensitive protection against electric shock hazards that could still exist even if the product has a grounding wire.
Are repairs necessary in old houses with old wiring?
Yes. As electrical systems age they can become overloaded. As more lighting, appliances, and equipment are added, the system becomes overburdened and problems can develop. Depending on the condition of the equipment and the extent of the repairs, the cost can be insignificant or quite high. You should have your home checked by a qualified licensed electrician, especially if both the house and the wiring are quite old.
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