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How to Identify Electrical System Problems: A Home Safety Checklist

Posted by Brian Ciota on Tue, Jul 12, 2011

Jim PittsCan you imagine living without electricity? I can’t. Ever since Edison invented the light bulb, we have come to depend on electricity to meet our basic needs. Homes today are filled with electrical appliances and gadgets. Faulty wiring, receptacles, lighting and appliances, as well as overloaded systems, can create hazards in your home.

It’s important to periodically check for problems to assure that your electrical system and appliances are working safely. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that you check your electrical systems and appliances every six months. Below is a summary of what CPSC recommends you check for room-by-room. You can also view or download their 20-page Home Electrical Safety Checklist.

In All Rooms

  • Lights. Check your lights and lamps and be sure you are using the appropriate wattage bulb for each fixture.

  • Electrical Cords. Is any cord frayed, cracked, or otherwise damaged? Damaged cords may have exposed live wires that can be shock and fire hazards. Is any cord placed where it might be stepped on or is a piece of furniture or rug resting on the cord? Cords can be damaged when stepped on or by the weight of furniture. If a cord is wrapped around something or knotted, unwrap the cord.

  • Extension Cords. Extension cords should have safety covers over unused slots to prevent shock and should carry an appropriate load. Too much current will cause the wires to get hot and can create a fire hazard.

  • Entertainment Equipment. Check the placement of entertainment equipment and be sure that there is proper air circulation to prevent the equipment from overheating and causing a fire.  No papers should be stored near entertainment equipment and it should be place in a dry location way from plants and aquariums.

  • Electric Outlets and Switches. If there are children in your home, unused outlets should have safety covers.  Are outlets and switches working?  If not, have an electrician check them since a faulty switch or outlet could be a sign of a wiring problem. Touch outlets and switches to feel for heat. An unusually warm outlet or switch indicates a problem. Some dimmer switches may feel warm with normal use.

  • Outlets with Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters. GFCI outlets should be checked to be sure they are operating properly. To test the outlet CPSC recommends the following steps:

    1. Plug a light into the outlet and turn it on.

    2. Press the test button. Did the light go out? If not, replace the GFCI.

    3. Press the reset button. Did the light come back on? If not, replace the GFCI.

In the Kitchen

  • Counter Top Appliances. Countertop appliances should be in good working condition and unplugged when not in use. Keep cords away from heat sources. Appliances used near a sink area should be plugged into GFCI outlets.

In All Bathrooms

  • Small Electrical Appliances. Hairdryers, curling irons, electric curlers, razors, etc should be unplugged when not in use. GFCI outlets should be available for these appliances.  More people are installing clock radios, flat screen TV’s and coffee makers in bathrooms.  These appliances should be located away from sinks, tubs and showers.

In All Bedrooms

  • Bedding and linens. Keep bed linens and curtains away from radiators and outlets.

  • Electric Blankets. If you own an electric blanket, check the condition of the blanket and look for cracks or breaks in wiring, plugs, cords and connectors.  Check both sides of the blanket for any dark or frayed spots. If you notice damage, discard the blanket. When using the blanket make sure nothing is covering it,-that includes pets. If the blanket is tucked in, be sure that there are no bent wires around the corners and do not run the cord between the mattress and boxspring.

In Basement, Garage, and Work Areas

  • Fuse Box. Fuses should be the appropriate size for the circuit.

  • Circuit Breaker Box. Circuit breakers must be exercised periodically to make sure they have not become stuck and to keep them in good working order. Turn off the freezer, refrigerator, and air conditioner before you turn breakers on and off.  Sensitive appliances with compressor motors can be damaged if you don’t turn them off. Flip each circuit breaker off and on three times. Do this at least once a year.

  • All Electrical Power Tools. All cord connected power tools should be equipped with three-prong plugs and should be in good working order.

Outside of Your Home

  • Outlets. All outlets should be protected by weather-proof covers and GFCIs.

We all take electricity for granted, but checking your systems and appliances should be part of annual home maintenance. If you come across something that looks suspicious or you don’t feel confident in addressing, stay on the safe side and contact your electrician or McClurg Home Repair.

When was the last time you checked your electrical system and appliances?

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Topics: How-To Tips, Appliances

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