When you are busy updating your place, it can be easy to get a little cavalier with electricity safety. Unfortunately, with over 360,000 residential building fires and 400 homeowner electrocutions each year, it is evident that there is room for improvement. Here are three bad habits that might make your electrician cringe, and how you can fend off trouble:
1: Using Extension Cords On A Permanent Basis
If you are like most homeowners, you might rummage through your garage whenever you come up short on wall outlets. After you reconfigure that entertainment center or rearrange your living room furniture, you might be tempted to leave that extension cord in place permanently. Unfortunately, extension cords aren't meant to be used on a permanent basis, and doing so could cause big problems.
When cords are pinched behind furniture or snaked underneath carpet, they can develop internal damage, which can cause the area to heat up and spark a house fire. For example, one Massachusetts family was displaced after an extension cord pinched under a bed leg, frayed, and started on fire—causing around $50,000 worth of damage.
To prevent problems, never use extension cords permanently. If you need additional wall outlets, hire a professional electrician to install extra lines and outlets. If you do use extension cords for temporary projects, inspect them for damage before use. Look for kinks, missing insulation, and missing grounding prongs. Spotting trouble before you use cords might save you from a devastating house fire.
2: Hanging Up Home Decor Blindly
After you track down a perfect shelf or gather together a bunch of frames for a picture collage, you might not think twice before driving nails into that drywall. Unfortunately, if you unintentionally pierce an electrical wire, you could create something called an arc fault, which is essentially a compromised electrical cord. Unfortunately, once the insulation protecting that electrical cord has been damaged, it can heat upwards of 15,000 degrees Fahrenheit and expel tiny bits of molten metal into your wall voids—which can start a fire.
One of the most dangerous things about arc faults is that they can be nearly impossible to detect. Because damage occurs behind your drywall, you might not even know that you have a problem until your house burns to the ground. However, you might be able to avoid trouble by using a stud finder with an electrical sensor before you drive any nails. In addition to helping you to track down stable hanging surfaces, some stud finders also use electromagnetic sensors to detect live wires. After running the stud finder across your wall, you can mark safe areas and drive nails—without worrying about causing problems.
3: "Upgrading" Lighting Fixtures With the Wrong Bulbs
Does that living or dining room seem dim? If you are like most people, you might head to the store to upgrade those light bulbs. After all, why would you live with boring 60-watt bulbs when the 100-watt variety would solve all of your problems? Although a little light bulb switch-a-roo might seem innocent, this bad habit can be incredibly dangerous.
Believe it or not, the wiring inside of lighting fixtures is only designed to carry a certain amount of current. If you replace light bulbs with a higher wattage of bulb, it can put extra stain on those wires, which can wear them out over time. In fact, the wrong bulb could even cause the light socket to overheat and start a blaze.
To protect your home, inspect your lamps and light fixtures carefully before you head to the store. Write down the manufacturers suggestions for bulb wattages, and avoid the temptation to go rogue.
By focusing on electrical safety and changing some of your ways, you might be able to protect your home and family. Click here for more information on electricians in your area.