One of the greatest contributors to the quality of modern life is electricity and the many advantages it provides. From providing comfort with light and heat to pleasure with entertainment and phones, we can consider electricity one of our best friends. However, as too many Canadians learn each year, this great gift can also cause some nasty, and even deadly, surprises. It's important to treat electricity with the respect it deserves, and these practical tips will help you keep your home and family safe.
The Costs of Neglect and Ignorance
Reports for the year 2007 indicate more than 47,000 Canadians suffered major damage or lost their homes to fires each year. These home fires caused more than $1.5 billion in damage and a tragic average of 226 deaths and 8,890 injuries. The fourth leading cause of these fires is traced to home electrical and lighting systems. It is estimated by the Office of the Fire Commissioner that at least 50 percent of these fires caused by electricity could be prevented. This group contends such a major reduction could be achieved with adherence to a few simple safety tips and procedures.
According to most fire safety groups and associations, education and awareness are the first steps to improving home electrical safety. Here are the five of the most important points any licensed electrician will tell you to check and deal with in your home:
5. Pay attention to your electrical breakers. If you have to reset a breaker because it trips, don't reset it more than once. If it trips quickly or often, it is telling you that you have a problem that presents a danger.
4. Flickering lights aren't normal. If your lights flicker and cut on or off, that indicates a wire or splice is loose and potentially sparking. It is normal for connections to loosen over time, particularly if your foundation shifts. Have your electrician check the circuits and wiring and those light fixtures.
3. Don't ignore a hot outlet face plate. If any outlet feels warm during normal use, it is either overloaded or has some form of fault. Unplug the items on this outlet and call an electrician. Note, however, that large dimmer switches will get warm when used, but should never feel too hot to comfortably touch.
2. GFCI outlets that trip often need to be checked. These special outlets are installed in bathrooms and other areas where water may be present. If one trips simply because you use a hair dryer or other item, it is probably worn out or defective and needs replacing. On the other hand, first check the dryer or appliance on another GFCI outlet to see if the item itself is defective.
1 Never, ever, use a frayed or worn extension cord. At least 3,300 of the fires that occur each year are traced to frayed, overloaded, or misused electrical cords. If you place a cord behind a couch or under a rug (a big no-no), it can fray and create a hazard without you being aware of it. Check cords at least once a year and replace any that are frayed or cracked. Also, never plug more than two items into one cord, nor more than two cords into a standard outlet.
Give your friend electricity the respect it deserves and it will respond with a rewarding relationship. However, if you suspect or have any electrical-related problems, a call to your local electrician is a cheap form of fire and life insurance.