We take electricity for granted in the US, from alarm clocks to wake us, cell phones recharged for another day, the refrigerator, coffee pot, a hot shower and so much more. It's hard to imagine many activities where we don't use electricity except sleeping.
While home owners often like to handle small home repairs, a word of caution is appropriate when working with electricity. You MUST know how to turn off the power to a light fixture or appliance before you begin work and you should always test to make sure the power is really off as switches at the box can be mislabeled. If you are not absolutely sure how to do both of these things, then don't!
When to Call an Electrician
Every home owner should build a long term relationship with a licensed electrician. Emergencies happen and it's far easier to manage a problem when you already know the people you need to call. You might find it helpful to include an annual visit from your electrician as part of your home maintenance strategy. It's not unusual for home owners to ignore a light switch that crackles or a light fixture that doesn't seem to want to go … once in a while. By keeping track of these minor items and fixing faster, you'll get these nuisance problems fixed faster.
During an annual visit, your electrician can check for faulty wiring and improper use of electrical appliances which could cause a fire. Americans continue to use more and more electronics so you'll likely need a few more outlets each years as extension cords are really meant for temporary use. Here are more home safety tips to keep you and your family safe from electrical fires.
Do's and Don'ts to Keep You Safe
- Never overload electrical outlets.
- Only use extension cords as a temporary solution.
- Do not place power cords under rugs, carpets or furniture.
- Buy products which meet the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) standard for safety.
- Install smoke alarms outside bedrooms and once on each floor.
- Turn appliances off before plugging them in.
- Keep electrical appliances away from wet areas.
- Keep heaters and halogen lamps away from draperies and other combustible materials.
- Use only three-slot outlets for appliances with three-prong plugs.
- Use safety devices to help child-proof outlets.
- Don't turn a circuit back on before identifying why it was turned off.
Things to Repair or Replace
- Replace an item that causes overheats, shorts out or produces smoke or sparks.
- Test and replace smoke alarm batteries every year.
- Replace frayed, cracked or cut power cords immediately.
- If a switch or outlet is hot or discolored by heat buildup, immediately shut off the circuit.
Safety Tips While Working with Electricity
- Shut off power to the circuit and fixture you are working on.
- Never assume the circuit is off. Use a tester to confirm there is no power before starting work.
- Always use an insulated fiberglass ladder when doing electrical work.
- Avoid working in wet areas; wear rubber boots and gloves to reduce risk of getting shocked.
- Plug tools into a GFCI outlet or GFCI extension cord if you must work near water.
- Dry your hands before grabbing any cord to plug/unplug it.
- When working at the service panel or turning off a circuit, leave a warning label.
maitre electricien laval
Thanks for this great article, keep up the good work.
Can you add any more tips … please?
My brother moved into a new apartment and he wants to make sure that the electrical system is in good shapes. It was explained here that it will be best to call a licensed electrician during emergencies. Moreover, it’s recommended to hire a professional electrician for maintenance.
Gillian, If your brother is renting, the landlord is responsible for electrical, plumbing, heating & more. If he suspects problems, he should write them down & give them to the landlord who much send an electrician to inspect & correct any problems found.
Keep up the great work!
Many people lose their lives every year due to electrocution so electrical safety is a major concern. If any outlet or wiring at your home or workplace is broken or damaged then it must be replaced quickly because it can lead to electric fire or short circuit.
You are so, so right & with my handyman business in New Hampshire, I often had to refuse work telling homeowners they needed to call a licensed electrician.
Nice article! On your second point under the Do’s & Don’ts to only use extension cords temporarily, what if you have an appliance that is out of reach of any available socket. and an extension cord is necessary? I thought they were safe to use once they weren’t overloaded?
Peter, You’re right that a single appliance on an extension cord should be okay but … too often we start with one appliance & quickly add another one. You also don’t know how many other outlets are sharing the same circuit in your electrical panel. I recall one time where my space heater occasionally shorted out when I turned on another appliance. Suggest you start a list of things to have your electrician tackle on next visit – add outlet for “xyz”.
I really like that you talked about how electricians can check for faulty wiring and improper use of electrical appliances that can potentially cause a fire. My family is looking to spend our entire holiday season on my in-law’s farm, and these tips about electrical safety will surely come in handy. It certainly looks like we need to hire a professional electrician to have a look at our wiring when we get home. Thanks!
My sister moved into her own apartment and the light switches started crackling. You mentioned that when that happens it’s best to call a professional electrician, to insure they find the problem & fix it according to building codes.
Sariah, You’re right that funny electrical problems should only be fixed by a pro.
That makes sense to never overload outlets. You wouldn’t want to start a fire. Electrical fires can’t be doused with water either.
It’s great that you elaborated on the electrical safety tips and you have just said it right! I’m a single mom and have no idea with any electrical system maintenance inside our house except changing the light bulb when needed. I’d also found the do’s and don’ts so helpful.
Joy, Electricity & water are the 2 things every homeowner needs to respect & treat with caution.
I didn’t realize that extension cords are only meant for temporary use. My entertainment only has two outlets, but I have at least 4 devices that need to be plugged in in order for everything to work. Perhaps I should call an electrician so that I can get a few more outlets and avoid the potential of an electrical fire.
Larry, We’re all guilty & while 1 or 2 extension cords probably won’t hurt, you should keep an eye on things & when you know where extra outlets are needed plus a few other electrical tasks (GFCIs where needed, outdoor outlets, etc), you do want to have a licensed electrician make the changes.
I never knew that it wasn’t safe to use extension cords for a long period of time! My brother had to call an electrician because his outlet blew a fuse. Thanks for the tips on how to stay safe around electricity.
Yes we’re all guilty of adding, one and then another … extension cord & now the strips with 3 to 6 outlets. We’re adding lots of electronic gadgets & sometimes they overload circuits especially when one is a small space heater that kept blowing something else in my office.
I appreciate what you had to say about asking if more outlets could be added to a home instead of just defaulting to extension cords. We use a lot of extension cords right now, because we live in a smaller home with few outlets. They’re all in awkward areas, which makes the situation more difficult. I will definitely be talking to my electrician so we can avoid any safety risks.
My porch lights aren’t turning on right now even though I’ve changed the bulbs and done everything like that. So I think that I’ll need to find someone who will be able to repair the wiring or whatever other electrical thing is messed up so that those lights will work again. Thanks for pointing out that it’s a good idea to make sure that you shut off the power to the place you’re going to work on and to use rubber gloves and boots. I’m sure that whoever I’m going to find and hire will know that, but it’s good for me to know too.