Home & Living

Top 5 Electrical Hazards in your Home

Simple Ways to Safeguard your Home
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Electrical hazards around the home are frequently overlooked and yet they are often easy to resolve. I met with Alan Smith, the former Electrical Inspector at the Department of Planning, to get his expert advice.

Mr. Smith mentioned various issues around the home that could cause both damage to the home and/or financial loss. His main comment was to check all electrical outlets, circuits, and the main board regularly – and contact a certified electrician if you have any doubts or uncertainty. Trying to self-analyse is not recommended.

Mr. Smith said,” Perhaps the biggest hazard in the home is having overloaded circuits. In other words, using too much power in one circuit, through too many devices including extension cords, all plugged into one outlet. This can be very dangerous, and while the circuit breaker will typically cut in and thus cut off the electric power in that circuit, it is never a good idea to let that situation go on for a while.”

We are all guilty of using extension cords around the house for convenience and being able to plug in a new device, especially for laptops, printers, televisions, routers, and so forth. The problem is that once we plug it in, we tend to forget about it and carry on regardless of checking for the power usage.

Don’t run cords under carpets or rugs, as this can cause overheating and increase the risk of fire. Avoid pinching cords against walls or furniture, and never yank them from the wall socket.

“Another power device we ignore frequently is the smoke alarm(s) in the house”, he said. “If the alarm is faulty through the battery being dead for example, then the alarm will not work, and any heat-related/fire/ smoke situations will be missed. And not only can damage to the house be the outcome but there may be a denial of house insurance if it is discovered that the smoke alarms were not working.”

The perfect scenario is to have a smoke alarm installed in every room of the house, especially the kitchen.

“One issue that is often overlooked,” says Mr. Smith “is when we have a power outage – either from an unexpected outage which just happens suddenly – or when we have forewarning from an impending storm.”

“It is always better to unplug all devices in advance, including power surge boxes and extension cords, so that when the power comes back on, we will not have had any power surges, and we can simply re-plug all the devices.”

One of the problems with the restoration of power – if the device had not been unplugged – is that the surge can knock out the device – especially televisions – completely. Hence, it is very important to be aware of power outages and unplugging all devices. In some cases, it could be very costly and perhaps not covered by home insurance.

If your house is old and has not been checked for electrical issues for some time, it is advisable to hire a certified electrician to check all your plugs, wires, and devices – especially if they are carried through conduits in the wall.

Mr. Smith said, “While rewiring can be expensive, it nonetheless should be a consideration. The alternative could easily be hazardous to the house and much more expensive. I don’t recommend self-checking in this situation because there are so many issues from times past when perhaps the original wiring was not done properly – or not well enough secured. In many cases, I have found that the original wiring was not done to current code requirements and has become a danger to your safety.”

One last situation, raised by Mr. Smith, which can be easily overlooked is a “discoloured” wall socket. “There is no doubt that a wall socket which is not the normal – or original colour – is a clear sign of a problem,’ says Alan. It should be checked and remedied as soon as possible. Every wall socket in the house should be checked regularly, including sockets behind curtains, beds, in closets, and so forth – areas that are not easily visible, but equally dangerous.”


Regular Inspections

Routinely check your electrical appliances, cords, and outlets for signs of wear and tear, such as frayed wires or loose connections. Replace or repair damaged items promptly.

Outlet Safety

Avoid overloading outlets with too many devices or using extension cords as a permanent solution. Use power strips with built-in overload protection if you need to plug in multiple devices.

Water and Electricity don’t mix

Keep electrical appliances away from water sources, and never handle them with wet hands. Install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) in areas where water and electricity may come into contact, such as kitchens, bathrooms, and outdoor outlets.

Safeguarding your home against electrical hazards is crucial and often involves straightforward measures. Regular inspections, proper use of outlets, and maintaining distance between electrical devices and water sources are key steps in preventing accidents.

Mr. Smith’s expert advice raises numerous issues which if ignored can easily lead to hazardous situations and unwanted consequences. Timely and current advice. By following these safety tips, you can help prevent electrical hazards and ensure a safer environment in your home.

Finally, if you’re unsure about any electrical work or experience frequent electrical issues, consult a qualified electrician. If you are new to the island and unsure who to contact, you can reach out to the Electrical Contractors Association at 295-2323 for recommendations.

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