Resolve to Eliminate Electrical Hazards

Check plugs, outlets, cords and fuses to ensure a safe living space

Install outlets with ground-fault circuit interrupters near any electrical source that can get wet, such as around kitchen and bathroom sinks, and outdoors.

Protecting your family from electrical shocks, house fires and tripping hazards is easier to do than losing 20 pounds or quitting smoking, so make safety New Year’s resolution No. 1.

To help you do that, the Energy Education Council offers these tips:

  • Inspect your outlets. Loose-fitting plugs can surprise someone with a shock or even start a fire. If your wall plate is broken, replace it so wires are not exposed. Insert plastic safety caps into unused outlets if your family includes young children.
  • Make peace with plugs. If a plug does not comfortably fit into an outlet, do not force it. Never remove the grounding pin (third prong) to fit a three-prong plug into a two-prong outlet.
  • Be careful with cords. They are not designed to last forever. Discard frayed or cracked cords. Move them out from under carpets or rugs.
  • Pack up extension cords. They are fine to connect strands of holiday lights together and help decorations reach plugs during December. But come January 1, pack them up and store them.
  • Watch your wattage. The lightbulbs in your lamps and overhead fixtures should match the specifications on those fixtures. A bulb whose wattage is too high can overheat.
  • Upgrade the wiring. Faulty electrical wires start many house fires. If you hear popping or sizzling sounds behind the walls or if light switches feel hot, do not use those fixtures or switches until a licensed electrician replaces them.
  • Find no fault. Ground-fault circuit interrupters are a must in every outlet in the kitchen, bathrooms, laundry, basement, garage and outdoors.
  • Fuss with your fuses. If you do not know if your fuses are the right size for the circuit they are protecting, call an electrician.
  • Adjust appliances. If a circuit trips every time you plug in your hair dryer, or if your coffeemaker has ever shocked you when you plugged it in, you have faulty appliances or an overloaded circuit. An electrician can identify and solve your problem.
  • Get what you need. Unless you live in a new house, you probably use more electricity than the builder ever dreamed you would. Call an electrician to determine if your home needs more electrical capacity.
Extension cords are for temporary use. Don’t get carried away. Adobe stock image by Mark Herreid