10 Electrical Safety Tips for Homeowners

overloaded power strips with too many wires. This is unsafe.

Faulty electrical systems are attributed with causing an estimated 51,000 home electrical fires each year, with nearly 500 deaths and 1,400 injuries. We don’t mean to scare you, but we want to emphasize the crucial importance of following electrical safety guidelines. Luckily, there are plenty of home fire prevention resources available from sites like the Electrical Safety Foundation.

If you are a homeowner, you should consider the following electrical safety tips.

1. Don’t Overload an Electrical Outlet With Too Many Devices

One of the most common electrical safety recommendations that get ignored is overloading outlets. Your outlets are on an electrical circuit that is connected to the main electrical panel.

Follow these outlet safety tips:

  • Outlets should always be cool to the touch.
  • Only plug in a single heat-producing appliance into an outlet at a time.
  • Power strips may add outlets, but they do not change how much power an outlet can provide.

If your outlet is warm, makes any sort of crackling, buzzing, or sizzling noise, or only holds plugs loosely, employ a certified electrician to inspect your outlet.

2. Replace Damaged Electrical Cords
damaged electrical cord with wires poking out

Damaged power cords represent a significant electrical safety risk. They can cause both fires and electric shock. Regularly check power and extension cords for signs of damage, fraying, or cracking.

Keep these power cord electrical safety tips in mind:

  • Never use and always replace broken or damaged cords.
  • Do not use extension cords outdoors if they are not rated for outdoor use.
  • Do not staple power cords in place or run them under rugs or furniture.

Staples and furniture can crush and damage cords and their insulation. Cords underneath rugs can overheat. If you find you regularly keep an extension cord plugged in, you may not have enough outlets to fix your needs. Have a certified electrician install additional outlets where you often use extension cords.

3. Keep Cords Tidy & Secure

While electrical cords don’t last forever, the most common source of damage to them is external. Keep cords stored safely away from children and pets to prevent damage. Avoid wrapping cords tightly around objects–this can cause the cord to stretch or overheat.

Do not let cords touch hot surfaces to prevent damage to the cord’s insulation and wires.

4. Unplug Unused Appliances & Devices

An easy home electrical safety precaution is to unplug any power cord you are not using. Unplugging devices eliminates any potential phantom power drain (energy that is drained even if the device isn’t actively operating), but it also protects the devices from overheating and power surges.

Some have turned to smart plugs as a convenient halfway measure, which allows you to set power schedules for each outlet. This will eliminate the phantom power drain but will not protect you from power surges.

5. Keep All Electrical Devices Away From Water

Water and electricity can have some explosive results when mixed. Keep water and electricity away from each other. Never plug in a wet power cord. Keep electrical equipment away from potted plants, sinks, showers, bathtubs, and other water sources.

Any areas that frequently have water nearby, such as in your kitchen or bathroom, should use only GFCI plugs. These are the plugs that have the two buttons labeled TEST and RESET. These special plugs are designed to cut power automatically if it senses too much arcing due to water. GFCI plugs should also be used for outdoor outlets and outlets in rooms that may be damp, such as basements and garages.

6. Allow Air Circulation Around Electrical Devices

Electrical devices need air circulation to avoid overheating and shorting out. Without fresh air, they can become an electrical fire hazard.

Never put personal space heaters too close to any object, especially flammable ones. We recommend at least 12 inches around any actively operating device, and avoid running electrical devices in enclosed cabinets.

Keep all flammable objects away from appliances and electronics. For example, don’t operate a personal space heater right next to curtains. Gas and electric clothes dryers should be spaced at least a foot away from the wall.

7. Clean Exhaust Fans

Many electrical appliances have vents and exhaust fans, which can get dirty or clogged. When the fans or vents are gunked up with dust, the appliance has to work harder to cool down. An overtaxed exhaust fan may die before you are ready to replace your appliance, and a broken fan can lead to overheating and fire.

To avoid electrical fires, keep exhaust fans and vents clean. Use a vacuum cleaner or canned air to clean out dust and debris. Keep other objects away from the exhaust fan or vent to ensure your appliance gets the air circulation it needs to stay cool.

8. Use the Right Wattage and Power Cords For Your Fixtures and Appliances

Another home electrical safety tip is to always use the right wattage in light fixtures, lamps, and other appliances. Do not put a 100-watt bulb into a 60-watt lamp. Higher-wattage bulbs create more heat than the fixture can handle, which can lead to overheating and fire. You can put a lower wattage into a light fixture without concern. For unmarked ceiling fixtures, default to a 25-watt bulb.

Don’t mix and match power cords. Not all power cords can be swapped between devices. For example, many laptop power cords are not compatible with other brands. The wrong power cord in the wrong device can break or overheat it.

9. Give Portable Space Heaters & Water Heaters Space

portable single room air purifier away from wall

Heaters produce heat, which is a good thing in controlled circumstances. However, because of their nature, the heat can sometimes get too concentrated and cause a fire. It’s important to give plenty of space to portable heaters, water heaters, built-in furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves, and any other appliance that creates heat.

Give heaters plenty of space. We recommend 18 inches at a minimum, and three feet is better. Keep flammable objects, including curtains, toilet paper, paper towels, and other paper products, away from heaters. Read the appliance’s instruction manual to see if it can be left unattended.

Portable space heaters are often electrical fire culprits. In addition to giving space heaters space and keeping them away from flammable objects, space heaters have a limited run time before they start to overheat. Read the instruction manual to learn how long the space heater can safely run, and do not leave a space heater unattended. Never leave the house while a space heater is running.

10. Teach Electrical Safety to Your Children

teaching children electrical safety

Young children are excited and ready to explore the world and learn about the things around them. It is critical to teach your children home electrical safety tips.

Teach your children not to pull or yank on cords. Yanking on cords can damage or fray the cord and its insulation, which will compromise electrical safety. Set a good example and only pull cords out by the plug head carefully.

Another home electrical safety tip for families with children is to install electrical safety caps on all your outlets. These covers prevent any small fingers or foreign objects from investigating the outlet and protect children from electrical shock.

Another way to make your home safer for children is to keep all dangerous appliances up and out of reach of small children. Keep toasters, blenders, and electric kettles on high shelves or locked in cupboards. Don’t let the microwave be easily accessible, either.

We hope these residential electrical safety tips have been educational and help keep your home safe! If you have any questions or would like a Kansas City electrical system safety audit, Anthony PHCE is ready to help! Contact us to schedule an appointment today!