Tips to Protect Your Family and Home during a Winter Storm
With the severe weather of winter comes the threat of electrical hazards caused by downed power lines, power outages, and possible flooding and can cause injuries and deaths even after a snow or ice storm has ended. Further, danger can also arise from the use of supplemental heating sources such as space heaters.
Here are a few electrical safety precautions that you can take during winter storm:
Downed Power Lines
- Always assume fallen power lines are energized. Stay at least 10 feet away from a downed power line and any nearby objects it may be touching, such as a fence or a tree limb.
- Contact your utility company immediately to report downed power lines outside your home.
- Never touch a person or object that is in direct or indirect contact with a downed power line. Instead, call 911 immediately.
- Never attempt to move a downed power line – leave it to the professionals.
- Do not operate a portable generator in your home, basement, or garage. Generators can very quickly produce high levels of carbon monoxide, which can be deadly.
- Be sure that the generator is used with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to help prevent electrocutions and electrical shock injuries.
- Do not connect generators directly to the household wiring without an appropriate transfer switch installed. Power from generators connected directly to household wiring can backfeed along power lines and electrocute anyone coming in contact with them, including utility lineworkers making repairs.
- Make sure that there is at least one working carbon monoxide detector in your home. Test the batteries at least twice a year, at the same time smoke detector batteries are tested.
- Make sure your space heater has the label showing that it is listed by a recognized testing laboratory.
- Before using any space heater, read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels carefully.
- Inspect heaters for cracked or broken plugs or loose connections before each use. If frayed, worn or damaged, do not use the heater.
- Never leave a space heater unattended. Turn it off when you’re leaving a room or going to sleep, and don’t let pets or children play too close to a space heater.
- Space heaters are only meant to provide supplemental heat and should never be used to warm bedding, cook food, dry clothing or thaw pipes.
- Proper placement of space heaters is critical. Heaters must be kept at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including papers, clothing and rugs.
- Locate space heaters out of high traffic areas and doorways where they may pose a tripping hazard.
- Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Do not use an extension cord or power strip, which could overheat and result in a fire. Do not plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater.
- Place space heaters on level, flat surfaces. Never place heaters on cabinets, tables, furniture, or carpet, which can overheat and start a fire.
- Always unplug and safely store the heater when it is not in use.
Of course, should you have any questions or need assistance with electrical issues in your home, you can always count on the experts at Mister Sparky. Call us today or make an appointment for a home safety inspection. It just might save a life!
Storm Season is Approaching: Tips for Dealing with a Power Outage
Although it may be somewhat unusual for us in Maryland to have to deal with the effects of a hurricane, it can and certainly does happen. But regardless of whether Mother Nature deals us a thunderstorm or hurricane, it’s important to be ready and know what to do before and after a power outage, especially during storm season.
Here are a few helpful tips and reminders:
Before the storm:
- Check flashlights and portable radios to ensure that they are working.
- A radio is an important source of weather and emergency information during a storm.
- Flashlights are safest for lighting, unlike candles which can be a fire hazard.
- Fully charge your cell phone, laptop, and any other devices before the storm.
- Ensure that you have extra batteries as part of your family’s emergency kit.
- If you own a car, purchase a car phone charger so that you can charge your phone if you lose power at your home.
- Consider purchasing a generator to provide power during an outage. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines when using a generator.
- Always use outdoors, away from windows and doors. Carbon Monoxide fumes are odorless and can quickly accumulate indoors.
- Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator directly into household wiring, a practice known as “backfeeding.” This is extremely dangerous and presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices.
- Consider the benefits of a wholehouse generator; they will turn automatically even if you are not home.
- Don’t get overheated. If the power goes out when it is hot outside, stay in the lowest level of your home where it will be coolest, put on light-weight, light-colored clothing, and drink lots of water. Remember to give your pets and/or service animals fresh, cool water; and if you need it, see if your community has “cooling centers” or shelters open.
- Do not call 9-1-1 to report your power outage or to ask for information; use 9-1-1 only for emergencies. Contact your utility company to report the outage and get restoration information.
- Check in on friends, family, and neighbors, particularly those most susceptible to extreme temperatures and power outages such as seniors and those with access and functional needs.
After the storm:
- In order to protect against possible voltage irregularities that can occur when power is restored, you should unplug all sensitive electronic equipment, including TVs, stereos, microwave ovens, computers, cordless telephones, answering machines and garage door openers.
- Leave one light on so that you will know when your power returns.
- Be extra cautious if you go outside to inspect for damage after a storm. Downed or hanging electrical wires can be hidden by trees or debris. Never attempt to touch or moved downed lines. Keep children and pets away from them.
- Call your utility company to report any outage-related problem such as downed wires.
- Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40° F (4° C) for two or more hours or if it has an unusual odor, color or texture. When in doubt, throw it out!
The best way to be prepared… have a safety inspection conducted by the professionals at Mister Sparky. They can help ensure you are ready to handle whatever comes your way. Make an appointment now and remember, you can SAVE $50 on any electric repair.
Could your electrical outlet start a fire?
We all take our electric outlets around the home, office, or anywhere else for granted. But are they putting our home, our possessions, and even our families, at risk? The answer is, possibly. But that’s not all.
Here are some of the primary causes of electrical fires:
Faulty outlets and appliances
Many home fires are caused by faulty electrical outlets or old appliances. Sometimes these fires start due to tears or splits in appliance cords, or in wiring in receptacles and switches. If an appliance has an old frayed cord, it’s time to replace it. The heat generated can escape the cord and start a fire when it comes into contact with combustible surfaces such as floors, curtains, and rugs.
We also count on the light given off by lamps and other light fixtures. But these very lamps and light bulbs are another common reason for electrical fires in our homes. In fact, if you install a light bulb that has a wattage that is too high for the lamps and light fixtures, you are putting your home at risk of a fire. You should always check the maximum recommended bulb wattage on any lighting fixture or lamp and never go over that recommended amount.
The trouble with many extension cords is how long people rely on them. They really should be used only as a temporary solution to extending reach to an outlet. Ideally, appliances should be plugged directly into an outlet and not plugged into an extension cord for any great length of time.
If you live in an older home, it is possible that it may not have the wiring capacity to handle the draw demanded by many appliances we rely on today. This includes things like computers, microwaves, washer and dryer, air conditioners and those big-screen TVs. One way you can determine your risk is by having circuit breakers installed since they are designed to trip when they get overloaded by too much electricity flowing through them. It’s always a good idea to have your breakers checked as well to make sure they are not worn out and in proper working order.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to make an appointment with your Mister Sparky professional to ensure that you and your family are safe and sound in your home.
Is Your Electrical Panel Threatening Your Safety?
As popular home electrical products in the 1970’s, Zinsco panels and Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® Circuit Breaker are notorious among modern electricians as fire hazards. If you live in a house built during that era, one could be lurking in your circuit box, threatening your family and home.
What’s Wrong With a Zinsco Panel
In short, Zinsco panels often fail to trip offline because of a design flaw in which conducting bars become detached. With the power unable to be knocked offline, the electricity only stops flowing when the wires burn into nothing — possibly along with your home and possessions.
Federal Pacific electric panel
Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok Circuit Breaker Panels
Like Zinsco panels, FPE Stab-Lok panels endanger homes because of their failure to trip offline. One study revealed that up to 60% of FPE Stab-Lok panels did not trip when necessary.
If you have a house built in the 1970’s or 1980’s, you need to call Mister Sparky to check for and replace either of these two potentially dangerous electrical devices. Not sure type of panel you have, get a safety inspection today.
Is that new house concealing hidden electrical dangers?
Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s safe!
When we came across this story recently, we thought immediately of how one of our electrical safety inspections can make a huge difference in the lives and safety of our customers and neighbors. Read this scary news article and then feel free to call us for your inspection.
May is National Electrical Safety Month: How Safe is Your Home?
According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), a non-profit organization devoted to promoting electrical safety in all homes, schools, the home can be a hazardous place. That’s why we at Mister Sparky like to make sure our customers are up to date on all the recent electrical codes.
Here is a link to the latest codes for your convenience: National-Electrical-Code-Your-Guideline-to-Safety-82FC
All electrical safety initiatives by ESFI are designed to prevent injuries and fatalities through education. The more you know, the less likely you’ll are to experience an electrical emergency or suffer electrocution. In order to make sure your home is up-to-code (National Electrical Code), it’s important to have a certified electrician inspect your home every year.
One of the first things your electrician will check is your breaker box or electrical panel. In our next post, we’ll discuss the differences between certain types of panels and what you should be looking for the make sure your family and home are safe and sound.
In the meantime, be sure to make your electrical safety inspection appointment. Your drug-tested and professionally-trained electrician at Mister Sparky will give you peace of mind.