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!
Space Heater Safety Tips for Residents of Harford County and surrounding areas
With the colder weather upon us, many will turn to the convenience of space heaters to reach those rooms that may be drafty due to poor ventilation or insulation. If you do use a space heater, here are some helpful tips that may just save your life.
Look for safety certifications
Portable space heaters that are listed by Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTLs) have been tested, proven, and certified to meet specific safety standards. The manufacturers of these heaters are also required to provide important information about the safe usage and care of their products.
Look for a testing laboratory certification such as UL (Underwriters Laboratories); when you see this you can be confident it’s safe to use at home according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Look for space heaters with tip-over and overheat protection
Today’s portable heater models include a variety of safety features that help take a lot of the worry out of using them. A heater equipped with a tip-over protection switch will automatically shut off if it’s tipped over for any reason, and a cool-touch housing prevents accidental burns when touched, which also protects children and pets.
Room heaters with overheat protection switches function in nearly the same manner. These use a temperature sensor, detecting when internal components become too hot. When an unsafe temperature is detected, the switch automatically shuts off the unit to prevent overheating. Additionally, ceramic heaters provide an extra layer of safety, as the ceramic unit self regulates its temperature, reducing the temperature as resistance increases.
Set up in the right place
Give your single-room space heater the clearances they need. It’s generally suggested that space heaters be placed at least three feet away from furniture, window treatments, bedding, clothing, rugs, and other combustibles. These items can cause a risk of fire if they come in contact with a unit’s electric heating element or an overly warm surface. Never sit or drape anything on top of a portable heater. In addition, be sure that the heater is placed on a hard, level surface.
Always plug directly into an outlet
As a rule of thumb, plug a portable electric heater directly into an outlet with sufficient power capacity. Attaching an extension cord to the unit increases the chance of overheating, fires, and electrical shock injuries. If an extension cord must be attached, use one that is properly rated and sized for the portable heater appliance.
Regularly inspect and maintain it
You should occasionally inspect your space heater, particularly when you first purchase it. Frequently clean and maintain it to ensure it’s working safely by wiping it down when cool; this will also help reduce the amount of dust and allergens that may be dispersed around your space. Of course, never use a defective heater.
Turn off and unplug when not using
Upon leaving an area, turn off the portable space heater and unplug it. Many models feature programmable timers that can be used to program automatic on and off times for when you sleep or head to work.
Of course, if you are not sure if your outlets or wiring is up to code or if you experience flickering lights, call your Mister Sparky electrician. We’ll be happy to help ensure the safety of you and your entire family.
And, if you do experience cold, drafty rooms, also consider calling a heating and cooling expert, such as the professionals at One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning. They’ll have you more comfortable in no time.
Electric tips to add value to your home
If you’re thinking of putting your home on the market, you have a lot of options for how you can improve its value. A new bathroom, kitchen or roof are great investments but another important aspect is your electrical system.
Make sure you home can be sold faster with these electrical tips:
Is Your Electrical System Up to Date?
Your electrical system should have everything expected of a modern home. Do you have enough outlets? Do areas of moisture like kitchens and laundry rooms have GFCI outlets? Are they conveniently located and easy to find?
Have You Tested Your Electrical Switches and Outlets?
Check and test every outlet in your home. Are they all working correctly? If you detect that any no longer work or do but make an odd noise, you should call an electrician for servicing. Faulty wiring not only costs you more on electrical bills but also poses a significant safety concern. Plugs that tend to spark or make an odd noise when activated may have faulty wiring which can pose a severe safety hazard. A qualified electrician can spot these trouble areas and fix them prior to a home inspection.
How Much Power Can Your Electrical System Handle?
You should have a clear idea of how much power your electrical system can handle. Potential buyers will want to know this as they may be planning to use appliances that draw a lot of power. Too much demand on the power system can lead to blowouts or tripped fuses. This is why it’s good to have GFCI outlets installed. These outlets are designed to shut off automatically the moment they detect a power surge.
How Old Is Your Wiring?
When was your electrical wiring first installed? In homes older then 30 years, there’s a chance the wiring could be outdated. Outdated wiring poses a safety risk which could potentially cause a fire. Along with that, older wiring can’t handle the electrical demands of modern appliances. The amount of electricity needed in a home has more than doubled in the last 40 years, so any house with old wiring may be in need of a complete rewire.
All these electrical tips can add value to your home but the sooner you start on them, the better. A qualified electrician such as your experts at Mister Sparky can help you get the most from your home whether selling it or planning on living there for many years to come.
Christmas Light Safety Tips
There are several things you need to do to ensure that your Christmas lights are safe before you hang them up.
- Verify Proper Rating – Bargain lights aren’t a good deal if they pose a fire hazard. Only use lights that have been tested and rated by Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL). Strings of lights that have a safety rating are clearly marked, both on the packaging and with labels attached to the electrical cords.
- Check for Fraying – When you remove your holiday lights from storage, check the cords to make sure they are not frayed or otherwise damaged. Hanging lights with damaged cords can lead to an electrical short. This can damage your other lights and holiday decorations, as well as potentially lead to a fire. If you discover damaged strings of lights, throw them away.
- Use as Directed – There is a big difference between indoor holiday lights and outdoor holiday lights. Before hanging lights, make sure that you are using the fixtures only in the environment in which they were designed to be used.
- Choose Locations Carefully – Avoid hanging holiday lights near any item that poses a potential fire hazard, such as candles, space heaters, fireplaces, etc. Make sure bulbs aren’t too close too loose paper or any other flammable materials.
- Hang Carefully – Never use tacks, staples, or nails to hang up your holiday light display. Instead, use insulated holders designed especially for this purpose.
Once the Lights are in Place
Holiday light safety doesn’t end once the lights are up and ready to go.
- Select Extension Cords Wisely – There’s a good chance that you are going to need extension cords to complete your holiday lighting display. Make sure you have a sufficient quantity and length of grounded extension cords for the amount of the lights you plan to use. Do not overload extension cords with more wattage than they are designed to accommodate. It’s also important to verify that any extension cords you are planning to use outside are rated for exterior use.
- Place Extension Cords Properly – Make sure that cords are placed so as to avoid posing a tripping hazard. Verify that they are not pulled taut, so there isn’t an elevated risk of them pulling over your Christmas tree or other decorations.
- Turn Lights Off When Away – Do not leave holiday lights on when your house is unattended or when everyone in the home is asleep. In the event that a problem develops with your light display, it’s essential that someone be on hand and alert to react quickly to avoid damage, a serious fire, and injuries.
- Bulb Replacement – When bulbs burn out, it’s important to replace them right away. It’s dangerous to have light strings plugged in with empty sockets. Be sure that the replacement bulbs you select are the correct wattage.
May you and yours have a safe and wonderful Holiday Season!
Winter electrical safety tips from the National Fire Protection Association
With all the time spent indoors during the holiday season, many of us forget about the safety hazards all around us. To ensure that you do not have a home fire this winter, follow these home heating safety tips below.
1. Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
2. Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
3. Never use your oven to heat your home.
4. Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
5. Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
6. Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
7. Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
8. Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
9. Test smoke alarms monthly.
Of course, one of the best ways to help ensure your family’s safety all winter and all year long is to have a safety inspection by one of our Mister Sparky electric experts. Call 410-457-7297 today
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Tips for Keeping Your Family Safe in Your Home
U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of approximately 50,000 reported home structure fires involving electrical failure or malfunction. These fires resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths and injuries and $1.5 billion in direct property damage.
Here are a few tips to follow to ensure your family and home remain safe:
- Replace or repair damaged or loose electrical cords.
- Avoid running extension cords across doorways or under carpets.
- In homes with small children, make sure your home has tamper-resistant (TR) receptacles.
- Consider having additional circuits or outlets added by a qualified electrician so you do not have to use extension cords.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for plugging an appliance into a receptacle outlet.
- Avoid overloading outlets. Plug only one high-wattage appliance into each receptacle outlet at a time.
- If outlets or switches feel warm, frequent problems with blowing fuses or tripping circuits, or flickering or dimming lights, call a qualified electrician.
- Place lamps on level surfaces, away from things that can burn and use bulbs that match the lamp’s recommended wattage.
- Make sure your home has ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in the kitchen bathroom(s), laundry, basement, and outdoor areas.
- Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) should be installed in your home to protect electrical outlets.