Those smart devices for your home may pose a potential electric hazard

From Electrical Contractor Magazine:

“Organizations like the Electrical Safety Foundation International [ESFi] and the National Fire Protection Association [NFPA] have extensive campaigns about electrical safety, not only during the proclaimed electrical safety month, but all the time,” said Michael Johnston, executive director of standards and safety at the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). “NECA has a strong relationship with these organizations and also runs similar support campaigns during Electrical Safety Month.”

Here is a high-level look at a few modern technologies that can pose electrical hazards and how consumers can minimize the associated risks through proper installation and use. Your electric professionals can also be a good resource for information about safely installing and use of new smart technologies and equipment.

Mobile device chargers

From smartphones to tablets to laptops, consumers today have more electronic devices at home than ever before. Often each of these devices have a different charging cable, which has an alternating current (AC) side and a direct current (DC) side. The AC side of these power supplies and chargers can present a fire hazard if cords become worn and frayed. Electrical contractors should advise their customers to replace charging cables as soon as possible after they notice damage to them.

Damaged supply charge cables can affect the normal charging process for many smart devices and can create a fire hazard.

“While the DC side of these chargers is essentially safe, damaged charge output cables should be replaced,” Johnston said.

Fake or counterfeit charge cables are often missing protective electronics (micro-chips) in the charge connectors. Without this protection that can be a fire threat.

Even if only the outside layer is damaged, this is a sign the inner layers could be broken or may soon become damaged. In such an instance, Johnston said it is best to take it out of service and replace it.

“Electricity does not give too many chances and can take a life—quickly,” he said.

Once the electrical insulation on any cord becomes compromised, there is nothing between the consumer and the electric current. Shock hazards are high. It’s advisable to replace a cable before this occurs.

Some may be tempted to use electrical tape as a temporary solution; however, Johnston said it is never advisable to make home-made repairs using electrical tape and call it good. In the event one of these cables or chargers becomes damaged, it is best for a homeowner to remove the it from use and replace it.

Another risk comes from off-brand chargers, which in some cases might even be counterfeit products. Often, one can find replacement cables for a cheaper price from off brands other than the device’s manufacturer. There is often a question as to any guarantee these devices meet all proper specs and minimum product safety standards, even if the company claims they will work with any device. Large electronic producers such as Apple take critical steps to warn its customers to be wary of third-party replacement and new parts, which it says could be counterfeit.

In the interest of safety, many fire departments are warning residents not to leave devices unattended while charging and not to charge them overnight.