Back to School and College Electricity Safety Tips for Students
The return to school each year also marks a return to some dangers from electrocution or fires. Even hooking up computers, appliances, TVs, game consoles and other electronics should be done with care. Students and parents who know what electrical hazards to look for and how to address them will start the school year with peace of mind.
Protect yourself from injury and keep electronics running safely by taking the following precautions:
- Use only approved electrical products with the mark of a recognized certification agency.
- Choose power bars with a heavy-gauge cord that are approved by a recognized certification agency.
- Replace frayed or damaged extension cords with new ones.
- Keep extension cords out from under carpet, rugs or furniture as this could damage the cord and also present a fire hazard.
- Keep flammable materials such as books, paper and clothing away from heaters, stoves and other heating sources.
- Never leave cooking appliances unattended.
- Plug portable heaters and air conditioners directly into the outlet. If an extension cord is needed, to prevent overheating and risk of fire, use only one that is rated for this purpose to ensure that the cord can handle the electrical current.
- Never remove the third prong from an electrical product. The third prong is the grounding device and is a critical safety feature.
- Avoid overloading outlets or circuits as this can cause overheating that may lead to fire.
Now, if you are a college student moving away from home to stay on or off campus, make sure you check for electrical hazards prior to moving in:
- Exposed electrical wiring.
- Loose or damaged plugs and switches, or outlets and switches with missing cover plates.
- Dim, flickering or surging lights.
- Fuses that blow or circuit breakers that frequently trip, or outlets that don’t work when fuses are replaced or breakers reset.
- Fuses and switches that are warm or hot to the touch
Should you require any expert advice at home, make an appointment with the professionals at Mister Sparky today!
Electrical Safety Tips for Backyard Summertime Fun
It’s the middle of summer and you probably have been spending nearly as much time outside in your yard as you have inside the house. If so, it’s always important to think about how to maintain a safe and fun summertime experience… especially in your backyard.
Here are a few tips to help keep your summer safe and fun:
1. GFCI outlets are designed to shut off power automatically when the outlet detects an electricity “leak,” most often due to contact with water. GFCI outlets are a required safety device for all outdoor outlets. Test GFCI outlets outdoors before any party or family gathering and once every 30 days.
2. When purchasing your outdoor extension cords, always make sure they are marked “for outdoor us.” These devices may be more expensive, but they are thicker, weather-resistant, and designed to withstand more wear and tear.
3. When working near electrical wiring, do NOT use metal ladders. Opt for wooden or fiberglass ladders instead.
4. Although it may seem obvious, do NOT use electric grills when raining or drizzling outside. As with every other outdoor electrical device, make sure it is plugged into a GFCI-protected outlet.
5. If for any reason you need to dig a hole in your backyard, always call your utility before you dig. They will let you know if there are any underground utility services in the way or if you are safe to dig in a particular area.
6. Do NOT attempt to remove or trim trees near power lines. Your local municipality or utility company will take care of this for you.
7. Always store electrical equipment indoors and never use corded power tools in wet or damp conditions. If you notice any frayed wires, exposed cords, or any other electrical damage, make the repair or replacement as soon as you can. It’s always a good idea to choose power tools with insulated grips.
8. Make sure all electrical equipment used for swimming pools, including the cleaning equipment, is properly and professionally grounded.
9. Of course, if you hear thunder or see lighting, seek shelter in a building or vehicle.
If you have any questions or think you may need to add GFCI outlets or even get an opinion on how to set up that outdoor lighting system, or landscape lighting system, give the well-trained professionals at Mister Sparky a call. We’ll help make sure you have a safe and sound background summer adventure! Make an appointment today!
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.
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.
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!
Dive in! But remember that Electricity and Water don’t mix! Electrical Safety Tips for Pools and Spas
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.
Use a qualified electrician to add outdoor lighting around your home
You may have noticed that it’s not staying as light as late as it used to in the early evening… which means it’s time to think about outdoor lighting around your home. Lights along a pathway, above a garage or patio, or illuminating your front porch can not only add beauty to your home but it can make your home safer too.
The one thing we all know as northern Maryland’s electrical experts is how to always put safety first. The safety of our customers and their homes is our number one priority at Mister Sparky. So when you are considering adding outdoor lighting around your home, call us first at 410-457-7297.
By adding lighting to the exterior of your home, you are:
- Reducing the likelihood of accidents by illuminating pathways and porches, keeping both family and guests aware of what is around them at all times.
- Warding off potential thieves; burglars love a nice dark home with no lights around doors or windows as it minimizes the chances of them being detected by neighbors. Particularly, motion detection lights can scare off would-be intruders and provide peace of mind to homeowners.
And, of course, any time you add new lighting to your home, you are increasing the curb appeal and thus the potential value of your home. From the subtle style of a well-placed coach light above the garage to a flood light that shines over a pool area at night, make sure you hire a professional electrician to perform the work.
That will guarantee the job is done right and keep you safe from the dangers of electrocution. Have your home’s electrical system inspected by the highly-trained professionals at Mister Sparky. It’s easy and it might just save a life!
Visit our page on outdoor lighting for more information. Then schedule an appointment with your Mister Sparky electrician today!