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!

June is National Homeownership Month… Make it a Safe One!

National Homeownership Month in June shines a spotlight on supporting the American Dream of homeownership. For homeowners in Bel Air, Aberdeen and the surrounding counties, it’s the perfect time to think about making safe and smart decisions when it comes to your home’s electrical system.

All too often disaster strikes in your home’s electrical system via power surges. These can come from a variety of sources… including a lightning strike. The damage from a power surge can include loss of expensive electronics in the home, such as computers or home entertainment systems, including that large-screen TV.

While a power surge may not seem like something that happens often enough to be top of mind, most households will experience one eventually, and so you don’t want to take them lightly.

What Is a Power Surge?

A power surge can be caused by an overloaded outlet or circuit, damaged wiring, lightning strikes, or plugging in a high-powered electrical device that can cause an energy spike.

In any of these cases, short but powerful surges of electrical voltage can travel throughout the home and affect any room or any appliance that’s plugged into an outlet.

Protecting your Home from a Power Surge

So, how do you protect yourself from a power surge? Typically, the larger your appliance, the stronger the surge protector needs to be. Overall, the minimal expense of buying a surge protector pales in comparison to that of replacing an electronic appliance or device that is damaged by a surge.

Whole House Power Surge Protection

For those who want to protect their entire homes, call the pros at Mister Sparky and learn about the benefits of installing whole house surge protectors that will safeguard everything in your home that’s plugged into any outlet. We can explain the best option for your home based on what you are seeking to protect.

So this June, stay safe in your home and protect your family and your belongings.

Electricity safety around the home is no accident

We all know the phrase… safety first. But when it comes to electricity around our homes, it can be easy to overlook things we might take for granted.

Here are some tips to help keep you and your family safe around the house:

1. Replace or repair damaged power cords

Exposed wiring is a danger that cannot go overlooked, according the National Fire Protection Assocation. If you see the protective coating on a wire is stripped away, be sure to replace it or cover it with electrical tape as soon as possible.

2. Don’t overload your outlets

Every outlet in your home is designed to deliver a certain amount of electricity; by plugging too many devices into it at once, you could cause a small explosion or a fire. If you have a lot of things to plug in, use a power strip (an energy saving one of course!) that can safely accommodate your needs.

3. Avoid extension cords as much as possible

Running extension cords through the house can trip up residents; this can cause injury and damage to the wire or outlet if it causes the cord to be ripped out of the wall. If you find yourself using extension cords very often, consider having an electrician install new outlets throughout your home.

4. Keep electrical equipment or outlets away from water

Water conducts electricity, so even the slightest exposure to this dangerous mix can lead to injury. Make sure you wipe up any spills to ensure that plugs don’t get wet.

5. Protect small children from hazards

Toddlers and small children are very curious– and they love to explore just about everything. Parents of small children should put tamper-resistant safety caps on all unused electrical outlets. In addition, all loose cords should be tidied up and put out of reach to avoid kids tugging on them.

If you are unsure if your home is as safe as it could be… call in the experts at Mister Sparky for a home electric safety inspection. It’s a call that pays off with peace of mind and may just save someone in your family from a dangerous encounter with electricity. Call us today!

Consider an electric generator this spring

April showers bring May flowers. Of course, too often they also bring flooding, wind, and power outages. But what will you do when your power goes out? Call the electric company like everyone else and wait?

Why not just continue to live like you do when the power is on!

You can with a whole-house generator from Mister Sparky.

Storms can bring some pretty nasty winds and weather and leave you and your family with no heat, no air conditioning, and no power to keep your refrigerator cold or food in your freezer frozen.

Not to mention, spring storms can bring heavy rains, and unless you have a battery powered backup sump pump, your regular sump pump will have no electricity to pump out all of that excess water. Needless to say, power outages can be very uncomfortable and possibly very costly.

Why Should I Install a Standby Generator in My Home?

  • Comfort: You will be able to stay cool in the summer or warm in the winter when a power outage stops your furnace or AC. Your standby generator will automatically kick on when it senses a break in the power.
  • Convenience: Today’s generators sense when the power goes off and will start up and shut off automatically, leaving you one less thing to worry about during a nasty storm.
  • Choice: You can power all or just a portion of your home during an outage. A home backup generator delivers power directly to your home’s electrical system, backing up your entire home or just the essential items like your furnace, AC, refrigerators, freezers, medical equipment, etc.
  • Protection from Flooded Basements: It will also eliminate the threat of storm water getting into your home because your sump pump stopped working.
  • Protection from Power Surges: When electricity is interrupted, it can surge back on suddenly, causing damage to electronics in your home including computers, TVs, and more. These may not be covered by insurance.
  • Peace of Mind with Medically Dependent: If you have someone in your home who depends on electrically powered medical equipment, like oxygen tanks or ventilators, a standby generator can be a literal life saver.
  • Rental Property: If you own a home that is not always occupied, a standby generator can prevent the temperature from dropping and causing frozen pipes in the winter. It can also keep food from spoiling in your refrigerator or freezer.

Ask your Mister Sparky experts about the ideal generator for your home. And put the power back in your own hands! Make your 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.

Portable Generators

  • 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.

Space Heaters

  • 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.

Home Safety Checklist for Fire Safety Month

Does your home have smoke alarms on every level, as well as inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and also in the basement?

Does your home have carbon monoxide alarms on every level—minimum protection? For maximum protection, do you have CO alarms inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and in the basement?

Are batteries working in all your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms?

Are all alarms tested and cleaned monthly? The only calibrated test method for the alarm is to press the test button. Vacuum the outside of the alarms. Do not spray cleaning chemicals on or around the alarms. Do not use “canned air” to clean combination alarms. It actually contains a gas that will damage the carbon monoxide sensor.

Did you change your clock, and change your alarm batteries at the same time? Batteries should be replaced at least once year, or immediately if the low battery chirps sounds.

Download the complete Fire Safety Checklist here:

Mister_Sparky_Home_Safety_Checklist

October is Fire Safety Month

Your family is at risk

Fire is the single biggest threat to your home and your family’s safety. During Fire Safety Month we bring you helpful tips to prevent catastrophe from striking your home and your family.

Here are the types of fires that can take literally make your entire life go up in smoke:

  1. Fast Flaming Fire: Sources of these fires may include paper burning in a wastebasket, or a kitchen grease fire.
  2. Slow Smoldering Fire: These fires burn for hours before bursting into flame. Sources of these fires may include cigarettes burning in couches or bedding or even a lightning strike to the roof of your home.

Make a no-risk appointment to have a Mister Sparky professional inspect your home and to learn more about the best ways to prevent these types of fires.

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.