Make Home Electrical Safety your New Year’s Resolution

Let’s face it: electrical safety in the home is something that we spend very little time thinking about. Yet, all electrical systems—including the ones that surround us every day—have the potential to cause shock, injury, fires and death. According to the National Fire Protection Association, about 50,000 fires are caused by faulty electrical systems in homes each year, resulting in about 450 deaths and 1,500 injuries.

Here are a few resolutions (tips from the National Fire Protection Association) that could help you and your family make a safer home part of your New Year.

  1. Replace or repair damaged or loose electrical cords.
  2. Avoid running extension cords across doorways or under carpets.
  3. In homes with small children, make sure your home has tamper-resistant (TR) receptacles.
  4. Consider having additional circuits or outlets added by a qualified electrician so you do not have to use extension cords.
  5. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for plugging an appliance into a receptacle outlet.
  6. Avoid overloading outlets. Plug only one high-wattage appliance into each receptacle outlet at a time.
  7. If outlets or switches feel warm, frequent problems with blowing fuses or tripping circuits, or flickering or dimming lights, call a qualified electrician.
  8. Place lamps on level surfaces, away from things that can burn and use bulbs that match the lamp’s recommended wattage.
  9. Make sure your home has ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in the kitchen bathroom(s), laundry, basement, and outdoor areas.
  10. Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) should be installed in your home to protect electrical outlets.

The best resolution starts with a home safety Inspection from the experts at Mister Sparky. Make an appointment here and make peace of mind your New Year’s reality in 2020.

Home Electrical Tips for a Safer Holiday Season

It’s that time of year that we all tend to channel our inner Clark Griswold and decorate the house with “thousands of twinkling lights”. But, decorators beware! According to the National Fire Protection Association, holiday lights and other decorative lighting with line voltage are involved in an estimated average of 160 home structure fires each year, causing an average of nine civilian deaths, 13 civilian injuries, and $9 million in direct property damage. Electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in two-thirds of those fires.  In addition, 12 percent of home candle fires occurred in December; which is 1.5 times the monthly average the rest of the year.

When planning and implementing your lighting design, keep these holiday lighting safety tips in mind to help reduce your risk of property damage, injury or death.

  • Unlike incandescent bulbs which generate most of their energy in heat, LEDs are cool to the touch—which also indicates greater energy-efficiency, not to mention safer for little hands!
  • LEDs are made with epoxy lenses, not glass and are much more durable.
  • When hanging lights outdoors, use a wooden or fiberglass ladder
  • Turn off all indoor and outdoor holiday lighting before leaving the house or going to bed.
  • Never drape anything over a light bulb or lamp shade.
  • Avoid using candles when possible. Consider using battery-operated candles in place of traditional candles.
  • Never leave an open flame unattended. Keep burning candles within sight.
  • Extinguish all candles before you leave the room or go to bed.
  • Place lighted candles away from combustible material and areas where they might be knocked over.
  • Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens.
  • Keep candles away from other decorations and wrapping paper.  Do not burn wrapping paper.

Keep these tips in mind and have a much merrier holiday season!

And as always, it’s a great idea to have an electrical safety inspection by your friends at Mister Sparky!

Source: Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI)

October is Fire Safety Month

This week, schools and businesses throughout Harford County are practicing fire drills in observance of Fire Prevention Week, an important week during Fire Safety Month. Since 1922, when the National Fire Protection Association named the second week of October Fire Prevention Week in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, we’ve celebrated by raising fire safety awareness and educating communities across the country.

Now is a great time to discuss with your family how to prevent fires and what to do if a fire breaks out in your home. In a typical home fire, there may be only one to two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. Escape planning and practice can help keep everyone calm and give everyone enough time to get out safely.

Plan ahead for your escape. Make your home escape plan and practice before you’re in a scary situation.

Fire Safety Reminders

  • Check batteries in smoke detectors to make sure they’re working. There should be a smoke alarm in each room.
  • Never leave a space heater on when no one is home, and always keep them away from anything flammable.
  • Hire a chimney sweep to inspect your chimney and fireplace, and make sure the flue is open before you light a fire.
  • Keep lighters and matches high up so young children can’t reach them and start a fire.
  • Keep lighted candles out of reach of kids, and always blow them out before you leave home.

If you smell any burning, particularly the smell of wires or see smoke coming from your outlets or electrical panel, call the fire department immediately. And remember, it is always a good idea to have a safety inspection performed by the experts at Mister Sparky. Make an appointment today.

How to Protect Your House from an Electrical Fire

As the weather changes and we end up spending more time indoors, that raises the risk and dangers of electrical fires.

Electricity is something we tend to take for granted since it is present in virtually every aspect of our lives. But like many things in our home, it can pose a serious danger that a lot of people never really think about. Because we use it so much, it’s easy to forget all about its risk of a potentially deadly electrical fire.

What to do if you experience an Electrical Fire

It’s important to know what to do in case an electrical fire starts because they are not the same as traditional fires that are started by candles, matches and burning cigarettes.

What to do if an electrical fire starts in your home:

  1. If you know which device is causing the electrical fire, unplug it right away if you can safely reach the cord.
  2. Small electrical fires can be put out by depriving them of their oxygen source. You can do this by putting clothing or a heavy blanket on it if it’s safe.
  3. Do NOT pour water over an electrical fire. Why? Because, water naturally conducts electricity and when people throw water on electrical fires, they can be electrocuted or shocked. Additionally, water can make an electrical fire spread by conducting electricity to other places in the room, such as flammable curtains and couches.
  4. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher in your home that’s designed for Class C fires; electrical fires are Class C. Most residential fire extinguishers are labeled ABC, but it’s critical to verify that an extinguisher is meant to put out Class C fires before you purchase one.

If you cannot extinguish an electrical fire, GET OUT of the house and make sure all of your family members and pets are removed from the house immediately. Close the door so the fire can be contained and call 911 after you’ve gotten a safe distance away from the fire. Do NOT go back into the house until after the firefighters have told you it’s safe to do so.

A great place to start is to have your professionals at Mister Sparky conduct a safety inspection of your home. We’ll pinpoint any hazardous issues we find and help you avert possible disaster!

Make an appointment today!

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!