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!

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.

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

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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.

NFPA Tips:

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 or click here.

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.