October 7th marked the beginning of Fire Prevention Week. Along with other areas of concern, electrical safety plays a large part in protecting your home and family from fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association, electrical failures and malfunctions played a part in an estimated 46,500 home fires in 2010. Home electrical fires can be prevented, so let's focus on how to keep you safe.
Upgrade to AFCIs
Many home fires start as a result of arcing faults, which can happen when a wire becomes worn, overheated, or damaged. While practicing safety measures like checking for wiring before drilling into walls, and keeping extension cords uncovered by carpets or heavy furniture can help protect your wiring, an AFCI is an important back-up to have.
Arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) can prevent electrical fires before they even start. While GFCIs work to prevent electrical shock, AFCIs can detect arcing in your home’s electrical components and shut off the power before a fire begins. These advanced circuit breakers will replace the standard ones in your home and should be installed by a licensed electrician to ensure safety.
AFCIs should be tested once a month to make sure they are working properly. With the breaker set to “ON,” press the “TEST” button on your breaker; if it is working properly, the breaker should trip. Set the breaker to “OFF,” then back to “ON” to reset.
Check your smoke detectors
Whether your smoke detectors are battery-powered or hardwired, you should test them monthly to make sure there are no problems. Batteries should be replaced once a year no matter what, and immediately if you hear the “chirping” noise which indicates low battery life. All smoke alarms have a “TEST” button which you should use. If the test function does not work, it’s time for a new smoke detector.
It’s important to make sure your home has enough smoke detectors; just one doesn’t cut it. In multi-level homes, smoke detectors should be on every floor. If family members sleep with bedroom doors shut, install a smoke detector in each bedroom; a closed-door provides a barrier to smoke, so smoke from a fire started within a bedroom may take longer to reach a hallway detector. Also, smoke detectors installed in hallways and other living rooms are safe solutions.
Check outlets and cords
Make sure your electrical equipment is in good working order by performing an inspection of the outlets. All outlets should be working, and shouldn’t be making crackling or buzzing noises when in use. Also, outlets should never be warm to the touch, and all plugs should fit snuggly when plugged in. Any faulty outlets should be replaced before further use. Be careful not to overuse outlet extenders, because they can overload your outlets. If you have curious children or pets at home, use safety closures to prevent access.
Test all light and power switches within your home to make sure they are working properly. Switches should also never be warm to the touch or make crackling and buzzing sounds when in use. If you have a light switch that sticks or a light fixture that flickers, immediately shut them off and have them professionally replaced.
Where cords are concerned, make sure they are in good condition. The protective coating around wires shouldn’t be pinched, torn, or cracked in any way, and the wires within should never be exposed. If you are using an extension cord for something constantly, consider having an additional outlet installed.
Electrical appliances should be kept off wet countertops and away from wet floors. These conditions can often be found in your kitchen and bathrooms, so make sure your family pays special attention when using appliances in these areas. Make sure electrical cords to all appliances are in good condition and not frayed.
If you’d like help evaluating and updating your home for electrical safety, give us a call. Frye Electric can install new outlets, switches, and AFCIs to keep your home safe, as well as hardwire smoke detectors to help protect your family should a fire occur.