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Many of us grew up learning some basics of electrical safety: Unplug appliances before cleaning them, keep appliances and power tools away from water sources, and do not touch downed power lines. How many of us have an understanding of how the electrical systems in our North Port, Florida, apartments and houses work? To keep you and members of your household safe, follow essential electrical safety measures related to outlets, cords, and your home’s electrical service panel.

Be Careful With Cords

Regularly check cords to make sure they’re in good condition. Replace any appliance or item that has cracked or damaged cord. To prevent cords from being damaged, keep them away from high-traffic areas of your home.

Improperly maintained cords are among some of the leading sources of fires in the home. To avoid potential fire hazards, do not nail or staple cords to baseboards, other objects, or walls. Ensure that cords do not travel under carpets or rugs, and do not place heavy furniture on them.

Avoid leaving portable and countertop appliances plugged in when they’re not in use. Even though they’re not operating, these appliances can still consume small amounts of electricity. Unplugging appliances can help you save a few dollars on your home’s utility bill.

Treat Outlets With Care

Make sure outlets and switches are flush with walls. Remove and replace any broken outlet covers. To keep children from placing objects into outlets, use outlet safety covers.

Ensure that all plugs fit correctly into outlets. Never force or try to modify a plug to fit into an outlet, and don’t overload circuits by trying to plug too many appliances or objects into a single outlet.

In rooms where water is present, such as bathrooms, the kitchen, and the laundry room, have an electrician install ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets. These special types of outlets prevent electrical shocks by interrupting the circuit if they detect an unsafe flow of electricity through the outlets.

You can do a simple test to make sure GFCI outlets throughout your house are working correctly. Push the "reset" button, plug a small device such as a hair dryer into the outlet, and turn on the device. Push the "test" button; the hair dryer or test device should turn off. If you discover that the GFCI does not function correctly, contact an electrician to help you correct the problem.

Pay Attention to Your Home’s Service Panel

If you need to shut off a circuit breaker in the service panel, place tape over the breaker and close the panel door. If your home has a fuse box, remove the fuse so that someone in your home doesn’t decide to inadvertently use it. Tape a sign to the panel door that reads "Do Not Touch" to alert people not to try turning on the power.

When you need to stop power going to a circuit, be sure to verify that power is not flowing to the respective outlets. You can purchase a tool called a continuity tester at a hardware store; this tool can tell you whether the power has been shut off properly.

When you need to reset your circuit breaker, follow the instructions below.

Circuit Breaker

  1. Find the breaker that has its switch facing toward the off position. Some breakers may have a red indicator button that displays if a circuit is tripped.
  2. Before you reset the switch, check inside the panel to find out what circuit the breaker controls and shut off any appliances or lights to prevent the circuit from overloading once you turn it on. Reset the breaker switch to the on position.

Fuse Box

  1. Before replacing a blown fuse, turn off appliances and lights on the circuit.
  2. Turn off the main power supply to your home. Depending on the type of fuse box your home contains, you may need to remove a fuse block (look for one labeled "main power"), slide a lever to shut off power, or turn off power at a main service panel located elsewhere in your apartment building or house.
  3. Once the power is shut off, carefully unscrew the fuse. Be careful only to touch the insulated rim of the fuse. Replace the old fuse with a new one of the correct amperage. Never use objects such as pennies as substitutes for fuses.
  4. Removable-cartridge fuses supply power to large appliances, such as home air conditioners. To change these types of fuses, you’ll want to contact an electrician to help you make the necessary replacement.

Watch How You Handle Extension Cords

If an appliance pulls more electricity than the extension cord it’s connected to can carry, the cord can overheat and start a fire. Each year, about 4,700 fires in the home result from problems with extension cords, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Before using any extension cords in your home, make sure that the cords you are using have been certified by an independent testing laboratory, such as the Underwriters Laboratory. Also, take time to verify that both the size and wattage rating are correct for the type of extension cord use you intend. Generally, the thicker the cord, the higher the wattage it can handle.

Here’s a way you can calculate wattage if the appliance or tool expresses power usage in amps. Multiply amps by volts (such as 120 volts) to determine wattage.

Follow the tips below for more extension cord safety guidelines:

  • Be sure polarized appliances are plugged into polarized extension cords only. Polarized plugs are a special type of plug that features one prong that’s slightly wider than the other and goes into an outlet only one way.
  • Immediately disconnect a cord if any part of it feels warm. Heat in an extension cord can signal that the cord is being overloaded, which could result in a fire or electrical shock.
  • When using outdoor appliances and tools, or adding illuminated decorations to the outside of your home during the holiday season, use only extension cords rated for outdoor use.
  • In areas of the home where beds or furniture may be moved against extension cords at the part where they join the plug, use an angle extension cord. This type of cord is designed specifically to accommodate this situation.
  • Do not place extension cords in areas where they can become tripping hazards. Additionally, don’t use nails, staples, or tacks to attach extension cords to baseboards, walls, or similar surfaces. Sharp objects can damage the cord, which can create fire hazards or expose people to potential electrical shocks.
  • Keep all extension cords away from heat sources such as heating units. Do not install them behind a refrigerator and never attempt to plug a refrigerator into an extension cord.

Other Electrical Safety Issues You Shouldn’t Ignore

  • Keep electrical equipment away from sources of water, such as bathtubs, pools, and sinks. Never touch any electrical equipment, outlets, or switches with wet hands or while you’re standing in water. Water and electricity are a dangerous combination.
  • If your house has aluminum wiring, do not attempt to make any types of electrical repairs on your own. Aluminum wiring is more susceptible to damage than copper wiring. If you’re unsure about the type of wiring that exists in your home, contact Aqua Plumbing & Air’s electrical technicians for help.
  • Use surge protectors on appliances and electronic devices in your home. A surge protector works to protect appliances by diverting extra power if voltage on a circuit exceeds 120 volts. When buying surge protectors, choose those that have an indicator light so that you can verify that they are operating properly.
  • Be aware of signs that could signal you may have a problem with the electrical wiring in your home: circuits that always trip, flickering lights, a smell of burning plastic that could indicate overheated wires, or outlet covers that feel hot to the touch. Contact an electrician immediately if you discover these problems in your home.

Taking steps to promote electrical safety in your home can help protect your loved ones and your home from dangers such as electrical shocks or fires. For reliable electrical services in the North Port area, contact our electrical experts at Aqua Plumbing & Air at 941-306-3715.

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