Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tip 1: Before You Upgrade Your Appliances - An Electrical Safety Checklist

May is National Electrical Safety Month

While the odds of being killed by a lightning strike are approximately 1 in 2.3 million, more than 800 people in the U.S. die each year from electrocutions and electrical fires and thousands are injured.  Each year, electrical problems cause over 140,000 electrical fires and $1.1 billion in property losses. 

May is National Electrical Safety Month and a good time to check your home and to protect yourself and your family from electrical hazards. 

According to Underwriters Laboratories (UL), over 30 million homes - over one-third of the United States housing – is more  than 50 years old.  Why does this matter for electrical safety?  Tim Emsley, Manager of Bel-Red Electric in the Seattle area, notes, “ today’s homeowner demands higher levels of electricity, we have added numerous appliances  for lifestyle changes to our homes.  If an electrical system is obsolete, there are many unseen hazards."  For example, old wiring inside walls can be overheating and damaging it’s own insulation.  High wattage light bulbs located too close to ceilings can char wood frames.  Often, home owners use light bulbs that exceed the fixture wattage rating.  It is easy to be complacent as long as the lights come on and the appliances work – until a fire starts.

Because 53 percent of residential fires involve electrical wiring, home owners can greatly
increase protection by installing an arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI).  This safety device detects and stops electrical arcs that can cause fires.  Arcs are not detected by most breakers and fuses.

Additionally, to protect personnel you can invest in ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).  These de-energize a circuit when a hazardous condition is detected that could result in a severe electrical shock or electrocution.  If your home already has GFCIs, it is critical to test them on a regular basis.  Installing GFCI protection in every home and workplace – and checking it monthly - could prevent almost 70% of electrocutions that occur each year. 

Here is a helpful checklist of Don'ts and Dos:

Don't overload power strips, cords and surge suppressors.
Don't overload circuits by plugging too many items into the same outlet.
Don't run electric cords under rugs or in high traffic areas.
Don't use power tools or electrical appliances if the cords are frayed.

Do replace damaged electrical equipment or have it repaired at an authorized dealer.
Do use GFCIs when working where water is close to electricity.
Do check electrical outlets and old wiring.
Do check your light fixtures, lamps and light bulbs to insure proper wattage.

Homeowners can prevent many problems that may lead to electrical fires, but in some cases, it is important to consult a professional electrician.  Emsley points out that "if you have an older home , then some small but important wiring issues can be critical to home safety."  When Bel-Red makes a service call, the electrician provides a list of electrical safety recommendations at no charge.  The company can make homes safer the same day as their service trucks are equipped to make on-the-spot repairs.

Eliminating electrical hazards begins with education and awareness.  Homeowners can protect their families and property by checking for hazardous conditions and by consulting a professional electrician.

If you live in the greater Seattle Area, including Redmond and Bellevue, WA, contact Bel-Red Electric to learn more about safely upgrading your residential electric service.