As winter approaches, it can be easy to get carried away with ideas about festive family get-togethers and forget about safety. Unfortunately, the cold season presents several serious dangers to homeowners including house fires and serious electrical shocks. Here are three seasonal electrical safety tips that you need to remember this holiday season to keep you and your family safe.
1: Check Those Christmas Lights Before Use
To save money on Christmas lights, most people reuse those strands year after year. By the time you dig those lights out of your storage unit and untangle the lines, you might be ready to slap them on your tree and not think about them again until the New Year. Unfortunately, failure to inspect your old Christmas lights can seriously cost you.
Over time, Christmas lights are exposed to a lot of damage. In addition to enduring the rigors of being tossed around your floor as you decorate your house, they can also be damaged by curious children and pets. Unfortunately, ignoring an exposed wire or a broken section might spark a house fire fast.
If electrical current is allowed to pass through an injured line, it can create heat and light your tree on fire. Since dried out pine needles are exceptionally flammable, a few missed problems could destroy your entire home. To avoid the serious issues that damaged Christmas lights can cause, carefully inspect your strands before use. Check for non-working bulbs, frayed lines, or signs of heat damage. If you spot any problems, don't risk it- throw out those old lights and pick up a new set.
2: Use Extension Cords Properly
When you want to rearrange your living room for a family party or put your tree in the corner, the last thing that you might be thinking about is the availability of electrical outlets. To make things work, you might be tempted to whip out an old extension cord and route it underneath carpet or around furniture. Unfortunately, over 3,300 home fires are caused by improper extension cord use each year.
As family members walk over hidden cords or the device is smashed behind furniture, it can damage the interior structure create problems. Although extension cords are supposed to be used temporarily, many people are tempted to use them long-term, which increases the risk of the cord catching on fire. Sometimes, people even daisy chain cords together to make a single longer strand, which can also lead to fires.
To keep your family safe and your home intact this holiday season, always use extension cords properly. As with Christmas lights, inspect your cord for damage before you use it. Never use extension cords on a permanent basis. If you need power in an area where outlets are not available, contact an electrical contractor who can properly install new lines. When you use extension cords, make sure to keep the lines straight and free of sharp bends, to avoid damaging the internal wires.
3: Test Outdoor GFCI Outlets
During the winter, you might find yourself working outside occasionally to tidy up your yard or to assemble large holiday gifts. Unfortunately, puddles of water can create huge dangers to homeowners who happen to be using electrical equipment such as power drills and shop-vacuums.
If you drape a frayed cord through a puddle and then someone walks through the area, they might be electrocuted unless the proper safety mechanisms are in place. Fortunately, building code requires GFCI outlets for any area that could be subjected to water. These devices monitor the flow of electrical current, and cut the power if they detect a problem, which can keep you or someone you love from being shocked.
Unfortunately, these devices can fail over time, which could give you a dangerous surprise during your holiday preparations. To make sure that your GFCI outlets are functioning properly, test them by plugging in a simple light or clock radio and hitting the "test" button. If the power shuts off, the outlet is working like it should. However, if the light or radio stays on, the outlet could be bad and may need to be replaced by a professional electrician, like one from Safeway Electric.
Although it might seem like a hassle, exercising a little electrical safety during the holidays might help you to avoid trips to the emergency room and troublesome insurance claims.