Did you know that whilst your electrical system can be supremely reliable, it isn’t infallible. There are some dangers that you should be aware of, as well as what to look out for as preliminary signs. Electrical dangers can be extremely costly, as well as fatal, in the case of electric shocks. Electrical fires can’t be fought with a water hose, and doing so will often electrocute you. Hence, prevention is the best cure. Not to sound draconian, but we’ve rounded up eight of the most common electrical dangers that you should frequently keep an eye out for.
If you feel that your electrical system needs a professional once-over, give us at EVSOL Energy a call. Our Master Electricians are well experienced and qualified to detect any electrical system faults, as well as provide safe, reliable and long-term solutions. Give us a call and we’ll give you peace of mind. In the meantime, read on and discover the eight most common electrical dangers that homeowners should watch out for.
1. Loose Outlets
Do you find that your outlets are loose? Do plugs no longer sit tightly in them, but wobble about? Have you encountered a tripped breaker or sudden power outages when using a device that moves about, such as a vacuum cleaner or floor polisher? All this can point to a loose outlet.
As outlets are frequently used, they tend to get loose in multiple places. Sometimes the metal plates within the outlet that contact your plug’s pins and transfer electricity are no longer able to grip the plug as tightly as they did when new. This can cause plugs to wobble about when plugged in, or even fall out with the slightest tug on the cable. This can also cause sparking as the metal plates and plug pins move about. A slightly more serious problem is that the outlet itself has come loose from the wall, usually due to constant plugging and unplugging actions, or even tensioned cables. Have you ever pulled your vacuum cleaner cable taut whilst vacuuming to get at that tight spot in the corner of the room? Consider using a different outlet that’s closer to the spot instead.
If an outlet itself is loose, you can install shims to re-tighten it, but if the metal plates within the outlet are no longer gripping plugs with the force that they should, it’s time to replace the outlet with a new one.
2. Warm Outlet or Switch Faceplates
Outlet or switch faceplates typically shouldn’t get warm but remain at room temperature. If an outlet or switch faceplate is warmer to the touch than the surrounding area, it signals an issue that, if left unchecked, could lead to an electrical fire. Maybe there’s an oversized load going through that outlet that’s drawing heavy current and causing heat. Perhaps the metal plates are no longer gripping the plug pins with adequate force, causing sparking and heat. Or it could simply be that the outlet or switch has aged and is no longer able to perform its duty. Either way, a warm outlet or switch faceplate requires investigation. One exception is with fan controls and dimmers, as these have control electronics within them that give off a minor level of heat. However, these shouldn’t be significantly or unbearably hot either, so if that’s the case, something is amiss.
3. Slow or Wobbly Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans age over time. They get slow as their motors and bearings wear out, and control electrical components age and reduce in efficiency. They can also get wobbly, as the blades may have warped over time, or the entire fan may have become unbalanced. Either way, the fan will be pulling more current than it should, and an unbalanced fan may be shaking the wiring and attachment point. The worst-case scenarios include a fan dropping from the ceiling or catching fire. If your ceiling fans are slow or wobbly, it’s time to call an electrician, and the fan will most likely require replacement. The wires will also need to be checked for damage.
4. Using Bulbs of Incorrect Wattage
It’s tempting to simply install a higher-wattage bulb in a fixture whenever you need more light, but you should first check and see whether that fixture can accept a higher-wattage bulb, in terms of current draw as well as heat output. Whilst LED bulbs draw less current and emit less heat than incandescent ones, it still pays to check. This is particularly important for light fixtures with multiple bulbs, as you should also ensure that all bulbs are evenly matched to avoid uneven current draw.
5. Rodent Damage
Rodents can wreak havoc on your home’s electrical system if they start chewing on wires. Their activities can cause wires to arc and short out. Typically, your Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) will detect this and shut down, but if you keep resetting it instead of identifying and rectifying the fault by replacing the damaged wires, you could suffer an electrical fire. Ensure that rodents cannot enter your walls, ceilings and electrical conduits, and ensure that you engage in regular extermination and pest control services to keep your home free of rodents.
6. Faulty Extension Cords
Extension cords are one of the most common sources for electrical danger. These devices are superbly convenient, but they have a lifespan and are prone to damage. Even a simple pinching of the cable by a door or chair leg is enough to cause internal damage. Over time, their internal metal plates that contact with plug pins can wear out, just like in an electrical outlet. If an extension cord feels hot to the touch, it should immediately be disposed of. You should also ensure that you don’t overload extension cords and replace old ones with new ones periodically. Extension cords are typically not meant to be used for decades on end.
7. Damaged Electrical Panel or Breaker Panels
The electrical panel is the central control panel of your home’s electrical system, and you should ensure that it’s in peak condition. The same goes for individual breaker panels that may be situated on the upper floor of your home, for example. You should periodically open and visually check for signs of overheating, damage, rodent activity, rust, or corrosion on any of its components. As for checking the internal workings, leave that to a competent Master Electrician to perform, or give us at EVSOL Energy a call and we’ll do it for you.
8. Tripping Ground Fault Circuit Interruptors (GFCI)
A Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor is used when a high current draw electrical circuit is typically used within six feet of a water source. The purpose of this is to prevent electrocution if the plugged-in device comes into contact with water. Common usage scenarios include water heaters in the bathroom, or countertop outlets in the kitchen for toasters, food processors and blenders. Your cooker will also be connected to a GFCI outlet. If one or more GFCI outlets are constantly tripping, you could have a problem. An easy way to isolate if the outlet or appliance is at fault is to unplug the appliance from the tripped outlet, reset the outlet via the button on its faceplate and re-plug the appliance. If the outlet trips again, unplug the appliance once again, reset the GFCI via the button and plug in a different outlet. If the outlet does not trip now, the appliance is at fault. However, you should also have your GFCI outlets periodically checked by a competent electrician, such as our Master Electricians, to ensure that they are working properly.
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