September 13, 2019
The leading cause of home fires is due to electrical mishaps, according to The Electrical Safety Foundation International. Certain habits of homeowners may be putting their homes and themselves at risk too.
Apartment Therapy recently asked electricians to chime in with the most dangerous things they often see homeowners do that could be putting their home at risk, including:
Using adapters on two-prong outlets.
“Three-prong outlets didn’t become standard in North American homes until the late 1960s, so while modern homes should be in good shape, there are plenty of homes out there with old two-prong outlets,” Mark Dawson, chief operating officer at Mister Sparky, told Apartment Therapy. Many new appliances use three prongs so owners may use an adapter to plug it in, but Dawson warns against it. “Instead, you should consider upgrading the outlet if you need to regularly use three-prong plugs,” he says.
Using loose electrical outlets.
Electricians warn plugging in loose electrical outlets can lead to fires and be dangerous to others too. “If the cord falls out easily, this means that the blades inside the outlet have become loose, and can now generate a lot of heat,” Josh McCormick, vice president of operations for Mr. Electric, told Apartment Therapy.
Using the wrong extension cords outside.
Make sure the extension cord is rated for outdoor use. Otherwise, it could overheat and potentially cause a fire, electricians say. Check extension cords for letters on it. A “W” on it means it can be used outdoors; an “S” marked on the cord means its rated to be used only inside the home.
Overloading a circuit.
Look for signs that you may be overloading the circuit, such as blinking or dimming lights, frequently tripped circuit breakers, discolored outlet covers, or even buzzing sounds near outlets. If you suspect an overloaded circuit, contact a licensed electrician to inquire about upgrading your panel, McCormick advises.
Overlooking the importance of ground fault circuits.
All outlets in the bathroom and kitchen should be equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters. These will shut off the power when they sense water near. That could be lifesaving in avoiding an electrical shock.