May is National Electrical Safety Month – Here’s How You Can Celebrate!

Ways to Practice Electrical Safety This Month and Beyond!

Here in the United States, May is Electrical Safety Month – a time for raising awareness of common electrical hazards and how to avoid them. Considering that this country sees over 50,000 electrical fires, 4,000 injuries caused by electric shock, and hundreds of electrocution death every year, improving electrical safety is undoubtedly a vital endeavor! 

Fortunately, homeowners can take relatively simple steps to make their home electrical systems safer and more efficient. This article will outline three ways homeowners can improve electrical safety in their homes this May – and all year round!

Stay Up to Date With Electrical Safety Devices

electricalThe National Electrical Code (NEC), which sets the standards for the design, installation, and inspection of electrical systems, requires that every home be equipped with certain electrical safety devices to protect against the dangers of electric shock, electrical fires, and circuit overloads. 

Perhaps the most common of these devices is the circuit breaker. These automatically switch off (aka “trip”) to stop the flow of electricity through a circuit when an irregular or excessive current is detected, like in the case of an overloaded circuit (more on these shortly). Fuses serve a similar function, but instead of turning off like a light switch as breakers do, these feature a thin metal strip that physically melts to break the flow of current. Fuses have largely been phased out in residential buildings, partly due to their occasional tendency to start fires.

Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are another type of safety device every home needs. These outlets can detect even very small imbalances in electrical current that may indicate a ground fault – a term for when electricity finds another path to the ground rather than the circuit’s built-in grounding wire. The GFCI will instantly stop the current flow if a fault is detected, which can save lives by preventing electric shock. GFCI outlets (those with the little “test” and “reset” buttons) are typically required in bathrooms, kitchens, and anywhere else with an increased risk of exposure to moisture.

Watch Out for Overloaded Circuits

Circuit overloads are among the most common electrical hazards every homeowner should know about. They typically occur when too many devices or appliances are plugged into the same circuit, pulling more amperage than the circuit was designed to handle. Not only can this damage any devices connected to the circuit, but it can also cause wiring, outlets, and other electrical equipment to overheat, potentially resulting in a fire. 

Homeowners can help avoid an overloaded circuit by spreading devices (especially high-power ones) across multiple circuits and not crowding or daisy-chaining power strips. But it also helps to know the signs of an overloaded circuit so that an electrician can be called in time. These signs include:

  • Flickering lights
  • Outlets or light switches are warm to the touch
  • Outlets or light switches are smoking or making buzzing noises
  • Circuit breakers keep tripping

Utilize Surge Protectors

surgeAnother electrical hazard to watch out for is a power surge. This is a voltage spike in a given circuit, typically caused by lightning strikes, trees falling on power lines, the power suddenly being turned back on after an outage, and even motors kicking on in large appliances like refrigerators and air conditioners. Like circuit overloads, power surges can fry electronic devices and damage the home’s electrical systems, so protecting against them is imperative.

That’s where surge protectors come in. These devices “absorb” and divert voltage spikes into the home’s grounding line using various methods (depending on the specific design). Most people are familiar with the small surge protectors that resemble power strips. These can help protect computers and entertainment systems, but they typically won’t protect against large surges and generally can’t be used with large appliances. 

That’s why utilizing a whole-house surge protector is a good idea. These are installed at the home’s main breaker box and protect the entire house – and all its devices and appliances – against major and minor surges. This, combined with the other tips mentioned above, will help keep the home safer from electrical hazards all year!

About Gene’s Refrigeration, Heating & Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical

Gene’s Refrigeration, Heating & Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical has over six decades of experience serving Medina, Ohio, and the surrounding areas. They provide straightforward pricing, on-time arrivals, and same-day services. Call them today for electrical services in Medina, OH.

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