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5 Examples of Common Household Electrical Hazards

Troubleshooting from George Brazil

Every year we see homeowners make simple electrical mistakes that could lead to serious problems like electrocution or electrical fires.

We’d like to see that change.

So, we’ll share a list of 5 common electrical hazards you should avoid…

  1. Leaving or using appliances near water
  2. Using the wrong light bulb wattage
  3. Overloading power strips and outlets
  4. Unprotected electrical outlets
  5. Outdated or faulty wiring

Let’s take a closer look at each of these electrical hazards and the safety measures you can take to prevent them.

Have an electrical problem? Give us a call, and we’ll quickly send over one of our certified electricians to fix whatever problem you may have.

Hazard #1: Leaving or using appliances near water

You probably already know you shouldn’t use electrical appliances around water. That’s because the impurities (dirt, minerals, etc) in water conduct electricity very well. So when an electrical charge hits the water, those impurities carry the electrical current-and if you come in contact with this current, you’ll get shocked or electrocuted.

Do this instead:

Don’t use appliances near water. This includes appliances like hair dryers, power tools, TVs, radios, etc. But we know that sometimes it’s hard not to use appliances near water.

So, in the event that an electronic gets wet, follow the steps below:

  1. DON’T touch or unplug the appliance
  2. Go to the circuit breaker panel and turn off the power source to the outlet the wet appliance is connected to
  3. Unplug the appliance and wait for it to dry before using the electronic again

If you’re not sure the appliance is safe to use again, contact an electrician for help.

Hazard #2: Using the wrong high bulb wattage

Even though light bulbs may seem relatively harmless, they can be an electrical hazard if not used properly.

The biggest misuse of light bulbs is using a bulb with too high wattage for its fixture. This is also called “overlamping“, and it’s problematic because the high wattage light bulb will almost always produce more heat than the fixture can sustain. The heat can melt the light socket and wire insulation on the fixture. In worst case scenarios, overlamping can even cause arcing, which is when sparks jump from one wire to another. Arcing is very dangerous because it puts you at high risk for an electrical fire or shock.

Do this instead:

Only use bulbs with wattage ratings that are equal to (or lower than) the wattage rating listed on its fixture

Note: You can usually find the wattage rating of a light bulb on its packaging.

If you have an older fixture that doesn’t show a wattage rating, use 60-watt bulbs (or lower) just to be safe.

Hazard #3: Overloading power strips and outlets

Overloaded power strips or outlets look bad, yes, but they’re also dangerous.

That’s because power strips and outlets are only made to handle a certain amount of electricity. If you plug in too many electrical appliances (especially high-powered ones) into a strip or outlet, the appliances could overload the strip or outlet’s capacity, which could cause the wires to overheat and start an electrical fire.

Do this instead:

Remove some plugs and move them to other outlets/strips. You can also upgrade your power strips to a higher amperage rating if you have devices that require a lot of power.

You should upgrade your outlet if…

  • It has 2-prongs. These outlets are old, and pose a greater risk for electrical fires because they’re ungrounded (you’ll want 3-prong outlets instead).

    Related: Should I Change a Two-Prong Outlet to a Three-Prong?

  • It’s broken or worn out. If a plug doesn’t fit snugly into the outlet anymore, or if you notice cracks or breaks on the outlet panel, it’s time to replace it with a new one.

If you need to upgrade your outlet, read our article, “How to Choose the Right Electrical Outlet for Your Home” for more info.

Hazard #4: Unprotected electrical outlets

Unprotected outlets (outlets that don’t have a protective covering over the socket holes) pose a huge risk for households with children.

Often, young children are curious about outlets and stick their fingers or metal objects in them. If they do, they can be burned, shocked or even electrocuted.

Do this instead:

Install child safety wall plates. These safety plates cover the holes in an outlet when it’s not in use, which protects young children from electrical shock.

Hazard #5: Outdated or faulty wiring

The National Fire Prevention Association has warned that electrical fires are one of the leading causes of residential fires in the U.S.

Often, electrical fires are caused by outdated or faulty wiring that wears out completely, causing sparks to fly that can ignite a fire.

Do this instead:

Have a professional inspect your wiring if you notice these signs…

  • Your home is 30+ years old. If this is the case, you should have your home’s wiring inspected annually.
  • You notice lights flickering or dimming without explanation.
  • Your circuit breakers trip often
  • You can see frayed or spliced wires
  • Your outlets spark
  • Your outlet feels hot to the touch
  • You can smell burning plastic
  • You can see burn marks on your outlet
  • You can hear a buzzing sound near your outlets

Need help from an Arizona electrician?

Just give us a call.

We’d be happy to answer any more questions you may have about electrical hazards or help you schedule an appointment with one of our trusted electricians.

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