Protect your family from fire and other electrical hazards by using this short checklist. These simple and easy steps will help you identify and correct electrical dangers commonly found in homes.
- Check the wattage of all lightbulbs
- Are the bulbs the appropriate wattage for the size of the fixtures? A bulb of too-high wattage could lead to fire through overheating.
- Check all lamp cords and extension cords.
- Are cords placed out of walking areas and free of furniture resting on them? If not, tripping hazards may result. Also, stepping on cords or placing furniture on them can damage the cord and create a fire hazard.
- Are cords in good condition (not damaged or cracked)? Shock or fire hazards can result from damaged cords. Do not attempt to repair cords yourself. Take any item with a damaged power cord to an authorized repair center or safely dispose of the item and purchase a new one.
- Are cords unwrapped? Tightly coiled cords can lead to overheating.
- Are extension cords being used only on a temporary basis? Extension cords are not as safe as permanent house wiring. Have receptacles installed where they are needed.
- Check all wall outlets and switches.
- Are all outlets and switches working properly? Improperly operating outlets or switches indicate that an unsafe wiring condition may exist.
- Are all outlets and switches cool to the touch? Unusually warm outlets or switches may indicate an unsafe wiring condition.
- Do you hear crackling, sizzling or buzzing from your outlets? Call a licensed electrician to identify the cause.
- Are all outlet and switch-cover plates in good condition? Replace any missing, cracked or broken cover plates.
- Check for tamper-resistant outlets. These are particularly important if there are young children in the home.
- Check portable heaters.
- Are they placed away from things that can catch fire such as drapes and newspapers? Relocate heaters away from passageways and keep all flammable materials such as curtains, rugs, furniture or newspaper at least 3 feet away.
- Is the equipment stable and placed where it will not tip over? A tipped-over heater poses a fire hazard. Animals and even blowing drapes can be factors.
- Check for the presence and proper placement of smoke alarms and test each one.
- Are there smoke detectors on every level of the home, inside each bedroom and outside each sleeping area?
- Check all countertop appliances.
- Are all appliance cords placed away from hot surfaces? Pay particular attention to cords around toasters, ovens and ranges. Excess heat can damage cords.
- Are all appliances located away from the sink? Electrical appliances can cause a shock if they come in contact with water. Plug kitchen appliances into GFCI-protected outlets.
- Do appliance cords hang off countertops or tabletops? Such placement could cause a tripping hazard.
- Check all large appliances.
- Have you ever received even a slight shock (other than one from static electricity) from any of these appliances? If so, do not touch the appliance until it has been checked by an electrician.
- Is the top and area above the cooking range free of combustibles (for example, potholders and plastic utensils)? Using the range to store noncooking equipment may result in fires or burns.
- Is there excessive vibration or movement when the washer or dryer is operating? Movement during operation can put undue stress on electrical connections.
- Check for ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
- Are bathroom outlets protected by GFCIs? GFCIs should be installed in kitchens, bathrooms and other areas around water where the risk of electric shock is high.
- If you have any GFCIs, do you test them regularly? GFCIs must be operating properly to protect against electric shock.
- Check small electrical products such as hair dryers and curling irons.
- Are they plugged in when not in use? Plugged-in electrical appliances (even when switched off) may result in an electric shock hazard if they fall into water.
- Are small appliances in good condition? Pay particular attention to erratic operation and damaged wiring or other parts.
The Basement and Garage
- Check your breaker box.
- Is your fuse box or circuit breaker box appropriately labeled? Labeling helps to easily identify what circuits power which areas in your home.
- Does everyone of appropriate age know where the fuse box or circuit breaker box is and how to turn off and restore power to the home?
- Are you regularly resetting tripped circuit breakers? Circuit breakers that are constantly tripping indicate that the circuit is overloaded or that other electrical hazards exist. Consult a qualified, licensed electrician.
- Is your home protected by arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs)? AFCIs replace standard circuit breakers in the electrical service panel and greatly reduce the risk of home electrical fires. To add AFCI protection to your home, consult a qualified, licensed electrician.