Protecting your family from electric shocks, tripping hazards and house fires is easier than losing 20 pounds or quitting smoking. So make it New Year’s resolution No. 1.
Here are 10 simple ways to keep that resolution:
1. Inspect your outlets. Loose-fitting plugs can surprise someone with a shock or start a fire. If your wall plate is broken, replace it so wires won’t be exposed. And insert plastic safety caps into unused outlets if your family includes young children.
2. Make peace with plugs. If a plug doesn’t comfortably fit into an outlet, don’t force it. Try a different outlet. And never remove the grounding pin (third prong) so a three-prong plug will fit into a two-prong outlet.
3. Be careful with cords. They’re not designed to last forever. Toss frayed or cracked cords. And never run cords under carpets or rugs, where continual wear and tear from foot traffic could damage them—exposing you to fire from overheated wires.
4. Pack up extension cords. They’re fine for connecting strands of holiday lights together and helping decorations reach plugs during December. But come January, pack them up and store them. Extension cords are designed for temporary use.
5. Watch your wattage. The lightbulbs in your lamps and overhead fixtures should match the specifications on those fixtures. A bulb with wattage that’s too high can overheat.
6. Find no fault. Ground-fault circuit interrupters are a must in every outlet in the kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room, garage and outdoors. If water could touch electricity, you need GFCIs on every outlet in the room.
7. Fuss with your fuses. If you don’t know whether your fuses are the right size for the circuit they’re protecting, call an electrician, who can make that assessment.
8. Adjust appliances. If a circuit trips every time you plug in your hair dryer or if your coffee maker has ever shocked you when you plugged it in, you either have a faulty appliance or an overloaded circuit. An electrician can identify and solve that problem.
9. Watch the wiring. Faulty electrical wires start many house fires. If you hear popping or sizzling sounds behind the walls or if light switches feel hot, do not use those fixtures or switches until a licensed electrician has replaced them.
10. Get what you need. Unless you live in a brand-new house, you’re probably using more electricity than the builder intended. Call an electrician to determine whether your home needs more electrical capacity.