A whole-house electrical safety check can help prevent injuries, deaths and fires caused by faulty products and wiring. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that homeowners conduct an inspection every six months and provides a checklist to help with the task.
First, check out lights.
- Are the lightbulbs the appropriate wattage for each fixture? If not, replace bulbs with the correct wattage. While you’re at it, consider energy-efficient alternatives such as LEDs.
Check portable electrical heating equipment.
- Does the heater have a mark—such as UL, ETL or CSA—of a nationally recognized testing laboratory? If not, replace the heater because it may not have adequate safety features.
- Is the heater placed at least 3 feet away from flammable materials? If not, move it that far or farther from combustibles and ensure that nothing could fall onto the heater. Some heaters produce enough heat to ignite even nearby combustible materials.
- Is the heater stable? If not, place the heater on a flat, level surface. Fires can start if a heater falls over. Some heaters turn off automatically if tipped, but it is best to make sure it doesn’t tip over in the first place.
- Is the heater in good condition, without strange smells, sparks or smoke when in use? If not, repair or replace the heater. Odd smells, sparks or smoke could indicate an electrical problem that could result in fire or electric shock.
Check electrical outlets and switches.
- Are all outlets and switches working properly? If not, have an electrician check them and correct any unsafe wiring.
- Are all outlets and switches cool to the touch? If not, stop using them and make sure the outlet is not overloaded with appliances. Unusually warm outlets and switches could indicate an unsafe wiring condition.
- Do all electrical plugs fit into all outlets? If not, have the outlet replaced, as loosefitting plugs can cause overheating and fires.
- Do all electrical outlets have faceplates covering wiring? If not, install faceplates. Exposed wiring is a shock hazard.
- In homes with children, do all unused outlets have safety covers? If not, insert safety covers over outlets to prevent children from experiencing serious shock if any object is inserted.
Inspect outlets with ground-fault circuit interrupters.
- Do you test all GFCI outlets regularly? If not, test them once a month. GFCIs can prevent electrocution and should be used in kitchens, bathrooms and other areas of the home where risk of shock is higher.
Follow this procedure to test GFCIs:
- Plug a light into the outlet and turn it on.
- Press the test button. Did the light go out? If not, replace the GFCI.
- Press the reset button. Did the light come back on? If not, replace the GFCI.
Check countertop appliances.
- Are all countertop appliances unplugged when not in use? If not, unplug them, as unattended appliances that remain plugged in may create a fire risk.
- Are all appliance cords positioned so that they will not contact a hot surface such as an oven or toaster in the kitchen? If not, relocate cords away from heat sources. Melted or burned cords with exposed wires could lead to electric shock or fire.
- Are all appliances located away from sinks? If not, move appliances away from sinks. If it is not possible to move appliances away from sinks, ensure they are plugged into an outlet protected by GFCI. Electricity and water mixing can cause electric shock and fire.