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Energy Basics

Your Home’s Outlets Aren’t All-Powerful

Symptoms may indicate problems with your electrical system

Are your electrical outlets overstuffed with power strips, extension cords and outlet splitters? That’s not just an unsightly tripping hazard, it’s a fire hazard.

Plugging more appliances, lights and electronics into a single outlet than its circuit is meant to handle causes the receptacle or cords to overheat and can potentially start an electrical fire. The Consumer Product Safety Commission attributes 3,500 fires each year to outlet issues.

How do you know if you’re pushing your outlet to the brink? Check for these common indicators of potential electrical hazards:

Hot outlets: If you can’t touch a cord, plug or faceplate for more than five seconds without saying “Ouch!” the outlet is overloaded.

Shocks: Small shocks when touching appliances or outlets could point to danger.

Blown fuses: If fuses continue to blow after you replace them, or circuit breakers constantly trip, the wiring cannot handle the outlet’s load.

Flickering lights: Flickering or dimming lights could indicate an overloaded outlet.

Wavering screens: Similarly, if your computer or TV screen wavers when a large appliance is plugged in, it could mean the outlet is overstressed.

Also, never plug a high-wattage appliance, such as a refrigerator or dryer, into an extension cord.

Any of these symptoms could mean your home’s wiring can’t keep up with the increasing energy demands of your large appliances and electronics. Call a licensed electrician to give you an estimate for wiring repairs or upgrades.