You Plug Into Electricity, Plug Into Electrical Safety - The Checklist
Fuses/Circuit Breakers |
Outlets & Switches | Power Cords | Extension Cords
Power Strips and Surge Protection | Light Bulbs | Portable Space Heaters
Small Appliances and Tools | Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs)
Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) | Other Technology | Batteries
With your circuit
map and power audit done, it's time to take a run through the house with
a keen eye on safety. Use the following checklist on a regular basis to
ensure your home remains electrically safe year in and year out. If you
haven't already had an electrical inspection performed by a qualified,
licensed electrician or electrical inspector, this list can also help
identify clues that an inspection and/or repairs are needed.
and circuit breakers are
safety devices located in your electrical panel that help prevent overloading
and fires. They stop the electrical current if it exceeds the safe level
for some portion of the home electrical system. Overloading means that
the appliances and lighting on the circuit
regularly demand more electrical current than the circuit
can safely deliver.
Edison-base plug fuse (open)
Edison-base plug (new)
S-Type plug fuse
S-Type socket insert
Pull out fuse
Single pole circuit breaker
Ground-fault circuit interrupter
If the demand for electrical current
exceeds the safety level, a fuse
opens once and must be replaced to reconnect the circuit.
A circuit breaker "trips"
its switch to open the circuit,
and the circuit is reconnected
by dosing the switch manually.
Replacing a correct size fuse with
a larger size fuse can present
a serious fire hazard. Doing so will allow excessive current to flow and
possibly overload the outlet
and the house wiring to the point that a fire can begin.
- Be certain that correct-size fuses
are used (if you do not know the correct sizes, have a qualified, licensed
electrician identify and label the sizes to be used).
should be rated according to the wire that makes up the branch circuit,
not the connected load. Most of the screwbased fuses used should
be 15 amperes. Ensure that all fuses rated higher than 15 amperes
are compatible with the branch circuit wiring.
Consumers sometimes replace a fuse
that repeatedly "blows" with a higher ampere
rated fuse. Although the new fuse
may not open, it also may not protect the branch circuit.
Doing so masks the real problem of too high a demand being placed on the
circuit. The fuse
will not open at the appropriate load for that circuit.
Instead of using an inappropriate
fuse, take something off
the circuit to bring the
demand to an appropriate level.
- To prevent future installation
of fuses that allow currents
too high for your wiring, your fuse panel should be converted to S-type
sockets that accept only fuses
of the correct amperage
rating. If you have Edison-base fuse sockets, have them fitted with
the S-type socket inserts.
continue to "blow," keep track of which branch circuits
are affected and which appliances are in use when the power outage occurs.
Consult a qualified, licensed electrician to correct the problem.
Just like fuses,
circuit breakers provide
overcurrent protection by opening the circuit,
or "tripping" when an unsafe level of demand has been placed
on the circuit.
breakers are also rated for various current levels, such
as 15 or 20 amps. Breaker
systems offer more flexibility for new protective technologies like ground
fault circuit interrupters (GFCls) and arc
fault circuit interrupters (AFCls). They also offer you
the ability to reset the breaker once tripped, getting lights up and running
quickly to prevent accidents resulting from the lack of power in the home.
Resetting a circuit breaker
is quicker than replacing a fuse
and avoids the hazards of oversized fuses.
When resetting a tripped circuit
breaker, be aware that your circuit
breaker may trip to an intermediate position dose to
"ON" instead of the "OFF" position (sometimes it is
difficult to see that it has tripped). To reset, move the switch fully
to "OFF" and then to "ON."
- Before resetting a tripped circuit
breaker, turn off or unplug appliances or lamps on the
circuit to bring the demand
back down to an acceptable level.
Switches are used to turn the power
on and off. Outlets, or
receptacles, are usually mounted on a wall or floor to supply electricity
through a cord and plug to appliances, lamps, TV, etc. These are the key
points in our electrical systems that give us our first line of control
to our electrical use, and they are critical connection points. With time
and use, these connections can become loose, creating potential hazards.
Check to make sure outlet
and switch plates are not unusually hot to the touch. If they are, immediately
unplug cords from these outlets and do not use the switches. Have a
qualified, licensed electrician check the wiring as soon as possible.
- Look for discoloration as another
indication of potentially dangerous heat buildup at these connections.
Stand across the room and look for a tear-drop shaped darkening around
and above outlet and switch
and switch cover plates, warm to the touch may be okay, but hot
- Check that all outlet
and switch cover plates are in good condition so that no wiring is exposed.
Replace any missing, cracked or broken cover plate.
- Be sure to use safety caps with
is a shock hazard.
Power cords, part of electrical products
and appliances, connect the item to the power supply by plugging into
the outlet. They need to be kept in good condition. Even an electrical
item that is in otherwise good working order can still represent a shock
and fire hazard if its power cord is damaged.
- Check to make sure electrical
cords are intact and in good condition, not frayed or cracked.
- Check to make sure lamp, extension,
telephone and other cords are placed out of the flow of traffic. Cords
stretched across walkways may cause someone to trip. If you must use
an extension cord, place it on the floor against a wall where people
cannot trip over it.
- Whenever possible, arrange furniture
so that outlets are available for lamps, entertainment products, or
appliances without the use of extension cords.
- Check to make sure furniture is
not resting on cords.
need ventilation. Cords that run under carpeting or behind baseboards
can overheat and cause a fire.
- Check to make sure electrical cords
do not run under furniture or carpeting, or behind baseboards.
Nails or staples
can damage cords, presenting fire and shock hazards.
- Check to make sure electrical
cords are not attached to the walls, baseboards, etc. with nails or
staples. Disconnect power before removing nails and staples from on
or around electrical cords.
- Do not attempt to repair cords
yourself. Take any item with a damaged power cord to an authorized repair
center, or cut the cord, safely dispose of the item, and purchase a
the cord when disposing of a damaged electrical product reduces
the likelihood of someone else "salvaging" the item and
bringing the hazard home with them.
Extension cords can be very helpful
in delivering power right where we need it. However, no matter what the
gauge or rating of the
cord is, the extension cord is designed as a temporary solution, not as
long-term extension of your household's electrical system. With continuous
use, the extension cord can more rapidly deteriorate, creating a potentially
dangerous electric shock or fire hazard. In addition to the same safety
tips that apply to power cords, keep the following principles in mind
when using extension cords.
- Extension cords should
only be used on a temporary basis; they are not intended as permanent
household wiring. Unplug and safely store extension cords after every
- A heavy reliance on extension
cords is an indication that you have too few outlets to address your
needs. Have additional outlets installed where you need them.
- Make sure extension cords are properly
rated for their intended use, indoor or outdoor, and meet or exceed
the power needs of the appliance or tool being plugged into it.
- Assume 125W per amp
when calculating power (wattage)
to determine if the extension cord you intend to use is properly rated
for the appliance being connected to it.
- Replace No. 18 gauge
cords with No. 16 gauge
cords. Older extension cords using small (No. 18 gauge) wires will overheat
at 15 amps or 20 amps.
- Change the cord to a higher rated
one or unplug some appliances, if the rating on the cord is exceeded
because of the power requirements of one or more appliances being used
on the cord.
extension cords can and do cause fires.
strips and surge protection
Power strips give us the ability to
plug more products into the same outlet, which can be a help, but also
a hindrance to safety if used inappropriately. Power strips and surge
suppressors don't provide more power to a location, just more access to
the same limited capacity of the circuit
into which it is connected. The circuit
likely also still serves a variety of other outlets and fixtures in addition
to the multiple electrical items you might be supplying with the power
strip. In addition to the tips above, keep these safety principles in
mind when using power strips and surge suppressors.
- Be sure you are not overloading
the circuit. Know capacity
of the circuit and the
power requirements of all the electrical items plugged into the power
strip and into all the other outlets on the circuit
as well as the light fixtures on the circuit.
- A heavy reliance power strips
is an indication that you have too few outlets
to address your needs. Have additional outlets
installed where you need them.
- Understand that surge suppressors
only protect the items plugged into it, not back along the circuit
into which it is connected.
- In the event of a large surge
or spike, such as a lightning strike, the surge suppressor is a one-time-use
protector and will likely have to be replaced.
- Consider purchasing surge suppressors
with cable and phone jacks to provide the same protection to your phone,
fax, computer modem and television.
- Not all power strips are surge
suppressors, not all surge suppressors can handle the same load and
events. Be sure the equipment you buy matches your needs.
- For homes in areas with a high
incidence of lightning, consider having a surge arrestor installed at
the fuse box or breaker
panel for whole house protection
We've come to take the light bulb
for granted, but there is a wide variety of bulbs available that provide
different levels and quality of light, and that demand different levels
of power. Make sure you are selecting the bulbs that are appropriate for
your intended use and for the power rating of the intended lamp or fixture.
- Use a bulb of the correct type
and wattage. If you do not know the correct wattage, contact the manufacturer
of the lamp or fixture.
- Read and follow light bulb manufacturers'
- Make sure bulbs are screwed in
securely -loose bulbs may overheat.
- Place halogen floor lamps (torchieres)
away from curtains, beds, rugs or other furnishings. These lamps can
become very hot and can cause a fire hazard. Consider replacing halogen
torchiere lamps with models that use cooler, more efficient fluorescent
A bulb of
too high wattage or of the wrong type may lead to fire through overheating.
Some ceiling fixtures and recessed lights can trap heat.
Portable space heaters can be a blessing
in a cold and drafty house in the deep of winter. But space heaters, and
any electrical product with a heating element, can demand a lot of power.
By their nature, they also produce a lot of heat, and, if not used carefully,
can become a fire hazard. Make sure to follow these safety principles
with portable space heaters:
- Plug portable space heaters directly
into an outlet; do not use an extension cord.
- Make certain the circuit
into which you plug a space heater can adequately and safely handle
the added demand.
- Never remove the grounding
feature on a plug by clipping or grinding off the third prong.
- Use an adapter to connect the heater's
3-prong plug, if you
do not have a 3-hole outlet. Make sure the adapter ground wire or tab
is attached to the outlet ground.
- Relocate heaters away from passageways
and keep all flammable materials such as curtains, rugs, furniture or
newspaper at least three feet away.
- Unplug and safely store portable
space heaters when not in use.
space heaters directly into an outlet; do not use an extension cord.
Appliances and Tools
these simple safety precautions with all your small appliances and tools:
- Make certain all small appliances
and tools are approved by an independent testing laboratory, such as
Laboratories (UL), ETL-SEMKO
(ETL) or Canadian
Standards Association (CSA). (See example on page 18.)
- Use small appliances and power
tools according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Unplug all small electrical appliances,
such as hair dryers, shavers, curling irons, clothes irons, and toasters,
when not in use.
- Be sure you have ground
fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection anywhere
electricity and water are within six feet of each other, such as in
your kitchen, bathroom and outdoors, to protect against electric shock.
For more information, see the section on GFCIs,
- Take any damaged electrical appliance
or tool to an authorized repair center, or cut the cord, safely dispose
of the item, and purchase a new one.
Even an appliance
that is not turned on, such as a hairdryer, can be potentially hazardous
if it is left plugged in. If it falls into water in a sink or bathtub
while plugged in, it can electrocute you. New hair dryers should
always have a safety device called an appliance leakage circuit
interrupter (ALCI) on their power cords to protect against electrocution.
- Never reach into water to get
an appliance that has fallen in without being sure the appliance is
unplugged or the circuit
is shut off.
in" an electric blanket or placing additional coverings on
top of it can cause excessive heat buildup, which can start a fire.
- Do not tuck in electric blankets.
- Don't allow anything on top of
the blanket while it is in use. This includes other blankets or comforters
and even pets sleeping on top of the blanket.
- Do not use electric blankets on
- Never go to sleep with a heating
pad that is turned on. It can burn you. Newer heating pads have an automatic
cut off switch.
a heating pad that is turned on can cause serious burns even at
relatively low settings.
- Check to make sure power tools
have a 3-prong plug or
double-insulated cords, and consider replacing old tools that have neither.
- Use a properly grounded 3-prong
adapter for connecting a 3-prong to a 2-hole receptacle.
- Consider using a portable GFCI
when using power tools.
- Replace guards that have been
removed from power tools.
- There have been many recalls of
power tools due to problems with the safety guard sticking. Be sure
your model has not been recalled, as this hazard poses a serious risk
of injury. Check online at www.recalls.gov.
- Check power tools before each
use for frayed cords, broken plugs or cracked housing.
and Protect!-Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs)
fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) which protect against
accidental electric shock or electrocution by acting immediately to shut
off the circuit if they
sense a ground fault, or "leak" of current off the circuit
- have been in homes since the early 70s on circuits
that come within six feet of water. Homeowners, however, should consider
having GFCI protection on
general purpose receptacles throughout the home.
- There are outlet GFCIs
protecting everything in that outlet and downstream on the circuit,
circuit breaker GFCIs
protecting the entire circuit,
or portable GFCIs that
protect just at the point of use.
Outlet type GFCI
Circuit Breaker type
Portable type GFCI
outlet can provide power
without giving an indication that it is no longer providing shock protection.
Be sure your GFCI is providing
protection from fatal electric shock by testing it monthly and after every
major electrical storm.
- You should test your GFCIs
monthly and after every major electrical storm. Here's how:
- Push the "Reset" button
of the GFCI receptacle
to prepare the unit for testing.
- Plug in a night light and turn
it on. Light should be ON.
- Push the "Test" button
of the GFCI receptacle.
Light should go OFF
- Push the "Reset" button
again. Light should go ON.
A light plugged into the GFCI
receptacle should go out when the test button is pushed. If the light
remains on when the button is pushed, either the GFCI
is not working properly or has not been correctly installed. If the "RESET"
button pops out but the light does not go out, the GFCI
has been damaged or was improperly wired and does not offer shock protection
at that wall outlet. Contact a qualified electrician to correct any wiring
errors or replace defective GFCIs.
- If you have a home without GFCIs,
consult a qualified, licensed electrician about adding this important
protection, or purchase plug-in units or a portable GFCI
to provide individual receptacle or load protection.
Protection-Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)
Newer arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs)
can help prevent fires that often result from problems at the outlets,
switches and frayed and cracked cords connected to the circuits.
The AFCI senses the particular
signature of an arc-where electricity has to jump through an insulating
medium-and, like the GFCI, acts immediately to shut off the circuit,
thus reducing the risk of fire associated with arcing faults.
are currently required by the National Electrical Code® in new construction
in all bedroom circuits,
but should be considered in all homes and all general purpose receptacles.
Consult a qualified, licensed electrician to determine if your home is
compatible with AFCI protection.
Over the years, we have begun to
safety engineer our electrical products to include some of the same technology
that has been applied to our electrical systems. Immersion detection circuit
interrupters (IDCIs) and appliance leakage current interrupters (ALCIs)
are typically found on hair dryer and specific appliance cords. They operate
in slightly different ways but perform essentially the same function.
Leakage current detection interrupters (LCDIs) are protective devices
that help prevent fires due to damage to cords. They are presently being
built into the plug cap of room air conditioners. If the cord is damaged,
the LCDI circuitry detects an abnormal condition and immediately shuts
off power. LCDI technology is also available in select extension cords
and power strips.
When used correctly, batteries provide
a safe and dependable source of power. However, if they are misused or
abused, overheating, leakage, or in extreme cases explosion or fire, can
occur. Follow these safety principles when using batteries:
- Always follow warnings and manufacturers
instructions for both the batteries and the battery-operated product.
Use only the correct type and size battery indicated.
- Check the contacts of both the
battery and the battery-operated product for cleanliness.
- Always insert the batteries correctly
with regard to polarity (-/+), matching the positive and negative symbols
of both battery and product. Putting them in backwards, the product
will sometimes still operate, but may inadvertently charge the batteries
resulting in venting or leaking.
- Remove and safely dispose of exhausted
- Replace all batteries in battery-operated
products at the same time and with the batteries of the same type and
- Do not short circuit batteries.
When the positive (+) and negative (-) terminals of a battery are in
contact with each other, the battery can become short circuited. For
example, loose batteries in a pocket with keys or coins can be short
circuited possibly resulting in venting or explosion.
- Do not heat batteries.
- Do not crush, puncture, dismantle
or otherwise damage batteries.
- Do not charge non-rechargeable
- Keep batteries out of reach of
Congratulations! You've just completed
a thorough electrical safety check of your home. The few minutes you took
to check your home using this booklet could prevent a safety hazard and
save a life.