Electric Safety at Home
Most cases of injury or death associated with electricity occur within or around the home. Approximately 2,400 children each year suffer severe electrical shock and burns. Additionally, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that an annual average of 70,000 residential fires are caused by problems with electrical wiring systems, appliances, clothes dryers, or air conditioning, causing $868 million in property damage.
Precautions you can take to stay safe around electricity are listed below. For more information on electrical safety, visit NFPA on the Web.
Electrical outlets in bathrooms, the kitchen, basements, and garages should have a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI). This is a tool that protects you from a dangerous shock when water and electricity come together. An Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI), should be installed in bedroom circuits because of a history of shock hazards in these areas. An electrician can install these for you.
- Regularly check outlets
- All plugs should fit securely into outlets
- Outlets and extension cords should not be overloaded with too many plugs
- Check all cords for frays or cracks
- Never nail or staple a cord to a surface
- Do not place cords under carpets, rugs, or furniture
- Use a surge protector for your electronic devices and appliances
- Always use the proper wattage of light bulbs in fixtures
- Make sure all bulbs are properly and securely screwed in
- Never leave plugged-in appliances where they might come into contact with water
- If an appliance falls into water, turn off the power source and unplug the appliance before removing it
- If you have an older home or a home that has had extensive renovation or remodeling, have a qualified, licensed electrician perform an electrical inspection
- Outdoor outlets should be weatherproof and protected by a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) to protect you from shock
- When using power tools, make sure they have heavier wiring, are properly insulated, and have a three-way grounded plug
- Never let children play around electrical equipment or climb a utility pole, tower, or tree near power lines
- Do not climb in or build anything in a tree that has wires running through it
- Do not install an antenna or use electric-powered mowers or other tools in wet conditions
- Keep long tools and ladders away from overhead power lines
- Contact with overhead power lines is the most frequent cause of electrocution, and it is often related to the use of antennas and ladders
- Never sit on, or climb on electrical equipment of any kind
- Call 811 before you dig
- In Tennessee it is state law that you must call before digging to make sure you know the location of any underground utilities
- In Tennessee call 811 for a dig/locate request
- For general information you may go to Call 811 site on the Web
- Always assume that utility lines and other electrical equipment are "live" - or energized - and keep away from them
Electronic appliances such as computers, TVs, DVD players, and cordless phones are susceptible to damage from power surges. Power surges occur when something boosts the electrical charge at some point in the electrical lines. This increases the current flow of electricity to your wall outlet.
Power surges can be caused by many sources including
- Wind damage
- Squirrels and other animals in contact with power lines
- Vehicle accidents involving utility poles
- Home appliances (air conditioners, refrigerators, power tools, etc.)
- Restoration of power after an outage
- Faulty, loose, or improperly sized wiring
- Faulty circuit breakers
- Inadequate grounding
Surge protectors, also known as surge suppressors, protect equipment by reducing power surges and spikes to a level that cannot damage electronic equipment. Unlike power strips that offer no protection, high quality surge suppressors offer reliable protection for years.
No product on the market will prevent lightning from striking a home nor will any product protect against lightning damage. However, surge protection can provide protection from lightning-induced surges that enter the home through the electric service, satellite/cable, or telephone lines only.
Surge protection helps guard your electronic equipment from potentially damaging power surges that may appear only as a flicker of the lights or as nothing at all.
A surge suppressor must be plugged into a properly grounded three-prong outlet to work. A good grounding system is your first line of defense against power surges. Grounding limits voltage spikes due to lightning or power line surges. If your home features two-prong or improperly grounded three-prong outlets, contact an electrical contractor to upgrade your electrical system.
Types of Surge Protectors
Meter Surge Protectors
Meter surge protectors provide surge suppression and protect your electrical system from power surges originating outside the house.
Electrical Panel Protection
Electrical panel protection provides protection similar to a meter surge protector.
Plug-In Surge Protectors
Plug-in surge protectors provide protection by stopping power surges before they damage your home electronics equipment. Most plug-in surge protectors have LED indicator lights and/or audible alarms to alert you if the unit has been damaged and requires replacement. There are three basic levels of plug-in surge protectors:
Basic power strip - Extension cord units with five or six outlets that provide only basic protection.
Better power strip - Extension cord units with better ratings and extra features.
Surge station - Large protectors that fit under a computer or on the floor and offer superior voltage protection. Most models also have an input for a phone line to protect your modem from power surges, and may feature built-in circuit breakers.
Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) - This basic design of a continuous UPS is to store power on a battery. If the power goes out, your computer will continue to run, feeding off the stored battery power. This will give you a few minutes to save your work and shut down your computer.
Other Surge Protectors
Surges on telephone and cable lines do just as much damage as surges on power lines. If your electronic equipment is connected to a telephone or cable line, you can protect it from surges. To protect against telephone line surges, be sure your equipment is plugged into a surge protector that also includes a phone-line input jack. You can also purchase a cable surge protector to protect against surges on a cable line.
KUB recommends purchasing products that are UL listed. Plug-in surge protectors and electrical panel protection products are available at local home improvement or electronics retail stores and range from $29 to $129 depending on features and level of protection. For details or questions about a specific surge protector, consult your retailer. For true whole-house protection, all electronics should be plugged into outlet surge suppressors with phone, satellite/cable TV, or digital satellite system protection.
Sources for Additional Information
Federal Citizen Information Center