Electrical System Checklist: Help Ensure That Your Home’s Electrical System Is Safe
Use this list to look for problems to help prevent a house fire
Every year, the U.S. has more than 45,000 house fires involving electrical failure or malfunction, causing 420 civilian deaths, 1,370 civilian injuries and $1.4 billion in direct property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA).
To keep your family and home safe from electrical fires, as well as from electrocution, take time to do an electrical system checkup every six months. Use these tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the NFPA, the Electrical Safety Foundation Institute (ESFI) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Know the age of your electrical system, and consider bringing in a licensed
electrician to inspect it. The CPSC recommends
homeowners hire a licensed electrician to do an inspection every 10 years.
Check the timing of your home’s last inspection by opening your circuit breaker
and looking at the panel for a date and initials/signature showing the most
recent inspection date. If no date can be found, go by the age of your house.
Check that all switches and outlets are working properly. If switches
or outlets don’t work or are broken or prone to tripping the circuit breaker,
this is a good indication that something is wrong with the wiring. Check to see if any outlets or switches
are hot or discolored as this too can indicate unsafe wiring. Also, listen for any
buzzing or sizzling around outlets, which is an indication of unsafe wiring.
3. Plug only one
heat-producing appliance, such as a coffee maker, space heater or microwave,
directly into a wall outlet at a time. This will help prevent the circuit from
4. On that note, be
careful not to overload power strips or outlets with too many devices or too
much voltage. Additionally,
instead of power strips, choose point-of-protection
surge protectors with the UL Mark; these contain a special device that redirects
a voltage surge. Use one for all major electronics and appliances, which will
help protect your devices from power surges.
5. Use extension
If you’re relying on them, it indicates that it’s time to have an electrician
install additional outlets. Also, be sure to choose a UL Listed extension cord
rated to handle the wattage and also use only outdoor-rated extension cords
outside. Never use extension cords for a major appliance, even temporarily, as
they can easily overheat and start a fire.
6. Use ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in places with nearby
water, like bathrooms, kitchens, garages and basements, and for all outdoor
receptacles. These special outlets reduce the likelihood of shock, because they
shut off electricity if they detect an electric surge. The CPSC says that putting GFCIs into older homes could prevent most in-home
7. Consider having an
electrician install arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) in your home. These shut off
electricity when a dangerous condition occurs, preventing wires from
overheating and causing a fire.
9. Unplug small appliances when you are not using them, because unattended,
plugged-in appliances may create an unnecessary fire risk.
10. Use light bulbs
that match the recommended wattage on the lamp or fixture. Using one with too
high of a wattage may overheat the light fixture or wiring, causing a fire.
11. Inspect all electrical
Replace cracked, damaged and loose electrical cords; don’t try to repair them.
12. Avoid putting cords where they can be damaged or pinched, like
under a carpet or rug or under a window or door. This can pinch them
and cause the wires to become damaged, risking fire and/or electrocution. Also,
be sure to fully unravel all appliance cords when in use as wrapped cords traps
heat and risk a fire.
Take time to go through your house with this checklist to ensure that your home’s electrical system is up to par. Then be sure to do the whole list twice a year.