We all depend on electricity. It brings light to our homes, enables us to cook foods, keeps us warm, powers our home appliances, enables us to work, and so much more. Electricity is the main driver of modern life and it’s hard to imagine the world without it.
But while electricity has made life easier and enjoyable, it also comes with attendant risks. The National Fire Protection Association noted that electrical failures or malfunctions accounted for 13 percent of home structure fires in 2012-2016. According to US fire departments, an estimated annual average of 44,880 home fires due to electrical failures were reported during this period. These avoidable emergencies have caused considerable financial losses and even loss of lives.
According to a 2020 study, electrical injuries account for approximately 1,000 deaths and 30,000 non-fatal shock incidents every year in the US. Burns due to electrical emergencies account for 5% of all burn admissions in the US. Toddlers and adolescents are among the most common victims of electrical injuries. However, all of these emergencies can be prevented with basic electrical safety tips.
Here’s a quick guide on short circuits – the most common electrical hazard. Check out some useful electrical safety tips so you can continue to enjoy your home appliances, tools, and devices while keeping your home safe from short circuits.
What is an Electrical Short Circuit?
Short circuit is a very familiar term but never fully understood. This occurs when two conductors supplying electricity to a circuit find a low resistance connection. This results in excess voltage streaming as well as excessive current flow from the power source. Instead of flowing through a single-pass connection, electricity flows through a ‘short’ route resulting in a short circuit.
Some of the most common causes of short circuits include faulty circuit wire insulation, loose wire connections, and faulty appliance wiring. Worn out or damaged wire insulation may enable hot wires to connect and cause a short circuit. Likewise, any faulty wire connections might enable neutral and live wires to touch.
According to an experienced Tampa appliance repair, Hartman, once an appliance is plugged into a wall socket, it becomes an extension of the circuit. If the electrical equipment has any wiring problems, it will automatically cause a short circuit and damage the unit. This makes it important to get short circuit protection for electrical devices.
How to Prevent a Short Circuit?
Check electrical outlets and appliances
Make sure to regularly check every electrical outlet for any signs of faulty wirings, such as sparks, buzzing sound, and burn marks. If your electrical system is over 15-25 years old, you should consider having it checked by a professional.
Likewise, check your appliances’ wiring. Do not use devices with suspected faulty wiring or cracks as it can lead to a short circuit. Have them repaired by a certified appliance technician or replace the unit altogether.
Install short circuit protection
Invest in devices designed to prevent short circuits such as circuit breakers or fuses, ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), and arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs). These devices detect any abnormal flow of current and automatically shut the power supply to avoid a short circuit. This can greatly help prevent fires.
Unplug appliances when not in use
Even when not in use, electrical appliances continue to consume electricity and the possibility of overloading is ever-present. As such, the easiest way to prevent a short circuit is by simply unplugging electronics.
Repair or replace damaged power cords
Check your power cords for any stripped or damaged protective coating. This can lead to a short circuit and start a fire. Make sure to repair it with electrical tape or replaced it with a new one.
Avoid overloading the outlets
Electrical wires and outlets are designed to deliver a certain amount of electricity. Plugging too many appliances into a single outlet at once can cause overloading, causing damage to your appliances, or even start a fire.
Avoid extension cords
Extension cords should be used properly to avoid accidental tripping, which can damage the outlet or wire and also cause injury. It should only be used as a temporary power source. If you are using it very often, you should consider having an electrician install new outlets.
Reduce electricity during storms
A lightning strike can cause a short circuit – and it can be extremely dangerous. During a storm, reduce the electrical usage to avoid short circuits. Likewise, it can also lessen appliance damage in case of a power surge.
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Get an annual electrical inspection
Lastly, consider having your electrical systems checked by an electrician at least once a year. These professionals can help identify potential problems and resolve them before they cause a short circuit.