Town Talk: May is National Electric Safety Month

Most homes’ highest electricity consumption is in the summer when air conditioners are necessary to keep comfortable. Before your electricity use increases, Safe Electricity (https://www.safeelectricity.org/) along with New Ulm Public Utilities recommends you make sure your home is free of electrical hazards. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, faulty home electrical wiring is responsible for 26,000 residential fires a year, hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. Unfortunately, electrical hazards often go untended until it is too late. Safe Electricity has the following tips to help you find hazards that may be lurking around the home.

Check electrical outlets for loose-fitting plugs that can cause shocks or start fires. Replace missing or broken wall plates so that the inner wiring components are not exposed. If you have young children, make sure safety covers are used on unused outlets and outlets are not overloaded with too many appliance plugs. Consider installing tamper-resistant receptacles which have a built-in shutter system that prevents hairpins and other small objects from being inserted into the outlet.

Check the cords of the appliances in your home as well as the plugs and connectors. Make sure that they are not frayed, cracked or damaged, placed under rugs, resting on furniture, or located in high traffic areas. Do not nail or staple cords to walls, floors or any other object.

Extension cords should be used on a temporary basis only. They are not a permanent wiring solution. Have additional outlets installed where you need them. If you are using extension cords, make sure that they have safety closures to protect young children from shocks or mouth burns. Never use an indoor extension cord for outdoor use. Use an extension cord specifically for outdoors; they are heavier and less likely to be damaged.

Check your electrical panel to make sure that the breakers and fuses are properly rated for the circuit that they are protecting. If you don’t know what the correct rating is, have a qualified electrician identify and label the correct size to be used. If you are replacing a fuse, make sure that you replace it with the same size as the one that you are removing.

Check light bulbs and appliances to make sure the wattage matches the fixture requirements. Make sure not to replace bulbs with those that have higher wattage than recommended. Additionally, the bulb should be screwed in securely to prevent overheating.

If an appliance repeatedly blows a fuse, trips a circuit breaker or gives you an electrical shock, immediately unplug, repair or replace it.

Check for or install ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). A GFCI is an inexpensive electrical device that shuts off power instantly if there is a problem. GFCIs should be installed in all “wet” areas of the home such as bathrooms, kitchens and basements. GFCIs should be tested monthly to ensure they are working properly. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates GFCIs could prevent more than two-thirds of the roughly 300 electrocutions that happen each year in the home.

Consider installing arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) on bedroom circuits, smoke detectors in all bedrooms and in hallways within 15 feet of bedrooms, and at least one smoke detector on every level. Carbon monoxide detectors should be within 10 feet of each bedroom. As always, check with your local electrical inspector if you have questions or concerns.

Inspect all outdoor connections, appliances and tools for frayed cords, broken plugs and cracked or broken housings.

May is National Electrical Safety month and these are just a few tips to help improve electrical safety around your home.

Editor’s Note: The City of New Ulm presents a weekly column highlighting activities in different departments in the city government. Once a month the city will answer questions from readers. Questions on New Ulm city issues can be sent to comments@ci.new-ulm.mn.us.