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Winter Electrical Safety

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By now most of us have started putting up Holiday decorations . The lights and displays are fun for everyone and bring peoples spirits up as we shift into the winter season. Let us keep safe and remind ourselves that even the small things can have big effects.

Extension Cords- Cords come in all shapes and sizes. When buying new cords, they will state if they are OK to use outdoors or not. Outdoor cords normally have a thicker jacketing and nearly all of them are 3-prong. If you have an older home that doesn’t have GFCI protection, it is recommended to us an in-line GFCI cord/ extension. What this will do is shut the power off if electricity is escaping to earth. This generally happens if it rains or snows and water gets inside the lights, cords or plugs and electricity conducts through the water to earth. I also recommend do not tape or bury connections. Water will not escape or evaporate. I have seen first hand it catch the mulch on fire. Cords that have become frayed or damaged need repaired or replace. If you are concerned with using too much power on your extension cord, feel it !  Cords are ok to get warm, it happens when electricity is being used. But if the cord is HOT to the touch, turn off/ unplug the power and you may need to reevaluate your set up.

Space Heaters- These little devices are great at warming up cold and drafty rooms. I myself use one in the basement while I am down there. Space heaters use a lot of power and strain the circuit they are plugged into. Nearly all heaters are rated at 1500 watts. Most of your circuits in the home are rating for 1800 watts. When combined with other items like TVs, Stereos, Computers, Vacuums, Refrigerators they overload the circuit and the breaker trips. This is indicating you are using too much power on that particular circuit. Easiest way to fix this is find an outlet to plug it into that is on a different circuit.

Heater recommendations- My favorite heater is the oil filled radiator heater with thermostat.  Oil filled heaters are the most energy efficient of them all. It warms up the oil and continues to heat. This reduces the heating process and provides more constant heat.

Space heaters can also cause damage to the electrical circuits in the home. During the winter, partial power outages is my number one service call. If you ever smell burning, be sure to unplug everything nearby and isolate where it is coming from. Again I recommend to use your hand to fell the plug and wall. Warm is OK, Hot is not !

If you must use a space heater on an extension cord, make sure it is at least 14-12 gauge wiring and as short as possible.

Fire, Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms- Smoke detectors are designed to save lives. Most people don’t know too much about the types and uses. There are three types of fire/smoke detector. Ionization, photoelectric and combo Ionization/Photoelectric. In short Ionization responds to fast burning fires where as Photoelectric does best for slow smoldering fires. Photoelectric detectors are preferred over Ionization detectors. Photoelectric smoke detectors can detect slow smoldering fires and have faster response time over they Ionization. They also have lower nuisance trips.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors come in two types- standard CO detector and Smoke/CO detector. You will have to read the package to see if the smoke detection is Ionization based or Photoelectric. It is preferable to get the CO/ Photoelectric combo. CO detectors are required whenever there is burning fossil fuels or wood. That includes natural gas, propane and oil.

Detectors are to be replaced every 10 years per the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Detectors should be lightly vacuumed once a year.

Batteries need replaced every year.

Smoke detector for every bedroom and hallway.

I hate it when I go in someone’s house to see their detectors taken down or the cover flipped open and the battery removed. This equates to not wearing a seat belt or disabling your air bag. Except it effects everyone in the house- your loved ones, your children and pets. The fact is, you never know when something will happen. Stuff happens everyday and where are you going to be when it happens to you? If you can’t afford to replace your detectors, your local fire department normally will give you some for free.

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