What Not to Do in Your Home's Electrical System
There’s nothing as important as safety in your home. Your priority is keeping your family safe – we get it because it’s ours, too! At Kosciusko REMC, we want to equip you to provide electric safety and well-being to your household and help you save energy and money while you do it.
Your home’s electric system is what keeps the lights on and the oven hot. As your local electric cooperative, KREMC handles the line portion of a consumer’s service, which includes everything up to and including the meter on the side of the house. Everything beyond that point is called the “load side,” which is completely the consumer’s responsibility. Because of this, it’s important to understand how your electrical system works and what you need to do (and not do) to operate it safely.
Here are five things to NOT do in each area of your home’s electrical system…
Around the Yard
Let’s start outside your home because this is where a lot of the electrical operations happen.
1. Don’t tamper with the meter. It measures the amount of electricity your home uses and determines your bill each month. Tampering with it is both extremely dangerous and illegal.
2. Don’t ignore or explore anything you can’t identify. If something is connected to your electric system and you’re not sure what it is, call KREMC for help.
Don’t approach power lines. It’s important to be aware of where there are power lines outside your home and to make sure your family and any equipment stay at least 10 feet away.
4. Don’t dig before calling 8-1-1. You may not see anything when you first dig your shovel into the earth, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any electrical dangers buried beneath. Professionals from 8-1-1 will provide peace of mind as they locate and mark underground facilities for you.
5. Don’t operate electrical tools without knowing how. Even if you’re experienced with a tool, make sure you inspect it before and after use so that you can repair or replace any worn-out or dangerous equipment.
Whenever you’re working or playing around your yard, electrical safety should always come first. Make sure you tell any kids with access to your property to stay away from dangers like your meter and utility box.
For Your Pets
Family members with paws aren’t typically very good at identifying sources of electricity. Whether you have a cat that crawls into small spaces with loose wiring or an energetic puppy that chews electrical cables, most animals won’t know the difference between a toy and a dangerous electrical hazard. Help protect them with these five tips:
- Don’t leave electrical cords exposed. Just like with childproofing, it’s important to block access to any electrical cords that are close to the ground. If a wire can’t be concealed or moved, use a cord cover or barrier.
- Don’t let cables tangle together. If you have a pet with a lot of energy, you know how difficult it can be to keep them safe in your home. Even if your pet is more sedentary, it’s possible for them to get caught in hanging wires and end up badly injured. Use flexible safety cables to help prevent this and be intentional about where your cables run.
- Don’t let your pets eat anything electric. Hopefully, this is obvious, but how do you stop a rambunctious critter from chewing on something before they realize it’s not food? With a safe pet deterrent spray, you can redirect your pets to discourage them from chewing the cords that you spray.
- Don’t assume your pets know. They have no concept of electricity, but most pets can be trained to follow some basic household guidelines. Keep your furry friends safe by investing the time it takes to train them to stay off couches and counters, and away from any areas with wires.
- Don’t leave any room unchecked. You may not think your pet will ever be in your bathroom, but suddenly you’re giving it a bath, and they discover a new electrical safety hazard you hadn’t even thought of. As a pet owner, it’s your job to make sure each room is pet friendly.
Through the Living Room
1. Don’t neglect your home’s light bulbs. This goes for every room in the house, but your living room lights are probably the most used and often get left on for long periods. Make sure these light bulbs are the appropriate wattage for their fixture and that the cords are in proper condition.
2. Don’t forget that electric blankets are…well, electric. They’re excellent for warming up on cold evenings, but first, be aware of their safety hazards. Don’t buy electric blankets second-hand, and don’t leave them unattended unless they’re unplugged.
3. Don’t run extension cords under rugs. This is a well-known safety tip, but it’s surprising how easy it is to overlook a small detail like this. While you’re at it, make sure no cords are placed where they could become a tripping hazard.
4. Don’t use the same electrical cords forever. If a cord is frayed or cracked, it needs to be replaced before it compromises your home’s electrical safety.
5. Don’t use an unapproved space heater. Make sure it has a seal from a nationally recognized testing laboratory, and be aware of the dangers that space heaters can pose.
In the Kitchen
· Don’t get lazy with your electric appliances. The kitchen can be especially dangerous because you may go from stirring cookie batter with an electric mixer to washing dishes in sudsy water. It’s easy to let cords and water be left wherever is convenient, but make sure you’re keeping your family safe whenever you use an electric appliance.
· Don’t rush through your cleanup. We support every chef’s endeavors to maintain a clean working space but make sure the cords to your electric appliances are cool before wrapping them up and putting them away. Kitchen fires are incredibly dangerous, especially if you have young kids in the home helping make a meal.
· Don’t treat your microwave like a shelf. It’s an electric appliance that could be dangerous to your home if it’s misused.
· Don’t skip drying your hands. If you’ve just finished washing dishes or rinsing fresh vegetables under the tap, you must dry your hands sufficiently before moving on to using an electric appliance. Taking the time for little safety measurements like this will be worth it.
· Don’t keep countertop appliances plugged in. This is especially true of appliances that are closest to the sink. Avoid electric shocks by unplugging an appliance after you use it and making sure it will not be unattended if it takes a while to cool down.
Getting to Know Your Electrical System
Whether you own or rent your home, it’s important to know your way around your electrical system. This will help you be prepared for emergencies and stay safe on a day-to-day basis. Here are a few basics to get you started:
- You’ll find your electrical service panel inside your home. It keeps everything inside running. The service panel sends electricity to the light switches, outlets, and appliances. If your electricity short circuits or an overload shuts down power, your service panel is where you will go to restore the flow.
- Circuit breakers help your home’s electrical system from overloading, thus preventing an electrical fire. (Homes built before 1965 may still use fuses.) The main breaker will cut all power to the home, and the individual circuit breakers administer power to individual parts of the home. If you look in your service panel, all the circuits and what they power should be labeled. A couple of times a year, try turning each breaker on and off. This helps familiarize you with each component of the box and will keep them from getting stuck.
- Homeowners should make sure no circuits are overloaded. A general rule when setting up your breakers is to have only one big ticket item on a circuit. That means you would not put your refrigerator and washing machine on the same circuit. If your circuits frequently overload, it may be time to contact an electrician to add more circuits to your service panel.
We hope these tips help you manage your home’s electrical system in a way that is safe and efficient for your whole household. The more you learn about electricity and safety awareness, the better equipped you’ll be to avoid tragedy caused by electrical hazards.