Outlets deteriorate from repeated use, from plugging-in and unplugging appliances as is often done in kitchens and bathrooms. As a result, when plugs fit loosely into receptacles (especially the two-prong ungrounded type), they may slip partially or completely out of the receptacle with only slight movement of the attached cord. Receptacles in this condition may overheat and pose a serious fire hazard; if covered by a curtain or drape, the fire hazard is even greater.
Outlets with poor internal contacts or loose wire terminals may become overheated and emit sparks. Even a receptacle with nothing plugged into it may run hot if it is passing current through to other outlets on the same circuit. To prevent damage to receptacles, appliances should be switched-off before unplugging from a receptacle. Do not unplug appliances by pulling on the cord at an angle. The brittle plastic face of the receptacle may crack and break away, leaving live parts of the receptacle exposed. Have our team of electricans at Safe-Way Electric & Solar Co. replace damaged receptacles or those that feel hot, emit smoke or sparks, have loose fitting plugs, or those where plugged-in lamps flicker or fail to light.
Facts & Tips
Electrical fires in homes claim the lives of 280 Americans each year and injure 1,000 more. While some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures, incorrectly installed wiring and overloaded circuits and extension cords cause many more. During a typical year, home electrical problems account for 26,100 fires and $1 billion in property losses. About half of all residential electrical fires involve electrical wiring.
December and January are the most dangerous months for electrical fires. Fire deaths are highest in winter months, which call for more indoor activities and increases in lighting, heating, and appliance use. The bedroom is the leading area of fire origin for residential building electrical fires. However, electrical fires that begin in the living room, family room, and/or den areas result in the most deaths.
- Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring.
- Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old, or damaged appliance cords immediately.
- Replace any electrical tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out, or gives off smoke or sparks.
- Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
- Buy electrical products evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory.
- Keep clothes, curtains, and other potentially combustible items at least three feet from all heaters.
- If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
- Don’t allow children to play with or around electrical appliances like space heaters, irons, and hair dryers.
- Use safety closures to “child-proof” electrical outlets.
- Use electrical extension cords wisely; never overload extension cords or wall sockets.
- Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker.
- Finally, having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire, and remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family.