Winter is the perfect time to head indoors and get warm and cozy, but the winter is also a peak time for household fires. A burning candle left unattended or grease splattering across a hot burner on the stove are obvious fire dangers, but another major contributor to household fires is electricity. The team at Boggs Inspection Services wants you to stay warm and safe during this chilly time of year, so they have a few tips for you to follow to protect your home and family from the dangers of electrical fires.

Never Plug in a Damaged Cord

Whether your new puppy thought the plug to the vacuum was a chew toy, or your phone charger has just seen a lot of wear and tear, you should never use electrical equipment with a damaged plug or cord. Even if the crack in the wire insulation seems relatively minimal, it’s not worth the risk. Have the cord repaired by a professional or purchase a replacement. “You should also inspect holiday decorations each year before plugging them in,” says Dwayne Boggs, CEO of Boggs Inspection Services. “Age and exposure to cold temperatures can do a number on light strands and other decorations, increasing the potential for a fire or electrical shock.”

Boggs Inspection Services Pull the Plug on Electrical Fires safety
Inspector manager George Green isn’t kidding around when it comes to electrical safety. George’s nephew hands him a tool so he can show him how he tests outlets. For homes with small children, consider using outlet plug covers to deter little ones from putting things into outlets. Photo courtesy: Boggs Inspection Services

Use the Right Cord for the Job

Don’t get overloaded when using extension cords. Extension cords are rated for capacity based on cord length and gauge. Do not exceed the manufacturer’s recommendations. “Remember, extension cords are temporary and should not be used as a replacement for permanent wiring,” says Dwayne. And never run an extension cord through water or under flammable materials such as rugs. Also, if you plan to use an extension cord outdoors, make sure it’s designed for outdoor use.

Know the Signs

Use your senses to evaluate the electrical system in your home. Look for sparks or scorch marks when you plug electrical equipment into outlets. Also, look for dimming or flickering lights which could indicate a connection issue or circuit overload. Listen for buzzing or crackling. While appliances and electronics each make their own kind of noises, the wiring in your walls should be silent. Feel for heat. If your outlets are warm, or extension cords get hot, they are probably overloaded. Finally, pay attention to strange smells coming from your outlets or circuit breaker. If somewhere in your home has a persistent burning smell with no identifiable source, that is also a big red flag. “Any of these warning signs should not be ignored and you should contact a professional electrician for an evaluation,” says Dwayne.

Outdoor outlet safety
Exterior outlets should be weather resistant ground fault circuit interrupter receptacles. If they are not, contact a professional to get them upgraded and do not use them until they are replaced. Photo courtesy: Boggs Inspection Services

Bring in a Professional Set of Eyes

Many electrical dangers are not obvious to an untrained pair of eyes. Sometimes the placement of wiring seems okay, but a professional will notice problems that most of us won’t see. Other times, codes and safety regulations will change over time as new best-practices are put in place. “Older homes are particularly susceptible to electrical safety dangers,” says Dwayne. “Older homes may be built with outdated building codes, time and regular wear and tear have taken their toll on wiring and outlets, and they may contain fuse boxes or circuit breakers that have been recalled due to safety concerns.” A professional inspection is the best way to find out what should be repaired or upgraded in your home.

Boggs Inspection Services
Boggs Inspection Services team members have all the training and experience to provide detailed and thorough home inspections to give you peace of mind. Photo courtesy: Boggs Inspection Services

Be Prepared

If a fire starts, it is important to have an early warning. Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of the home, with one in each bedroom, and one outside sleeping areas. Smoke alarms should be placed high on the wall or ceiling because smoke rises, and away from windows or vents which could impair their function. Additionally, they should be installed at least 10 feet away from kitchen appliances to minimize false alarms. Test your smoke alarms monthly, and replace the batteries regularly—twice a year.

All-purpose, or multi rated extinguishers—labeled ABC—are a good choice for your home. They can be used on ordinary combustibles(A), gas or oil(B) fires ,which are common in the kitchen or garage, or electrical(C) fires. Keep one on every level of your home, stored in an easily accessible place, and have one available in the kitchen and garage.

Boggs Inspection Services wants you to stay safe from electrical fires this winter. If you’d like a well-trained inspector to provide a comprehensive home inspection that includes an evaluation of the electrical system, schedule an appointment with Boggs Inspection Services on their website or by calling 360-480-9602. Boggs Inspection Services serves Thurston, Pierce, Mason, Lewis, King, Grays Harbor and Surrounding Areas.

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