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Electrical outlet safety for the holidays

By From page C4 | November 27, 2013

By Rosemary Sadez Friedmann

Well, with Thanksgiving and particularly Christmas coming up, we should make sure our electrical outlets are safe. Plugging in all those lights will give a beautiful look to your house. But safety should be first, so let’s see if our electrical outlets and wall plates are up to par.

Do you have any wall plates (you know: those things that go over outlets) that need to be changed? First of all, if any plate has a crack in it, replace it. It is not just an eyesore, it is a fire hazard and the reason is that the cracks become dust traps and eventually the dust traps become a fire hazard. Just think about it. Any lint, dust and/or hair act like kindling when they accumulate, so in the electrical outlet, this is a kindling set for disaster. Experts say that, in addition to fires, under the right conditions the dust can actually cause explosions.

Video games that plug into the outlets create a good amount of heat, and if these games are plugged in next to other electronic equipment, the heat danger rises. Turning them off after use is a good idea.

Another fire hazard is any electrical outlet that has been painted over. Take time now to scrape the paint completely off those outlets. Any plates that are over the outlets should be free of paint as well. Any wall plates that are unnaturally brown near the electrical part, such as a burned look, probably means a hot wire in there isn’t grounded. That outlet might need to be rewired or possible replaced completely. There are electrical outlets that have built-in testers and also built-in surge protection, so if you are replacing, you might as well get the outlets that have the tester and protector.

After whatever you have plugged in has been turned on for a while, check the plates to see if they feel extra-hot; particularly check the screws. If really hot, the outlet could be worn-out or it could have bad wiring. Get it fixed. Another possibility of hot outlets could be that you are running too much power through them. There are outlets that can handle larger loads, so if you are replacing, be sure to get the larger-load type. If you are not replacing, then don’t put as much work on that outlet since it really can’t handle the load.

And speaking of outlets that can handle different loads, there are outlets and plates that include USB chargers and some that include phone jacks and others that included dimmer controls. The choices are many.

If there is an outlet that you don’t use anymore, replace the plate with a blank faceplate. These devices are designed without any holes so that a dust-lint-hair problem won’t be an issue.

So be wise and take the time to check all the electrical outlets in your home before you start to plug in all those twinkling lights. For more information, you might want to check out cableorganizer.com.

All that said, consult an electrician or the fire department if you have any related qualms, questions or concerns whatsoever.

Scripps Howard News Service

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