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Are your electrical outlets overstuffed with power strips, extension cords and outlet splitters? That’s not just an unsightly tripping hazard—it’s a fire hazard.
Every year, U.S. fire departments respond to an estimated 25,900 home electrical fires. These fires cause an estimated 280 deaths, 1,125 injuries and $1.1 billion in property loss. Thirty-nine percent of home electrical fires involve outlets or other electrical wiring.
Plugging more appliances, lights and electronics into a single outlet than its circuit is meant to handle can cause the receptacle or cords to overheat and can potentially start an electrical fire. The Consumer Product Safety Commission attributes 3,500 fires each year to outlet issues.
How do you know if you’re pushing your outlets and home wiring to the brink? Check for these common indicators of potential electrical hazards:
Hot outlets. If you can’t touch a cord, plug or faceplate for more than five seconds without saying “Ouch!” the outlet is overloaded.
Shocks. Small shocks from touching appliances or outlets could point to danger.
Blown fuses. If fuses continue to blow after you replace them, or circuit breakers constantly trip, the wiring cannot handle the outlet’s load.
Flickering lights. Flickering or dimming lights could indicate an overloaded outlet.
Wavering screens. Similarly, if your computer or TV screen wavers when a large appliance is plugged in, it could mean the outlet is overstressed.
Odd smells. An odd smell coming from an outlet or your fuse box or breaker can be a sign of a serious problem.
Sparking. This is never a good sign. If a breaker panel, fuse box or outlet is sparking, get an electrician in ASAP.
Buzzing. What does electricity sound like? When things are working properly, nothing. Loose prongs or outlets or fraying wire can cause the current to jump, producing a buzzing sound.
Too many extension cords. If extension cords are necessary for your daily routine, your home’s wiring is inadequate. When it comes to high-wattage appliances, such as refrigerators or dryers, never plug them into extension cords.
Any of these symptoms could mean your home’s wiring can’t keep up with the increasing energy demands of your large appliances and electronics. Call a licensed electrician to give you an estimate for wiring repairs or upgrades.