Hometown Lawrence: Take steps to ensure electrical safety in the home

For peace of mind, consider having a home electrical system inspection by a licensed electrician.

Electricity is an essential element to everyday life. It also is one of the major causes of home fires in the country. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, fire departments respond to approximately 25,900 home electrical fires each year. These fires result in around $1.1 billion in property loss, and worse, 280 deaths and 1,125 injuries.

For peace of mind, consider having a home electrical system inspection by a licensed electrician. Getting your system checked is a good idea if:

• Your home is more than 40 years old.

• You have recently renovated your home.

• In the past 10 years you have purchased a new major appliance, such as a refrigerator, freezer, air conditioner or electric furnace.

• Your lights often dim or flicker.

• You often trip circuit breakers or blow fuses.

• Outlets or light switches are hot to the touch or discolored, or if you hear crackling, sizzling or buzzing noises.

• You use extension cords or power strips throughout the house.

If a problem is found, it doesn’t necessarily mean rewiring the entire house. The solution may be as simple as new switches or circuit breakers.

There are also easy steps homeowners can take to prevent an electrical fire. First, make sure all major appliances (refrigerators, dryers, washers, stoves, air conditioners, etc) are plugged directly into the wall and not an extension cord or power strip. This rule also applies for small, heat-producing appliances such as a coffee makers, toasters or space heaters. It also is a good idea to unplug these smaller appliances when not in use.

Lamps, light bulbs, and light fixtures should be kept away from anything that can burn. Plus, make sure the light bulbs are the recommended wattage for the lamp or fixture. You will find a sticker with this information on the socket.

Make sure you don’t overload a wall outlet by plugging in too much stuff, and make sure electrical cords do not run under rugs or carpet or across doorways. Also, don’t overload power strips and be sure to use a strip with internal overload protection. Extension cords should only be used as a temporary solution. They are not meant for long-term use.

Finally, check to see if ground fault circuit interrupter outlets are installed in bathrooms, kitchens, garages, basements and outdoors. They automatically shut off the electrical circuit to prevent a shock, such as if they come in contact with water. Be sure to test them once a month to make certain they are working. (There is a test and reset button on the outlet.)

For more information about electrical fire prevention, visit the U.S. Fire Administration’s website at www.usfa.fema.gov, or the National Fire Protection Association at www.nfpa.org.

Hometown Lawrence

Hometown Lawrence is the Lawrence Journal-World’s real estate resource section and website. For more information on area real estate listings, go to HometownLawrence.com.