Most days, we go about our lives without thinking too much about the many electronic gadgets and electrical safety features that allow us to perform simple tasks at work and home without a second thought.
This Thanksgiving, take a moment to be thankful for some of the devices that help make our daily tasks safer and more convenient.
For your safety: built-in devices
- GFCIs: Ground fault circuit interrupters are inexpensive electrical devices that can either be installed in your electrical system or built into a power cord to protect you from severe electrical shocks. GFCIs are generally installed where electrical circuits may accidentally come in contact with water, such as kitchens, bath and laundry rooms, outdoors or in the garage. GFCIs constantly monitor current flowing through a circuit. How they work: If the current flowing into the circuit differs by a very small amount (even in currents as small as 4 or 5 milliamps) from the returning current, the GFCI interrupts power to prevent shock or injury. However, GFCIs only do their job when they are in good working order; test them each month to be sure.
- AFCIs: Arc fault circuit interrupters could potentially prevent more than 50% of electrical fires that occur every year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. These safety devices are typically found within your electrical panel or receptacles in the wall. An arc fault is a dangerous electrical problem caused by damaged, overheated or stressed electrical wiring or devices. How they work: AFCIs monitor the current flow and when they sense an unwanted arcing condition, the circuitry trips the internal contacts and interrupts the circuit before a fire can occur. Arc faults can occur when older wires become frayed or cracked; when a nail or screw damages a wire behind a wall; or when outlets or circuits are compromised.
- Circuit breakers: Usually found in a garage, basement or laundry room, circuit breaker boxes are an essential safety feature in your home, preventing electrical injuries and fires. Each box is filed with individual circuit breakers designed to “trip,” or shut off when necessary to stop the flow of electricity. Circuits trip for several reasons, including overloaded circuits (too much draw on one circuit) ground faults (abnormal flow in a circuit), and short circuits (when current travels along an unintended path). How they work: Circuit breakers trip (shut off) a circuit at predetermined amperage loads on a specific electrical line or circuit. If this limit is reached, the act of the breaker tripping opens the circuit and prevents the flow of current to that particular electrical line or circuit.
Use them safely: convenience items
- Device chargers: Whether for work or personal use, most of us can’t go a day without accessing our cell phone, tablet, laptop, or other electronic device. While we rely on our chargers to keep these items running, be sure to treat charging components with care and use them correctly. Here are some safety tips:
- Personal electronic devices should NOT be placed under pillows or used on or underneath bedding.
- Do not leave cords plugged in when not charging because little ones or pets who put them in their mouths can get burned or shocked.
- Do not leave them around when not in use because toddlers might try to insert the wrong end into an electrical outlet and get shocked or burned (child-proof your outlets, as well, if they are not the tamper resistant versions).
- Don’t use charging devices near water or in damp conditions.
- Replace original charging components with the same brand and type whenever possible. Using off-brand or generic versions can be dangerous if they are faulty.
- Extension cords and multi-outlet power strips: Extension cords and multi-outlet power strips or devices, while incredibly handy, should always be inspected for damage prior to use. Use them as a temporary fix, not a long-term solution, and use them safely:
- Plug them directly into an outlet, and not into another extension cord or power strip.
- If you are using a strip or extension cord outside, make sure it is rated for outdoor use.
- Never use an item that feels hot or is damaged in any way.
- Make sure these convenience items (cords and strips) are approved by a reputable independent testing laboratory like UL.
- When using an extension cord, make sure the wattage rating of the cord and the appliance match.
Source: Safe Electricity