3 tips to use electricity safely at home


By Jeff MacKinnon, P.Eng.,PE

The more connected we become, and the more DIY projects we take on, the more aware we need to be of the hazards of electricity. There are two hazards directly associated with electricity: shock and arc flash. This said, there are many more indirect electrical hazards that can arise from misapplication, such has heat causing fire from overloaded circuits.

Staying safe with electricity at home is really easy; you should never do electrical work by yourself. Always have a qualified electrician do any work in your home if it requires removing a plate or fixture. There are three things that you need to do to stay safer at home:

1 Only plug in approved appliances

Recognized certification marks in Nova Scotia

Counterfeiting is a much larger concern in Canada than most realize. This has nothing to do with that movie you downloaded in university (or last night). We are talking about counterfeiters importing common electrical equipment like phone chargers, lamps, etc. These devices are likely not approved, tested or suitable for use. They may over heat and cause fires, or become a shock hazard.

Whenever you buy something to be plugged into a wall outlet, be sure that the device has a suitable, approved mark. For example, ESA in Ontario has a great list of all the recognized certification marks in Ontario http://www.esasafe.com/consumers/productsafety/marks

2 Don't overload your circuits

In North America, the typical wiring in a house is designed to carry 15 Amps - anything above that will cause the breaker for that circuit to trip. The wire in an extension cord or power bar, on the other hand, is designed to carry much less, depending on the gauge of wire used. Overloaded wires will heat up, and can cause fires.

3 Household safety inspections

Develop a routine where you go around the home and check your various electrical components to be sure they are still safe for use. This includes the cords on your TV, appliances, lamps, etc, any extension cords and your GFCI and AFCI breakers and receptacles

use GFCI

Inspect all your cords. Look for damage to the cord in the form of nicks, scratches or bare wires. A cord that is warm to the touch is a sign of overheating. In the case of an extension cord, unplug and replace it, or have a licensed electrician fix or replace the cord. When discarding, be sure to cut the cord through to ensure that an unsuspecting person doesn't try to use the defective equipment. Test your GFCI receptacles by pushing the TEST button. If it works properly you will hear a click and the power will be turned off. Press the reset to put back into service. If you have GFCIs in your panel, do the same thing. If it is working, you will see the breaker trip.

Reset the breaker and you are done.

AFCI breakers and receptacles are tested in the same way as GFCI.

Electrical Safety in General


In general, electrical safety at home is all about using certified/marked appliances, with maintained cords, without overloading the circuits at home. By doing this you will lessen your chance of an electrical fire, or shock to you or your loved ones.