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5 electrical outlet safety tips every homeowner should know.

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In recent years, electrical failures and malfunctions have been the second leading cause of home fires in the U.S. But tragically, they account for the most deaths and property damage. As your partners in precaution, we’ve identified five ways to reduce your risk for electrical fire and electrical shock. Explore our electrical outlet safety tips today.

When it comes to optimizing electrical outlet performance, powerful ideas include:

1. Updating your outlets. If your home still has standard two-prong electrical outlets, it’s time to make a change. Update to three-prong or Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets. Designed with safety in mind, GFCI outlets save you from electrical shock. They constantly monitor the electricity that flows through a circuit, and they’ll cut power if the outlet comes in contact with water or other detectable hazards. Install them in bathrooms, kitchens, garages and basements. All outdoor outlets should be GFCI as well.

2. Checking cords and covers regularly. Before you plug it in, check it out. Cords that are damaged in any way should be replaced immediately – especially if they have exposed wires. It’s also important to check all outlet covers at least once a year. Make sure they still encase the wiring and are fastened to the wall securely. If you come across a cover that’s cracked or chipped, you’ll want to replace it. And if any are hot, burnt or buzzing, call a qualified electrician.

3. Not overloading an outlet. How much electricity does your home have to offer? Believe it or not, there’s actually an answer. If you’ve ever turned on a hair dryer, started to vacuum or blasted a space heater, only to have it (or power to that area) shut off, you’ve tried to use more electricity than you were able to. Fortunately, circuit breakers can typically be trusted to trigger such a shutdown. But it’s more effective to prevent an overload on your own. To avoid overloading an outlet…

  • Plug major appliances into their own wall outlet.
  • Don’t turn on too many things at once. (For example, if you’re vacuuming the living room, turn off the TV during that time.)
  • Use energy-efficient LED or CFL light bulbs.
  • Ask an electrician to install extra outlets.

4. Unplugging cords slowly and safely. When you’re done using something, grab the base of the plug and pull slowly. It can be tempting to tug, but if you’re at a distance or at an angle, it can actually break wires, bend plugs or damage the outlet itself. Those risks just aren’t worth it. (Bonus read: 7 electronics to unplug during a storm.)

5. Childproofing outlets. If you’re a parent, it doesn’t matter how many toys your children have. To curious little ones, electrical outlets are often more intriguing. This is exactly why electrical outlet safety is so important. Protect your child by purchasing plugs with plastic prongs. They’ll fit snugly inside the outlet, which means kids won’t be able to access them. And for your convenience, they’re easy for adults to remove. A cost-saving tip is to buy these plugs in bulk for a cheaper per-unit price.

In addition to our electrical outlet safety tips, be sure you know how to use a fire extinguisher. (Just in case.)

For more ways to protect your house, check out, How to prevent a house fire: 7 tips to spark safety. Then talk to your local, independent agent about home insurance options and available discounts for smoke detectors and alarm systems.

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