Skip to Main Content Back to Top Let's Talk
Home Blog Electrical outlet safety tips for a secure home

Electrical outlet safety tips for a secure home

Woman charging smart phone while standing near kitchen counter at home
Higginbotham H logo

Are your home’s electrical outlets safe? Electrical outlet safety can play a vital role in avoiding home hazards like electrical shocks and house fires. In this guide, you’ll find advice on how to keep your outlets safe and your household secure, as well as danger signs and ways to safeguard your living space.

The Importance of Electrical Outlet Safety

Electrical outlets, though small, can play a vital role in the everyday functionality of your home, powering everything from personal devices to kitchen appliances. However, these outlets can present significant risks, especially without safety features. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), electrical shocks and burns from children inserting objects into outlets lead to approximately 2,400 severe injuries annually.

Technologies like tamper-resistant (TR) receptacles have helped advance electrical safety. TR electrical receptacles are designed with a mechanism to help prevent foreign objects from entering the outlets and causing shocks. And, at an average cost of just $0.50 per outlet according to the NFPA, tamper-resistant features can be an essential investment in creating a safer environment in your home.

Warning Signs of Outlet Failure

Awareness is your first line of defense against electrical hazards since being able to identify the warning signs of outlet failure can allow for intervention to prevent severe consequences. Here are a few warning signs to look for:

  • Discolored wall plates
  • Scorch marks
  • Burning odors
  • Buzzing noises
  • Electrical outlet sparking
  • Outlets that are warm or hot to the touch

If you come across outlets with any of these signs, especially an outlet that is overheating or making a popping noise, immediate action is crucial. It’s recommended to turn off the breaker that supplies power to the outlet and call an experienced electrician. Ignoring the warning signs of outlet failure could risk an outlet blowout or a dangerous fire.

Preventing Faulty Outlet Connections

The integrity of outlet connections is a pillar of home safety. Loose outlets not only signify wear and tear but can also pose a fire hazard as plugs may fall out, potentially sparking and igniting nearby materials. A sparking outlet is a clear sign that you need to enlist professional help. An electrician can examine and fix malfunctioning outlets, helping to protect your home from the dangers associated with faulty connections. When connecting appliances, making sure that the plug and receptacle contacts are properly aligned can help to prevent loosening outlets.

Upgrading to Modern Outlets

While it’s recommended to check and replace electrical outlets and wiring at least every 15 years, upgrading to modern outlets can help protect against the unseen dangers of electric shock and fires. Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets and Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) are at the forefront of this technology, as they’re designed to detect and mitigate the risks of electrical mishaps. AFCIs help discern between harmless and hazardous electrical arcs, and GFCIs monitor the flow of electricity and act swiftly to interrupt the circuit if discrepancies arise, which is especially crucial for outdoor outlets exposed to moisture.

Woman plugging the wire to the outlet

Tips to Handle Extension Cords with Care

Extension cords may be a common household fix for reaching distant outlets, but they must be handled carefully to prevent deterioration, electrical shock or fire. Here are some tips for using extension cords safely:

  • Use extension cords as a temporary solution and avoid using them long-term.
  • Do not overload extension cords with too many devices or appliances.
  • Make sure the extension cord is in good condition and free from any damage or fraying.
  • Do not run extension cords under carpets or rugs, as this can cause overheating.
  • Avoid using extension cords in wet or damp areas.
  • Consider consulting a professional electrician to install additional outlets if you find yourself relying on extension cords.
  • When using extension cords with appliances, make sure to match the extension cord with the wattage of the appliance and to check that the cord is certified for its intended use. Connecting only one appliance per extension cord can also help prevent overloading.
  • Regularly inspect your extension cords for signs of wear and tear, and never use them in conditions where they could be compromised by water or extreme temperatures.
  • For extension cords rated for outdoor use, consider using waterproof covers as protection from the elements. Avoid using outdoor outlets during adverse weather conditions to reduce the risk of electrical hazards.

Smart Usage of Power Strips and Surge Protectors

Power strips and surge protectors are common in our technology-filled lives, but they also come with risks regarding electrical overloads and fire hazards. When using power strips, it is prudent to:

  • Reserve power strips for low-wattage devices.
  • Don’t connect high-wattage appliances or devices.
  • Avoid daisy-chaining power strips, as this could cause circuit overload.
  • Place power strips away from moisture.
  • Use power strips appropriately indoors or outdoors based on their rating, and make sure to regularly inspect power strips used outdoors.
  • Consider investing in smart power strips, which can automatically power down unused devices.

Childproofing Tips for Electrical Outlet Safety

Childproofing is an essential element of household safety. Here are some tips to keep your children safe around electrical outlets:

  • Use tamper-resistant receptacles and outlet covers to help prevent young ones from sticking their fingers or objects into electrical outlets.
  • Keep cords out of reach by using cord organizers or hiding them behind furniture.
  • Consider using outlet covers with built-in cord shorteners to keep cords neatly tucked away and out of sight.
  • Consider using caps and slide plate covers to discourage tampering with outlets.

Safe Management of High-Powered Appliances

High-powered appliances may play a major role in the modern home, but they need to be handled responsibly to ensure safety. It’s crucial to plug devices such as refrigerators, washing machines, microwaves, toasters and space heaters directly into wall outlets since they draw significant amounts of current. To avoid overloading, each wall outlet should only power one high-temperature appliance at a time. Observing the rule of keeping electrical usage below 80 percent of a circuit’s safety limit is another practical guideline for preventing overloads.

Responding to Electrical Emergencies

Knowing how to react when electrical emergencies occur is just as, if not more, important as knowing their warning signs. In the event of an electrical fire, reach for a fire extinguisher with a C rating, as water may exacerbate the situation.

If you witness an outlet sparking, prioritize your safety by keeping a safe distance and immediately contacting professional help. Likewise, frequent tripping of a circuit breaker may be a sign that an outlet may be overloaded or deteriorating—another cue to call in a skilled electrician. Dealing with electrical issues requires specialized knowledge and equipment, so resist the urge to attempt a DIY fix.

Is your home protected?

Alongside following safety tips and maintaining your home’s electrical system, homeowners’ insurance can serve as an additional layer of protection. It’s perhaps the best investment you can make as a homeowner, helping to protect your belongings and your house itself. If you’re unsure if you’re adequately covered or need help securing coverage, Higginbotham can help. Get in touch with one of our home insurance specialists and discover how we can help protect what matters most to you.

Not sure where to start? Talk to someone who wants to listen.

A great plan starts with a conversation. Let’s talk about what you need.

Let’s Talk

Request a Quote

Woman looking sideways to window in design office
Higginbotham H logo