One of the leading causes of residential fires is faulty electrical outlets. In fact, according to the National Fire Prevention Agency (NFPA) from 2010 – 2014 16% of civilian deaths were caused by “electrical distribution and lighting equipment.” Additionally, there are at least 25,000 electrical fires each year that are the result of faulty outlets. While these statistics are alarming, they offer a homeowner a realistic overview of common electrical hazards. Many of these fires could have been avoided had proper safety precautions been taken. This is why it’s important for homeowners to perform electrical outlet maintenance on a regular basis. By following the following maintenance tips, you can help keep your electrical system running safely and efficiently.
A good way to keep ahead of any problems with individual outlets is to invest in an outlet tester (or electrical receptacle tester). There are a variety of testers available for different kinds of receptacles. These handy, inexpensive gadgets simply plug into an outlet and automatically indicate any inherent problems. Light indicators help rate the outlet using a basic diagnostic checklist. Checking your outlets every month will help reduce chances of an electrical fire and catch any minor problems that could potentially turn into hazardous ones later on.
Check All Outlets
Remember that outlet maintenance encompasses all the electrical receptacles in your home – including hidden outlets in pantries, attics and those obscured by furniture. You will also want to check the outdoor outlets on your patio, walls and in the garage. Though you may never use these outlets, they are also capable of starting electrical fires as well. Make sure that all of your outdoor receptacles have been updated with GFCIs (ground fault circuit interrupters) for maximum safety.
Check All Electrical Plates
In one of our recent blog posts we spotlighted signs that your electrical wiring might need to be replaced. Some of these signs included discolored electrical outlets and light switch plates. While there is no commercial testing device for light switches and other electrical wall plates, each plate should be investigated while you are performing maintenance on your outlets. Light switch, dimmer, coaxial cable, phone and audio/video plates can be compromised by faulty wires as well. Check each plate for cracking, discoloration or burn marks. You will want to replace any damaged plates that have been worn by age (yellowing or cracking). But if you have a plate that exhibits signs of burning, call a professional electrician to check it out immediately.
Replace Damaged Wiring
Outlet testers are not always 100% correct, but are a solid springboard for finding problems. If you get a reading that an outlet is in need of repair, you should investigate right away. While outlet wire replacement is not that complicated, it is best to seek the help of a professional. Dealing with electrical repairs is not something that should be tackled by watching a “how-to” YouTube video. If your tester indicates a wiring problem, contact a qualified technician to review the receptacle immediately.
Maintenance checks on your electrical outlets, especially in older homes, should be part of a monthly routine. Similar to annual HVAC maintenance, these checks can help detect small issues early – and help save you money in extensive repairs later on. But unlike routine tune-ups on your HVAC or plumbing system, outlet maintenance can help prevent potential hazardous results. If you happen to find a problem with an outlet after your review, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (713) 364-0226. We can schedule an appointment with one of our professional electricians for a thorough evaluation.