By Julie Chavanne, Communications Director, ESFI
Light switches are critical connection points and serve as the first line of control for our electrical use. Over time, these connections can become loose, creating potential hazards, and light fixtures and lamps can have dark consequences if they aren’t used correctly.
The Electrical Safety Foundation International breaks down the safety tips that are critical to maintaining a safe and well-lit home:
- Check that all outlet and switch cover plates are in good condition so that no wiring is exposed. Replace any missing, cracked, or broken cover plates. Exposed wiring is a shock hazard.
- Make sure outlet and switch plates are not unusually hot to the touch. If they are, immediately unplug cords from these outlets and do not use the switches. Unusually warm outlets or switches may indicate an unsafe wiring condition.
- Look for discoloration as an indication of potentially dangerous heat buildup at these connections. Stand across the room and look for a tear drop-shaped darkening around and above outlet and switch cover plates.
- Switches that only work intermittently are a sign that wiring may be loose or the device may be cracked internally. This can present a fire hazard.
If your lighting control points are characterized by any of the above, have your home’s electrical system inspected by a qualified electrician as soon as possible.
Light Fixtures and Lamps
- Make sure all lamps and light fixtures are certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Canadian Standards Association (CSA), or Intertek (ETL).
- Always use a bulb of the correct type and wattage. If you do not know the correct wattage, contact the manufacturer of the lamp or fixture. A bulb with excessive wattage may overheat and cause a fire.
- Install bulbs with extended lifespans in hard-to-reach locations to limit the number of times you have to climb a ladder, move furniture, or engage in potentially dangerous activities.
- Read and follow manufacturers’ safety instructions for fixtures, lamps, and light bulbs.
- Make sure bulbs are screwed in securely. Loose bulbs may overheat.
- Do not allow children to operate lamps or nightlights.
Always look for telltale signs of electrical problems such as dim and flickering lights, unusual sizzling and buzzing sounds from your electrical system, and circuit breakers that trip repeatedly. Contact a qualified electrician immediately if any of these warning signs occur.
For more tips on home electrical safety, visit www.esfi.org.
This article was originally published in the February 2016 issue of ei, the magazine of the electroindustry.