1. Check for and prevent leaks
Water and electricity are a dangerous combination. The melt from winter snow and ice can cause water leaks that could affect your home’s electrical panels or outlets. Check any equipment that could cause potential leaking, such as your water heater, and ensure it is working properly.
Make sure house gutters are cleaned to prevent rainwater from coming into your home or basement. Also, check the water pressure in your home. High water pressure can cause ruptures and harm pipes, connections and appliances.
2. Check your central electrical panel
It is important to be familiar with your circuit panel. All adults in your home should know where it is located. Clear away any obstructions that are blocking easy access to the panel, and check that all of the switches are labeled and working properly. It is important to be able to shut everything down quickly if needed.
3. Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Ensure that smoke detectors are installed throughout your home according to code. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, nearly 30% percent of house fires occur during the winter months, so swap out all alarm batteries and run a quick test on all of your smoke detectors. Rely on a licensed electrician for installation of new smoke detectors and advice on selection and placement.
4. Trim overgrown trees
Unruly tree limbs are often a contributing factor to downed power lines during winter storms. Call your local electrical utility for assistance with trimming limbs that are near energized lines. Downed power lines are dangerous and can lead to power outages, electrocution, and house fires.
5. Maintain HVAC systems
Check for and clear away any debris from heating and air conditioning appliances, as well as from air vents inside of your home.
6. Replace cracked or missing electrical outlet covers
Outlet covers provide an important safety function – they offer protection from exposed electrical wires. Ensure all outlet covers are in good condition and are securely installed.
7. Check outdoor lighting
Lights that don’t work properly can present security issues for your home. Also, consider adding motion-detection outdoor lights to help prevent injuries such as trips and falls that can easily occur in the dark.
8. Use surge protectors
Extra space heaters or other appliances or devices can also place a burden on your electrical outlets. Be sure that you have a proper surge protector with each outlet that your appliances plug into. You may also want to consult a professional electrician about installing a whole house surge protector that is wired to your main electrical panel and can protect your home on a larger scale.
9. Take care with space heaters
According to the National Fire Protection Association, 15% of home fires are due to heating equipment and of those, space heaters are the biggest culprit. If you choose to use a space heater, be sure to follow best practices.
Make sure the space heater is on a flat and level surface and that it is plugged directly into an outlet or surge protector. Never use a heater that has a torn or damaged cord, and never use an extension cord with a space heater. Space heaters should never be left unattended.
10. Create a survival kit
Store flashlights, batteries, device chargers, and bottled water somewhere easy to access in your home in case you lose power during a winter storm.
11. Unplug unused gadgets and appliances
Adopt a nightly routine or unplugging non-essential electrical devices that are not plugged into a surge protector. Electrical items can short-circuit during winter storms. By unplugging these items, you’ll save a bit on electricity cost and will avoid a fire risk.
12. Only purchase electronics and electrical equipment that are certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
NRTL certified products must conform to certain safety standards. Note that CE marks are not the same as a NRTL certification. CE labeled products may not have been tested by a third party.
13. Check your home’s electrical wiring
Wires, plugs, outlets, and sockets can all become worn over time and result in a safety hazard. Have a licensed electrician check the wiring throughout your home to ensure everything is up to code and functioning properly. Electrical fires can cause significant damage and can be life-threatening. A professional electrician can offer recommendations to address potential safety issues.
Beyond the potential electrical hazards during the holiday season, winter presents unique dangers with regards to electricity. Strong winds, ice and harsh winter weather can cause downed power lines, power outages, heat outages and even the danger of fire. Winterizing your home’s electrical system and any electric appliances or gadgets can help protect your home and your family. Follow these safety recommendations to mitigate the electrical risks associated with winter.