Residential electrical systems may not contain some of the complexities of commercial or industrial control systems, but the risk associated with failures may be even higher and recognizing faults and potential dangers can be a daunting task for the average homeowner. Knowing how to recognize a possible electrical hazard before it occurs can be as easy as following a few key steps if you know what, where, how and when to look. A visual inspection should be performed annually, and followed by a licensed electrician if anything seems questionable. One of the first things to look for would be dimming lights. This could be a sign of a loose or weak neutral, often occurring the same time a refrigerator , ac system, or other large load comes on.
A visual electrical evaluation should also include removing the cover from the service panel and looking for traces of arcs or burn marks, without putting your hands or other tools inside and always turning the power off first. Testing individual outlets and GCFI receptacles requires a plug tester, available at any hardware store for about $5. Typically a plug tester will have three small lights on it and a legend as to which pattern of lights is correct and which is not. I also recommend gently shaking the plug tester while it is plugged in to check for loose connections. Loose connections on a receptacle can result in unnecessary heat build up and fire. Do not plug more appliances into an outlet then it can handle, put your hand near it, if its warm to the touch, its too hot, use a surge strip. Devices and appliances that have large transformers on the plug should not be plugged in near curtains.
If you have the type of air freshener that plugs in and releases a timed fragrance throw it away (please). I have personally seen them cause more then 1 fire. Don’t plug in more then one transformer to a single electrical outlet. Put the curling iron away, even turned off sitting next to the sink there are risk. Use the appropriate sized cords, generally speaking extension cords are for temporary 1 time usage, and not designed for prolonged use. Finally have your home checked out every few years by a trained technician.
Electrical safety in the home is as easy as being aware and conscience, if your not sure, ask, and change those batteries in your smoke detector.