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3 Cringe-Worthy Electrical Mistakes You Might Be Making

If you are like most people, you probably don't give your electrical system a second thought unless something smells weird or you notice sparks coming out of your outlets. Unfortunately, small errors and oversights can cause large electrical issues, which can prompt house fires. Here are three cringe-worthy electrical mistakes you might be making, and how you can avoid unintentionally burning your house to the ground:

1: Overusing Extension Cords

When you are in the middle of setting up that new entertainment center, the last thing you probably want to deal with is looking for an electrical outlet. Unfortunately, if you move your furniture to a wall without a plug, you might be tempted to break out that bright orange extension cord to make things work. Although it might seem harmless, using extension cords the wrong way could be dangerous. Here are a few extension cord mistakes that could cause big issues:

  • Throwing Cables Around: Most people aren't that gentle with extension cords. Those cables might get tossed into the back of your truck, into a drawer in the garage, or onto your cement driveway as you hang holiday lights. Unfortunately, if extension cords aren't treated with care, they can short out and become useless. Exposed shorts can also shock people who encounter live wires.  
  • Snaking Cords Under Carpet: To make that extension cord less noticeable, you might snake those cords under your carpet pad. Unfortunately, hidden cords can sustain a lot of friction and impact, which can damage internal components. Also, the surrounding carpet pad can prompt heat to build in damaged areas, which could spark a house fire.
  • Daisy-Chaining Devices: If one extension cord isn't long enough, many homeowners reach for a second one, and then daisy-chain the cords together. Unfortunately, daisy-chaining can cause the extension cord to pull more current than it should, which can overload the circuits and burn out the device.

Believe it or not, improper extension cord use is though to account for around 3,300 residential fires each year. If you want to keep your family safe, never use extension cords on a permanent basis, and abide by the manufacturers instructions to the letter of the law.

2: Getting Sloppy With Junction Boxes

Wherever electrical lines connect, there should be an electrical junction box. However, because these boxes are frequently inside of attics and behind walls, most homeowners don't treat these precious safety boxes like they should. Here are a few errors that you might be making, and why it might matter later:

  • Un-Clamped Wires: Each junction box has a cut hole where wires flow out of the enclosure. Because electrical wires are coated, most people figure that they don't need to protect those lines from the sharp sides of the box. Unfortunately, unless wires are clamped and protected, those wires can move around slightly and press against the sharp edge of the box, where they can become frayed. Always clamp and protect wires, to keep them from shorting out and causing electrical fires. 
  • Missing Covers: Oftentimes, homeowners figure that junction boxes can remain uncovered, especially if they are in a remote part of the house. However, those covers can help to snuff out sparks and fires before they light your entire attic or wall insulation ablaze. To keep your home safe, buy a few metal junction box covers, and make sure to keep them locked up tight.

If you don't feel comfortable clamping wires or replacing junction box covers, hire an electrical contractor to do the work. He or she will be able to inspect your system, look for problems, and make the necessary changes.  

3:   Replacing Fuses With the Wrong Version

Are you tired of that breaker tripping every single time you run your dishwasher and your brand new space heater? To quickly resolve the problem, you might run to the hardware store to purchase a larger fuse that can handle the power demands of your new appliances. Unfortunately, this error could overload your system, and cause house fires.

To keep you safe, breakers are designed to trip when too much current flows through the line. If you replace the fuse with a larger version, it will allow more current to flow through your system, which could damage the lines. Unless you want to deal with fried wires and potential house fires, pay special attention to the size of fuse that you are using. If you have a problem with tripped breakers, work with professional electricians to run additional lines or replace your breaker box.  

Paying attention to your wiring might help you to keep your family safe and your home intact.