October 17, 2012
Around the House: Inside Tips for Outdoor Electrical Safety
With the welcome arrival of the spring and summer months, most of us will spend more time outdoors, barbecuing, going to the beach, recreating, and of course, tending to chores like yard work and home repairs. While you enjoy the fresh air, don’t let a dangerous electrical hazard put you at risk. Now that spring is here, catch up on your exercise and be sure to exercise caution when using outdoor electrical appliances, equipment and tools. While you’re at it, make sure to steer clear of mother nature’s own brand of electricity – lightning. Here are some tips the Leviton Institute recommends to keep you safe from the dangers of electricity as you begin spending more time outdoors.
Extension and Power Cords
When using electric appliances like leaf blowers, lawnmowers, or hedge trimmers, always make sure any extension cord you use is rated for outdoor use. Make sure too that the cord isn’t too long or too thin, as it may not provide the proper amount of current to your appliance, and eventually damage or destroy the motor, overload the cord, and create an unsafe condition. The proper amperage required by most tools and appliances is usually displayed somewhere on them; make sure the extension cord you’re using is rated for this amperage. Check all power cords and extension cords for cracks or nicks before using them. Replace them with a new one if they show obvious signs of wear, taped-over cuts, broken plugs, etc. And when you’re finished using them, be sure to put the cord and the appliance safely away.
Standing on Shaky Ground
How often have you seen a three-pronged (grounding) plug with either the third prong removed, or with all three prongs somehow jammed into a two-pronged extension cord? Plenty of times, no doubt. Never remove the grounding pin from a three-pronged plug. This sort of jury-rigging defeats the proper grounding of the appliance, rendering it unsafe. Another thing to be aware of is whether the appliance you’re using is rated for outdoor use. Check to be sure. Most products rated for outdoor use are weather resistant to some degree; those that aren’t could become dangerous after a brief sprinkle or possibly even in dewy night air.
It may seem obvious, but nevertheless it needs to be said: do not barbecue on an electric grill when it’s raining, or even just drizzling. Be sure to unplug the grill before cleaning it, and, as with all outdoor appliances, make sure the receptacle it’s plugged into is equipped with a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) to prevent shock or electrocution. When setting up the grill, pick a safe location where there’s no chance of it setting anything combustible alight.
With all the water in and around them, pools, hot tubs, and spas are dangerous areas for appliances and consumer electronics. Make sure all radios, TVs, blenders, etc. are clear of splashing or dripping water, and that all outlets nearby are GFCI equipped. If an electrical appliance falls into the water, shut off the circuit first before unplugging it. Don’t reach into the water to get it.
It’s often said that lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice (actually it does, often more than twice on tall buildings, but it’s a proven fact that it does strike in the United States around 20 million times a year. If you see a storm approaching when you’re outside, try to find shelter indoors; if that’s not possible, get to a low area away from trees and crouch down. If you hear thunder seek shelter, even under a clear blue sky. If you’re swimming in a pool, lake or the ocean, immediately swim to shore and find cover. If you’re in a watercraft, immediately get to shore. Don’t wait till the storm is on top of you; lightning can travel sideways up to ten miles. Avoid metal items like golf clubs or bats, as well as contact with water, either indoors or out. When indoors, stay away from windows, doors, and corded telephones. And don’t forget your furry pet friends, either; dogs that are chained or in a doghouse are at great risk, too.
Applewood has professional electricians to help with natural gas or electric grill installation and maintenance. If you have doubts or questions, you can count on professional advice from Applewood Plumbing Heating & Electric for your outdoor electrical safety.