Category Archives: Electrical fire hazards

Six Great Reasons to Use a Licensed Electrician

It’s tempting to hire a repair person to do the electrical work for that home improvement project. Heck, it seems like an easy job – why hire a more expensive electrical contractor when your repair person or Cousin Joe says he can do the work?

The saying “you get what you pay for” rings true when it comes to electrical work! Shoddy work can result in appliances not working properly, fuses and circuit breakers blowing, the need to rewire circuits and worst of all – fire hazards!

Here are six reasons why you should hire a licensed electrical contractor:

  1. We are licensed by the states of Maryland and Virginia, which have stringent training and experience standards. To become a master electrician (which I am in both states) you need up to seven years of experience and demonstrated skills.
  2. Licensed electricians in Maryland and Virginia are required to have a certain number of Continuing Educational Units (CEU’s) to renew their licenses. I take training from reputable local providers and read several trade publications every month to stay up to date.
  3. Because of our on-going training, we are up to date on city, county, and state electrical code Licensed contractors can pull permits and schedule the necessary inspections and approvals. The benefit of permits is that there’s no danger of having your project be out-of-code.
  4. We carry workers’ compensation as well as general liability and catastrophic event insurance. Your unlicensed Cousin Joe is not likely to have this insurance, which means YOU are liable for any injuries or damages on your property. It’s even possible your insurance company could deny claims.
  5. I am a factory-certified Generac generator technician, and, as required, I take training yearly to renew my technician certification.
  6. We’ve been in business for more than 15 years and have earned an excellent reputation in the communities we serve and the professional organizations to which we belong (the Frederick County and Mt. Airy Chambers of Commerce, Rotary Club, the Electric League of Maryland Inc., and the Electrical Generating Systems Association).

Contact Little Sparkie Electric for all your commercial, residential, and industrial electrical contracting and service needs!

Space heaters can cause fires and electric shocks

Temperatures will dip below freezing next week, and you my be looking to a space heater to warm up your office. But those little heaters can cause big problems if not used correctly.
Here’s some advice from the Electrical Safety Foundation International regarding space heaters:
– They should have the certification of an independent testing laboratory.
– Keep them 3 feet away from anything that can burn, such as paper, clothing and rugs.
– Plug them directly into a wall outlet – not an exdtension cord or power strip, which could overload and result in a fire.
– Don’t plug any other electrical device into the same outlet as the heater.
– They should be turned off and unplugged at the end of the work day or whenever you leave the room.
– Keep them out of high traffic areas and doorways, where they might pose a tripping problem.
– Employers shuold have a specific policy regarding space heaters, and educate employees about safe heater practices.

Window Air Conditioners – Don’t Assume You Can Just Plug Them In!

 Before long, furnaces will be turned off, and air conditioners will be cranked up.  Here in the Mid-Atlantic region, with its long history, many homes and businesses have been around for years. Because they were built before central air was available, they rely on window air conditioners.  Window air conditioning units can actually be the most cost-effective and efficient way to cool down a space, without cooling the entire building.

AC Size and Requirements

The size and electrical requirements of a window AC unit are the most important factors in determining whether it will need a dedicated circuit.   Some units are 110/120 volts, but most of those that I run circuits for are 240 volts, which does require a special receptacle.

A note here – when installing a special circuit, HVAC contractors and electricians should work as a team.  The electrical specifications from the unit’s “spec sheet” should be shared between them, as communication is paramount.

How Large is Your Space?

The size of the room being cooled is another factor and includes not only the square footage but the ceiling height.  Double-height ceilings are a relatively recent phenomenon, and I’ve found that homes and businesses with high ceilings almost always have central climate control.

Consider Other Appliances

AC units require a lot of power, so they should not share a circuit with other appliances or other loads and equipment.  Refrigerators, computers, washing machines and water heaters are examples of power-hungry appliances.

What Can Happen if I Don’t Have a Needed Dedicated Circuit for Your AC Unit?

Failing to consider all the above factors can cause several problems:

First, circuits can overload.  A circuit is a loop through which electrical current flows to power electrical devices and equipment.  Different circuits are built to supply varying amounts of electric current, based on the devices that will use the circuit.

When something is connected to a circuit that requires more electricity than the circuit can supply, the circuit overloads, which causes the breaker for that circuit to trip, and everything on that circuit will shut down.

Also, watch for overfusing, which means that the circuit wiring is too small for the rating of the breaker protecting the circuit. For example, 14-gauge wire in a circuit should not be protected by any fuse or breaker rated higher than 15 amps. An overloaded circuit may not trip if it is over fused.

A break in a hot wire can cause a series arc, which will not trip a standard circuit breaker or blow an old-style screw shell fuse, but it can cause a fire.

Finally, don’t plug your AC unit into an extension cord.  An undersized extension cord can cause overheating of the cord, which is a fire hazard. A bad connection between the appliance plug and the cord, and/or between the cord and the receptacle it is plugged into, could also be a fire hazard. Extension cords are not recommended except as a very temporary fix until a new circuit can be installed.

If you have questions about your AC unit, please use our Contact Us to give us a shout!

Electrical Safety While Working from Home

Are you still working or spending more time at home? Be sure to always plug into power safely and ensure #electricalcords do not become tripping hazards. Never run cords under rugs, carpets, doors, or windows. Follow these electrical safety tips from the Electrical Safety Foundation International to keep you and your home safe from #electrical hazards.

Get the full details on this downloadable pdf.

Fire Prevention Week™ is October 4-10, 2020!

 

This year’s Fire Prevention Week’s campaign theme is “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!TMThe campaign’s goal is to educate everyone about the simple but important actions they can take to keep themselves, and those around them, safe in the kitchen.

Unattended cooking is the leading cause of fires in the kitchen.  Keep kids safe and avoid accidents and injuries by keeping them three feet away from the stove while you are cooking.

Other basic kitchen fire safety guidelines include:

  1. Keep appliances serviced, clean, and in good repair.
  2. Unplug electric appliances when not in use. This saves power by reducing the amount of energy a device consumes even when it’s not being used, and protects against overheating and power surges that can damage equipment.
  3. Install a smoke detector near, but not in the kitchen.
  4. Use caution when lighting the pilot light or burner on a gas stove.
  5. Don’t use metal in the microwave.
  6. Don’t overfill pots or pans with oil or grease.

Additional fire prevention guidelines include:

  • Avoid “over-fusing” circuits…the modern-day version of putting a penny in a screw-in fuse socket to keep the fuse from blowing. If a breaker is tripping, but will allow you to reset it, there is a problem on the circuit. It may be overloaded. Replacing the breaker with one of a higher amperage rating is a potential fire hazard. Enlist the help of a licensed electrician.
  • If your lights flicker, or appliances start working and then stop, whether they are plugged in or hardwired, or you hear crackling or sizzling noises at a switch, receptacle, or inside a wall…stop using the equipment, turn off the breaker, and call a licensed electrician. There may be arcing on the circuit, which is a potential fire hazard.

Fire Prevention Week is observed each year during the week of October 9th in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began on October 8, 1871, and caused devastating damage.

In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed Fire Prevention Week a national observance, making it the longest-running public health observance in our country. During Fire Prevention Week, children, adults, and teachers learn how to stay safe in case of a fire.

Firefighters provide lifesaving public education in an effort to drastically decrease casualties caused by fires.

When you need a trusted licensed Electrician, Call on Little Sparkie Electric!

 

 

Fire extinguisher

Ways to Keep Your Workers Safe

These days, when we speak of workplace safety, we usually think of personal protective equipment, like face masks, gloves, etc. and social distancing.

However, as employees gradually return to workplaces, we also need to protect them from fire, electrical hazards, dust explosions and accidents.

An important protection against workplace fires is fire extinguishers.  They need to be in a handy spot where they can put out or control a fire until the fire department arrives.  Fire extinguishers must have the seal of an independent testing laboratory, and be labelled with standard symbols for the kind of fires it can extinguish:

There are four classes of fire extinguishers – A, B, C and D – and each class can put out a different type of fire.

  • Class A extinguishers will put out fires in ordinary combustibles such as wood and paperFire extinguisher
  • Class B extinguishers are for use on flammable liquids like grease, gas and oil
  • Class C extinguishers are suitable for use only on electrically energized fires
  • Class D extinguishers are designed for use on flammable metals

Multipurpose extinguishers can be used on different types of fires and will be labeled with more than one class, like A-B, B-C
or A-B-C.

Extension cords can be another workplace hazard.  They’re fine for a lamp or small appliance, but they should be a temporary fix, because over time extension cords can deteriorate and become an electrical shock, fire, or tripping hazard.  For more extension cord safety rules, click here.

Depending on your business, anti-dust equipment is a must.  For example, coal, cement, asbestos, grain, flour, wood, metals leather, rubber, silica, and so on, can produce hazardous dusts. Concentrated dust can be combustible and cause fires or explosions. It can also be hard on your staff, causing rashes, asthma, eye and nose damage, and even cancer.

An exhaust ventilation system, dilution ventilation or vacuum can be used.  Protective equipment and clothing can also be used to keep your employees safe.

It’s easy to forget to unplug electrical equipment, but it’s also important to do, especially prior to a storm or heavy rain.  If you lose power during a storm or flood, switch off electrical equipment and then unplug it. Be sure to grab the plug and not the cord to prevent damage to the wiring.

And remember, before you enter a flooded business or home, have a licensed electrician and utility personnel check to make sure the building is safe from shock and electrocution risks.

 

 

NFPA urges home fire safety caution amid pandemic

As the public largely remains at home in response to COVID-19, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) urges added caution around home fire safety in the days and weeks ahead.

According to NFPA, cooking, heating, and electrical equipment are among the leading causes of home fires year-round. “We already see the majority of fires happening in homes,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy at NFPA. “As people spend much more time at home and engage in activities that significantly contribute to the home fire problem, it’s critical that they recognize where potential hazards exist and what they can do to prevent fires.”

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and is responsible for nearly half (49 percent) of all reported home fires involving cooking equipment.

Moreover, unattended cooking is the leading cause of home cooking fires, meaning that home cooking fires occur most often when people aren’t keeping a close eye on what they’re cooking.

“As many households are now dealing with unusual routines and out-of-the-ordinary circumstances, such as kids home from school and parents working from home, there’s greater potential for distracted cooking,” said Carli.

NFPA statistic show that heating equipment is the second-leading cause of home fires, resulting in an average of 52,050 home fires each year. Electrical distribution or lighting equipment is involved in an annual average of 35,100 home fires.

With everyone at home, people may be using the same space heateroutlets to charge phones, laptops and other digital equipment, which also presents a fire hazard.

With these concerns in mind, NFPA reminds the public to use best practices for staying fire-safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond:

Cooking

  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.
  • Make sure all handles are turned inward, away from where someone can grab a hot handle or tip a pan over.
  • Be on alert. If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, refrain from using the stove or stovetop.
  • If you have young children in your home, create a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet (1 meter) around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.

Heating

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three-feet (one meter) away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • Have a three-foot (one meter) “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
  • Install and maintain carbon monoxide (CO) alarms to avoid the risk of CO poisoning. If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company.

Electrical

  • When charging smartphones and other digital devices, only use the charging cord that came with the device.
  • Do not charge a device under your pillow, on your bed or on a couch.
  • Only use one heat-producing appliance (such as a coffee maker, toaster, space heater, etc.) plugged into a receptacle outlet at a time.
  • Major appliances (refrigerators, dryers, washers, stoves, air conditioners, microwave ovens, etc.) should be plugged directly into a wall receptacle outlet. Extension cords and plug strips should not be used.
  • Check electrical cords to make sure they are not running across doorways or under carpets. Extension cords are intended for temporary use.
  • Use a light bulb with the right number of watts. There should be a sticker that indicates the right number of watts.

In addition, smoke alarms should be located on every level of the home, in each bedroom, and near all sleeping areas. Test them monthly to make sure they’re working. NFPA also strongly encourages households develop and practice a home escape plan to ensure that everyone knows what to do in a fire and can escape quickly and safely.

(To this NFPA article we also would add that you should have one or two fire extinguishers in your home.)

For a wealth of NFPA resources and information on home fire safety, visit www.nfpa.org/Public-Education.

About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

Founded in 1896, NFPA is a global self-funded nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.. For more information, visit www.nfpa.org. All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed online for free at www.nfpa.org/freeaccess.

 

holiday lights

Don’t let your holiday sparkle fizzle

With the holidays fast approaching, homeowners and businesses will be decking the halls; often with strings of lights and lighted decorations. Those lights are glittering and cheerful, but they can also cause hazards if they’re plugged into extension cords!holiday lights

Before you untangle all of those light strings, consider that approximately 3,300 home fires originate in extension cords each year, killing 50 people and injuring 270 more, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI).

That’s because extension cords can overheat and cause fires when they’re used improperly. Keep these important tips from the ESFI and Little Sparkie Electric in mind to protect your home and workplace.

  • Don’t plug extension cords into one another.
  • Make sure extension cords are properly rated for their intended use, indoor or outdoor, and meet or exceed the power needs of the device being used.
  • Keep all outdoor extension cords clear of snow and standing water.
  • If used outdoors, cords should be GFCI-protected, either by plugging them into a GFCI-protected receptacle or by having GFCI protection themselves.
  • Do not overload extension cords. A circuit overload SHOULD trip the breaker or blow the fuse, but it isn’t guaranteed. If the breaker or fuse is rated higher than the circuit wiring, the circuit may not open in an overload.
  • Inspect cords for damage before you use them. Check for cracked or frayed sockets, loose Power stripsor bare wires, and loose connections. A break in a hot wire will not trip a standard circuit breaker or blow a fuse, and is thus a fire hazard.
  • This should be obvious, but do NOT nail or staple extension cords to walls or baseboards.
  • Do NOT run extension cords through walls, doorways, ceilings, or floors. If a cord is covered, heat can’t escape, which may result in a fire hazard.
  • Never use three-prong plugs with outlets that only have two slots. Again, this should be obvious, but never cut off the ground pin to force a fit, which could lead to electric shock.
  • Buy only cords that have been approved by an independent testing laboratory.
  • Do NOT use an extension cord or power strip with heaters or fans, which could cause cords to overheat and result in a fire.

Remember that extension cords should only be used on a temporary basis. They’re not intended as permanent household wiring, so put them away when the holiday decorations come down!

If you need additional outlets, always have a licensed electrician install them. This isn’t the time to be a DIYer! 

Celebrate Safely this Holiday Season!

This isn’t just the time of year when we eat more than usual, it’s also when we have the most household accidents and fires, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, Inc. (ESFI).

With multiple strings of lights, electrical holiday decorations, candles and lots of cooking, it’s easy to see why. To keep your holidays from going from merry to scary, remember these ESFI Holiday Safety Tips:

1. Keep decorations at least three feet away from heat sources – especially those with an open flame, like fireplaces and candles. And remember to blow out your candles when you go to sleep or even leave the room.
2. When decorating, don’t run cords under rugs or furniture, out of windows, or across walkways and sidewalks.
3. If you have a natural Christmas tree, water it well to keep it fresh and safe. holiday safety for Christmas treesReal trees can dry up and turn into kindling in no time at all. Get rid of the tree after Christmas; dried out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage.
4. Always turn off your decorations when you leave home and when you’re sleeping. Most deadly fires happen while people are asleep.
5. Don’t overload electrical outlets. Overloaded electrical outlets and faulty wires are a common cause of holiday fires. Avoid overloading outlets and plug only one high-wattage into each outlet at a time.
6. Be mindful of how you are using electrical outlets. If you’re using extension cords or adapters that add receptacles, consider having a qualified electrician add more outlets to your home. Extension cords are a common cause of home fires.
7. Only use electronics in dry areas. As tempting as it may be, don’t decorate your aquarium with icicle lights!
8. Keep your phones and tablets on your nightstand. We all love falling asleep to the muffled crooning of Bing Crosby and Michael Bublé, but overheated electronics under pillows and blankets are dangerous.
holiday safety space heater9. Invest in a heater with safety features such as automatic overheat protection, cool touch exterior, a self-regulating ceramic element or a tip-over safety switch that turns it off in the event of it being knocked on its side. Read manufacturer’s instructions and any warning labels before first using it. Do not leave heaters unattended; turn them off before you go to sleep.
10. Inspect electrical decorations for damage before use. Cracked or damaged sockets, loose or bare wires, and loose connections may cause a serious shock or start a fire.
11. Keep batteries stored safely in their packaging and out of reach of anything that might try to eat them, like small children and pets. Eating a battery can be deadly.

Our best wishes for a safe and blessed holiday season,holiday safety
Catherine and John Nazarene

Power strips

Avoid Electrical Fires Before they Start!

Electricity causes more than 40,000 fires every year in the United States, resulting in hundreds of injuries and deaths. Electrical fires kill more than 750 people and cause more than $1 billion in property damage annually, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The top electrical safety hazards include electrical fires caused by aging wiring, misuse of surge suppressors, and shocks and electrocutions from  wiring systems and large pieces of equipment.

Extension cord fires outnumber fires beginning with attached or unattached power cords by more than 2-to-1. Employers and employees need to remember that an important aspect of workplace electrical safety is properly using extension cords, power strips, and surge protectors.

Other sources of electrical accidents are faulty or defective equipment, unsafe installation, or misused equipment. Follow these guidelines to help keep your workplace safe:

General Electrical Safety Tips

  • Replace or repair loose or frayed cords on all electrical devices.
  • Avoid running extension cords across doorways or under carpets.
  • In areas with small children, such as child care centers, electrical outlets should have plastic safety covers and be tamper resistant.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for plugging an appliance into a receptacle outlet.
  • Avoid overloading outlets. Consider plugging only one high-wattage Power stripsappliance into each receptacle outlet at a time. If the circuit breaker for that receptacle is doing its job, it will trip if the circuit becomes overloaded.
  • If outlets or switches feel warm, shut off the circuit and have them checked by a licensed electrician.
  • Avoid using “cube taps”, power strips, and other devices that allow you to plug multiple appliances into a single receptacle.

Outlet Safety

Receptacles (properly known as “receptacle outlets”) are perhaps the most commonly used and least thought of devices in the workplace.  And now everyone has cell phone and other mobile device chargers to plug into a limited number of outlets.

Here are some tips to keep your workplace’s outlets safe:plug in

  • Check outlets regularly for broken parts, overheating, loose connections, and corrosion. Consider having an electrical inspection performed by a qualified, licensed electrician to determine the integrity of your outlets and your entire electrical system.
  • Check for outlets that won’t hold a plug. Tired receptacles can lead to arcing faults and fires.
  • Hot is not OK. If a receptacle or switch wall plate is discolored or hot to the touch, immediately shut off power to the circuit and have it checked by a licensed electrician.
  • Replace missing, damaged, or broken wall plates.

Power Strips and Surge Suppressors
Power strips allow employees to plug more products into the same outlet, which can be handy, but can also be a safety hazard. Power strips, aka outlet strips, don’t provide more power to a location, just more access to the same limited capacity of the circuit to which it is connected.

  • Surge suppressors do help to protect connected equipment, but are not an absolute guarantee. Many come with dollar-figure guarantees for connected equipment damaged in a surge. Please do yourself a favor and read the fine print!
  • Any circuit likely also still serves a variety of other outlets and fixtures, in addition to the items plugged into the power strip. When using power strips and surge suppressors, keep these safety principles in mind:
  • Don’t overload the circuit. Know the capacity of the circuit and the power requirements of all the electrical items plugged into the power strip and into all the other outlets on the circuit, as well as any light fixtures on the circuit. We have seen power strips literally explode when faulty equipment was plugged into them.
  • A heavy reliance on power strips means that you probably don’t have surge protectorenough receptacles. Have a qualified electrician install additional outlets where needed.
  • Surge suppressors can manage the small surges and spikes sometimes generated by turning equipment on and off. They may even protect against a large surge generated from outside sources like lightning or problems along the power lines to the business. In the event of a large surge or spike, the surge suppressor only protects your equipment one time, and then it will likely need replacing. These devices basically sacrifice themselves to protect connected equipment. Check them regularly for the “happy light,” usually green, which shows that protection is enabled.
  • Consider purchasing surge suppressors with cable and phone jacks to provide the same protection to your phone, fax, computer, TV, and so on.
  • Not all power strips are surge suppressors, and not all surge suppressors can handle the same load and events. There are also surge protective devices that mount to or inside a breaker panel. Ask a licensed electrician for advice to be sure the equipment you buy matches your needs.

Have questions?  Give us a call at 301-606-5181 or send us an e-mail at [email protected]