When we think of safety in the home, we usually think of the big things. We makes sure the locks work, that the smoke detectors are working, and that we don’t leave the oven on when we are not home. Yet, it is usually the things that we don’t see (and forget about) that can lead to the most damage. According to the National Safety Council, electricity ranks sixth among all causes of occupational injury, and although electricity is the cause of 400 injuries, 4000 deaths, 140,000 fires, and 1.6 billion dollars of damage annually, most people never test their Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs).
So now that you have tested your GFCI (or at least planned to), here are three other surprising things that can make your home unsafe.
Bathroom lighting that is not vapor tight. If you’ve never heard of this one, don’t fret. According to the Touchstone Energy Initiative, an energy cooperative deigned to increase consumer education about electricity, energy efficiency and safety, almost nobody thinks to check the lights in their bathroom. But, when they are not vapor tight, they also allow moisture inside, which creates a major electrical hazard – much like a hair dryer near a bathtub.
Electrical cords resting under rugs or furniture. Like bathroom lighting, this one is easy to overlook, because for most people putting an electrical cord under a rug makes sense. In fact, we see it in almost every school classroom in the United States. But it is also a major electrical hazard because while the cord is out of sight, it’s also out of mind, meaning that we forget to check if it is getting too hot. And yet when we think about it, it not complicated: an electrical cord that runs too hot next to a flammable material like a rug is an obvious fire hazard.
The back of your refrigerator has no room for air circulation. The back of your refrigerator, like the lights in your bathroom or the cords under your rugs is probably not something you check very often. But, because heat collects in the coils behind the refrigerator, if these coils can’t ventilate properly, the collect too much heat and again, become a fire hazard. The situation is complicated even more when the coils are dirty, which further inhibits air circulation. Yet for most people cleaning the coils behind their refrigerator happens about as often as say, getting a root canal (and it might be equally enjoyable). One simple you can do, however, is pull your refrigerator a few feet from the wall to give it some room to breathe.
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