Two common dangers when using electricity are fire and electrocution. Both can have serious and even deadly consequences. The electrical appliances that we connect to our electrical installation are basically safe. In Europe, they must comply with certain safety standards and need to carry a CE marking. However, the way we use these appliances is our responsibility.
And that is where things sometimes go wrong. Let’s take a look at how we tend to do things.
Basically, a power socket should be used to connect a single appliance. In practice, when there aren’t enough power sockets available, power socket blocks are often used. This enables two or three appliances to be connected to the same power socket. Some people get carried away and build a tree of power socket blocks, sometimes connecting up to ten different appliances simultaneously to a single power socket. This is a clear fire danger. Every electrical connection causes a certain amount of electrical resistance. The power that flows through the socket’s resistance heats up the socket. The greater the resistance, the higher the temperature. A power socket that is overloaded with such blocks will often start to change colour around the sockets. This change may range from brown to black. The next step may well be a dangerous fire in the home. And what if it occurs when you are asleep?
A block of electrical sockets with extension cords
The same goes for extension cords, with or without a block of power sockets. The maximum total capacity is indicated on these blocks. Exceeding this maximum creates a dangerous situation. The individual power sockets and the extension cords can overheat due to the higher capacity, which again leads to the risk of a fire. In addition, hiding extension cords under rugs or other inflammable materials is always to be avoided. Each cable has a certain resistance, creating a limited amount of heat. The cable needs to release this heat into the surrounding environment. When concealed, the heat transfer is not possible.
Avoid power socket blocks. Install more power sockets in your home. (Photo source: Photobucket)
The answer to this problem is to ensure that there are ample power sockets in the home electrical installation. This avoids the danger of extension cords and overheated power blocks.
In practice, lighting appliances are generally installed by the resident. It is important to make sure the connection is correct and safe. Safe connectors are readily available in stores. The wise resident makes certain that the connection between the fixed installation (the wiring coming out of the ceiling or the wall) and the light fixture itself is executed properly. In the event that the lighting fixture contains metallic parts, it will also have an earthing connection. In this case, the earthing wire also needs to be properly connected in order to prevent electrocution.
Fixing your own lighting fixture is not advised. It can be life-threatening. (Photo source: All Points Inspection)
Loose appliance cables are subject to wear. The result can be a break in the internal cable wiring that can lead to a bad contact. If you notice that this has occurred, you must immediately replace the cable, or have a qualified individual do it for you. A bad contact can cause a fire.
A worn or damaged cord must be replaced immediately. (Photo source: IECEE)
When the outside of a cable is damaged or worn, the insulation protecting against electrocution will no longer be effective. In this case you need to replace the cable as well.
DIY or DDIY?
We all tend to think we are good drivers. Likewise, many people think they are good home electricians. That is why an electrical chore often ends up being a DIY activity. However, our advice is DDIY: Don’t Do It Yourself. Working with electrical components is too dangerous to leave to amateurs or the inexperienced. Contact a certified electrician to solve a problem. It may cost a little more, but you get guaranteed safety in return.