Appliance Safety Tips
While major appliances make our lives much
easier, they also pose significant risks if not maintained properly.
The average homeowner has several thousand
dollars invested in major appliances. To protect your investment and
ensure many years of reliable service out of each it's important to
properly maintain your appliances.
Appliance Safety Tips
Extension cords pose several risks. First, the extension cord
connections may not be secure. Besides causing power fluctuations
that may damage the equipment, poor connections can also result in
sparks that could start a fire.
Another problem with the appliance
connections is that they are vulnerable to water penetration. This
is especially true in damp areas such as laundry rooms, bathrooms,
kitchens, garages and outdoors. Water and electricity are a
dangerous combination responsible for many avoidable deaths each
People often make the mistake of using
extension cords that are too small. The wires on extension cords are
rated according to size, with lower ratings corresponding to larger
sizes. A simple household extension cord for a lamp might have
16-gauge wire. An outdoor cord may have 14-gauge wire. Heavy-duty
cords are usually 12-gauge.
In general, in those circumstances where
use of an extension cord is unavoidable, employ one that is heavier
than the wires already attached to the appliance.
Also, whenever using power tools or similar
equipment on long extension cords, be aware that the longer the cord
the more power that is lost en route. This phenomenon, called
voltage drop, is much less pronounced in heavier wires. Whenever you
use an inadequate cord, you run the risk of damaging the appliance
or causing the wires to overheat and become a fire hazard.
When extension cords, appliance wires and
outlets are incompatible, people often use adapters to make things
fit. Most commonly, people have a three-prong plug and a two-prong
outlet. The third prong is the ground, and it offers important
safety advantages. A much better long-run solution is to have an
electrician replace your 2-prong outlets with properly grounded
Heavy-duty appliances have plug
configurations that are unique. Never use an adapter to fit these
into more standard outlets.
Circuit Breakers and Fuses
Older homes have fuse boxes while most new
ones have circuit breakers. Both perform the same function. Whenever
a short circuit or overload situation occurs, the device shuts off
electricity to that circuit, preventing both shocks and fire
Whenever an appliance stops working, first
test the outlet with a lamp or radio. If the circuit is dead, turn
off anything you know to be on the same circuit and go to your
electrical box, usually located in the basement. If you have a
circuit breaker, look for the one switch that is slightly out of
alignment. Turn it off and turn it back on again. If you have a fuse
box, replace the burnt-out fuse.
If you try the appliance again and the
circuit cuts off a second time, you may be overloading that circuit.
Try the appliance in another part of the house. If it keeps causing
circuits to cut off, something is wrong with the appliance. It may,
for instance, have a short.
Many older gas appliances (ranges, dryers,
water heaters, furnaces, etc.) have pilot lights that run
continuously. Newer models have electronic ignition instead.
When an older appliance stops working,
check to see if the pilot light has gone out. If it has, re-light it
according to the instructions in the manual, which came with the
unit or are printed on the appliance itself. In many cases, this
will save you the cost of a repair call.
Because pilot lights maintain a flame at
all times, they are always ready to ignite any flammable gases that
might be present. This is why you should never store paints,
solvents and other chemicals anywhere near an appliance with a pilot