Protect your electronics, prevent hazards
Inspect lighting wires periodically to make sure they are intact and not warm to the touch. (photo by Sara Peterson)
Big-ticket electronics, such as televisions, computers and gaming consoles, are at the top of many holiday wish lists — but safety may not be. Purchasing, installing, and operating these items safely protects not only the expensive equipment, but also your entire home. The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) offers the following tips.
Always purchase electrical devices from a reputable retailer that you trust. Be especially wary when making online purchases.
Check that all electrical items are certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or Intertek (ETL).
Always read and follow the manufacturer's instructions before use.
Send warranty and product registration forms for new items to manufacturers in order to be notified about product recalls. Recall information is also available on the website of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission cpsc.gov
Never install an exterior television or radio antenna close enough to contact power lines if it falls.
Never remove the ground pin (the third prong) to make a three-prong plug fit into a two-prong outlet.
Keep cords out of reach of children and pets.
Make sure entertainment centers and computer workstations have enough space around them for ventilation of electronic equipment.
Keep liquids, including drinks, away from electrical devices. Spills can result in dangerous shocks or fires.
Unplug equipment when not in use to save energy and reduce the risks for shocks or fires. Power strips or surge protectors make a good central turn-off point.
Always unplug electrical items by grasping the plug firmly rather than pulling on the cord.
If you receive any kind of shock from a large appliance or any other electrical device, stop using it until an electrician has checked it.
If an appliance smokes or sparks, or if you feel a tingle or light shock when it's on, stop using it. Discard and replace it or have it repaired by an authorized service provider.
Extension cords are meant to provide a temporary solution. They should not be used as a long-term or permanent electrical circuit.
Never use a cord that feels hot or is damaged in any way. Touching even a single exposed strand can result in an electric shock or burn.
Only use weather-resistant, heavy gauge extension cords marked "for outdoor use" outside.
Keep all outdoor extension cords clear of snow and standing water.
Arrange furniture so that there are outlets available for equipment without the use of extension cords.
Do not place power cords or extension cords in high traffic areas or under carpets, rugs, or furniture (to avoid overheating and tripping hazards), and never nail or staple them to the wall or baseboard.
Never leave lights on overnight or when no one is home.
Do not overload electrical outlets. Most lights are designed to connect no more than three strands. Inspect the wires periodically to make sure they are intact and not warm to the touch.
Only use lights that have been approved by an independent testing laboratory.
Replace any strands that show signs of damage, such as bare or frayed wires, broken bulbs or loose connections. Faulty lights can send an electrical charge through a tree and electrocute anyone who comes in contact with a branch.
For more information, visit holidaysafety.org