Guest post by Brett Brenner, ESFI
As National Electrical Safety Month comes to a close, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is reminding consumers that they can prevent electrical shocks and fires all year long by protecting their homes with tamper resistant receptacles (TRRs), arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) and ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
These devices, which can prevent tragedy before it ever occurs, have proven so effective that the National Electrical Code (NEC) requires them to be installed in all new homes.
Here is an overview of these home safety devices that can be easily integrated into your existing electrical system to help reduce the risk of fires and electrocutions.
- Every year in the United States, more than 2,400 children under 10 years old are treated in hospital emergency rooms for electric shock or burns caused by tampering with a wall outlet, which could be prevented by installing TRRs in the home.
- TRRs look just like ordinary outlets, but are designed with spring-loaded receptacle cover plates that close off the receptacle openings or slots.
- Tamper resistant receptacles feature an internal shutter mechanism to prevent small children from inserting foreign objects into them.
- An arc fault is a dangerous electrical problem caused by damaged, overheated or stressed electrical wiring or devices, and is one of the major causes of the more than 51,000 electrical fires that occur each year in the United States.
- Branch/feeder AFCIs replace standard circuit breakers in the home’s electrical service panel to detect hazardous arcing conditions and shut down the electricity before a fire can start.
- Outlet AFCIs provide protection to power cords and things that are plugged into the receptacle. There are also combination AFCIs, which combine the features of circuit breaker and outlet AFCIs.
- Originally, AFCIs were only required to protect bedroom circuits, but the 2011 National Electrical Code (NEC) requires that this technology be installed in additional areas of the home, including dining and living rooms.
- A GFCI is a device designed to protect people from electric shock and electrocution by constantly monitoring electricity flow in a circuit and quickly switching off power if it senses any loss of current.
- If GFCIs were installed in older homes, experts suggest that 70 percent of the electrocutions that occur each year in the home could be prevented.
- GFCIs can be installed at the main service panel, in place of standard electrical outlets, or can be used as a portable device.
- Typically, GFCIs are installed in areas where water and electricity are in close proximity, such as the bathroom, garage, kitchen and basement.
- GFCIs should be tested monthly, as they can be damaged as a result of voltage surges from lightning, utility switching or normal usage.
If your home is not protected by these devices, consult a licensed electrician to learn more about installing them in your home. More information on these safety devices, including illustrated guides, fact sheets and videos, can be found on ESFI’s website.