Your Complete Winter Electrical Guide

The freezing temperatures and increased moisture that occur each winter bring homeowners a unique set of issues, whether structural, plumbing-related, or electrical. Many home fires occur in December, January, and February as that’s when homeowners turn on their heaters, when the holidays demand extra lights and candles, and when family gatherings keep many too busy to focus on basic fire prevention safety.

Electrical tower in a Pacific Northwest forest

At Prairie Electric, we want your home to remain hazard-free at all times. The following tips can help you keep your electrical system safe and secure when temperatures drop.

1. Be Sure Outside Power Lines Are Clear of Trees

If you notice any power lines sitting a little too close to the trees, poles or other obstructions, call Prairie Electric and your utility company immediately. An arborist can help you remove branches that may be putting your wires at risk.

2. Know the Location of Your Electrical Panel

Once you know where it is located, be sure to label the rooms controlled by each switch so you can easily access them in an emergency.

3. Keep An Eye Out for Leaks

Any type of leak is cause for concern, but if it’s close to electrical equipment, take immediate action and contact Prairie Electric, as well as a plumbing or remodeling professional. Water and electricity don’t mix, so make sure you keep an eye out for trickles, pools and other signs of water damage around your home.

Vital tip: Make sure your outside plugs are GFCI protected, particularly if you are using them for holiday lighting or leaf blowers.  Even small amounts of moisture cause these ground fault circuit interrupters to trip, or stop, the electrical current, preventing shock, or worse, fire. Our team at Prairie Electric is happy to help you install GFCIs, or to answer any questions you may have.

4. Check Your Cords

Regularly examine the cords on all of your electrical equipment for fraying, cracks or other warning signs. If there is any doubt about the safety of your electrical equipment, a licensed electrician can repair any damage before crisis strikes.

5. Make Sure Electrical Panels Have Covers

Proper installation along with adequate covers for boxes, plugs and panels are crucial to protecting the wires inside as well as making sure anyone working on the box makes proper contact with its contents.

6. Avoid Circuit Overload

Be safe and realistic when it comes to how many items you plug into an outlet. Make sure there are surge protectors for heavy use areas and that extension cords are only used temporarily, until you can schedule a meeting with an electrician to have a new outlet or hard-wired surge protector installed.

7. Have a Surge Protector Hard Wired

This is the easiest, most affordable and best thing you can do to help prevent home fires. Make sure it’s certified and hard-wired by a professional electrician for best results.

8. Know the Difference Between Protecting Electronics and Protecting Wiring Systems

While a power bar featuring a surge protector can help keep your electronics safe, it does nothing for the actual wiring system. Unplug your electronics completely when you leave for extended amounts of time to protect them from extended-use fatigue.

9. Space Heaters: Still Not a Good Idea

When you’re trying to save money on heating and a winter storm hits, portable space heaters may seem like an excellent alternative to conventional heating. However, space heaters, as you may be aware, are incredibly dangerous and can cause electrical fires in the blink of an eye.

Fallen tree on power lines in Portland OR

If you do decide to use one, watch for tripping breakers and do not increase the size of your breaker if it continues to trip. Breaker issues indicate that the power you require to run the heater is more than your system can handle, so increasing the size of the breaker will only push more power through wires that cannot accommodate the load, potentially causing fire.

What to Do in an Emergency

You know a storm is coming (or, well, here already). In preparation for a potential loss of power, be sure to stock the following items:

  • Flashlight
  • Head lamp

  • Battery-powered radio

  • Warm blankets

  • Non-perishable food

Resist the urge to use candles to light your home if the power does go out. One accidental bump into a candle-bearing table could cause a devastating home fire.

Portable Generator Preservation

If you lose power and have a portable generator, be sure that it can be used outside and that it is well-ventilated. Extension cords may be used, but only temporarily if necessary to power your essential appliances, such as your refrigerator or microwave. Do not attempt to wire your generator into your home’s wiring, however, as this can back feed the grid and greatly injure or even kill any utility workers that may be trying to restore power.

Prairie Electric infographic on how to avoid electrical hazards in winter

Your Winter Electric Experts

If you have questions about how to keep your home safe, contact Prairie Electric today. We are your expert resource in all things electric.

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