Electricity has within itself the power to do both great and terrible things. It can provide light in darkness, but can also cause shock and potential fires. Fortunately, in most homes, a simple walkthrough can help you identify and avoid the most common risks. Having the proper homeowners insurance coverage can help to provide peace of mind as well.

Outlets and Switches

Outdated or mis-wired outlets and switches are not only annoying, but can be dangerous. Here’s what to do to avoid a dangerous situation:

Make sure all outlets and switches are covered with faceplates. Faceplates provide cover to exposed wiring that can shock and cause fires. Replace any missing faceplates, even if they are behind furniture or otherwise out of the way.

Protects children. All outlets should have safety covers. Or better yet, consider an upgrade to tamper resistant receptacles, which offer built-in protection against curious little ones.

Check outlets for signs of wear. If an outlet has burn marks or is hot to the touch, that’s not a good sign. Consult an electrician to get to the bottom of the problem. It could be a bad outlet or a sign of an underlying issue.

Make sure switches are outlets function properly. You can test with a portable lamp or a nightlight. If an outlet isn’t delivering power or a switch isn’t working consistently, it may be a sign of something serious. An electrician can help you make sure that you correct any unsafe wiring, often as simple as a loose screw or worn-out switch.

Extension cords and power strips

When it comes to extension cords and anything that allows you to expand how many things are plugged into a single outlet, use them sparingly. Here’s what you can do:

Avoid extension cords. If possible, relocate items close enough to outlets to avoid extension cords altogether. If you can’t avoid them, make sure to use them sparingly and temporarily. Extension cords are not meant to be used long-term, so you may want to consider adding extra outlets to your rooms. And don’t forget to unplug the cord when it’s not in use.

If you really need one, know what to check. If an extension cord can’t be avoided, make sure that it’s in good working order and free of visible damage. Don’t run extension cords under rugs or put heavy weight on top—they can be crushed and become fire or shock hazards. Also make sure that your extension cord is not wrapped tightly around or secured to anything i.e. with staples or nails.

Use power strips cautiously. Never plug multiple power strips into one outlet, or into one another. Don’t overload the power strip and watch out for heat. If your power strip is hot, reduce the number of items plugged into it. Experts recommend that power strips should be for temporary use only.

The kitchen

Most house fires start with the kitchen, which may not surprise you. But while most of us think of a splatter of grease or an overcooked roast as likely sources of flames and smoke, your electrical appliances can also be culprits. Here’s what you can do:

Steer clear of the sink. Relocate small appliances, i.e. coffee makers and blenders, away from the sink. If they are plugged into an outlet and are splashed with water, this presents a potential shock hazard.

Watch your wiring. Make sure that large appliances are plugged in correctly and properly wired. Plugs should reach outlets without stretching or straining and insert firmly. If anything is off if you’ve ever received even a light shock from touching an appliance such as an electric stove or dishwasher, talk to an electrician immediately.

Unplug items you are not using. Unattended appliances, such as a toaster or juicer, can lead to fire, even when no one is using them. To reduce your risk, simply unplug unused items until you need them.


With moist air, and running water in a tight space, bathrooms can be dangerous when it comes to electricity. Here’s what you can do:

Unplug it.  Just like in the kitchen, you should unplug appliances that are not in use, such as an electric toothbrush or hair dryer. In addition to the risk of fire, these can be a major shock threat if knocked into a sink or bathtub while plugged in.

Avoid portable heaters. The presence of water, steam and a variety of conductive metal materials make these a real danger in a bathroom. Having a fixed heating fan installed is a safer bet.

Add GFCIs. Since most bathroom outlets are not far from running water, GFCIs are a must.


Other spots in and around your home—think basement, garage and outdoor areas—can have their own electrical hazards. Here’s what you can do:

Check your fuse box or circuit breaker. Make sure that all fuses or circuits are in place and that fuse are the correct size.

Consider arc fault circuit breakers. These are a good fit for bedrooms to help you rest easy at night. They act in a similar fashion to GFCIs by sensing a short or overload and quickly shutting off the power.

These your GFCI circuits, especially outdoors or near water sources. Simply use the test and reset buttons to make sure they are working properly, particularly if you have outlets that are exposed to the elements.

Know when to call a pro. If you frequently blow fuses or trip breakers, contact an electrician to find the underlying problem.