Four ways to Upgrade Two Prong Outlets

Two Prong Outlets - White's Electrical - Indianapolis

Between 1920 and 1960, tens of thousands of houses were built in the United States. Almost all of them had two prong outlets. Many of them still do. While the majority of Indiana’s houses were built in the 1990s, there are more than 8,600 currently for sale built between 1920 and 1960 in the Hoosier state. Many more off the market. If you live in a house with two prong outlets, you might want to consider an upgrade. You are at risk for more than inconvenience when you try and plug in your 21st century TV into one of these outlets.

Risks Associated With Two Prong Outlets

There are two risks associated with two prong outlets: electrocution and power surges. Both of these issues have to do with the fact that the wiring in two prong outlets isn’t grounded. In outlets built since 1962, U.S. electrical code has required all outlets be constructed with a ground wire. This ground wire protects electronics and people from electrical surges and faults by providing a pathway for extra energy to escape the house’s circuitry. When a fault or surge occurs with grounding, the energy travels through the ground wire to the electrical panel. There, it will trip the circuit breaker or blow a fuse, thereby shutting down the circuit before damage (hopefully) occurs. The energy then continues through the ground wire into the earth below the structure, where it dissipates harmlessly.

Without grounding, it’s also impossible to protect your electronics and appliances with surge protectors. Surge protectors work only if they are can connect to a ground wire. Without this wire, they offer no better protection for electronic devices than do multiprong outlets.

Two Prong Outlets are Not Up to Code

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GFCI Receptacle

Upgrading your home’s electrical system can cost between 5 and 15 percent of your home’s value — a price tag many people cannot afford. With this in mind, regulators determined that homeowners with two prong outlets need not upgrade them. However, that doesn’t mean they’re the safest option.

For more than 50 years, code has required all new construction have grounded, three prong outlets. More recently, U.S. electrical code has required that not only outlets be grounded but that outlets in areas with water present have a GFCI. A GFCI, short for ground-fault circuit interrupter, protects people from electrical shock by cutting off the circuit if a short circuit occurs. (A short circuit is when energy is directed out of the regular circuit pathway through a path with little or no resistance.) If that short circuit occurs because a person is being electrocuted, a GFCI can save their life.

No such protection is available with a two prong outlet.

Two Prong Outlets Suggest Other Problems

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Murray fuse box

Two prong outlets also raise flags about other electrical issues that may be present. Homes built before 1965 were built with 30- or 60-amp fuse panels. While 60-amp fuse panels were made with at least one 240-volt wire for larger appliances, 30-amp fuse panels only provide 120-volt wiring, and they are inadequate for modern household electrical needs.

60-amp fuse boxes are problematic because they, too, cannot handle well modern requirements upon electrical systems. In comparison, newly constructed homes today are built with 200-amp circuit breakers (the service panels that replaced fuse boxes).

When there is too much energy running through a wire, the wire heats up, putting the house at risk for fire. Too much energy (electricity) will also blow fuses. You will have to constantly replace if your fuse box’s amperage rating doesn’t meet your needs.

Another problem to be on guard for when two prong outlets are present is the lack of grounding in outlets that have three prongs. If a house has both two and three prong outlets, it means that the three prong outlets were installed for convenience and that they’re not actually grounded. It could also means that only part of your house’s electrical system is grounded.

You will want to test your outlets to find out whether they are grounded or not. If the three prong outlets are not grounded, regulations require that you label them with the words “No Equipment Ground.”

Four Ways to Upgrade 2 Prong Outlets

To upgrade your two prong outlets, you cannot simply add a three prong outlet. While this will solve the convenience issue, it will not solve the safety issue.

If you truly want to address your two prong outlets and make them safer, you have four options.

Option 1: Rewire Your Outlets

Your first, and best, option is to hire an electrician to rewire your house’s outlets and its electrical panel. If the expense is a concern, consider having your electrician rewire select outlets into which you will plug larger or more sensitive electronic devices, such as a computer or game counsel.

Note that this is not a project you can do yourself. Only a certified electrician has the expertise necessary to run a ground wire from the outlet to the service panel and then properly ground it.

Option 2: Ground Three Prong Outlets with the Metal Housing Box

Many two prong outlets were installed in metal boxes. While the circuitry itself wasn’t grounded, these individual boxes oftentimes were. If your house has two prong outlets with metal boxes, it is possible you can ground your outlets without overhauling the wiring.

To find out whether the metal housing is grounded, purchase a circuit tester. Insert one of the tester’s prongs into the hot slot (the shorter slot in the outlet). Put the other prong onto a screw holding the cover plate. If the tester lights up, it means the metal box is grounded.

If the box is grounded, you can install a three prong outlet and ground it by attaching it to the armored, or BX, cable in the back of the box.

Option 3: Install a GFCI at the Outlet

The third option to upgrade a two prong outlet is to replace it with a GFCI. While a GFCI will not protect your electronics from power surges, it will protect you from electrocution and short circuits. If you replace your ungrounded, two prong outlet with a GFCI, you must label it with “No Equipment Ground.”

Option 4: Install a GFCI at the Circuit Breaker

It’s also possible to replace your two prong receptacles with three prong ones and add a GFCI circuit breaker at the service panel. Doing this will likewise protect you from electrocution. If you do this, you will have to label outlets with “GFCI Protected, No Equipment Ground.”

Whatever you decide to do, we recommend having a certified electrician complete your electrical work. Safety is always a concern when working with electricity, and an expert will best take care of your home.

The Ultimate Holiday Lighting Safety List

Christmas Holiday Electrical Safety - White's Electrical Indianapolis Indiana LED Lights

The holiday season is upon us, and that means homeowner and renters around Indianapolis will soon dress their homes, inside and out, with lights. Light strands have grown safer over the years, but the inherent risk of fire and electrocution from these decorations still exist.

As Christmas approaches and you plug in electric decorations, keep in mind the hazards of these products. The U.S. Fire Administration reported between 2009 and 2013 that decorations alone caused an average of $13.4 million in property damage each year. In order to help you stay safe during the holidays, we at White’s Electrical have put together the ultimate holiday lighting safety list.

Do You Need New Lights?

Christmas Holiday Electrical Safety - White's Electrical Indianapolis Indiana LED Lights

  1. If you’re still using lights with incandescent bulbs, consider upgrading to lights with LED bulbs. LED bulbs pose many advantages over incandescent ones. In terms of safety, they do not produce as much heat, and therefore are far less likely to cause fires for this reason. LEDs also last up to 20 times longer than incandescent bulbs, so you’re less likely to experience problems with burnt out bulbs. The bulbs on LEDs are also less likely to break than those on incandescent bulbs because LED bulbs are made with an epoxy, while incandescent bulbs use glass. This means that if you keep your cords in good shape, your LED light strands will last you much longer than an incandescent light strand. Last, LED bulbs are also brighter than incandescent ones, so people can enjoy your holiday spirit all the more.
  2. Before buying light strands or other electric decorations, check for the safety compliance labels. Products should be marked with a symbol from Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL), Interlink (ETL), or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). These organizations make sure products comply with safety standards. Their seal means they have inspected and tested the product and approved it in terms of safety.

Before You String Up the Lights

Christmas Holiday Electrical Safety - White's Electrical Indianapolis Indiana LED Lights

  1. First, look over the light strands and check for broken or cracked sockets, loose connections, or frayed wires. If you come across damaged strands, throw them out. Frayed wires can easily transmit heat and electrical current and therefore cause fires or electrocution. Loose connection and cracked sockets are dangerous because they can easily deteriorate and expose live elements (parts with an electrical current) like wires.
  2. Read the manufacturer’s instructions and warnings before stringing up the lights. The manufacturer will include information about amperage and wattage, and it will provide information on how to properly use the lights. Make sure you follow these instructions to remain as safe as possible.

Striking a Cord with Safety

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Courtesy State Farm, “Holiday fire safety – Power strip overload”

Cords require their own section in this safety list, as misuse of these devices abound. Safety tips for electrical cords during the holidays include:

  • Plug outdoor lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). These interrupters disrupt electricity if a short occurs in the line (with your body possibly being the cause of the short). Portable outdoor GFCIs are available if your circuits aren’t protected with GFCIs.
  • Make sure the amperage of outdoor lighting meets the amperage of the cords you’re using. In other words, only use cords that can handle the load you’re putting on them.
  • Do not ever overload multiple plug outlets. Overloading an outlet produces considerable heat and can cause fires.
  • Similarly, never string multiple plug outlets together. Only ever plug these devices into an electrical receptacle in the wall.
  • Keep cords out of standing water and snow.
  • Only use extension cords outside that are approved for outdoor use.
  • Keep cords out of high-traffic areas so they don’t become frayed or worn. If they cross a walkway, make sure to protect them with a cord cover.
  • Likewise, do not place cords under rugs, carpets, through doors, or through windows. Do not place them in any place where they will be pinched and worn.
  • Remove leaves that collect on top of cords. When leaves dry out, they can easily catch fire.

While You String Up the Lights

Christmas Holiday Electrical Safety - White's Electrical Indianapolis Indiana LED Lights

Safety first: Don’t stand on metal ladders when handling live electrical wires.

  1. String up your lights before you plug them into an electrical outlet. This will help ensure you do not accidentally electrocute yourself if the light strand becomes damaged. If you have to replace bulbs at some point, make sure you unplug the cord again before doing so.
  2. Do not hang the lights in a way that damages the wires’ insulation. Don’t, for example, use push pins to hold up the wires.
  3. Stand on a wooden or fiberglass ladder while hanging lights. Metal ladders conduct electricity, so you are more at risk of electrocution while on one.
  4. Stay at least 10 feet away from power lines at all times.

Where to Safely Place Christmas Lights

Don’t let light bulbs rest on tree needles or branches, especially if you’re using incandescent lights and a natural tree. The heat from the bulbs may light the tree on fire. The National Fire Protection Association reports that between 2010-14 that Christmas tree fires caused $16.2 million in property damage every year, and the U.S. Fire Administration states that electrical problems caused a third of these fires.

Besides making sure bulbs don’t rest on the branches, make sure you keep the trees away from sources of heat, such as multiprong plugs, heat registers, and fires.

Once You’re Finished with the Lights

Christmas Holiday Electrical Safety - White's Electrical Indianapolis Indiana LED LightsBefore going to bed at the end of the night, make sure to unplug your Christmas lights. Practically, few people will see the lights through the night, so you will be wasting money. In terms of safety, turning off the lights will allow them and their surroundings time to cool after producing heat for several hours. You also want to be away in case a fire did begin in order to combat it or leave the premises.

Likewise, if you’re leaving your house, turn off your lights to eliminate the risk of a fire. If you still want your lights to turn on at night, hook them up to a timer.

How to Safely Dispose Broken LED Bulbs

How to safely dispose led bulbs white's electrical mooresville indianapolis greenwood indiana

LED bulbs are on track to replace CFLs as the lighting method of choice. They’re more energy efficient than CFLs, they last longer, and they don’t contain mercury — a poisonous heavy metal used to create CFL lightbulbs. However, although LEDs don’t contain mercury, they do contain other toxic substances, of which consumers are largely unaware. Because LEDs so have toxic substances, it’s important to know how to safely dispose of LED bulbs.

LEDs are a Good, Energy-Efficient Choice for Lighting

First, it’s important to note that LEDs are excellent choices for lighting. They’re 90 percent more efficient than incandescent light bulbs. That efficiency means homeowners who replace incandescent lights with LED bulbs will save on average $4 per year per bulb per year, which over the lifespan of a LED bulb amounts to $163 saved. And that’s with an estimated LED bulb price of $8.

But LEDs are much less expensive than they were even in recent years. 60-watt equivalent bulbs currently average between $1.50 and $2.50 per bulb on Amazon, making them very affordable.

How to safely dispose led bulbs white's electrical mooresville indianapolis greenwood indiana

LEDs also outshine their CFL cousins, literally. CFL bulbs, though still much more efficient than incandescent bulbs, consume more energy than LEDs. And they’re notorious for not shining at full brightness for several seconds after being switch on. Plus, homeowners cannot control these bulbs with dimmer switches, something they can do with LED lights.

Besides all this, although LEDs do contain toxins, aren’t by considered toxic by law, which means you can dispose of them at the landfill (although we encourage recycling).

LED bulbs are simply the best choice on the market for residential and commercial lighting needs, and no home- or business owner should shy away from installing them. Quite the opposite — they should be looking to retrofit their residence if they haven’t already.

Toxins in LED Lights

How to safely dispose led bulbs white's electrical mooresville indianapolis greenwood indiana

Going with LED lights for their benefits doesn’t mean ignoring safety. It’s well known that LEDs contain lead, arsenic, and other potentially harmful substances. A study published in 2010 in Environmental Science and Technology specifically identified low-intensity, red LEDs as most often containing the highest amount of toxic materials. The study identified white LEDs as having the last amount of lead but still containing nickel, another heavy metal.

Disposing of Broken LEDs

How to safely dispose led bulbs white's electrical mooresville indianapolis greenwood indiana

The study therefore suggests that people treat broken LEDs as hazardous materials. If an LED lightbulb breaks in your home or workplace:

  • Put on protective gloves and sweep up the LED pieces into a plastic bag using a stiff piece of cardboard (if you use a broom, consider disposing of the broom after using it).
  • Next, use sticky tape to pick up any small fragments left over. Put the tape with the fragments into the plastic bag.
  • When all the pieces are picked up, place the bag in a sealable container.

Because LEDs aren’t considered toxic by law, you can dispose of the fragments with other landfill materials. If you want to dispose of them in a more environmentally manner, contact your local municipal agency for instructions.

Municipal agencies in central Indiana include:

If your LED bulb has simply dimmed out (LEDs don’t burn out; they emit less light over time), you can either throw it away or recycle it at a local recycling center, via an online recycler, or with a local retailer who accepts LEDs.

If you’re looking to retrofit your business or otherwise want LED lighting, contact White’s Electrical to learn how we can meet your needs.

Electrical Mistakes in Indianapolis

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Let’s be honest: contractors sometimes do shoddy work around Indianapolis. And homeowners in Johnson and Marion counties can’t always perform repairs well by themselves, no matter how many YouTube videos they watch. A lot of their poor work goes unnoticed until a home inspection reveals the mistakes… and dangers.

There’s a reason why fire and building codes are in place in Indiana and why people who purchase homes hire professional building inspectors. Electrical safety is important! Poor work can result in electrocution, fires, frustration, and power outages, among other problems.

There seems to be a trend to the types of mistakes (and plain bad work) that people in central Indiana make when working with a home electrical system. We’ve identified a number of electrical blunder trends and now present them to you.

Mistake No. 1: If only I had another plug …

extension cord nightmare Indianapolis Mooresville Indiana White's ElectricalExtension cords shouldn’t be used other than the way they’re intended. In other words, don’t use 3, 4, 5 … 10 cords to try and power all your blow dryers, trimmers, extra lighting, phone charger, etc. If you need more places to plug in, have a qualified electrician install some more outlets. Or charge up your phone in the other room.

Also, don’t use extension cords in place of permanent wiring. That means you don’t plug in a cord, run it through the wall, and plug in your lamp in the other room.

Mistake No. 2: Let’s break it down …

bad wiring fuse box Indianapolis Mooresville Indiana White's ElectricalElectrical breaker boxes and control panels tend to be another place where homeowners and less-than-reputable electricians in the Indianapolis area make electrical flubs. For one, electrical boxes aren’t toolboxes, nor are they cabinets. You should not store toxic chemicals or canned food next to your breakers. If you need extra storage space, install a cabinet.

Breaker boxes also tend to be locations for wiring nightmares: Uninsulated wires, unattached breaker switches, multiple splices per wire, lack of grounding – the list goes on. For some reason, poor electrical work tends to culminate around these boxes. Again, contact a good electrician to help you here. You don’t want to get electrocuted when the lights go out and you’re flipping breakers in the dark.

Breaker boxes also tend to attract mice and rats. The boxes provide a cozy nesting area. And because of the electricity flowing through it, it can be nice and warm. It’s not uncommon, therefore, for inspectors (or horrified homeowners) to find live or electrocuted vermin trapped in these boxes. Just make sure the panels are well sealed and that the back is flush against the wall. Remember, mice can get in cracks as small as ¼ inch.

Mistake No. 3: Electricity doesn’t travel through water … or does it?

bad wiring plumbing White's Electrical Mooresville Indianapolis IndianaCentral Indiana might not have any large lakes, but yes, electricity does travel through water. Although this fact is fairly well known in our region, certain Hoosiers tend to ignore it when installing electric cables, junction boxes, and breaker boxes. Why? Perhaps a pipe is in the way, or the pipe seems like it would make a good mount. Whatever the reasoning, it’s never a good idea to secure your breaker box to a water inlet pipe, nor should you hang your breaker box over the sump pit. You might also want to avoid resting a junction box on top of a cold water pipe.

Oh, and you might want to have an experienced electrician relocate that breaker box from above the sink in your bathroom.

And don’t ever put an electrical disconnect box under a working faucet.

Mistake No. 4: Ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin’ alive!

exposed cable Indianapolis Mooresville Indiana White's ElectricalWiring, in general, tends to get messy when a homeowner or bad electrician does the work. It’s not uncommon that they’ll run bare wires that they’ve stripped for one reason or another. These wires post a significant risk for electrocution and might cause fires.

Mistake No. 5: Thinking outside the box

Burned junction box Indianapolis Mooresville Indiana White's ElectricalJunction boxes are yet another place where local, do-it-yourself electricians fumble. They will sometimes replace junction boxes with cardboard (yes, cardboard). You should not do this. Some Hoosiers in central Indiana sometimes also replace the proper boxes with ammunition boxes. Yes, ammunition boxes are common in Indiana, but they aren’t meant for electrical applications. Nor should you use old, plastic oil cans. Those cans are meant for one purpose, and your electrical system certainly isn’t it.

Only use proper electrical equipment when working on your electrical system because the equipment is designed to function safely. (And – we’re surprised we even have to say it – it won’t get soggy, or burn.)

Junction boxes also tend to become rat’s nests of bad connections. No one should splice, say, five or six connections in one box. Doing so increases the risk of fire, and it creates an inefficient system as well.

Mistake No. 6: Call the … cable guy?

cables not run correctly Indianapolis Mooresville Indiana White's ElectricalLast, people who prefer doing it themselves will often incorrectly place cables. Perhaps “place” isn’t the proper word. They incorrectly route cables. Ventilation pipes, for example, are not the proper place to run cables. If the cable is too short, purchase a longer one. Don’t drill a shortcut through the ventilation shaft.

If you do, you might end up with more shorts than just your chord.

Sure, some of these blunders seem funny, but they do happen! And when they do, they can cause so very-not-so-funny incidents. White’s Electrical can help with any home or light commercial project you have and will help keep you safe from the flubs listed above. Call or contact us today with questions or to request a quote.

Leaves & Electrical Hazards

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Autumn doesn’t official begin for another few weeks, but leaves are already turning here in central Indiana. Soon, the fall foliage will make its way to the ground, where – despite its beauty – could actually pose a hazard when it collects around electrical equipment.

After falling, leaves tend to dry out and collect in piles around the bases of homes, in gardens, and lawn furniture. While not only unsightly and attractive to insects and other pests, these piles pose a fire hazard if they collect around electrical equipment.

Cords, lights, and outlets sometimes give off a significant amount of heat energy. When dry leaves trap this heat, the heat can actually ignite the leaves, creating a fire that can quickly spread to your home or building.

Prevent Electrical Fires

To prevent fires, make sure to keep leaves away from electrical equipment. Rake dry leaves out of your yard, and remove leaves that collect around the base of your house or buildings. Also, do not run cords and cables through leaves. Make sure your cords and cables are free from obstructions.

More importantly, make sure to inspect the cords you’re using. Frayed or otherwise damaged cords are both a fire and shock risk. They can also be less efficient to use if they’re damaged and giving off lots of heat.

Other Sources of Electrical Fires

De-icing cables are another source that can ignite dry leaves. If your de-icing cables are activated and leaves are packed around them, the cables can potentially light the leaves on fire, which could quickly spread across your roof. If your home or business has de-icing cables, make sure to inspect them regularly and contact an electrician if they’re damaged or if you’re otherwise concerned.

Pine needles, sometimes called “Pine Straw” is sometimes used purposefully for landscaping, but can also pose a fire hazard. Fires have been linked to pine needles when they’re used for landscaping around the base of buildings. Pine needles ignite much more easily than hardwood mulch and burn faster, shooting up flames high enough to light siding on fire.

If you use pine needles for landscaping, never run cables or lights across it. Make sure your cables only run over nonflammable materials.

Schedule an Inspection

No matter how many leaves you’re battling this season, scheduling an electrical inspection is always a good idea. An Indianapolis licensed electrician can ensure your electrical system is ready for winter, and can make suggestions for proper maintenance. To schedule your inspection, call White’s Electrical today.

Electrical System Maintenance

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When the budget is tight, business owners are forced to decide where to cut costs. Oftentimes, they plan for only what’s pressing their attention at the moment: employee pay, utility bills, material costs — the bare essentials. What they sometimes forget or neglect is often a hidden necessity. Preventative maintenance for electrical systems is essential for so many business owners, yet it is often overlooked.

At first glance, their choice seems understandable. After all, no one wants to write a check for recurring maintenance. But by calling upon electricians for minimum maintenance or only for emergencies is a mistake. Not only do managers put employees at risk for accidents and the business at risk for lost productivity, but they risk spending more money than they would if they were to invest in properly maintaining their electrical systems.

Professionals Advocate Maintenance Programs for Electrical Systems

The National Fire Protection Association has for decades advocated businesses to maintain their electrical equipment. According to the NFPA:

“A well-administered Electrical Preventive Maintenance program reduces accidents, saves lives and minimizes costly breakdowns and unplanned outages. Impending troubles can be identified, and solutions applied, before they become major problems requiring more expensive, time-consuming solutions.” (NFPA 70B – 2013, Section 4.2.1)

An unmaintained electrical system is a liability managers cannot ignore. The NFPA isn’t the only organization to suggest this. In Maintenance Excellence, Optimizing Equipment Life Cycle Decisions, John Campbell shows that it costs three times as much for the same number of hours worked responding to electrical emergencies as it does maintaining electrical systems.

After study, he devised this formula for how much electrical work costs:

Planned electrical work = $1.00
Unplanned electrical work = $1.50
Emergency electrical work = $3.00

This means that every three hours of preventative work is equal to the cost for one hour of emergency work.

Maintaining Electrical Systems Saves Money

Spending more on maintenance rather than responding to problems on the backend results in money saved. For this reason, it really is best for businesses to hire electricians who can maintain systems full-time or to purchase a maintenance program from a local electrical company.

So, if you’re still unsure whether such a program will result in savings, consider conducting your own study. Gather financial records for the past five to ten years and compare costs for past electrical repairs without a program to the cost of a maintenance program. You can get a quote for a maintenance program by contacting an electrician in your area.

Safe Electrical Outlets for Your Home or Business

GFCI Tamper-Resistant outlet Indiana White's ElectricalElectrical safety is something we bring up often in our blogs, and for good reason! Being smart – and safe – when it comes to working with electricity is critical for any homeowner, business owner, or DIYer. Ensure safe electrical outlets are installed in your home or business.

Since 2008, the National Electrical Code has required all outlets at new installations be tamper proof. Sadly, each year 2,400 children in the United States are electrocuted, burned, or even killed by sticking items in electrical sockets.

To prevent accidental electrocution, several improvements have been made to make outlets safer for children and adults alike.

Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter

One improvement, invented in 1961, is the ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). You’ve likely seen a GFCI before — they’re the wall sockets with reset buttons on them. The National Electric Code requires they be installed in all new bathrooms, crawl spaces, kitchens, most outdoor receptacles, and unfinished basements.

GFCIs work by monitoring the difference between the current going into and out of an appliance. If that difference is greater than 5 milliamps, the GFCI shuts off the electrical flow. This difference in flow indicates a possible ground fault, meaning electricity is being directed through a source other than the wiring – that other source possibly being your body.

Tamper-Proof Wall Outlet

Another improvement is the tamper-resistant wall outlet. These are the outlets with spring-loaded shutters inside them that must be compressed at the same time to gain access to the electrical system. The National Electric Code not only requires these outlets at new and renovated homes but at other properties where children are likely present.

If you have children, are remodeling, or simply want to make your home or business safer, you should consider replacing any existing outlets, especially old, two-prong versions, with safer GFCI and tamper-proof versions.

There’s no reason your house’s electrical system should pose a hazard. If you’re concerned about your current wall outlets or electrical system in general, contact your local electrician to schedule an inspection.

Childproofing Your Home’s Electrical System

Childproof Electrical
childproof electrical
One of the biggest joys of parenting is being there for all of the “firsts.” The first word, the first day of school, the first date. Certainly one of these exciting firsts comes when children first learn to crawl and become mobile. As with every other aspect of parenting, this change comes with a set of responsibilities: it’s time to childproof your home.

Electricity is an important part of any modern household, however it can pose a number of dangers to children. Electrical appliances and devices were created for the convenience of the adult using them, not for the safety of the children. We all want to protect our children in every way we can, so while you’re childproofing your home, be sure to childproof your home’s electrical system.

Electrical Outlets

According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), approximately 2,400 children suffer electrical shock or burns when they stick items into the slots of an electrical outlet. Making sure that all electrical outlets are covered is a great first step to childproofing your home’s electrical system. There are a few ways to do this.

Outlet Covers

The cheapest option to keep children out of electrical outlets is to place a plastic cap over the outlets. You can buy outlet covers in any store that carries baby safety items. Outlet covers are small plastic pieces with two prongs (just like an electrical cord) that slide into the electrical outlet. This keeps children from being able to put other things into the outlets. Outlet covers are easy for adults to install and remove, but babies and young children don’t have the dexterity to get beneath them.

Sliding Plate Covers

A better solution to keep electrical outlets covered is to use horizontal sliding plate covers. Sliding plate covers keep the slots of the electrical outlet covered until ready for use. To use the outlet, just slide the cover over to reveal the slots, and then plug in the device. Keep in mind that this type of outlet cover is only for use with outlets that aren’t constantly in use.

Tamper-Resistant (TR) Receptacles

By far, the safest solution to childproofing electrical outlets is installing Tamper-Resistant (TR) Receptacles. If you have a newer home (built in 2008 or later), you may already have TR Receptacles. TR Receptacles have spring-loaded shutters that close off the slots of electrical outlets. The shutters only open when both spring are compressed simultaneously. When a plug is inserted into the receptacle, both springs are compressed at the same time, allowing the shutters to open. But when a child attempts to insert an object into only one slot, the shutters remain closed and there is no contact with electricity. If your home doesn’t already have TR Receptacles, contact a licensed electrician to install them for you.

childproof electrical

Electrical Cords

Being sure that all in-use cords are protected is just as important as keeping the outlets themselves covered. Here are a few ways to protect your little one from electrical hazards when it comes to electrical cords.

Occupied Outlet Covers

For outlets that are constantly in use, such as an outlet with a lamp “plugged in” to it, it is easiest to just place a piece of furniture in front of it to block access to it. If that’s not possible, you can use a plastic box-like cover (such as the LectraLock outlet cover) to allow the outlet to remain in use, but prevent little fingers from unplugging the cords and tampering with the outlet.

Power Strip Cover

If you have your TV, computer, or other devices plugged into a power strip, consider using a power strip cover to protect your child from tampering with it. A power strip cover is a plastic cover with an opening for cords, but that shields the rest of the unit. Keep in mind that with enough work, a little hand may be able to slide into the slot for the cords, so it is not 100% foolproof, but it is a better solution than using nothing at all.

Cord Shorteners

If you have long cords in your house, these are not only a temptation for little ones to pull or chew on, but they can also pose a strangulation hazard. Consider using cord shorteners to shorten the amount of exposed cord. Cord shorteners are usually round cases inside which you can wrap the excess cord.

Use Common Sense

Above all, use common sense. Never leave a child unattended, and be sure that you’re familiar with your surroundings before letting Baby explore.

Electrical Safety Tips for Pool Owners

electrical safety for pools

For most of us here in central Indiana, Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer. The kids are on summer break, we’re enjoying Indy 500 festivities, and backyard pools are ready for swimming.

Of course, we all know to use caution around pools, especially when children are present. But with all of the excitement of summer and pool season, electrical safety for pools often gets overlooked. Here are a few electrical safety tips to keep in mind this summer if you’re opening or using a backyard pool.

Keep all outdoor outlets covered and dry.

Having outdoor outlets can really come in handy year-round to operate yard equipment, plug in Christmas lights, or to plug in any devices you’re using outside. Just make sure to use outdoor outlets carefully and always keep them covered, especially around pools, hot tubs, or other summer water activities. If your outdoor outlets don’t have covers already on them, have a licensed electrician install some to be sure they are up to code.

Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) for electrical devices used outside to help prevent electrocutions or electric shock.

A GFCI shuts off an electric power circuit when it detects that electricity is flowing along an unintended path, such as through water or even through a person. This is especially important for outdoor circuits or outlets that are often near water.

Keep all electrical devices and cords at least 10 feet away from water.

It’s usually common sense not to use electrical devices too close to the water, but take extra care to make sure any devices used outdoors are in an area where they won’t pose a hazard to anyone swimming, especially when children are present. When possible, use battery-operated devices around the pool and hot tub to avoid electrocution or electric shock.

Never swim during a thunderstorm.

Water is a great electrical conductor, but you certainly don’t want it conducting electricity through you! Lightning regularly strikes water, and nearby lightning could injure or kill someone in the water. If you hear or see thunder or lightning, always get everyone out of the water and to a safe place.

To avoid electric shock drowning, have a licensed electrician inspect and upgrade your pool or hot tub in accordance with local codes.

Whether this is your first summer in a new home with a pool, or you’ve been swimming in the same pool for 20 years, have a local Indianapolis electrician inspect your pool or hot tub to make sure its electrical system is up to code. This can help ensure your peace of mind and the safety of those enjoying it this summer.

Happy Memorial Day from White’s Electrical!

Broken Appliances Can Cause Electrical Damage

Appliance Electrical Fire - White's Electrical - Indianapolis Indiana Electrician

When an appliance starts dying, you might have to replace more than the appliance itself — if you ignore the problem. This is because broken appliances can send power surges through your home’s electrical system that will damage other appliances and, at worst, start a fire.

Signs of a Broken Appliance

It’s fairly easy to determine when an appliance is broken. Signs that you either need to repair or replace an appliance include:

Tripped Circuit Breakers

One of the first signs that you have an appliance that’s nearing the end of its life is that it trips the circuit breaker when running. If an appliance that has worked in the past suddenly trips the circuit breaker (and you’re not overtaxing the circuit with other appliances), don’t simply flip back on the circuit breaker and continue to run the appliance. The appliance might have sent a surge through the wiring, and it might do so again. Inspect the appliance for evidence of a malfunction.

Bad Switches

When outlets and switches suddenly stop working, it is a sign that a surge might have passed through your electrical system. Telltale signs of a large surge include scorch marks and melted plastic. If you find these signs, hire a licensed electrician to repair the damage.

Smoke

If you smell or see smoke (or burning smells) from your appliance, you need to call a repairman. Smoke and indicates that some internal components are burning and might have even caught fire. If the smoke doesn’t go away after turning off the appliance, use a fire extinguisher to quell the fire or call 911.

Heat

Unless your appliance is a toaster oven or other device that is supposed to quickly heat up, it should not produce excessive, external heat. Heat is an indication that something is wrong, and it can lead to a fire. Stop using the appliance if it is getting hot.

Noise

Loud or awkward noises are another indication that something might be broken in your appliance. If your appliance once ran quietly, take noise as an indication that something needs fixed.

Decreased Performance

An obvious sign that your appliance is on its last leg is that it stops performing well. When your refrigerator sweats, produces too much frost, or no longer keeps food cold enough, you know it needs replaced. Similarly, when other appliances stop doing their job, replace them as soon as possible.

Lights Out

When electrical components such as buttons, pads, and screens stop working, it’s a sign that there might be something wrong with the appliance’s circuitry. If the appliance is new, you might be able to return it to the manufacturer or store from which you bought it for a replacement. If not, consider hiring a repairman.

Types of Damage

Old appliances - Broken Appliance - White's Electrical - Indianapolis Indiana ElectricianIt’s important not to ignore broken appliances because they can damage not only your electrical system but other appliances in the same circuit. Small power surges within a circuit happen often, such as when a refrigerator or AC unit switches between its on-off cycle. But when something malfunctions, it can send larger surges that cause damage. There are three types of damage broken appliances can cause: surge, physical, and fire.

Surge Damage

Surges occur when an appliance sends a large push of electricity through a circuit. These surges hurt other appliances in circuit by damaging microprocessors and other sensitive computer components. Large surges will, of course, fry electrical equipment. But small surges will damage equipment, too. Small surges produce cumulative damage that ultimately decreases appliance lifespan and performance.

Physical Damage

Larger surges can also hurt things like light switches and outlets. As said, if a surge damages these components, you will have to contact an electrician to repair them.

Fire Damage

Appliances that have degraded can start fires two ways. The first is when an electrical short within the appliances sparks a fire. Tiny fires that flare up can ignite wallpaper, insulation, trash, curtains, and anything nearby that can burn. The second way they start fires is through surges. Surges increase the heat wires produce. Wires might catch insulation or other material on fire. And surges can cause fires in outlets and light switches.

If you think there might be a problem with an appliance you own, don’t ignore the issue. You will eventually have to replace it, so it is better to deal with the problem now and prevent further damage than to put off the chore and expense. If you put it off, you risk having to replace more appliances. Replace the appliance or call a repair professional to fix the underlying problem. If an appliance has damaged your home’s electrical system, call a licensed professional to help repair the damage and make sure your home is safe.