Central Insurance

5 Electrical Safety Tips Every Homeowner Should Know

electrical safety

While electricity is a necessary and useful tool in our daily lives, it can also be extremely dangerous. In fact, data shows that about 400 people are electrocuted in their homes every year, with about half of those electrocutions resulting in death.

Although leading causes of electrocutions vary, The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that the most common occur due to negligence or simply underestimating the potential danger of this everyday power source. For example, interference with outlets and cords by children or pets, exposure of electric tools to water, failure to turn off a circuit breaker during electrical work, and even failure to read and follow an appliance’s instructions are all marked among the most common causes of electrical accidents in the home.

For this reason, “electrical safety precautions should not be taken for granted,” says Cory Eickholt, a Loss Control Manager for Central Insurance.

Below, we review the five electrical safety tips that every homeowner should know and follow to ensure your safety and that of your family and home.

Watch This: Electrical Safety: How to Keep Yourself and Others Safe

5 Electrical Safety Rules to Follow

1. Maintenance is Key

Maintaining the electrical systems in your home should be considered part of general household upkeep. Doing so will help to prevent electrical fires or surges that can not only put you and your family in danger, but can cause lasting damage to your property.

To ensure your electrical systems are performing as they should, Eickholt recommends:

  • Keeping electrical panels free of excessive dust and dirt.
  • Not storing items within three feet of electrical panels.
  • Keeping panels dry and free from potential sources of water.
  • Wiping down panels with lint-free rags and solvents as needed.
  • Minimizing heat buildup in rooms with electrical panels.
  • Inspecting panels for any signs of corrosion, loose wires/breakers, and signs of excess heat.

These aren’t the only useful measures you can take to prevent electrical issues, according to Eickholt. 

“Businesses with larger electrical systems—including a standard electrical preventive maintenance program (EPM)—should schedule inspections of electrical systems that include testing and maintenance of critical electrical components and their support systems,” he adds. 

2. Always Replace Damaged Wiring

When it comes to electricity, Eickholt explains how vital it is that you utilize perfectly in-tact tools and equipment, as one small dent or crack in a cable can have detrimental effects on your safety and your property. 

Every electrical cord contains a live wire that is securely insulated by the cord. When that cord becomes frayed or damaged, the live wire has the potential to become exposed. Exposed wires are direct channels to the electricity, and can be incredibly harmful when touched. They can also lead to electrical fires when left unattended.

Explore: Tips for Electrical Fire Prevention

Avoid these dangers by examining every piece of electrical material in your home regularly. If you notice any abrasion or bend that seems out of place, always err on the side of caution and replace the material. It’s also important not to try and repair damaged wires on your own. PVC tape, for example, is not a permanent solution to an electrical problem. Instead, always call in a professional if you feel there is a dangerous wire that needs repaired.

3. Child and Pet-Proof Your Home

The National Fire Protection Association reports that nearly 2,400 children suffer from severe shocks and burns each year as a result of sticking items into electrical outlets. What’s more, experts in petcare have found that chewing on live electrical wires is the single most common type of electrical injury to household pets. Though these numbers are frightening, there are simple ways to keep children and pets safe from electrical dangers.

Start by identifying what types of outlets you have in your home, then decide if you are going to take temporary or permanent action to make your outlets safe. Permanent action may include replacing regular outlets with those designed to prevent electrical damage, such as AFRC (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) or GFIC (Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets. AFRC outlets are designed to prevent dangerous arcs in your electricity, where the GFIC outlets monitor the electrical current moving through a circuit, shutting power off as needed.

Did You Know: There are two commonly used outlet types in the United States as of 2022—one which has two pins, and one which has three.

More temporary solutions to electrical outlet danger include using plastic outlet covers, outlet boxes, or self-closing outlet covers, all of which can be used to stop children from accessing the dangerous electricity behind paneling.

Keep in mind that outlets are not the only electrical items that need attention to protect your family. Extension cords, power strips, and even plugs themselves should all be addressed as part of this safety practice. Simple fixes like taping down cords, installing a power strip cover, and keeping most electrical items plugged in out of reach of children and pets can go a long way in keeping everyone safe.

4. Avoid Overloading Outlets

One of the most common and most dangerous mistakes homeowners make when it comes to electricity is overloading. Although the average outlet is designed to manage 15 to 20 amps of power, many people find themselves plugging multiple high-power items into the same outlet without ever considering its maximum capacity.

In fact, the invention of surge protectors and extension cords has made it easier than ever for homeowners to dismiss outlet best practices and overload their outlets simply out of convenience. While commonplace, this action itself is considered the most frequent cause of electrical fires.

Pro Tip: Never plug one extension cord or surge protector into another—this is VERY dangerous.

It’s especially vital to avoid plugging high-voltage items into the same outlet. Do an audit of your home to figure out which items are plugged into each outlet, then conduct some research to determine if the combined power level of those items exceeds the outlet’s limit. If so, you should rearrange some of your items, or at the very least unplug items from that outlet when they are not in use to prevent too much power in one place.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Call In Reinforcements

Homeowners often choose to tackle home improvement projects on their own, but when it comes to electrical work it’s always safest to call in a professional. Electricians are extensively trained on the correct practices for dealing with the intricacies of electrical work, and can provide vital training on any specific factors in your home that might make your electrical situation unique.

“It is imperative to remember that…if you are not familiar or comfortable with electrical systems, have a qualified electrician assist you in any inspections, maintenance, or electrical repair needs.”

Cory Eickholt, Loss Control Manager for Central Insurance.

Electrical Safety & Your Homeowner Insurance Policy

According to the National Fire Protection Association, $1.4 billion per year in direct property damage is caused by electrical problems. Recovery from such a disaster, while daunting, is much more manageable for those who are covered by a reputable homeowner’s insurance policy. 

In case of an accidental fire, your insurance carrier can provide the financing and support you need to help cover damages and get your property back in working order. Keep in mind that the high correlation between poor electrical systems and fire damage has led insurance carriers to weigh the age and quality of a home’s wiring when determining if it can be covered. Older homes with outdated systems such as knob and tube wiring, for example, may have a more difficult time finding coverage in the standard market due to the increased risk for electrical fires.

Learn More: How Much Does Home Insurance Cost?

Stay Safe with Central

At Central, we know your homeowner’s insurance policy is the safety net you never want to have to use. Follow these electrical safety tips to keep your home and your family safe from electrical damage and, if the unexpected does happen, be sure to get in touch with your agent right away. We’re always ready to help. 

Post Originally Published in September, 2018 and has since been updated for clarity.

Contractor Fraud: What It Is and How to Avoid It

From online scams to identify theft, fraudulent behavior has become something of an unwelcome norm in today’s society. In 2021 alone, the Federal Trade Commission discovered that consumers reported $5.8 billion in losses due to fraud—a 70 percent increase in fraud-related losses compared to 2020.

As a result of this unfortunate trend, many of us are taught to keep a watchful eye on our online information. We ignore potentially virus-inflicted emails, change our passwords every few months, check our credit card bills for inconsistencies, and adopt dozens of other tedious practices to try and keep ourselves secure. 

But what happens when the threat of fraud isn’t coming in the form of a suspicious email or link? What if, instead, it comes in the form of a contractor knocking on your front door and claiming to have noticed damage to your home that needs to be addressed immediately? How are you supposed to know who to trust and who might be trying to scam you?

In this article, we’ll address the intricacies of contractor fraud, explore how these individuals operate, uncover the steps you can take to prevent this type of behavior, and discover Central Insurance’s commitment to protecting its policyholders from this and all kinds of potential fraud.

Read More

Dwelling Coverage vs Market Value: What’s the Difference?

dwelling coverage vs market value

With home values significantly rising across the country over the past few years, it’s important to understand the difference between dwelling coverage vs. market value when it comes to home insurance. When buying or selling a home, much of the conversation and considerations focus on market value, which is the amount a home can be bought or sold for in the current market. In contrast, insurance companies prioritize dwelling value, which is the estimated replacement cost of a structure. 

How Much Dwelling Coverage Do I Need?

An insurance company is never going to sell your home, but they will replace it should you suffer a catastrophe like a tornado or house fire. For this reason, it’s vital that your home is insured for the proper amount needed to rebuild rather than what the real estate market might dictate the home’s worth to be based on the current housing market. 

Several years ago, when it was considered a “buyer’s market,” many homeowners were confused about why they were required to insure their home at a value higher than what they were likely to receive if they sold. Due to the lack of demand and ample homes on the market, market values had been driven below cost to rebuild. In 2022, however, we find ourselves navigating a very different landscape. Rising inflation, pandemic impact, and the current “seller’s market” have driven both market and dwelling values up, leaving homeowners with an entirely different set of choices to make.

Read on to learn more about how COVID and inflation are impacting dwelling and market values, as well as ways Central can help you determine whether your home is insured for the proper amount.    

Read More

Distracted Driving: Why We Do It & How To Stop

We all know we shouldn’t text and drive, so why is it so tempting to reach for the phone the moment you hear that little ding? Just a quick glance can’t hurt, right? Wrong. 

Data from a 2020 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study shows that 1.6 million crashes, more than 3,100 deaths, and 400,000 injuries were caused by some form of distractions when driving in the year 2019 alone. In addition, more than one in four of all accidents—including 87 percent of rear-end collisions—are the result of some form of distracted driving. 

What feels like a quick check of your phone, flip of the radio dial, or reset of the GPS can easily result in injury or tragedy. 

Read More

Evolving Through Expertise: Central’s 2021 Annual Report

Last year was a big one for Central. Our agents expressed a clear desire to go even deeper with us. Aligning with their wants and needs fueled our strategy, setting us up for a year of growth while remaining committed to our core values.

Our team rose to the occasion, leaning into a spirit of excellence at every opportunity. Throughout 2021, we leveraged the specialized expertise of our vertical teams to drive innovation in step with the evolving needs of our commercial agents and policyholders. Our claims department fulfilled our promise to serve, bringing heart, humanity and hospitality to every interaction. The outcome of our cross-team collaboration is something to be proud of.

From enhanced vertical expertise to exciting new product development and exceptional customer service scores, we’re excited to share the full story of 2021 in our Annual Report. View it here.

Meet Central’s Job Rotational Program

At Central, we believe that one of the best investments we can make is actively developing our employees. The insurance industry is constantly evolving, and true success is based on not only meeting the needs of today, but tomorrow as well.

As a part of our commitment to excellence, we strive to foster a culture of possibility and opportunity by providing a path to growth for our people. Established in 2021, Central’s Job Rotational Program gives participants a chance to experience placements in different departments, roles and areas of interest. The program is designed to support employee development while also fostering cross-department relationships, mentorship and collaboration. 

Read More

The Impact of Inflation on Commercial Property Insurance

From supply chain shortages to COVID-related shutdowns to worker shortages, 2021 brought the highest U.S. inflation rates of the past 40 years. Inflation is affecting everything from the price of that (former) “dollar pizza” to the value of used cars to raw building materials, making these trends particularly relevant to commercial insureds with building and business income coverages. 

Read More

Ring in 2022 With a Policy Checkup for your Business

The arrival of January finds many small business owners coming off the busiest season of their year. In the midst of the hustle and bustle, it can be easy to overlook important changes that may have occurred with your business that need to be accounted for on your insurance policy. Prioritizing your annual policy renewal is a great opportunity to consult with your independent agent and review any changes to your business to ensure you are properly protected for the year ahead. 

Read More

Start the New Year with a Personal Policy Checkup

With the turning of the calendar, it’s time to start taking inventory on everything from personal habits to household budgets to — you guessed it — insurance coverage. As you start tackling your list in the new year, remember to review and update your insurance policy — especially if you received valuable gifts during the holiday season. 

Read More

The Uninsurable Risk of Clark Griswold: Part II

A few years ago, we shared a post titled, The Uninsurable Risk of Clark Griswold. Much like the classic film itself, that post has remained a seasonal favorite amongst our blog readership. Today we’re taking it one step further (with some help from Rich Nouza, Liability Large Loss Consultant) to break down some of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’s most iconic scenes as we explore the liability risks* and insurance implications of hosting the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since…well, you know. 

Read More