Boost Electrical Safety at Home

Maintain your home's electrical system and keep the lights on and the power flowing.

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Checklist for household systems
Household systems work hard to keep us comfortable and safe. Keep them running smoothly with this maintenance list:

Every month:

  • Check bathrooms, kitchens and utility rooms for leaking faucets or signs of water damage. If the refrigerator has an ice dispenser, include it in the inspection.
  • Change the filters on the central heating and air systems. Clean air filtration devices as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Test smoke detectors.
  • Test remote alarm systems according to the instructions of the monitoring service.

Every 3 months:

  • Make an inventory of first aid supplies. Replace any missing items. (Print a free first aid kit inventory checklist at Organized
  • Hold a family fire drill, and review the family disaster plan with all household residents.

Every 6 months:

  • Drain sediment from the bottom of hot water heaters (if sediment is allowed to accumulate, it can affect the efficiency of the heating element).
  • Replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Check fire extinguishers to make sure they're charged and ready for use.
  • Clean the ashes from the fireplace or a wood-burning stove, and empty the ash pit.
  • Check the hoses installed on washing machines, and replace them if they show signs of wear, or every two years.
  • Vacuum refrigerator coils to remove dust.
  • Check refrigerator gaskets with the "dollar-bill" test: insert a dollar bill between the door and the refrigerator. If you can pull it out easily, the refrigerator gaskets are loose and they should be replaced.
  • Remove and clean kitchen exhaust fan filters. Most can be washed in the dishwasher to remove grease buildup. Alternately, spray the fan filters with a degreaser and then rinse. Dry them before replacing.

Reduce energy costs
In these days of rising prices, opening the power bill can be a shocking experience. Save money and lower your household's energy use with these ideas:

Light it right. Home lighting is a major player when it comes to energy use. Reign in unneeded lighting with low-tech practices such as turning off lights when you leave the room, together with high-tech methods like motion-sensitive light switches.

Light it well with CFLs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs use one-third the energy of their conventional counterparts — and they last eight to 12 times longer. To help cushion higher up-front costs, look for governmental rebates that assist with the transition to CFLs.

Harness the power of power strips. Even when not in use, computer equipment, televisions and home electronic devices continue to draw power. Cut them off at the source with by using a power strip to turn these devices on and off. Look for new "smart power strips" that will power down printers and peripherals automatically when the computer is turned off.

Bundle up the hot water heater. Adding an insulating jacket to the hot water heater lowers energy costs for hot water. Don't miss any exposed hot water pipes; plastic pipe insulation is inexpensive and easy to apply.

Double up in the oven. When you turn the oven on, make its energy use count. Slide side dishes in next to the Sunday roast for a whole-meal solution. When baking potatoes, add extras, for making potato salad later in the week.

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Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer

Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited

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