Quiz: Are your electrical outlets overloaded?

Staff

How many household fires are caused by electrical outlet overloads each year in the U.S.?

Each year some 5,300 household fires in the U.S. are caused by overloaded electrical outlets.

At what time of year do many electrical fires occur?

About 2,000 electrical fires occur during the Christmas holiday period.

How many volts of electricity flow through an average American home at any given time?

The average American home has 120 volts of electricity flowing through it at any given time.

What do circuit breakers do?

Circuit breakers, or fuses in older homes, regulate the amount of current flowing through a circuit. The current is the volume of electrons that are moving through a conductor such as an electrical cord. The amount of current is expressed in amps.

At what amount of amps do circuit breakers regulate a circuit?

Circuit breakers usually regulate a circuit at 15 or 20 amps.

What should you be take into account to prevent overloading a circuit?

If you have multiple outlets wired to a single circuit, each outlet is contributing to the amount of current, making it easy to overload the circuit. Take this into account when plugging various objects into different outlets.

How can you calculate the number of amps of current that your home is using?

Calculate the number of watts you are using, including lights and other appliances. Divide the total number of watts by the number of volts flowing through your house, which is generally 120 volts. The number you come up with is the amount of current in amps that is flowing through your house.

How much available current is it safe to use at a time?

It is safe to use up to 80 percent of the available current per circuit.

Which of the following may contribute to a fire?

Winter weather and faulty wiring are both factors that may contribute to an electrical fire.

When buying Christmas presents, what sort of products should you be wary of?

Counterfeit electrical products are often not built to withstand the electrical demands of the holiday season. The Consumer Product Safety Commission tests the safety of these products and will recall them if they discover a counterfeit or faulty product.

When did Underwriters Laboratories begin testing and certifying electrical products for safety?

Underwriters Laboratories have been testing the safety of electrical products since 1894. Factory Mutual is another independent testing organization. When products are found to be safe, a label is attached. It's best to look for products with these labels.

What may be a sign that a product is from a disreputable company?

Spelling mistakes on the label may indicate a counterfeit product. It's also best to avoid buying electrical products from discount stores. Try to get electrical products with brand names that you recognize and trust.

What sort of electrical products are more likely to overload a circuit?

Electrical products that are designed to produce heat, such as hair dryers and space heaters, tend to use more power than other appliances. This makes them prone to overloading circuits.

What happens to electrical wiring as a result of wasted heat?

Electrical wiring expands and contracts as a result of wasted heat that's generated by the electrical current travelling through the wires. This can eventually loosen the wiring, which may cause an electrical arc and spark a fire.

What temperatures can be reached by heat produced from an electrical arc?

Electrical arcs can produce temperatures between 1,500 and 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (816 to 982 degrees Celsius).

What happens to the humidity in the walls of a house during the winter?

During the winter, humidity in the walls of a home decreases to the point that it's as dry as a desert would be. This makes the wooden wall supports, known as studs, vulnerable to the slightest spark. Fire can spread very quickly within the walls of a home before it's even noticed by smoke detectors.

What should you do if an electrical fire breaks out?

If an electrical fire occurs, you should leave the house immediately and call 911. If safe to do so, you should also turn off the power.

Approximately how many watts would a 50-bulb string of Christmas lights generate?

A string of Christmas lights with 50 bulbs generally uses about 25 watts. Christmas lights are usually low wattage and are unlikely to cause an outlet overload. It's more likely that a heater will cause an outlet overload.

What should you look out for on your electrical appliances?

Frayed or worn wires can be dangerous, and the appliance should be fixed or replaced.

Which simple measure can you take to prevent overloading an outlet?

Unplug devices that are no longer needed when you plug in other devices. This can prevent a circuit overload.

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About This Quiz

Overloading electrical outlets can spark fires and be very dangerous. Taking some simple steps to prevent outlet overload can save a lot of damage, not to mention lives. Take this quiz to see if you are overloading your electrical outlets.

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