Our homes are filled with electrical appliances designed to make our lives easier and more convenient.
But should they not be maintained correctly, or regularly, electrical appliances have the potential to start fires, burn out electric motors or cause an electric shock. Understanding how this may happen and what to look out for can help keep you, your family, and your property safe.
Electrical Appliances in the Laundry
The laundry is often an enclosed space with several large electrical appliances. It can be a dangerous room for young children, it’s a good idea to have a lock on the door to prevent them from entering the laundry unsupervised.
Washing machines come with two main risks; being near water and children wanting to climb inside.
To reduce the wear and tear of your washing machine, try to stick to the recommended weight it can handle and don’t overload it. To prevent flooding or leaks, inspect the hose every 6 months and replace any parts that are starting to deteriorate, such as washers or Flexi-hoses.
Read more: How to prevent water damage through the home
Similar to your washing machine, you should avoid overloading your dryer. It’s also very important that you clean your dryer regularly. Make sure to remove the lint filter before or after using your dryer to prevent built-up lint, as this has been known to cause fires. Once a year the dryer’s entire venting system should be cleaned from the inside out as part of maintenance.
Electrical Appliances in the Kitchen
Kitchen appliances are often designed to minimise potential risks. However, not using the appliance within the manufacturer’s guidelines can cause excessive wear and tear if they’re not maintained regularly.
It’s advised that your dishwasher be installed by a professional plumber to prevent leakages or electrical shock due to faulty wiring. If you experience either of these issues it’s best to turn off the circuit breaker and call a professional to figure out what is causing the problem, as the combination of electricity and water could be very dangerous.
Once installed, it’s best to check your dishwasher’s filter regularly to prevent any build-up of food in addition to using dishwasher cleaner to get rid of any mineral deposits left by hard water.
It’s a good tip to keep dishwashing powder out of reach from children and animals by storing it somewhere safely and securely, as they can be very toxic.
Regularly clean your microwave tray and walls to prevent spilled and splattered food from catching fire during another cooking session. When using, position your microwave in a well-ventilated area, such as on top of the countertop, and never in an overhead cupboard where you can close the door.
When microwaving food, it will often heat unevenly, which can cause food safety problems. Bacteria thrive in colder portions of food, increasing the risk of food poisoning, while overheated food increases the risk of burns. Shorter bursts of cooking interspersed with stirring the food will help it heat evenly.
Finally, make sure to never store items inside the microwave and unplug them when not in use.
Clean your toaster weekly or monthly to help bread and other items from getting stuck as they can catch fire in the toaster. You should also never insert a metal utensil into the toaster, as this will result in a potentially fatal electric shock.
While coffee makers may not seem like a dangerous electrical appliance, there is still the risk of an electric shock due to faulty wiring. You’re also at risk of burns from steam or hot water spillage.
Surprisingly the most common safety risk is the presence of mould growing in coffee makers, so it is important to clean the coffee machine regularly and thoroughly.
Fridges and Freezers
Releasing coolant from a pierced hole in the freezer lining was once considered a safety hazard, however, this is no longer a concern with newer fridge models.
However, if the lining of your fridge or freezer becomes cracked, cool air will escape into the freezer wall and make your fridge/freezer work harder to maintain its correct temperature. This can overload the electrical system, and also trigger another major safety issue within fridges or freezers — unsafe food storage.
If your food isn’t stored at a temperature that will prevent the growth of bacteria then you may experience potential food poisoning caused by ineffective cooling and food storage.
Food Waste Disposal Units
You can start by using plenty of cold water every time you run your disposal and while the food is being chopped up. Avoid hard or fibrous foods that won’t grind down easily and will get stuck in the disposal. Foods like; onion skins, eggshells, celery stalks, etc.
Also, make sure that you regularly clean the inside and blades of your disposal to maintain your appliance over time.
Ovens and Stoves
Ovens and stoves are common home fire hazards and if not installed properly, heat may escape and not vent properly and increase the risk of toxic carbon monoxide leaking into your home.
Grease build-up and grime on stovetops, countertops, and inside ovens is the kind of fuel that can not only start a fire but accelerate it too. To prevent this, regularly clean your oven and stovetop, including the oven door, at least every month.
That way you’ll not only keep your oven and stove clean but also prevent any potential fires from igniting.
Electrical Appliances in the Bathroom
It’s best to take the time to arrange your bathroom carefully so electrical appliances are not within reach of the sink and can be conveniently unplugged and stored away while not in use.
Hair-styling appliances like hairdryers, curlers, and straighteners are arguably some of the most hazardous appliances in your bathroom and can be very dangerous should they come into contact with water.
Always unplug your hair-styling appliances after use and store them where they cannot fall into the sink or bath. Don’t touch the grilles within the hairdryer barrel or the hot blades of a straightener even after the hair-styling appliances are turned off.
And under no circumstance should you leave any of the hair-styling appliances resting on surfaces such as plywood, fibreboard, wood, and foil, as these are highly flammable materials.
Air conditioners are designed to safely run for long periods and depending on the type, they can use up the most electricity in the home. It’s always recommended that a licenced electrician connects your AC units as they may become a fire hazard if it is installed incorrectly.
Something else to be wary of is the build-up of bacteria in unclean air-conditioning filters, which is pumped through the household, causing you to breathe in unclean air.
Minimise these concerns by regularly cleaning the filters, condenser coils, and grills of your air conditioning up to every 6 months to maintain the air conditioner’s ability to cool down an area of your home.
Does home insurance cover appliances?
To further protect and maintain the longevity of your white goods and small appliances, Budget Direct offers an Electric Motor Burnout Cover which, if you have an existing Home and Contents Insurance policy, can easily be added as an optional extra. All appliances listed in this article have electric motors.
This cover only applies to loss or damage in an electrical motor that is less than 10 years old. The motor burnout must be caused by an electrical current or power surge in domestic appliances like your fridge or washing machine.
Keep in mind that you should never try to fix electrical appliances yourself and always engage a qualified electrician for any electrical maintenance. There are also various fines in place for anyone caught out doing electrical work illegally, but by far the biggest penalty would be accidental electrocution or starting a house fire. It’s just not worth it.