When it comes to small appliances, there’s a golden rule for ensuring they don’t start a fire in your home – unplug them when you are not using them.
That’s especially true with any appliance that produces heat, including toasters, toaster ovens, microwave ovens, hair dryers, portable dishwashers and electric kettles.
You should also be vigilant about appliances when they are in use. Appliances with automatic turn-offs, for instance, may malfunction as they age. Instead of shutting down when they should, they will continue to heat up and start a fire.
With thousands of residential fires sparked each year by small appliances, we’ve compiled some other tips to help keep your home safe.
- No power = No fire. Unplug all small electrical appliances, such as hair dryers, shavers, curling irons, clothes irons, and toasters, when not in use.
- Check for recalls. You can check up on the latest product recalls at Healthy Canadians. If you are moving into a home with existing appliances, you should record their make and model and check for any recalls or review customers’ experiences with those products.
- Inspect appliances & cords. Always check for frayed power cords and never route electric cords (including extension cords) under carpeting, where they can overheat or be damaged by furniture. Never use an appliance that is damaged. An appliance which repeatedly blows a fuse or trips a circuit breaker could indicate a defect that may cause a fire or electrical shock. Unplug the appliance immediately and have it repaired or replace.
- Care for appliances & cords. Never wrap the cords around hair dryers or styling irons when storing them. That causes kinks, which shorten their lifespan. If your hair dryer smells funny, sounds funny, or you can hear the parts rattling when you pick it up, it’s time to toss it.
- Test GFCI outlets. Be sure you have a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection anywhere electricity and water are within six feet of each other, such as in your kitchen, bathroom and outdoors, to protect against electric shock. GFCI outlets are designed to save lives when a small appliance comes into contact with water. Press the test button. You should hear a click sound that trips the outlet. To ensure it has actually cut the power, try the same test using a nightlight. If the light goes out, you know you’re safe.
- Use only approved appliances. Make certain all small appliances are approved by an independent testing laboratory. Examples include but are not limited to Underwriters Laboratories Canada (ULC), Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
- Follow instructions. Only use small appliances according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Do not overload outlets. Limit how many appliances you have plugged in and use at one time.
Kevan D. Jess
Community and Technical Support
Alberta Municipal Affairs
Public Safety Division