Following Simple Home Electrical Safety Tips Keeps the Focus on Family at Thanksgiving
November is likely my favorite month of the year. Aside from it being my birthday month, I love the crisp air, falling leaves, and watching college football games that impact championships. And I still have hope (albeit small) every year that my beloved Michigan Wolverines will be able to overcome those darn Ohio State Buckeyes! But the main reason I cherish November so much is the intentional reflection on all that we have been given in our lives and what we have to be thankful for. At the forefront of my list is always my family. Not only my wife and our four children, but our extended family and friends that have become like family to us. Life can be challenging at times, but we all have something to be grateful for - even if that is only our next breath.
I forgot to mention that November also consists of two of my other favorite things – food and stretchy pants. Not necessarily placed in any particular order because both items are equally dependent on one another. If your kitchen is anything like ours while preparing the cherished Thanksgiving feast, it resembles chaos more than tranquility. Oven space is at a premium, so we turn to electric roaster ovens, hot plates, and Crockpots. Every new family member that arrives at the door has a Crockpot in their hands looking for a place to plug-in, which often leads to extension cords and multi-outlet splitters. As a general rule of thumb, any appliance that is intended to heat food draws a decent amount of electricity. When you start to add a multitude of appliances that produce heat, it can quickly wreak havoc on your electrical system. Not just in the form of overloaded, tripping circuit breakers but also on the components being utilized as well. Depending on what is being plugged in and where, it could also pose a risk to the personal safety of those within the vicinity. Here are a few items to be conscientious of that may help you to be safer and have a smoother transition from multiple food helpings to your post-meal nap:
- Appliances that are utilized to provide heat draw a sizable amount of electricity. For example, typical roaster ovens draw 10-12 amps, hot plates draw 8-12 amps, and Crockpots draw 2-6 amps. Kitchen 120-volt circuits are required by the National Electrical Code® (NEC®) to be 20 amp rated so it would only take a couple of these appliances to overload the maximum circuit ampacity. The NEC also requires that each residential kitchen has at least two 20-amp 120-volt circuits. One suggestion is to determine which kitchen plugs are on what circuit, and split the appliances up accordingly.
- Extension cords and multi-outlet splitters are never a good idea in the kitchen. Aside from electrical hazards, they also provide tripping hazards and can hang off of counters where a child may be able to grab ahold and pull an appliance down on themselves. In reality, some will still be willing to take those risks. At minimum, how extension cords and multi-outlet splitters are utilized should be considered. These items are easier to overload than electrical circuit wiring and do not offer overcurrent protection to trip and tell you they are overloaded, like an electrical circuit does. A standard light duty extension cord is typically rated around 13 amps. Plugged into a 20-amp circuit, that extension cord could be well overloaded without the circuit ever tripping, which would add another dimension of safety concerns to the equation – fire.
- Ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) protection should always be utilized for any appliances operated or placed on kitchen countertops. The NEC requires that any kitchen receptacles that are installed to serve the countertop have GFCI protection. That may not be the case for an adjacent room or area where an extension cord could get routed to the kitchen. Not having the necessary GFCI protection is another reason to not utilize that extension cord. GFCI receptacles should also be tested to ensure they are working properly before each use.
Thanksgiving in our home is a routine that I love. Minimizing risk when it comes to electrical safety is necessary to allow us to focus on spending time with one another without interruption or injury, giving us an opportunity to give thanks for the many blessings we have received in our lives.
“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” - Epictetus
NFPA is passionate about electrical safety and offers additional tips and resources for consumers to learn more about the topic.