Common Electrical Myths
We use electricity every day, but only a few people understand how it works. As a result, there are many common myths and misconceptions about electricity. Unfortunately, ignorance isn’t bliss when it comes to electricity because it can be dangerous if handled inappropriately. That’s why it’s crucial to debunk myths about electricity to keep your family and home safe. Here are some common household electrical myths.
1. Rubber Objects Are Good Insulators
Rubber is an insulator, meaning it doesn’t conduct electricity naturally. As a result, many people believe that wearing rubber gloves or shoes will protect them when handling live electrical wires. But this isn’t the case. Most rubber gloves and shoes aren’t made of pure rubber. They consist of other materials that can conduct electricity, meaning they won’t entirely protect you from electrical risks like electrocution.
2. Power Lines Are Always Insulated
Contrary to popular belief, most overhead power lines aren’t insulated. Instead, they’re usually put out of reach so that they’re out of harm’s way. That means you should never touch them, or you could get electrocuted.
3. Wood Can’t Conduct Electricity
Wood is a poor electricity conductor, but wet wood can turn into a fairly good conductor. Therefore, if you’re using a wooden ladder to do electrical work, ensure it isn’t wet to avoid electrical risks.
4. Turned-Off Appliances Don’t Consume Electricity
Appliances like televisions, lamps, microwaves, and computers still use energy even when they’re plugged in but turned off – a phenomenon known as “phantom load.” If you’re looking to prevent “phantom load” and reduce your energy costs, ensure you unplug appliances when they’re not in use.
5. Keeping the Lights on Saves Energy
Some people argue that it’s better to keep the lights on constantly rather than keep turning them off then back on because it saves energy. Keeping the lights on constantly won’t reduce your energy costs. Instead, you’ll lower your electricity costs by turning the lights off when you aren’t using them.
6. Extension Cords are Weatherproof
Most extension cords aren’t suitable for outdoor use. If you want to use an extension cord outdoors to put up outdoor lights, ensure you check the label and only buy a cord that’s designated for outdoor use.
7. Live Wires Produce Sparks When They Fall
Live wires usually produce sparks when they fall but don’t make firm contact with the ground. But if they make firm contact, they won’t spark or make noise. If you come across a live wire, don’t touch it. It could still be energized, and it could electrocute you if touched.
8. Households Currents Can’t Kill
The electricity in your home may not appear dangerous, but it can be fatal, especially if it comes into contact with water. Ensure you don’t operate electrical appliances with wet hands or while standing in water, or you could get electrocuted. Also, ensure you keep electrical appliances and outlets away from water to prevent electrical fires that could endanger your life.
9. Older Homes Need Wiring
Some people believe that homes that are several decades old require rewiring. But wiring doesn’t expire like food. Even old homes can still have wiring that’s in good working condition, while a new wiring system can get spoiled shortly after installation. Therefore, if you live in an old home and the wiring doesn’t appear damaged, you don’t need to rewire your home. However, consider contacting a professional electrician to examine your wiring if you notice any of the following signs:
- Constantly flickering or dimming lights
- Overloaded circuits
- Frequently blown fuses
- Foul odors from outlets after use
- Hot outlets after use
- Buzzing from the walls
These signs may indicate your home may have a wiring problem that an electrician should examine to prevent electrical hazards.
10. Electricity Can’t Harm You If You’re Grounded
You’ve probably heard some people say that you should stay “grounded” if you don’t want electricity to hurt you. But staying grounded is the precise reason why electricity can harm you. The electrical grid is a grounded system, meaning current flows to the ground, and it usually uses any path to the ground that it can find. Unfortunately, the current can also pass through you before making its way to the ground. So even if you’re on solid ground, be careful.
11. It’s Only 110 Volts
People with little knowledge about electricity may say 110 volts can’t cause any serious harm because it’s a small amount. But even small electric shocks can be quite unpleasant and harmful. If you’re dealing with electricity, be careful no matter the voltage. Also, ensure you only use one hand when handling electricity so that the current doesn’t flow through your body. If you use both your hands, the current could flow from one hand to the other and pass through your heart, putting your life at risk.
12. Volts Can’t Harm You, But Amps Can
This myth isn’t entirely false. Technically, it’s amps that can hurt you, not volts. However, the two terms are often confused because they’re correlated. So, what’s the correlation? Simply put, volts describe how strong the current is. The higher the voltage number, the stronger the current. On the other hand, amps indicate how much current is flowing. While both volts and amps are connected, it’s amps that pose the greatest risk.
13. Higher Voltage is Cheaper to Run
Reducing energy costs is a key priority for many people. To bring down energy costs, many people think that using higher voltage appliances can help. But it’s a myth. Electric bills aren’t based on volts. They’re based on kilowatts (KW). Watts is a measure of the total power consumed. It’s the product of voltage and amperage.
Appliances require specific watts to function properly. Sure, using an appliance with double the voltage would halve the amperage, but the total watts used would remain the same. Ultimately, buying higher voltage appliances won’t lower your electricity costs, but investing in energy-efficient appliances can.
14. Flickering Lights Indicate a Short
The term short is often used to denote any electrical problems. However, that’s a misnomer. A short is a specific electrical issue. It is an unusual condition in an electrical circuit where the electrical current flows through a shorter path outside the intended circuit with minimal to no electrical resistance. It’s often caused by improper wiring, loose connections, or damaged cables.
A short can cause the wiring to overheat and even result in electrical fires. Circuit breakers are installed to prevent this by stopping the current if there’s a build-up of heat. If your lights start flickering, you probably have a loose connection. Check for any loose connections before deciding you have a short circuit. However, if you aren’t comfortable handling DIY electrical tasks, call a professional electrician for help.
Knowing what’s fact and fiction when it comes to electricity can protect your life and property, so don’t rely on your instincts. Verify any information you may hear from others to confirm if it’s correct to prevent electrical hazards.
Brennan Electric offers residential and commercial electrical services to residents of Seattle and the surrounding areas. Whether you need electrical repairs, lighting installation, or a whole house surge protection, our team of qualified electricians can help you with any of your electrical needs. For more information about our services or to book an appointment, call us today.