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By Katie Mitchell, 29 Jun 2018

Winter’s here. As the chill sets in, there’s always a surge in sales of electric blankets and heaters. While staying toasty with these appliances is terrific, being lax about how they run can put you at risk of fire, overload and other electrical dangers. It doesn’t matter if it’s an old heater from the back of the cupboard or if you’ve treated your cold toes to a new electric blanket – always make sure you’re using them safely.

If your house or apartment is older, you might find that your electrical outlets are few are far between, you may find yourself over-plugging a plethora of devices into each outlet. If you’re stacking a double adaptor into another, or even piggy-backing a powerboard into another powerboard, you’re putting your household at risk.

When the temperature drops, we’ve got some ways you can avoid overload by being proactive, sensible and safe.

Be proactive

Being prepared is your best bet in staying safe, but you have to know what you’re looking for. When you store heaters over the summer, they can gather dust, which when plugged in can be very dangerous. If your powerboard overloads, a little dust can start a big fire. The same goes for the powerboards that you hide behind the bed or couch; well known dusty spots. If you notice that your powerboards are looking a little shabby and are cracked or discoloured, it’s time to buy some new ones.

Be sensible

The lack of power points can make piggy-backing adaptors appealing. Even though you might rationalise it’s only one extra plug, it’s not a risk worth taking; every appliance you overload is a gamble with your safety.

As we plug in more and more appliances, rather than overloading your existing powerpoints, get a qualified electrician to install more. If you’re renting and you can’t add points, replace your old powerboards with premium, Australian-approved products which feature both surge and overload protection.

Have a good look at your lounge room; no longer just a corner with a TV, you’re probably running a modem and a set-top box as well. When you go to plug in your heater, you’ve suddenly got more appliances than your set-up can handle. Consider adding powerpoints on the other side of the room to save you from snaking power boards and extension cords across your floor.

Be safe

To keep your wear and tear under control, we’ll shed light on some things to watch.

Replace don’t reuse

Keep an eye out for fraying cords on all your appliances, boards and extensions cords; if they’re rusted, nicked or damaged – it’s time to go. Live wires can cause electric shocks, so broken or damaged earth wires mean you’re not safe from surges when you plug devices into the board.

Beware of wear and tear

While some damage to powerboards is inevitable, it’s essential to recognise when it’s not safe. Learn to identify when pin entries are in peril – the entry enlarges, putting little fingers at risk as they poke around and try and stick things in it. Socket expansion also signals inside erosion, so if you notice that your plugs are slipping in the sockets or the connection doesn’t feel tight – replace, replace, replace.

Avoid overheating

Overload occurs when you plug too many devices into your powerboard. To steer clear of overheating and fire risk, look for deformation or discolouration around the pin entry. If you see signs of this, or heat damage – again – replace your power board.

Protect your pins

It’s not all about cords, keeping your plug tops in mint condition can also ensure a safer electrical environment. If your pins are damaged, engage a professional electrician to check and replace them. Bad contact occurs when your pins are bent; they can also overheat or even break off. If you have damaged insulation on your pins, this can also cause shocks.

To stay safe this winter, make sure you take all the steps to plug in the right way.


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