7 Things You’re Doing That Are Unsafe In Your Home

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We all want our homes to be safe havens, but there are several common practices that can put you and your loved ones at risk.

Here are seven things you might be doing that are unsafe in your home and how to address them.

1. Not Having a Good Smoke Alarm and Not Understanding the Lights on It

A smoke alarm is one of the most essential safety devices in any home, yet many people overlook its importance or misunderstand its functionality. A good smoke alarm can be the difference between life and death in the event of a fire.

Why It’s Unsafe:

Without a functioning smoke alarm, you might not be alerted in time to escape a fire. Additionally, misunderstanding the indicator lights on your smoke alarm can lead to neglecting maintenance or missing important signals about its status.

What You Should Do:

  • Install smoke alarms – Ensure you have smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, including inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • Understand the lights – Familiarise yourself with what the different lights on your smoke alarm mean. A green light often indicates that the device is powered, while a blinking or solid red light can signal various issues or that the alarm has been triggered. Consult the user manual for your specific model, as some systems have a single color warning light, whereas others are multi.
  • Regular maintenance – Test your smoke alarms monthly and replace the batteries at least once a year. Consider replacing the entire unit every ten years.

2. Overloading Electrical Outlets

It’s easy to plug multiple devices into a single outlet, especially with the proliferation of gadgets in our daily lives. However, this convenience can lead to dangerous outcomes.

Why It’s Unsafe:

Overloading electrical outlets can cause overheating and increase the risk of electrical fires. Extension cords and power strips are not designed to handle heavy loads indefinitely.

What You Should Do:

  • Limit the load – Avoid plugging too many high-wattage devices into a single outlet.
  • Use surge protectors – Invest in high-quality surge protectors with built-in circuit breakers.
  • Check cords regularly – Inspect cords for damage and replace them if they show signs of wear.

3. Ignoring Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odourless, colorless gas that can be deadly. Ignoring the need for a CO detector is a significant risk.

Why It’s Unsafe:

Without a CO detector, you won’t be alerted to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in your home, which can result from faulty heating systems, gas appliances, or vehicle exhaust.

What You Should Do:

  • Install CO detectors – Place carbon monoxide detectors near sleeping areas and on each level of your home.
  • Regular checks – Test CO detectors monthly and replace the batteries annually.
  • Know the symptoms – Familiarise yourself with the symptoms of CO poisoning, such as headaches, dizziness, and nausea.

4. Improper Use of Extension Cords

Extension cords are handy for temporary power needs, but improper use can lead to hazardous conditions.

Why It’s Unsafe:

Using extension cords as a permanent solution, running them under rugs, or connecting multiple cords can cause overheating and fires.

What You Should Do:

  • Temporary use only – Use extension cords only for short-term needs.
  • Avoid daisy-chaining – Never connect multiple extension cords together.
  • Proper placement – Keep extension cords visible and away from high-traffic areas to prevent damage.

5. Storing Flammable Liquids Improperly

Household items like cleaning products, paints, and gasoline are often stored haphazardly, increasing the risk of fire.

Why It’s Unsafe:

Improper storage of flammable liquids can lead to accidental ignition and fires, especially if they are kept near heat sources.

What You Should Do:

  • Store safely – Keep flammable liquids in their original containers and store them in a cool, dry place away from heat sources.
  • Ventilation – Ensure areas where flammable liquids are stored are well-ventilated.
  • Limit quantities – Only store the amount of flammable liquid you need and dispose of any excess safely.

6. Failing to Clean the Dryer Vent

Your clothes dryer can become a significant fire hazard if the vent is not cleaned regularly.

Why It’s Unsafe:

Lint buildup in the dryer vent can overheat and catch fire, putting your home at risk.

What You Should Do:

  • Regular cleaning – Clean the lint filter after every use and inspect the dryer vent at least once a year.
  • Professional maintenance – Consider having a professional clean the vent annually, especially if you notice that clothes take longer to dry.
  • Check for blockages – Ensure the exterior vent is free from obstructions, such as bird nests or debris.

7. Skipping Routine Maintenance on Heating Systems

Your home’s heating system needs regular maintenance to function safely and efficiently.

Why It’s Unsafe:

Neglecting heating system maintenance can lead to malfunctions, carbon monoxide leaks, and even fires.

What You Should Do:

  • Annual inspections – Have your heating system inspected and serviced by a professional annually.
  • Change filters – Replace furnace filters regularly to ensure efficient operation and reduce the risk of overheating.
  • Watch for signs – Be aware of unusual noises, smells, or changes in heating efficiency, and address them promptly.

Making Your Home Safer

While it’s easy to overlook these common safety hazards, addressing them can significantly reduce the risk of accidents in your home. By being proactive and vigilant, you can create a safer environment for yourself and your loved ones.

Quick Safety Checklist:

  • Test and maintain your smoke alarms and CO detectors.
  • Avoid overloading electrical outlets.
  • Use extension cords properly.
  • Store flammable liquids safely.
  • Clean your dryer vent regularly.
  • Schedule routine maintenance for your heating system.

Taking these steps will help ensure that your home remains the safe haven it should be. Stay informed, stay prepared, and take action to mitigate these common risks. Your safety and peace of mind are worth the effort.

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