When good utilities go bad: Tips for reducing costs and risks in the home

BY Allconnect | Tue Aug 04, 2015
When good utilities go bad: Tips for reducing costs and risks in the home

The biggest problem that usually comes to mind with regard to your utilities is how they will fit into your monthly budget. Unfortunately, the act of taking utility maintenance for granted could have a far bigger impact on your home and your family than a few extra dollars added to your utility bill – failure to keep electricity, natural gas and water-consuming appliances could put your loved ones and the household in serious danger. That’s why it prioritizing utility maintenance is so important.

The following suggestions provide means of keeping these appliances in good repair and spotting issues that require professional assistance before they evolve into a major health risk. Furthermore, safe and efficient consumption of utilities like electricity and natural gas limits waste. Keeping consumption to a minimum will go a long way toward bringing your utility costs down and recapturing your initial investment via energy savings.

“Don’t underestimate the risk your wiring system poses to your home.”

Keep wires intact and uncrossed
Don’t underestimate the risk your wiring system poses to your home – after all, nearly 50,000 homes fell victim to structural fires as a result of electrical failure or malfunction between 2007 and 2011, according to the National Fire Protection Agency. These fires resulted in over 1,500 injuries and $1.5 billion in combined property damage. Along with these fire risks came rampant electricity waste, just another reason for you and your family to keep a close eye on the appliances and infrastructure utilizing electricity in your home.

Additional data collected by Electrical Safety Foundation International points toward malfunctions in electrical distribution systems, including lighting and wiring, as the chief source of these damages. The second most common cause of electrical fires in the home is improper operation of well-known energy-hungry appliances like washers, dryers, fans and space heaters.

There are multiple strategies that you and your family can employ to limit these issues from occurring in the first place. Simple changes in behavior, like endeavoring to only plug in and operate one heat-producing appliance at once, help put a stop to electrical risks before they develop into serious problems. You can also benefit from regular conversation with a nearby electrician or your local electric company – reaching out to these resources will provide you even more tips for preventing an electrical fire from threatening your family.

Turn natural gas safety into a habit
Considering that natural gas is the heating utility of choice for over half of Americans when it comes time to fend off the cold, according to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, it’s extremely important that users are well-educated on the inherent risks to storing and burning natural gas within the home. As a resource, natural gas is extremely efficient and clean. Problems can still creep up, however, if the routine maintenance of the furnace begins to fall behind.

One of the most common health risks that occurs as a result of insufficient maintenance is carbon monoxide. An aging gas heater in disrepair allows carbon monoxide to collect inside the home to the point that indoor air quality becomes compromised. Carbon monoxide poisoning puts you family members at serious risk for sickness and harm, requiring a trip to the hospital.

You’ve also got to stay wary of gas leaks. The utility company adds an odorant to natural gas so you’ll be able to tell if a leak occurs inside your home. In addition to inflating your utility bill, natural gas becomes extremely volatile as the chemical builds up, especially if the leak occurs near the appliance’s heating element. It doesn’t take much time for a gas leak to turn to a deadly explosion, so homeowners are urged to exit the home and call authorities as soon as they suspect that one may have occurred. The risk of a harmful explosion also highlights the importance of routine maintenance for furnaces.

Be sure to investigate utility maintenace when evaluating a new home.

Watch your water temperature carefully
Electricity and natural gas are the two major concerns when it comes to utilities safety, but homeowners shouldn’t count out injuries that can occur as a result of poorly maintained plumbing. Whether the pipes need maintenance or the water heater itself is malfunctioning, unpredictable temperatures can increase the risk of scalds and burns in your home. The Burn Foundation warned that over 100,000 scald wounds occur in the home each year, emphasizing the need to consider this threat when prioritizing home improvements.

The easiest way to address the issue is by upgrading your water heater and adding insulation to pipes – performing these two tasks will make it considerably easier to keep water at a consistent temperature as it travels through your home. Remember that it costs fuel, either electricity or gas, to heat the hot water flowing through your pipes. In addition to keeping water at a stable temperature, greater plumbing insulation will help to minimize the monetary costs of heat loss as well.

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