​​​Electric appliance safety tips

Each safety tip reduces your risk of suffering electrical shock, fire, burns, electrocution or damage to your appliance and home.

Safe use of electric appliances

Only buy appliances approved by the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) or another nationally recognized testing laboratory program. Also, ensure it hasn’t been recalled by the CPSC before purchasing – especially if you’re buying it secondhand, or from an online auction, garage sale, estate sale, etc.


  • Stay away from water while using an electric appliance: you could be electrocuted.
  • Do not wash an appliance in water unless the manufacturer's directions say it’s okay.
  • If an electric appliance falls into the water, unplug it before retrieving it – even if it’s turned off.

Electrical cord tips:

  • Check appliance cords for frays, broken plugs or damaged wires. If damaged, don’t use.
  • When using an electric appliance with removable cords, always connect the cord to the appliance first, and then plug it into the wall outlet. To disconnect the appliance, unplug it from the wall outlet first, and then disconnect the appliance cord.
  • Disconnect all appliances by pulling the plug directly from the socket. Do not pull on the appliance cord. You could damage it!
  • Make sure appliance cords do not come in contact with hot or sharp surfaces.

Appliance repair and maintenance

  • Unplug all electric appliances before working on them.
  • Do not stick metal objects inside an electrical appliance: you could be electrocuted. For example, do not use a kitchen knife to retrieve items from toasters, dishwashers, dryers or any other electric appliance.
  • If you receive any kind of shock from a large appliance or any other electrical device (other than from static electricity) have an electrician check the appliance.
  • If an appliance emits smoke or sparks, or if you feel a tingle or light shock when it's on, stop using it. Discard the appliance or have it repaired.

Portable electric space heaters

Follow these simple tips to safely heat your room with a portable electric space heater:

  • Select a heater that has been approved by an authorized consumer laboratory such as the Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Read the manufacturer's instructions completely before using.
  • Ensure the heater has reliable thermostat controls (shuts off when desired temp is reached).
  • Keep the heater at a safe distance from furniture, draperies and other objects that could catch fire.
  • While heater cords normally become warm during use, stop using the heater if the cord becomes hot.
  • Avoid using extension cords with the heater.
  • Keep children away from space heaters.
  • Never use your kitchen stove or oven as a space heater.
  • Use the heater on the floor only; never place one on a counter top or furniture.

Standby generators

A standby generator automatically gives you electricity when a power outage occurs.

  • When installing a standby generator in your home, make sure it's properly installed by a qualified electrician only.
  • Make sure you select a generator correctly sized to your needs.
  • Follow manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • A generator must connect to your home's wiring through a double-throw, double-pole transfer switch to ensure the building wires are isolated from the utility wires.
  • Indoor installation is not generally recommended.
  • Never connect a portable electric generator​​ directly to your building's electrical system during a power outage. Electricity could backfeed into the power lines, endangering CenterPoint Energy workers.

Portable generator safety

Placing and installing your generator:

  • Locate your generator in a well-ventilated area. Never run it inside, even in your garage. Gasoline-powered generators produce carbon monoxide, and the fumes can be deadly.
  • Do not connect the portable generator to any house wiring.
  • Never connect a portable generator or a motor home/RV generator directly to your home's electrical system during a power outage. Electricity could backfeed into the power lines and endanger CenterPoint Energy workers.

Using your generator:

  • ​Plug appliances directly into the generator using heavy duty, properly grounded extension cords. Make sure that extension cords are not frayed or worn.
  • Limit the number of appliances you use to the recommended wattage of the generator.
  • Use the generator only when necessary, and don't overload it. Turn it off at night while you sleep and when you are away from home to avoid a possible fire hazard.
  • Contact the manufacturer or a licensed electrician if you have any doubts about how to properly use a portable electric generator.
  • Note: Read all instructions carefully and follow manufacturer's guidelines for portable generator operations and grounding.

Wiring and outlet safety

Inadequate wiring causes one out of eight home fires! Many older homes are not properly wired for today's electrical loads.


  • Do not overload electric outlets.
  • Large appliances, such as washers and dryers, should have their own circuits and a three-pronged plug that will "ground" each appliance.
  • Install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs), which monitor how much electricity flows into and out of an appliance. If an electrical leak is detected, GFCIs cut the power to faulty appliances in a fraction of a second.

If you answer yes to three of the following questions, you probably have overloaded wiring:​

  • Is your home more than 10 years old?
  • Have your fuses blown or circuit breakers tripped lately?
  • Is your television picture shrinking or fading?
  • Are your lights dimming and electric motors running more slowly than normal?

You can reduce the electric load by staggering your appliance usage and disconnecting appliances not in use. If the problem persists, call an electrician and get a wiring estimate. The cost of rewiring is much cheaper than a fire!

Learn more about electric safety or what to do when there’s a power outage​.