As your baby grows and becomes more mobile, safety concerns may arise around the house. Everything from table corners to staircases to electrical cords become newfound hazards. As you go about childproofing your home, make sure you address the electrical outlets, which shock and burn about 2,400 children in the US each year. A further six to 12 children die annually from sticking metal objects into electrical sockets.
It’s never too early to start childproofing your outlets, whether you already have young children running around or are expecting your first baby. Learn the different types of childproof outlets that help reduce the risk of electrocution.
Methods for Childproofing Outlets
Most electrical receptacles sit about 12 inches above the floor, putting them at eye level for a crawling baby. The empty slots grab the child’s attention and tempt them to poke something inside. To prevent this, try one of these simple and cheap childproofing methods.
Electrical Outlet Caps
The most basic solution, one you probably remember from your childhood, is to insert a plastic cap into each electrical socket. The exposed side is flat and difficult for children to remove.
The best part about electrical outlet caps is that you can buy three dozen for just a few dollars. Before purchasing a pack, count the receptacles around the house to make sure you get enough. Don’t forget to count unused power strip outlets as well.
Unfortunately, outlet caps can be challenging for adults to remove, something you must do every time you want to plug something in. And if you forget to return the cap, the outlet is no longer childproof. In fact, outlet caps can become a choking hazard if you leave them lying around. Make sure you understand these drawbacks before childproofing outlets with this method.
Sliding Outlet Covers
For a more convenient, easy-to-use option, consider sliding outlet covers. These replace your standard covers with those featuring self-closing panels that slide over the empty slots. To use the outlet, simply slide the panel with one hand, and insert the plug with the other. When you remove the prongs, the panel snaps back, covering the slots and protecting your child from electrocution.
Sliding outlet covers are more expensive than outlet caps, but they offer additional peace of mind. Many people also consider them more aesthetically pleasing. Just be aware that sliding covers aren’t foolproof. As your kids get older, they may learn to defeat sliding outlet covers by watching you operate them.
Childproof Outlet Box
Another option is to cover the outlet with a white or clear plastic box. Childproof outlet boxes are easy for adults to install and remove, but not kids. By encasing the entire plug, you also prevent children from pulling out the cord. Clear covers allow you to see what’s plugged in at a glance, while white covers offer a clean look some people prefer.
As with regular outlet caps, the biggest drawback is that you must remove the outlet box with each use and remember to put it back. For this reason, childproof outlet boxes are best-suited for outlets with cords you rarely need to unplug.
Power Strip Covers
Power strips are necessary for many home offices and entertainment areas. The downside when childproofing your home is that power strips sit on the floor, granting a curious baby easy access.
One trick is to insert electrical outlet caps into any unused slots. You may also consider installing a power strip cover, which blocks open sockets and prevents your child from unplugging cords. The cover slides over the power strip and features cutouts for cables to come through.
Consider Upgrading to Tamper-Resistant Electrical Receptacles
While the childproofing methods listed above are better than nothing, they aren’t perfect. That’s why you may want to consider upgrading to tamper-resistant (TR) receptacles. Thanks to an enhanced, built-in safety mechanism, TR receptacles greatly reduce electric shock in homes with small children.
Tamper-resistant outlets feature hidden, spring-loaded shutters that close off the slots when not in use. Inserting a plug into the outlet compresses both springs and opens the shutters, allowing the prongs to make contact and for electricity to flow. However, the shutters do not open if a child attempts to stick a key, butter knife, paper clip, or other object into a slot. Therefore, there is no contact, no electricity flow, and no chance for electrocution.
TR receptacles became standard in new homes in 2008. As of 2017, they are also required in many new and renovated public settings, including childcare facilities, hotels, schools, waiting rooms, and more. If your house was built before 2008 and has not been renovated, chances are you have regular outlets that put your baby at risk. Fortunately, TR receptacles only add about $0.50 to the cost of standard outlets, making them a worthwhile investment to increase electrical safety for children.
Safety professionals recommend upgrading your outlets even if you don’t have young kids. After all, electrical shock and burn accidents are not limited to a child’s own home. If your friends and relatives have kids, they may bring them to your home sometimes. Left unattended, these children may start playing with electrical outlets and put themselves at risk.
You can rest easy by installing TR receptacles throughout the house. Not sure if you already have tamper-resistant outlets? Look closely for the letters “TR” engraved between the vertical slots. If you don’t see this indication, you probably have standard outlets.
Replace the Outlets in Your Fort Collins Home
The fastest and easiest way to replace standard outlets with tamper-resistant receptacles is to hire an electrician from Allen Service. Our team taps into 60+ years of experience, ensuring a job well done every time. Customers appreciate our upfront pricing, which means you’ll never pay more than the quote you receive. We also stand behind every outlet repair and installation for your peace of mind. To schedule an outlet replacement estimate in Fort Collins, please call us at 970-484-4841 or contact us online.