If you have young children in your family or often have kids visiting your home, it is essential that you make sure any electrical outlets they can reach are fully child-proof. Most outlets in a home are at a child’s eye level, which makes them both attractive and easily accessible. If a child sticks anything into an outlet, they can suffer severe burns or get seriously electrocuted. More than 2,400 American children are seriously injured every year by sticking items into outlets, and some of these injuries are fatal. This shows why making sure the outlets in your home are child-proof is so important, and this article will explain the different options you have for child-proofing your outlets and which ones are the most effective.
Plug-In Individual Outlet Covers
The most basic and easiest option for child-proofing your electrical outlets is to buy plastic plug-in outlet covers. This type of outlet cover is something you’re likely already familiar with. They are round pieces of plastic with two prongs on the back side that slide easily into the outlet and can be removed whenever you need to plug anything in.
The main advantage of plastic outlet covers is that they are cheap. They also only take seconds to install, so it won’t take you much time to go around the house and cover all of the lower outlets on your walls that a child could reach. Using plastic outlet covers will generally be sufficient to keep babies safe. However, they aren’t a great choice once the kids start growing, as toddlers may be able to easily pull the cover off and access the outlet. Plastic covers are also small enough that they can be a choking hazard, which is another reason why they’re not the best option.
Sliding or Self-Closing Outlet Cover Plates
Sliding or self-closing cover plates also aren’t the best option, but they are safer and more effective than plastic covers. They are installed in place of the normal cover plate, and they work to block off the plugs when the outlet isn’t in use. Instead of the slots always being exposed and open, the plates have a plastic cover that slides to the side so that the slots aren’t visible when the outlet isn’t in use. When you want to plug something in, all you need to do is slide the plastic over to expose the slots. The plastic is also spring-loaded so that it automatically slides back in place and blocks the outlet when you unplug the cord.
Installing sliding covers will take a lot more time since you’ll need to unscrew and remove all of the original cover plates and then mount the sliding plates in place. The outlet covers also slide easily, which means kids can eventually learn how they work and be able to access the outlet and stick something in it.
Snap-On Outlet Covers
This type of cover snaps onto the existing faceplate so that kids won’t be able to see or access the slots. When the cover is in place, all you see is a flat piece of plastic that looks like a blank cover plate with no slots. This helps to prevent kids from being attracted to the outlets since they won’t be able to see the slots when the cover is in place. The only issue is that kids may still be able to pull the cover off, and you’ll also obviously have to remove the cover plate whenever you need to use the outlet.
Outlet boxes are a good choice for those outlets that you use often or always have something plugged into. Outlet boxes are primarily designed for protecting outdoor outlets, but they can also be useful for child-proofing. The box is installed in place of the original outlet, and it has two pieces of hinged plastic that allow you to still use the outlet when the box is closed. There is also a hole at the bottom of the box for the cords to stick through.
Outlet boxes are much more child-proof than the previous options as you have to press two buttons to open the box. This system means that the box will be extremely difficult for a child to open. The drawback is that outlet boxes are bulky and kind of ugly. They also take up more space, so they may not fit everywhere.
Power Strip Covers
This type of cover is similar to outlet boxes and is recommended for child-proofing all of your power strips and surge protectors. The cover snaps onto the power strip and has a slot for all of the cords. As with an outlet box, you need to press the two buttons simultaneously to open the cover, so kids will find it very difficult to open the cover and access the receptacles.
Switched Outlet Receptacles
Another option is to have an electrician install switched outlet receptacles, but this will require quite a bit more work. Switched receptacles are more commonly used for preventing energy waste. TVs and most other electronics are typically in standby mode when turned off, but they still draw some power when in standby. With a switched receptacle, you can completely shut off the power to prevent this issue.
This type of receptacle is controlled by a switch, so you can turn the outlet on and off, just like your lights. Any time the outlet isn’t in use, you can flip the switch off so that power doesn’t flow to the outlet. When the outlet is switched off, there is no chance of a kid being electrocuted if they stick something in the outlet since it doesn’t have electricity.
Tamper-resistant receptacles (TRRs) are by far the best and most effective option for protecting children from getting shocked by electrical outlets. In fact, the National Electric Code was updated in 2008 to mandate the use of TRRs in all new homes and remodeled homes. Installing TRRs requires replacing the entire outlet, so it is something you’ll need to have an electrician do, but it will be well worth it to ensure that your outlets are completely child-proof. There are also tamper-resistant power strips, and these are also much safer than just using a cover.
TRRs look just like a standard outlet, but they have spring-loaded shutters inside that block off the slots on the outlet. When you plug a cord in, the prongs compress both of the springs so that the shutters open. This allows the prongs to touch the contact points in the outlet, which completes the circuit so that electricity then flows through the cord. In a TRR, both springs must be compressed at the same time for the shutters to open and the prongs to make contact. If the shutters are closed, no electricity will flow out of the outlet.
If a child tries to stick a foreign object in one of the slots, only one spring will compress and the shutters will stay closed. This means that the foreign object will be blocked so that it can’t reach the contact points and no electricity will flow through the object. As a result, there is zero chance of the child being electrocuted if they stick anything in the outlet.
AJ Danboise Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical is the best choice if you’re looking to install tamper-resistant receptacles or need any other electrical services in Farmington Hills. We also offer professional heating, air conditioning, and plumbing services, so give us a call for any and all of your home service needs.