Overloaded outlets might trigger laughs in the movies, but electrical fires are never a laughing matter in real life. They can cause fires and death.

Local fire departments respond to an average of more than 35,000 home fires involving electrical distribution and lighting equipment each year, causing 490 deaths and 1,200 injuries nationwide.

“It’s too easy to plug in too many devices onto the same circuit,” says Trevor Evans, Safety Manager. “Everyone has a role in keeping homes safe—whether it’s your electric cooperative keeping consumers informed or homeowners doing their research.”

The electrical systems of many older homes, especially, are not properly equipped to respond to today’s increased power demands and may lack the needed number of conveniently placed outlets. Relying too heavily on extension cords and multi-plug power strips may mean your home doesn’t have enough outlets. Instead of grabbing an extension cord or multiple-outlet plugs that turn your outlets into octopuses, call a qualified electrician who can install more outlets and update circuits and wiring.

To prevent problems, here are some tips to unload those outlets:

  • Never plug more than two appliances into an outlet at any one time; don’t piggyback extra appliances on extension cords or wall outlets. Use only outlets designed to handle multiple plugs.
  • Know the amount of power you’re placing on an outlet or circuit. Some recommend that each outlet or circuit should not exceed 1,500 watts.
  • Major appliances (refrigerators, dryers, washers, stoves, air conditioners, etc.) should be plugged directly into their own wall outlet since they are heavy power users.

If you find you are overloading an outlet or circuit in your home, you may need to contact a professional to help resolve the problem. An electrician can add outlets and inspect your home’s wiring system.