Is It Safe to Hang Curtains Over an Electrical Outlet?

Is It Safe to Hang Curtains Over an Electrical Outlet?

So you’ve just brought home several almighty curtains for your gigantic dining room windows and you’re planning to hang them running from the ceiling to the floor (almost).

Unfortunately, as you’ve just realized, some of your electrical outlets will end up behind the curtain. Not nice – or so you think.

So, Is It Safe to Hang Curtains Over an Electrical Outlet?

Yes, but not entirely. Electrical outlets are capable of malfunctioning and starting a fire. Since curtains are made from flammable fabrics, they are likely to catch fire and spread it in the event of an electrical accident. Overloading (connecting too many appliances to the outlet), for instance, makes fire outbreaks more likely.

Besides the risk of fire, you could be tripped by cords as you walk nearby.

Installation and use of such items as baseboard heaters can be tricky as well because they will expose your curtains to heat for extended periods.

So, yes, hanging your curtains over the electrical outlet is unsafe but here’s what to do to reduce danger:

1. Avoid Overloading Your Electrical Outlets and Extension Cords If You Must Use Them

While it’s generally safe to hang your curtains over an electrical outlet, watch out when linking an extension cord to it.

Extension cords are a great way of “relocating” the outlet to where electricity is needed most.

If a need ever arises requiring you to draw power from a covered electrical outlet, be certain not to overload it.

An overloaded outlet causes a localized power surge and may overheat to spark a fire.

Bad connections and any other careless use of your electrical devices can easily melt the wire insulation, release sparks, and start a fire a well. You don’t want it to spread on your polyester curtain.

ESFI has some damning figures: about 51,000 electrical fires are reported annually in North America alone.

These cases normally end up in 500 deaths, over 1,400 injuries, and a staggering $1.3 billion in damages.

Ponder this:

Electrical distribution systems are the third leading cause of home fires (behind kitchen fires and those sparked by electronics, lights, and outlets).

The U.S. CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) reports that household electrical receptacles are a factor to consider in 5,300 home fires reported annually.

These fires result in an average of forty deaths and over 100 consumer injuries. About 65% of deaths resulting from home fires are blamed on lack of or faulty smoke detectors.

Extension cords are some of the leading causes of electrical outlet fires especially when overloaded or faulty.

You will hear noises or smoke emerging from the electrical outlet whenever you plug an overloaded extension cord in the outlet. Once it becomes more apparent, you’re a brief moment away from razing down your home.

You can avoid setting your curtains on fire.

First, don’t overload it or the extension cord linking to it. Secondly, don’t use extension cords – even if they are new – as a permanent way of plugging multiple appliances or devices into one outlet.

The safest option would be to plug your appliances and electronics directly into the electrical outlet (one device per outlet).

You can hire an electrician to install a brand new grounded outlet into the wall (away from your curtains) and remove the need of relying entirely on extension cords.

2. Install an Arc Fault Circuit Breaker

If you plan to use the electrical outlet under your curtain either directly or via an extension cord, install an arc fault circuit breaker just in case.

An arc fault circuit breaker/interrupter can be seen as a “smart” breaker. It is equipped with a small logic device and filters that help it detect an arc instantly before it gets to produce the heat and sparks that you normally see when chaos ensues in the circuit.

An electrical arc is a continuous discharge (an electric spark – the opposite – is a momentary discharge).

The finer details of electric arcs are out of the scope of this article, but it occurs when you overload your home circuit, causing it to overheat.

The resultant overheating may inflict damages to your circuit breaker and/or where it connects to the bus. It’s not uncommon for fires to ensue at the overloaded region such as your electrical outlet under the curtain.

Still, an arc fault circuit breaker isn’t anywhere close to your average circuit breaker.

A typical circuit breaker may malfunction and keep the electricity flowing between its connections when it’s hit instead of tripping.

Arc fault circuit breakers are different as they instantly shut down the entire circuit. It is worth knowing that even the best GFCIs (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) out there can’t sense arcs. That’s why homeowners should be careful not to mistake the two, thinking that the GFCIs can be used in the place of arc fault circuit breakers.

Conclusion

So, is it safe to hang curtains over an electrical outlet?

Yes, to some extent. Electrical outlets are capable of malfunctioning and starting a fire.

Since curtains are made from flammable fabrics, they are likely to catch fire and spread it in the event of an electrical accident.

Besides the risk of fire, you could be tripped by cords as you walk nearby.

Installation and use of such items as baseboard heaters can be tricky as well because they will expose your curtains to heat for extended periods.

Fortunately, you can install arc fault circuit breaker and/or put away with overloading and extension cords.

Related: Should You Position Your Bed Next To A Electrical Outlet?

References

http://www.city-data.com/forum/house/2344844-safe-hang-curtains-front-electrical-outlet.html

https://www.doityourself.com/forum/electrical-ac-dc/568552-safe-hang-curtains-over-electrical-outlet.html

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