The cost-of-living crisis has put people across Scotland under financial pressure and many are trying to save money. Here, the charity Electrical Safety First (ESF) offers tips to help consumers economise without compromising safety .
How to Shop Online Safely
Online marketplaces often offer electrical products at low prices, but the savings shouldn’t come at the expense of safety.
Online marketplaces such as Amazon Marketplace, eBay and Wish don’t have the same regulations as high street retailers meaning that there is less protection from counterfeit and sub-standard electrical products.
It can be difficult to spot a fake product online as the appearance of these are constantly improving or they use fake images.
You can follow these simple steps to reduce the risk of buying a counterfeit product online:
- Be cautious of deals that seem too good to be true. A significantly low price could mean that the product is substandard or fake.
- Be wary if it is unclear where a seller is based as many fake electrical goods are manufactured overseas. When shopping on an online marketplace, it is not always obvious that you are not buying directly from the manufacturer or a well-known retailer. You can use ESF’s Browser Extension to help highlight third party sellers.
- When buying online, ESF recommends purchasing electrical goods from a retailer you know and trust, either from the manufacturer’s website or from a trusted high street name.
- Beware of a product with only glowing reviews, especially if reviewers aren’t verified- they could be fake.
- Beware of words qualifying an item’s authenticity- most reputable retailers do not need to sell their products by labelling them as ‘genuine’, ‘real’, or ‘authentic’.
- Look for websites that allow you to pay safely- these have a padlock at the bottom of the screen when you are filling in your payment details. If you can’t see it, do not enter your payment details.
Beware of Products Taking Advantage of the Cost-of-Living Crisis
On some online marketplaces, sellers have been promoting products that take advantage of people trying to save money.
One investigation by ESF found substandard and dangerous ‘energy saving’ devices. The devices claimed to be able to help make big savings on energy bills.
Four of these devices were bought from various online marketplaces and tested. Testing showed a range of basic failures in design, including the size and dimensions of the plug pins. On one device, the pins were so poorly positioned that there was a risk of damaging a mains wall socket with use. Another device exploded under testing due to being unable to handle a short circuit.
Consumers should be wary of products claiming to help save money in this way and should take note of the safety advice above when shopping online.
How to Shop Second-Hand Safely
Second-hand shopping can be an attractive way to save money. There are a number of things that should be checked before purchasing a second-hand electrical product, either online or in person.
The following safety advice can help make shopping second hand safer:
- Check for product recalls using the model serial number on the product. You can use Electrical Safety First’s online product checker for this.
- Check the plug to make sure the product has a three-pin UK plug, which should also include a fuse
- Look for a legitimate safety certification label. This should be on the product itself as well as any packaging
- Register your product after you purchase it so that the manufacturer can contact you if any faults occur in the future. You can use ESF’s product registration page to do this
Running Appliances at Cheaper Times
The ‘Demand Flexibility Service’ is a scheme that aims to ease the demand on the National Grid by paying households to reduce their energy usage during peak times of the day, meaning people will instead use appliances at off peak times, typically overnight.
Whilst the financial incentives are likely to be attractive to consumers, there are serious safety concerns that consumers need to be aware of. Appliances such as washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers account for a high proportion of electrical house fires in Scotland, so it is crucial to mitigate the risk of fire as much as possible.
To keep you and your family safe, it is imperative to follow these simple safety tips:
- Make sure your home is fitted with working smoke alarms on every floor. Test them regularly – ideally weekly
- Register your appliances with the manufacturer so you can be notified if there’s a problem.
- Do not overload your plug sockets as this can lead to overheating.
- Clean all filters regularly as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Check the cables and plugs of your appliances for any signs of wear and tear.
- If you’re concerned about an appliance in your home, use Electrical Safety First’s online product checker to see if it has been recalled.
- If you think there might be a problem with your appliance, unplug it and contact the retailer, manufacturer, or a qualified repair technician, as appropriate.
How to Heat Your Home Safely
Over winter many people will turn to portable heaters to heat one room of the house rather than putting their central heating on. While electric heaters in themselves are not inherently dangerous, they can and do cause devastating fires if they are not used with care, with fan heaters pose an even greater risk.
It is vital to use portable heaters as safely as possible with these safety tips:
- Place your heater on a level surface, well away from anything that could knock it over, such as a door or where pets are running around.
- Make sure your heater is at least one metre away from combustible materials, such as paper, furniture, or curtains.
- Never dry clothes directly on or in close proximity to your heater.
- If you need to dry clothes in the same room as your heater or open fire, ensure they are placed well away from the heat to reduce the risk of a fire starting.
- Never leave your heater unattended whilst in use or while you are asleep.
- Never power a heater from an extension lead – they can easily be overloaded and cause fires.
- Regularly inspect your heater for damage and deterioration. If it isn’t in good condition, don’t use it!
- Avoid buying second hand heaters. Make sure you buy from recognised manufacturers and retailers.
- Always register a new portable heater (and your other electrical appliances) with the manufacturer. That way you can be contacted easily if a safety notice is issued, or recall is required. To find out more information about registering your appliances, visit our Product Registration page.
- Use our free online Product Recall checker to see if your portable heater or any other electrical items have been recalled.