Builders can’t predict the occupant’s furniture arrangement unless you tell them beforehand.
For that reason, residential homes are prone to have electrical outlets in inconvenient places.
That’s why you might be tempted to place your sofa right next to an electrical outlet.
So, Is It Safe to Put Furniture in Front of an Electrical Outlet?
Yes, certainly, but can depend on a few factors including the kind of the furniture, whether you plan to use that specific electrical outlet, and so on. Perhaps the biggest worry is the risk of fire. While socket-related fires are rare, they can’t be ruled out entirely.
There are 2 common types of electrical outlets –
- wall outlets.
These two are treated a little differently when positioning your furniture.
1. Wall-based Electrical Outlets
These outlets are installed on the wall a few feet from the floor.
Think Twice in Situations Involving Beds and Chairs
Sitting or sleeping right next to an active wall-based electrical outlet comes with a few concerns that must be put into consideration.
EMFs (electric magnetic fields) are produced by almost anything that uses electricity, meaning all of your electronics are culprits although it can depend on the size of the current in use.
However, the strongest EMFs in your home don’t come from the TV or washer but where you draw the electricity – wall outlets and extension cords.
A higher concentration of EMFs can be detected near electrical boxes as well but no sane homeowner would install any of those in indoor spaces.
Research on the effect of EMFs on human health is scanty, but most experts believe that, in prolonged exposure, they inflict the same harm as X-ray and CT scans.
Basically, they qualify as a form of radiation and fall in the electromagnetic spectrum.
They can be low frequency / low energy or high-frequency/high-energy depending on their position on the spectrum – the EMFs emanating from your electrical outlets and electrical box are high-energy.
As you can tell, placing your bed or chair close to a functional electrical outlet will certainly expose you to the ionizing effect of these EMFs in the area and inflict damages on the DNA in your cells. A mutation or cancer may ensue thereafter.
The IARC (International Agency Research on Cancer) has since recognized low-energy non-ionizing EMFs as carcinogenic (cancer-inducing) and consequently placed them in the radio frequency range with the designation “Group 2B”.
The electromagnetic fields created near electrical outlets and high-energy systems are also thought to cause leukemia especially in small children.
Deactivate Your Wall Outlets If You Must Put Furniture Close to Them
- Covering the electrical outlets sounds like an automatic thing anyone should do to a disused socket.
- Another option (a better one, I might add) is to deactivate the outlet completely and reduce the risk even further. The best way to do this is to turn off your circuit breaker (the one feeding the outlet).
2. Floor-based Electrical Outlets
These outlets are installed on the floor and are harder to avoid blocking with your furniture.
Keep the Manufacturer’s Cover
Floor outlets (and wall outlets sometimes) almost always come with safety covers added by the maker.
Of the two types of outlets, it’s the floor-based variety that needs the cover most for protection from debris and water.
So don’t throw away the covers that came with them.
Instead, fasten them back on the outlets and place your furniture on top of it.
Install a Rubber Mat over the outlet
If you don’t plan to use your floor-based outlet and want to place your furniture over it, and you lost the covers, just install a clean and dry rubber mat before you do so.
Why rubber mat though?
Well, some rubber mats come with fire retardants and rubber is a bad conductor of electricity.
So, in the event of an electrical accident involving your floor-based outlet, electrocution or fire will be unlikely.
Mats are slip-resistant as well.
If your floor outlet is raised slightly, go for a colored rubber mat so that you can locate the position of the outlet at any time.
Leave Some Space
If you must place your furniture over your floor outlet, leave a clearance of a few inches around the outlet so that you don’t damage it with the weight and rubbing effect of the furniture.
Tables and Non-Sitting or Sleeping Furniture Are Perfectly OK Near Electrical Outlets
If the builder didn’t design your rooms properly and your electrical outlets ended up in inconvenient places, feel free to put install your tables and similar non-sitting or sleeping furniture near such outlets.
That way, you won’t have to worry about exposure to electromagnetic waves.
In fact, it might end up positively working for you as such items as TVs and sound systems need to sit on specialized stands and tables.
If all these are close to the electrical outlet, it will certainly reduce the size of cables running in your room.
When to Not Place Furniture Near Electrical Outlets
There are a few situations when placing furniture or anything else near an electrical outlet would be out of cards. Here are a few:
1. You Like to Overload Your Outlet
We’re generally discouraged from overloading our electrical outlets but there are instances you’d run out of options and pile up a bunch of cables on the same outlet.
If you have just two outlets in a room, for instance, but must power several devices some of which wouldn’t function well if linked on an extension cord, you’d have no choice but pile a few on each outlet.
It works all the time, only risky.
It isn’t entirely a bad thing to ‘overload’ your outlet, just make sure you don’t surpass the amperage it’s designed for.
Leave a reasonable clearance around your ‘overloaded’ outlet to reduce the extent of electrical fire accidents.
2. You Think Your Access to The Outlet Will Be Restricted
Furniture can be a hard obstacle to bypass if placed right next to an electrical outlet.
Things could get a little bothersome if you have to plug in and out your cables too often.
Unless you invest in a quality extension cord, you might be compelled to use any other outlet.
3. Your Bedroom Has No Arc-Fault Type Circuit Breaker
Most building codes in the country now demand that you install an arc-fault type circuit breaker in your bedroom.
There’s a reason for that requirement.
You want to be protected in the event shorting occurs in your mattress pad or electric blanket.
Arc-type circuit breakers do exactly that – they break the circuit if an electric arc is detected.
Electric arcs are quite commonplace than you might imagine.
Something seemingly minor as a loose connection is enough to trigger one.
What makes loose connections more dangerous is they build up over a long period to start a fire when you least expect it.
So, if your local building code doesn’t say anything about arc-type circuit breakers and you don’t have one in your room for protection, you should take all precautions to ensure safety including placing your bed and other items away from the electrical outlets.
To summarize everything, yes – it’s OK to place your furniture at your electrical outlet but your safety should be paramount.
Also, don’t block an outlet you plan to use unless you extend it with an extension cord.