Electrical fires are unfortunately common in American homes. According to Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), an estimated 51,000 residential fires involving electrical failure and malfunction occur each year. On an annual average, these destructive fires are responsible for 500 civilian deaths, 1,400 injuries, and $1.3 billion in damage to property.
Common Causes of Electrical Fires
Most electrical fires in homes are sparked off by incorrectly installed wiring (often DIY wiring), overloaded circuits, and misuse of extension cords. While it is always safer and more efficient to have any electrical work carried out by a certified electrical contractor, there are many things you can do at home to prevent fires.
Knowing where to place your items is also key. For example, portable heaters should be placed near the center of the room and away from walls, curtains, beds, and other furniture.
Know How to Set Up New Appliances
If you are attempting to set up a new appliance by yourself without help from a professional electrician, you should double-check all your connections. Be sure to refer to the instruction manual completely and thoroughly. Certain electrical appliances require a voltage regulator, and should not be plugged directly into any socket. You should make sure that you know these specific requirements ahead of time.
Use Extension Cords Safely
Extension cords are one of the most common causes of electrical problems. This kind of electrical fire is both the most common and most easily preventable. In order to avoid electric fires from extension cords, make sure that the capacity of the extension cord matches that of the appliance(s) that you are using. The total wattage of all devices connected should never exceed the extension cord capacity.
While using extension cords, you should also make sure that it is not cracked or broken. Older extension cords can begin to come apart, exposing wires. Exposed metal wires anywhere can lead to electrical fires. Be sure to discard all cords and plugs that are worn or frayed.
Another form of an electrical extension in the surge protector or power strip cords. Typically, these have six or more outlets in the device with one main cord that plugs into a wall outlet. These are helpful when you have a need for using multiple electronic devices in one common area such as a home office, kitchen or living room.
However, it is crucial to use caution at all times with these electrical outlets. Most importantly, never ever “piggy back” one power strip into another! This can easily start a fire, affect your circuit breakers, or worse, cause electric shock. As a leading cause of electrical house fires, it is always a good idea to safely plug your electrical cords in a spaced out power strip in order to prevent potential fire hazards.
Prongs on plugs are also important to recognize. To effectively update the safety of your outlets, try replacing two-pronged outlets with three-pronged outlets. This allows a stable, secure insert of your device and decreases likelihood of a device getting loose from the wall outlet. For everyone’s safety, never break off the third prong on a plug to plug it into a two-pronged outlet. This is extremely dangerous and creates more potential problems that may compromise the safety of you and your home.
Address Wiring Problems
Make sure you address complications related to electrical wiring as soon you find them. Time can take a toll even on the best electrical wiring, especially near lighting fixtures and light switches. So it’s important to get wiring checked regularly. You can tell when a wiring system is defective by lights fluctuating or dimming.
In the United States, older homes built before 1970 are especially susceptible. It’s always a good idea to have a licensed electrician to check your home’s wiring and make any necessary repairs.
By keeping the above-mentioned things in mind, you can prevent electrical fires in your home and steer clear of property damage and potential loss of life.