Top 5 Causes of Electrical Fires & How to Prevent Them

A house fire is a homeowner’s worst nightmare. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there are over a million house fires annually, causing over $14 billion in damage. Not only do they cause a lot of damage to the home, but they can also be deadly. In 2015 alone, over 3,200 people lost their lives to fires.

Unfortunately, electrical systems and appliances are some of the leading causes of house fires, and they’re also one of the costliest. The Electrical Safety Foundation International estimates that electrical fires annually account for $1.2 billion in property damage. To minimize your risk of an electric fire, be sure to check for these five warning signs and address them immediately:

1. Outdated Wiring

If your home is older, then you may have an outdated style of wiring in your home known as “knob and tube wiring.” This style, used in pre-1950’s era homes, used two-pronged outlets as opposed to three-pronged, which means the outlets are not grounded.

They also can’t handle the kind of electrical output that modern appliances and technology demand, which puts your electrical system at risk of overheating and catching fire. Even worse, the old styles of insulation used in knob and tube wiring are known to dry out. This dried out insulation can act as kindling and cause electrical fires to spread even quicker.

If you have outdated wiring, call a professional electrician to inspect and update the entire system. A local electrician can also perform any necessary electric repair.

2. Overloaded Circuits

While it’s easy to see how you could overload a knob and tube style electrical system, did you know it’s also common in modern homes? Even though they’re wired to handle a higher capacity, you must still be careful about how much power you’re utilizing at one time.

Think about this common example. You’ve got all the gadgets you’ve ever wanted for your entertainment system – a big screen TV, surround sound speakers, all the latest video game systems, and the cable and wifi boxes. Not only that, but you also have extension cords running everywhere to power your lights, laptops, and other necessities.

Then, when you’re cleaning, you plug your vacuum cleaner into the same outlet with all these other gadgets. Perhaps you notice your lights dim when you turn the vacuum on. This means the circuit is overloaded, and your home is at serious risk of an electric fire.

That’s why it’s important to make a conscious effort to never overload your outlets. If you don’t have enough outlets to accommodate your needs, keep your home and your family safe by calling a trusted electrician to install additional outlets.

3. Improper Wattage

Light bulbs aren’t one-size-fits-all, so be sure to follow wattage guidelines for all light fixtures around your home. A 100-watt light bulb in a light fixture that calls for a 60-watt bulb can cause the whole thing to catch on fire. That’s why it’s important to never go above the maximum wattage listed on your lighting fixtures.

4. Old Appliances

If you haven’t replaced your appliances in a while, they’re likely safety hazards. Old appliances may have frayed cords, loose or faulty wiring, and more that can cause them to catch fire. Furthermore, due to the high flammability of old insulation used in these appliances, a simple electrical repair to address these issues may not be enough. It’s best to purchase updated appliances to ensure your safety.

5. No GFCI Outlets

It’s important to install GFCI outlets in areas of your home that are likely to see a lot of moisture, such as your bathroom, kitchen, and even your basement. This is because GFCI outlets are designed to protect your home from electric fires by cutting power as soon as a surge in power is detected in the current, which is often caused by exposure to moisture. If your home is lacking GFCI outlets, an electrician in Raleigh can help install them for you.

Be sure to check your entire home to identify spots that put you at risk. When in doubt, it’s best to play it safe and ask a licensed electrician to inspect your home for you. Electrical fires affect the lives of thousands of American each year. With a little mindfulness and preparation, you can make sure that you aren’t one of them.