An electrical fire is one of the worst problems any homeowner can face. In fact, every year, electrical fires cost roughly $3.4 billion worth of damage to residential houses across America. The good news is that by understanding the causes of electrical fires, you can help prevent them. Keep reading to learn the top seven causes of electrical fires here, and remember that you can always call our expert electricians at A-TEMP Heating, Cooling & Electrical for the essential services you need.
The 7 Most Common Causes of Electrical Fires
- Old Wiring: If your home was built more than 20 years ago, there is a good chance that you are dealing with some outdated wiring. When worn-out wiring doesn’t have the capacity to meet a modern homeowner’s energy needs, your circuit breaker may start to overload more frequently, and you may experience semi-regular power outages. This is a common sign of faulty wiring, so if you have been dealing with a lot of outages lately, make sure to hire an electrician to inspect your wiring as soon as possible.
- Broken Outlets: Outlets are the most commonplace for an electrical fire to start. This tends to happen when sparking or an arc (a kind of electrical discharge occurs) comes out of the receptacle, causing the wiring behind it to catch fire. To prevent this from happening, inspect your sockets and switches regularly for soot, as this is a common sign that sparking has recently occurred. If you do live in a home with old, outdated outlets, consider calling A-TEMP Heating, Cooling & Electrical for an upgrade. We can help install GFCI outlets, which prevent sparking, arcing, and fires by causing your breaker to trip when a circuit is overloaded. Speaking of which…
- Overloaded Circuits: Your electrical circuits can become overloaded for many reasons, such as old wiring and faulty outlets, as well as plugging too many devices into one power cord and running too many heavy-duty appliances at once. One way to prevent this is switching from multiple power strips to a dedicated circuit. Dedicated circuits are designed to run directly from your electrical panel to one specific appliance, piece of electrical equipment, or plug. They are often connected to kitchen appliances, kitchen counter receptacles, GFCI exterior receptacles, heaters, and other essential electrical devices.
- Outdated Appliances: Regardless of whether you are using power strips or a dedicated circuit, one thing that often poses a fire risk to your home is outdated appliances. Older electrical appliances were not designed to meet the same standards as modern ones, meaning they may simply not be as safe to use. Compound that with any frayed cords and loose wiring in your appliances, and you’ve got a potential fire hazard on your hands. The good news is that there are many safe, affordable, modern electrical appliances capable of meeting your needs, so do not hesitate to inspect older ones for damage, and make an upgrade if necessary. After all, as attached as you may be to that microwave you had in college, it’s not worth causing a fire over!
- Mismatched Light Bulbs: It’s important to remember that not all lightbulbs and light fixtures are compatible with each other. As a result, making the mistake of screwing a high-wattage bulb into a low-wattage lamp can lead to an electrical fire. That’s why you should always check the wattage on your bulbs before installing them. It’s also a good idea to use energy-efficient, LED lightbulbs in your fixtures as much as possible, and check that decorative lighting is up-to-date with all modern safety standards.
- Incorrect Fixture Coverings: If your lamp/fixture did not come with a shade, you should be careful of throwing a makeshift one over it, as the cloth in this covering could be highly flammable. If your light fixture is prone to overheating, inspect it to see if there is a problem. And if you are struggling with light fixtures throughout your home, do not hesitate to give our experts at A-TEMP a call for a quality lighting installation.
- Space Heaters: The reputation space heaters have for causing electrical fires is quite accurate. While a portable heater may seem like a good idea if you live in a part of the country that doesn’t get too cold during the winter, these appliances heat up extremely quickly, and can set nearby materials such as curtains or bedding aflame almost instantly if something goes wrong (one common example of this—accidentally tripping over a space heater cord.) If you do decide to use a space heater, make sure it is placed on a flat surface, away from anything that could be flammable. Make sure to also unplug your space heater when you are done using it, and never leave it in a room unattended.