Electrical fires in a home involving appliance faults or electrical faults are more common than you might think.
They are the third leading cause of home fires.
Most of these sad accidents are due to improper or lack of maintenance or repairs of electrical components in the home. It is always tragic as they are very preventable mistakes.
Electrical fires can happen in moments, so it's essential for the safety of you and your loved ones to check your home's electrical system regularly.
Electrical Safety Warnings
Sometimes it's relatively easy to recognize electrical hazards.
Other times, it takes an experienced eye to spot concerns.
Electrical work is a skilled trade that requires in-depth training and years of knowledge to master.
That's you must hire an electrician for all electrical work including fixing up faults
9 Ways to Avoid Electrical Fires
Determine the age of your electrical system
If your home was built in the '90s or before there have been no electrical upgrades, it's time to perform a thorough safety inspection and electrical audit for your home.
Modern appliances require more electricity and can put outdated wiring and circuits under pressure and overload them because they can't handle the amount of electricity needed by today's technology.
Overloaded wiring becomes hot, and this is how electrical fires start
If you are unsure about your home's wiring, hire a certified electrician to check your home's electrical connections and wiring.
Inspect power cords for frayed and exposed wires.
Faulty wiring is one of the most common causes of residential electrical fires.
Wires can fray or break due to their age, heat, corrosion or being bent out of shape. The protective cover and lining can also be nicked, pinched or pierced by nails or screws and these make contact with the live wires encased in the cord.
When a wire is frayed, it is not adequately insulated. Frayed wires can easily catch fire if electric current flows through them and they come in contact with combustible material (e.g., carpet, clothing, etc.).
If you suspect a wire is frayed, try disconnecting it safely to stop the flow of electricity.
When a frayed cord is an old extension cord, replacing the frayed wiring with a new unit is probably sufficient.
Call a certified electrician if ever in doubt to do a more thorough investigation.
Don't overload your power outlets.
Try not to plug too many appliances into one power strip or extension cord. For example, if your power strip has eight outlets, plug in only six or seven devices.
Overloading is another common cause of home fires. It is recommended that you purchase power boards with internal overload protection.
This acts as a failsafe, immediately cutting off power to your appliances if an unacceptable amount of current flows through the power strip. This drastically reduces the risk of a fire.
Watch for burning odours and smoke
Visible smoke or a burning smell is perhaps the most obvious signs and indications of an electrical fire hazard.
Smoke results from some overheating causes: Overload, faulty wiring, frayed wires, old outlets, etc.
If you notice smoke in your home you must go and investigate.
If you think smoke is coming from an appliance, immediately unplug it and any other appliances on that circuit or in the room.
Then start searching where the smoke is the strongest to try and identify where it is coming from.
For extra safety, you can also shut off the power with the main switch in your switchboard.
Calling an electrician can be a way to make sure you also get the right advice in what to do.
A clear sign of overheating is discolouration around an electrical outlet, light switch or light fixture.
Other dangerous signs include sparks when plugging in appliances, devices or outlets that feel hot to the touch and the sensation of electric shock when plugging in power cords.
Make sure smoke detectors are working correctly.
They won't stop an electrical fault but they will warn you if there is smoke which is the first sign that there is a fire or smouldering.
Modern smoke alarms are now connected to your home's electrical supply, so there are no more beeping batteries or flat batteries. Speak to an electrician to get new smoke detectors installed!
Check for flickering lights.
Have you noticed that sometimes your lights flicker when you plug in multiple appliances in the same room?
If the flickering is happening it is an indicator that you may be overloading your circuits or wiring. Check the wiring and circuit breaker for that part of your home and call an electrician to ensure your home's electrical system is operating under safe conditions.
Installing a light bulb with too high a wattage for the lamps and light fixtures is another leading cause of electrical fires. Before installing a high wattage light bulb, make sure the socket you are plugging the bulb into can handle the power you need. Never drape fabric over a light bulb.
Damage caused by rodents
Rats and mice are known to have an appetite for electrical wiring. During your electrical inspection, look for droppings or other signs of rodent activity.
If you see telltale signs of rodents, make sure to inspect the area for wire damage. Rodents chew on electrical wires, which can strip away vital insulation and ultimately put your home at high risk for fire.
Also, check that your pets have no being chewing on cords.
Puppies are known to chew on cords.
Be careful when using heaters.
Space heaters are a great tool if you only want to heat a specific area of your home, especially if your home doesn't have air conditioning.
However, their mobility poses a higher fire risk. Often, homeowners place these portable heating systems next to combustible materials such as curtains, beds, clothing, chairs, couches and rugs.
Heating coils in the heater are most likely to cause fires because the coils that generate the heat get so hot that most household materials catch fire immediately when they contact the coils.
If possible, switch to a heater that dissipates electricity evenly across the unit. This will drastically reduce heat dissipation and the risk of accidental fire.
Make your home electrical system safer today by calling your local electrician to get the right advice.