3 Common Causes of Home Electrical Fires & How to Prevent Them

Posted on: 17 March 2017

Did you know that a significant percentage of home fires are electrical fires, often caused by some problem with the home's wiring? Between 2007 and 2011, electrical fires accounted for 13% of home fires. They also accounted for 18% of associated civilian deaths and 20% of associated direct property damage.

For homeowners, electrical fires may seem harder to prevent than other kinds of fires. You know how to practice kitchen safety, but what do you know about making sure that your home wiring is safe? Take a look at some of the common causes of electrical fires in the home, and find out what you can do to prevent them.

Faulty Outlets

Have you ever woken up late in the morning because your alarm didn't go off, and discovered that the alarm wasn't plugged in—even if you're sure you plugged it in the night before? It may be that the plug simply fell out of the outlet. If you have one or more outlets that seem to have difficulty gripping what you plug into them, you have a fire hazard on your hands.

When plugs seem to slide or fall out of an outlet, that means that the contacts inside the outlet are worn out. That's why they can't grip your plugs as securely as they should. But it's more than just an inconvenience. When the plug prongs and contacts fail to connect properly, it can cause an electric arcing, which can lead to house fires.

Luckily, this is a simple enough problem to fix. All you need to do to prevent a potential fire is have the faulty outlet, or outlets, replaced.

Overloaded Extension Cords

What do you do if you find that you don't have enough outlets to hook up all the components of your home entertainment system, or if there isn't an outlet on the side of the room where you want to set up your new computer? An extension cord is an easy answer. Unfortunately, overloading extension cords is a common cause of house fires.

While fires caused by extension cords may sound like a cord problem and not a home wiring problem, you ultimately end up with overloaded extension cords because your home's wiring and outlets aren't meeting your needs. The safest way to avoid overloading extension cords is to hire an electrical contractor to rewire the home to meet your needs.

Many homes, particularly older ones, were simply not designed for the level of electric appliance usage that the average homeowner needs. Today's homeowner simply needs more outlets than homeowner's did a few decades ago. But that's no reason to just accept a lack of outlets, and it's definitely not a reason to use unsafe methods to get power when and where you need it. An electrical contractor can add outlets where you need them and make sure there in good enough shape to handle your normal use of them.

Old Wiring

You may be at risk for an electrical fire simply because your wiring is old. Just as an older home's electrical outlet layout wasn't designed for today's high technology and appliance usage, the actual wiring inside the walls wasn't designed for today's electrical usage either. If your circuit breaker trips frequently, your fuses blow often, or your lights dim or flicker for no reason, those are good signs that you have older wiring that needs an upgrade.

If your home was built before 1972, you may also have aluminum wiring to worry about. Aluminum was frequently installed in the 60s and 70s because of its lower cost, but that wiring has been linked to a number of electrical fires. Homeowners who have aluminum wiring in their homes are advised to either have the wires replaced with copper wire or at least have any connection points where the aluminum is exposed to air replaced.

If you know or suspect that your home's wiring is very old or made from aluminum, you should hire a contractor to inspect your electrical system. Your home may need a complete rewiring for your safety.

If you're noticing loose outlets, if you have to overload extension cords to run all of your appliances, or if you have reason to suspect that you have old wiring, those are all signs that you're at risk for an electrical fire. Don't wait to address those problems—play it safe and consult an electrician. Doing so may prevent a dangerous fire. 

To learn more or receive further assistance, contact services like Dunedin Electric Co., Inc.