Electrical fires are one of the most prevalent causes of fatal incidents at home. According to the Australian bureau of statistics, over 100 people are killed every year in house fires caused by faulty electrics. Sadly, in most cases this grim statistic could have been easily prevented. The most common causes of electric fires are overloaded outlets, poor connections, faulty equipment, improper wiring, and holiday decorations. Let’s investigate these top five culprits and see what we can do to prevent electrical fires.
Don’t overload the outlets
Overloading is a common cause of electrical fires. It happens when you plug too many appliances into the same outlet, power strip or an extension cord. Extension cords pose a higher threat in older homes, where there are often not enough outlets for all the appliances we have today. However, even this isn’t a problem until you start ‘extending’ extension cords. Such a ‘rig’ often exceeds the power rating for the appliance and can cause the wall outlet to overheat and catch fire. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to plug an extension cord into another extension cord, consider investing in another outlet. If you have to use extensions, always buy power strips with internal overload protection which shut down when overloaded.
Check the heat
One of the most significant by-products of electric current is heat. Basically, that’s how electric heating works. Under normal circumstances, the heat is minimal, because a proper home wiring is designed to prevent any potential hotspots. However, a faulty device can create much more heat than it normally would. It usually occurs due to a poor connection, like in worn or loose outlets, damaged switches or corroded electrical fittings. If a switch or an outlet is getting warm, it’s time for replacement. Similarly, if a home appliance doesn’t perform in the same way as when you bought it, but the power cord is still hot, it probably draws more current than it should.
Hire only licensed electricians
A qualified and conscientious electrician will always follow the guidelines and technical specifications to provide you with a safe and effective electrical system. These technicians are trained and know exactly what they are doing, with no room for trial and error. Unfortunately, many DIY enthusiasts decide to take things into their own hands, unaware that inexpertly repaired wiring, can set a stage for electrical fire later on. So, no matter how urgent your situation is, there is absolutely no reason to cut corners as you can always find a 24 hour electrician in case of an emergency.
Keep flammable materials safe
Any electrical appliance that produces heat can start a fire if left unattended near flammable materials, like drapes, blankets, towels and rugs. Portable electric space heaters are particularly notorious, but also don’t underestimate irons, hair dryers and even portable lamps. Never try to hide cables, especially extension cords under rugs or carpets as they can start a fire if they overheat. If you need to store any flammable liquids in home or garage, make sure to keep them away from heat sources.
Careful with decorations
As the holiday season is approaching, it’s time to remind you that decorations are one of the main causes of electrical fires in homes. The reason – extension cords are virtually everywhere, fairy lights are placed in foliage, and candles are often left unattended. It doesn’t take a genius to see how holiday decorations can become a recipe for disaster. When you get your decoration lights out of the dusty box, make sure you discard any strings with faulty bulbs or damaged wiring or plugs. Even better, purchase LED fairy lights. Although more expensive, they don’t burn out, don’t emit heat and last much longer than regular bulbs.
With a good understanding of potential causes of electrical fires, as well as the effects of electrical faults, it’s easy to prevent them from occurring.