Some factors that cause electrical fires start in the wiring between your walls, meaning there's not a lot you can do to prevent them except by having regular safety inspections by a licensed electrician (and noticing danger signs early). However, some of top causes of fires are actually preventable things like misusing extension cords and using heaters unsafely. Here are three electrical fire risk factors you can watch out for and how you can avoid each one.
1. Overloaded circuits
Some homes with ancient wiring systems have a very low capacity by modern standards, meaning that you may be overloading the wiring without even realizing it. Be sure to have your electrician analyze the wiring system for load capability each time you have an inspection done. Some signs that your wiring is ancient and potentially unsafe include:
- Having only a couple of electrical outlets in each room
- Having visible knob and tube wiring somewhere in the house
- Having a fuse box instead of a circuit breaker box
- Not having GFCI outlets in the kitchen and bathroom
Be sure to contact your electrician for advice if this sounds like your house. Some of these things, especially a lack of GFCIs, can pose an immediate threat of electrocution rather than just a threat of electrical fire.
2. Unsafe workarounds
If you do have an old wiring system with too few outlets and too-small wiring to support your modern lifestyle safely, what are you doing about it? The safe option is to have your electrician either re-wire the whole house or just add a few circuits. If instead you're draping extension cords across the floor (especially cheap, inferior ones from a flea market) or using devices that allow you to plug more items into each outlet, you're living an unsafe lifestyle. These methods explicitly try to load up your outlets with more appliances and devices than they can handle. There's a reason each outlet only comes with space for two plugs.
3. Appliances and light fixtures
The space heater is one of the most dangerous types of appliances. Why? Because it's actually designed to emit heat, and heat is an inherent fire hazard. Read the warnings that come with your space heater carefully and make sure to keep it more than the recommended distance away from everything else in the room, especially anything that could potentially burn, melt, overheat and die, or produce toxic fumes. Other appliance and light fixture hazards include:
- Using very old appliances (that may not have been built to the same safety code)
- Placing things on top of lampshades
- Using light bulbs that exceed the recommended strength for that fixture
These three reasons your home may be at risk show that there's a lot you can do to prevent electrical fires. Even the type of fires that start inside your walls can often be prevented by making sure you aren't overloading your electrical system, are getting regular inspections, and looking out for warning signs such as hot or smoking outlets. Contact a company like Dunedin Electric Co., Inc. for more information.