What Causes an Electrical Fire in a House?

what causes an electrical fire in a houseEver wondered what causes an electrical fire in a house? You may be surprised to learn it really boils down to just a few scenarios. The U.S. Fire Administration says that Americans experience 25,000 electrical fires annually. These infernos cause injury or death for up to 1,300 people each year. You may also be surprised to learn that almost all of those fires could be avoided with a little preventive care.

Faulty Wiring Is Dangerous

The U.S. Fire Administration also says that faulty wiring is the number one cause of electrical fires. But what causes faulty wiring?

  • Age: homes that are two decades old or more are at higher risk of having faulty wiring behind the walls.
  • Rodents: mice, rats, squirrels, and other critters find their way into homes and chew on cords all the time. In fact, a weasel recently snuck into the Large Hadron Collider, a $7 billion dollar scientific installation in Switzerland, chewed through a cord and shut the whole thing down.
  • Shoddy installation: cutting corners to save time or money is all too common among the home building trades, including electricians.
  • Overloading the electrical system: expecting your older home’s electrical system to handle your modern-day electrical demands can damage appliances, wiring, and the breaker box.

Extension Cord Errors

Misusing extension cords is another common cause of house fires. As you can probably guess, the holiday season is the most common time for extension cord-related fires to occur. It’s also important to only consider an extension cord a temporary solution. Don’t use extension cords as a permanent solution for plugging several things in at one location.

Other Power Cord Problems

Besides overloading extension cords, there are plenty of things you can do wrong with electrical cords. Any of these situations can cause an electrical fire:

  • If the power cord for any kind of device is frayed, do not plug it into a socket. Doing so runs the risk of having electricity escape the cord through the holes and set fire to the surrounding materials.
  • Removing the round grounding prong from a plug so that it can be put into a two-prong plug is another no-no. Devices with three-prong plugs draw more electricity than a two-prong outlet is equipped to deliver.
  • Placing cords underneath rugs is another big safety hazard. This is exponentially true if the cord under the rug is old or frayed.

Space Heaters May Pose a Hazard

Some homes simply do not have even heating and cooling delivered to every room. An easy workaround for this problem in the winter is a space heater. The kind of space heater that uses super-heated coils pose the biggest fire hazard because the coils get so incredibly hot. They can instantly set fire to curtains, bedding, carpet, or any other nearby combustible material.

If you do need a space heater to help you through the winter, choose the enclosed radiator type device. They don’t have any exposed heating elements to catch things on fire. However, it’s still wise to keep these space heaters away from drapes, beds, furniture, and other burnable items. Another advantage of these space heaters versus other types is that they are practically silent!

Using the Wrong Light Bulbs Can Cause Fires

Did you know that light fixtures and lamps have a maximum allowable wattage for light bulbs? Using a higher watt bulb than the device allows is another common cause of electrical fires. Avoiding this kind of house fire is easy: simply check the light fixture or lamp for the recommended wattage and stick to that size bulb.

Preventing Electrical Fires in Your Home

The older your home is, the higher your chances of having outdated or faulty wiring inside your walls. An electrical system inspection is a great starting point. This visit is a great opportunity for your electrician to identify the areas of your electrical system that are of greatest concern.

The next steps following the inspection may include upgrading your electrical panel, or rewiring your home. What needs to happen will depend on the conditions your electrician finds. An electrician should always replace fuse boxes with a state-of-the-art breaker box. Inadequate wiring and fixtures have to go to make way for modern materials that meet current building code standards.

Getting your home’s electrical system upgraded will reduce your risk of electrical fire. It will also improve your family’s ability to use all the modern electrical conveniences. In addition, upgrades such as these will increase your home’s value.

Still wondering what causes an electrical fire in a house? Call Arc Angel at 770.889.9243 for the answers you need.