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Electrical Fires: Identify the Hazards and Reduce the load on Your Home’s Electrical System.

Updated: Jul 25, 2023


There are over 50 thousand electrical fires in homes each year costing hundreds of lives and well over a billion dollars in property damage.

More than half of the electrical fires each year are caused by an Arc fault. An Arc fault occurs when a wire is frayed, cracked, cut, nicked, or compressed interrupting the normal path contained within the wire's insulation and allowing the current to take an unplanned electrical path outside the wire or between two wires. This can be caused by cracks in old wire or plugs, a nail driven into the wall that ends up nicking a wire, or a wire for a lamp that is being compressed by the leg of a couch or end table. These arc points can become easily stressed and get very hot, igniting, flooring, drapes, insulation, and other household items.


With all the electronics in our homes today it is easy to overload breakers, outlets, and wiring that may not have been designed to take on the demands of today’s wired world. The use of power strips, extension cords, space heaters, and conditioners abound and heavily stress a home’s electrical systems.


Detection:

Have an electrician inspect the home. Check the breaker box, outlets, and switches. Let them know about any issues you have encountered.

  1. Do you have breakers that trip frequently?

  2. Do your switch plates or outlet covers feel hot, or look discolored, is there a smell, are there any sounds?

  3. Do you have any flickering lights?

  4. Do plugs fit snuggly into the outlets?

While the electrician is there, ask about AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters) breakers, that detect arc faults in the system and consider replacing old breakers with these advanced breakers.


Best Practices:

  • Install Smoke detectors on each level, in every bedroom, and outside the sleeping areas and test them on schedule several times a year. Over 65% of death in house fires are in homes that have no working smoke detectors.

  • Limit the use of power strips, consider adding outlets, if you use power stripes, consider smart strips and extenders with surge protection, that can be on timers, remotely operated by an App, and have shutoffs for each outlet on the strip.

  • Consider AFCI breakers (mentioned in the section above) and use GFCIs (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) on any outlets near water. Consider smart plugs for control over small appliances, or get into the habit of unplugging small appliances.

  • Replace older outlets and switches and use tamper-resistant outlets if children are in the home. Here’s an idea, replace the old outlets and switches part of your prep when painting rooms.

  • Use space heaters on half power, never with extension cords, and only when home.

  • Only use lightbulbs with the wattage recommended on the fixture.

  • Retire old appliances that exhibit warning signs, like excessive heat, frayed wires, etc.

  • Establish an escape plan for your home and practice it. (See our blog: Elements of a Fire Escape Plan).

Start on this list by having your electrician come by to evaluate what needs are particular to your home, and to help you prioritize, giving you the greatest benefits on day one.


The link below brings you to several fire safety products to help in your endeavor to make your home safe.

Plan for safety,


Andy, Senior Editor

Sources: ESFI.org/Home-electrical- fires, Thehartford.com/about-us/junior-fire-marshal/electrical-fire-safety, Rootelectrical.com/how-to-prevent-electrical-fires/


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