Whether you live in an older home or one that was just built, you need to be careful when it comes to electricity. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), home electrical fires account for approximately 51,000 fires and nearly 500 deaths each year. Take precautions by following these tips, and ensure your home and family are kept safe.
Check your outlets
You’ve probably heard this one before, but overloading sockets can lead to electrical fires. Avoid plugging in multiple large appliances into a single outlet or plugging in any major appliance into an extension cord. Keep in mind that outlets in older homes often can’t compete with those in newer homes as they weren’t designed to meet the demands of many modern appliances and electronics we use today.
Inspect old wiring
If you have an older home, make sure the wiring is up to date. An electrical system lasts 30-40 years and then needs to be replaced. If your home is still running on old wiring, it’s not safe. If you have fuses that blow often and repeatedly or circuit breakers that trip, the power supply is likely inadequate. Call an electrical contractor to inspect your home electrical system and recommend the best course of action. Additionally, if any of your wires or cords are tattered, worn, or damaged they need to be replaced immediately.
Was your home built in the ‘60s or ‘70s? It may have aluminum wiring, which can corrode and oxidize more easily than copper—what is used in newer homes. Aluminum can more quickly wear out and overheat, which can start a fire.
Buy trustworthy products
Resist the temptation to buy the cheapest electrical products you come across. Make sure you’re purchasing from reputable stores where you can return products if they don’t work properly. Also check to see if products have the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) seal.
Upgrade to AFCIs
One of the leading causes of electrical fires is arc faults—when an electrical current veers off its path (due to damaged wiring or loose connection), resulting in high intensity heat. To prevent this, consider installing an arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI), which can detect problems and shut down a circuit to prevent overheating and fires. These are required in new houses and can be added to older homes fairly easily by a professional electrician.
Ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) are used to prevent ground faults and reduce the risk of electrocution. When a ground fault is detected, the GFCI will automatically shut off or trip the circuit. Typically, GFCIs are installed in wet areas of your home such as the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room.
Look at light bulb wattage
Double check the wattage of each of your bulbs to make sure they match the requirement labeled on its corresponding fixture. Bulbs with higher wattages or ones that aren't screwed in tight can overheat.
Locate your fire extinguisher
If an electrical fire occurs, don't throw water on the area as you could get electrocuted. Double check that you have an A-B-S rate fire extinguisher that can properly extinguish an electrical fire (and make sure you know how to use it correctly)!
Following these safety tips can help make your home a lot safer for many years to come. To learn more about preventing house fires, subscribe to our blog.