Most electrical fires occur due to ignorance. In the event of an electrical fire, do not attempt to extinguish it by using water. In the heat of the moment, people tend to forget that water and electricity are not the best of friends. Remember to stay safe and keep yourself informed about fire safety procedures.
To know how to avoid electrical fires, it is critical for one to be aware of the potential dangers and causes of electrical fires. The following are the top 6 causes of electrical fires.
1. Faulty Outlets and Appliances
A high percentage of electrical fires happen due to old, outdated appliances and faulty electrical outlets. In most cases, the fires start as a result of a fault in the switch, receptacle or the appliance cords. It is advisable to avoid using appliances with frayed or worn cords; this is because they can transfer heat onto combustible objects or surfaces like floors, rugs and curtains, which have the potential of starting a fire. Always remember to keep your electrical cabinets and cooling systems upgraded in regular maintenance checks.
Running faulty cords under a rug is also another major cause of electrical fires. Whenever people have a three-pin plug, but a two-prong electrical outlet, they tend to remove the grounding plug so it can fit; this is another potential cause of electrical fires. The reason appliances are fitted with the extra prong is to make sure they can handle the excess electricity.
2. Light Fixtures
Light fixtures, bulbs and lamps are also common causes of electrical fires. In most cases, this happens when someone installs a bulb with a wattage that is too much for the light fixtures or lamps to handle. Before installing a bulb, it is always wise to check for the recommended wattage of the bulb or lighting fixture and make sure the bulb does not exceed the indicated amount.
Another way a light fixture can lead to a fire is when someone places a material like paper or cloth over it. What happens is the material gains heat, and after some time it will ignite, resulting in a fire. Having a faulty light fixture or lamp can also result in a fire. Although light fixtures serve an essential purpose at home, they can be dangerous if mishandled.
3. Extension Cords
Although extension cords are helpful, they can be a nightmare for homeowners. Misuse of extension cords is one of the leading causes of electrical fires. One way of misusing it is by overloading the circuits. Extension cords should be used as a temporary measure. Use them only when you have to. It is also not advisable to use an extension cord to turn a 2-prong outlet to a 3-prong outlet since this can cause an electrical fire.
If you are using surge protectors, make sure they are equipped with internal overload protection. Just because an extension cord has six plugs does not mean you should plug six appliances into it. Avoid loading extension cords with heavy-duty appliances such as space heaters and microwaves; just plug them directly. If you touch an extension cord and it feels hot, unplug it right away since this means a fire is brewing.
Whenever you find yourself needing to use a lot of extension cords, call a qualified, licensed electrician to add extra outlets and rewire your home. Although electrical work can be expensive, you do not want to risk your family’s safety.
4. Space Heaters
Since these heaters are portable, people tend to place them near combustible surfaces such as rugs, couches, chairs, clothing, beds and curtains. Coil space heaters are dangerous because the coils get so hot they can instantly ignite any nearby combustible surface or object.
If you have to use a space heater, use the radiator type since, over time, it diffuses heat in the entire appliance surface. The space heater is less likely to ignite combustible items and surfaces, but it still shouldn’t be placed close to them.
5. Outdated Wiring
Another common cause of electrical fires is outdated wiring. If, for example, your home has been standing for over 20 years, its wiring might not have the capacity to handle today’s average home electrical appliances such as air conditioners, microwaves, video and gaming players, wide-screen televisions, and computers.
When a circuit gets overloaded with too much electricity, the breaker should be automatically triggered, but if the breaker box is outdated, the connectors might have worn out and stopped functioning, which could lead to an electrical fire. Telling whether your home’s wiring is faulty or outdated can be hard because, in most cases, it is hidden behind the walls.
6. Ungrounded Electrical Outlets
Ungrounded electrical outlets are potential fire hazards, especially when a power surge occurs. You can easily tell if your home’s outlets are grounded by identifying the number of prongs. If there are three prongs, then the outlets are grounded. The extra third slot is basically the “ground” slot, which gives excess electricity a safe escape in case of a power surge. A two-prong outlet does not feature a grounding mechanism, meaning it is not protected in case of a power surge.