Basic Precautions Can Prevent Electrical Fires

Home energy efficiency

Electrical problems are a major cause of home fires, leading to property damage, injuries and even many deaths each year. While the number of electrical fires each year is alarming, there are some basic precautions that can ensure the safety of your home and prevent electrical fires. Carrying out electrical wiring repairs when needed and in a timely fashion can help to prevent many of these unfortunate incidents. It’s also important to know when to call a professional electrician to handle problems you can’t fix yourself.

Faulty wiring and misuse of electrical equipment can cause fires
Electrical problems and equipment cause thousands of home fires every year. U.S. fire departments reported that around 47,700 home structure fires in 2011 were caused by electrical failure or malfunction of some kind. Almost half or 48% of all non-confined home structure fires in the U.S. during 2007-2011 involved electrical failure or malfunction. Either the electrical distribution or lighting equipment contributed to ignition of the fire: wiring and related equipment caused 63% of these, while faulty lamps, light fixtures, and light bulbs were responsible for 20%. Cords and plugs accounted for 11% and transformers and power supplies caused 6% of the fires.
Most of these are problems that could have been identified in advance, and fixed. Faulty wiring can be repaired and if appliances are used properly, they are not a fire risk.

Regular inspections can locate potential hazards
Regular inspections by a qualified professional electrician can help to locate hazards before they become a problem. For most homes that are ten years old or more, inspections should be done whenever major renovations are carried out and if new appliances are installed in the home. If your home is more than 40 years old, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) recommends an electrical inspection to identify problems.
If any problems are found, the necessary electrical wiring repairs hours be done without delay.

What precautions can you take to see your home safer?
Clearly, home safety depends to a large extent on electrical safety. Luckily there are many precautions you can make to ensure that your home is not at risk. These range from common-sense measures like installing fire alarms in bedrooms and throughout the house to ensuring that any necessary electrical wiring repairs are carried out in a timely fashion.
Some home safety tips based on guidelines from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) include many basic common sense precautions:

  • if you know of any damaged or loose electrical cords anywhere in the house, these should be repaired or replaced. Don’t put off electrical wiring repair.
  • Extension cords should be kept on the floor where they cannot be stepped on. They should not trail across doorways or run under carpets.
  • Homes with small children should have tamper-resistant (TR) receptacle electrical outlets..
  • The misuse of extension cords is responsible for causing a large number of fires. Having more circuits or outlets added by a qualified electrician can eliminate the need to use extension cords.
  • Overloading electrical outlets is likewise a fire risk. Each outlet should have only one high-wattage appliance plugged in at one time. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely for each appliance.
  • Some warning signs of problems with the electrical wiring are: outlets or switches feel warm, fuses blowing or tripping circuits frequently, lights flickering or dimming. If you see any of these signs, call a qualified electrician for electrical wiring repairs.
  • Lamps should be kept on level surfaces, away from anything that can catch fire. Bulbs should match the lamp’s recommended wattage.
  • The kitchen, bathrooms, laundry, basement, and outdoor areas in your house should have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
  • Electrical outlets in your home should be protected by installing arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs).

Inspired by the Do-it-yourself programs on tv, many people think they can carry out electrical repairs by themselves. That’s potentially a very risky route to take, since it takes very specialized knowledge and training to carry out electrical wiring repairs correctly. Knowing when to call an electrician is one of the most important safety measures you can take for your home.

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