House fires are a major risk for homeowners (and property managers). When a fire breaks out unexpectedly, there are risks to both the building’s occupants and to their property. Uncontrolled blazes can cause significant fire damage and leave scars that affect people for life. So, fire safety should always be a top priority.
However, one thing that many people, even those who are aware of basic fire safety measures, often forget about is the risk of electrical fires. Most people assume that the outlets and wiring in their homes are completely safe, and discount the risk of an electrical surge or other issue sparking a fire. Yet, according to data from the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), “Home electrical fires account for an estimated 51,000 fires each year, nearly 500 deaths, more than 1,400 injuries, and $1.3 billion in property damage.”
So, the risk of electrical fires in a home should never be underestimated. With this in mind, here are a few tips on how to prevent electrical fires in a home:
How to Prevent Electrical Fires: Checking Electrical Cables
When considering electrical fire causes and prevention methods, one of the biggest issues is frayed electrical cabling—both for electrical appliances and for the home’s electrical system. For homeowners, however, appliance cables are easier to find and check (as well as more likely to be damaged in the first place).
Taking some time to inspect the electrical cords of home appliances for signs of damage once every few months can help identify electrical fire risks. When inspecting the cords, keep an eye out for damage to the sheath—especially damage resulting in exposed wiring. If the insulation between the wires in the cord is missing, the wires may make direct contact and spark an electrical fire. Removing these damaged cables and replacing them is a must for preventing a house fire.
How to Prevent Electrical Fires: Preventing Outlet Overloads
Another common cause of electrical fires is the overloading of a single circuit with too many appliances. Normally, the typical outlet will only allow for two appliances to be plugged in at once (though, with some appliances that have a heavy power draw, even that can be too much). However, many surge protectors provide extra plugs to attach more appliances.
If too many appliances are on the same circuit at once, the outlet can overload—erupting into a shower of sparks that triggers a house fire. So, if you’re wondering how to prevent house fires, not plugging too many appliances into a single outlet helps.
The question is: “How many appliances is too many?” The answer is: “It depends.” What is the voltage of the home’s electrical system? What is the amperage (amps) of the outlet? How many watts of power does each appliance need? All of these factors affect how many appliances can be on one circuit before risking an overload.
For example, say your home’s electrical system is rated for 120 volts, and your outlets are rated for 15 amps (15 amps being a common outlet value). The absolute maximum load that the outlets could take in that case would be 1,800 watts (120V x 15A = 1800W). However, you should never run an outlet at maximum load—it’s best to only use up to 75-80% of the outlet’s maximum.
So, if you had four appliances that each took 400 watts of power, you could plug three of them into the one outlet and find another circuit for the fourth. If you were to put all four onto the same circuit, you would run the risk of overload and an electrical fire.
How to Prevent Electrical Fires: Having an Electrician Perform an Inspection
One of the best fire prevention strategies you can use is to have a professional electrician inspect the building’s electrical system. A licensed electrician will have the right tools and experience to accurately diagnose any major problems with a home’s wiring that may cause an electrical fire (or any other problems).
For example, an electrician might be able to point out when too many outlets are on the same circuit—which increases the risk of an overload.
The question is: “How often should I have an electrician check my home?” A thorough home inspection may need to be done once every few years, or if you notice any of these warning signs:
- Lights flickering frequently (and not because of damage to the local power lines);
- Frequent power outages/circuit breaker trips; and
- Ozone-like odors.
If you notice these warning signs, it may be time to find an electrician to perform an inspection and repairs.
These are just a few tips on how to prevent house fires caused by electrical issues. If you have questions about how to find an experienced electrician quickly, reach out to the HOMEE team today and find out how you can access Homee On Demand’s network of thousands of home service providers who can be at your door in 30 minutes.