Electrical house fires are not something that just happens to other people. In fact, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFi) has compiled the fire statistics and found that each year there are an estimated 51,000 electrical fires in U.S. homes. Recognizing the warnings signs and knowing how to protect yourself and your family can shield you from becoming a statistic yourself.
What Causes Electrical Fires?
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) explains that almost half of the electrical fires can be attributed to “electrical distribution or lighting equipment.” At the same time, it is not just the reading lamp next to your curtains that causes problems. There are also fires started by clothes dryers, fans and space heaters.
When you hear about an electrical fire, it is simplistic to assume that only an electrical failure or arcing is to blame. Sometimes, an electrical appliance may be involved as the incendiary device. For example, if a homeowner fails to maintain a combustible-material-free radius around an operating space heater, there is the chance that the appliance will ignite a curtain, throw pillow or rug.
When the distribution systems are involved, an evaluation of NFPA data spanning the years 2005 to 2009 reveals that a wide variety of wiring problems accounts for 16 percent of electrical fires. Outlet problems and branch circuit wiring accounted for six percent and five percent respectively. Extension cords and breaker panel problems each generated three percent of fires.
How Can You Prevent Electrical House Fires?
Prevention is sometimes as simple as keeping an ear open. The buzzing sound you hear in your walls may be a sign of faulty wiring. If you live in your older homes, there is a good chance that the wiring is not in compliance with modern codes. While it is true that you are not always legally obligated to upgrade your wiring – unless you open up walls to remodel – it is in your best interest to invite an electrician to your home for a safety inspection. This professional should also be invited out if your outlets or wall plates feel hot to the touch, when lights flicker and dim, and when your breakers suddenly start tripping much more frequently than before.
Re-evaluate your electricity usage. If extension cords are taking the place of much-needed outlets, you are putting yourself at risk. An electrician can add new outlets in areas where you need them at very little cost. Moreover, ensure that you operate your lights and other appliances in keeping with their specifications. Do not install 100-Watt light bulbs in fixtures that are only rated for 40-Watt-bulbs. With respect to your clothes dryer, follow the advice of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and clean out any lint buildup in the exhaust ducts.