8 Things You Can Do to Avoid Electrical Fires At Home
Between 2015 and 2019, fire departments responded to an estimated average of 46,700 fires caused by electrical failure or malfunction each year. That's a lot of fire caused by faulty electrical work. Fortunately, there are many reasonable steps that you can take to help you avoid this kind of problem in your home.
By taking care of your electrical system and by inspecting your electrical system on a regular basis, you can take care of your home and avoid problems.
The professionals at Add-All Electric are committed to helping our customers maintain safe electrical systems. Below are some of the steps that we recommend you take to help make this happen.
1. Get An Electrical Inspection
Electrical systems can deteriorate with time. Getting an electrical inspection can help you identify ways that your electrical system needs to be repaired, upgraded or replaced. Knowing the status of your electrical system can also help you make smarter and safer choices when you're plugging in electrical devices that draw a lot of power, or when you're plugging in many electrical devices at one time.
In most cases, it's not necessary to get an electrical inspection every year. However, if it's been a long time since you had an electrical inspection, make an appointment. An inspection is especially helpful if you're about to remodel your home and expect to make changes that will increase your home's electrical demand.
When you get an inspection, schedule it with an electrician you can trust. If you have outdated wiring that you know needs to be replaced (like aluminum wiring), consider getting electrical inspections more frequently until the situation is remedied.
2. Update Outdated Outlets
Outlets have become more advanced with time. Years ago, two-prong outlets with no hole for grounding was the norm. You can still find these outlets in some homes, although they're becoming less common with each passing year. These outlets lack a grounding wire that directs dangerous currents into the ground. This grounding wire helps stabilize the current, helps to prevent electrical fires, helps protect you from electrical shock, and also helps protect your appliances from dangerous surges. You can tell if your outlets lack a grounding slot because they'll only have two slots per plug, not three. Get these outlets updated by a qualified electrician as soon as possible.
Remember that outlets located in the kitchen and bathroom are required to be GFCI outlets. These receptacles help prevent electrocution by shutting down the current if an imbalance occurs in the circuit. You can tell if your outlets are GFCI because they'll have a test button and a reset button. If your bathroom and kitchen receptacles appear to be normal outlets without these features, contact an electrician for help.
3. Replace Your Breaker Box If It's One Of These
Not all breaker boxes are created equal. In the past, some companies made electrical boxes that were faulty and even dangerous. Many of these breaker boxes have been replaced over time, but some of them can still be found in homes today. Some examples include:
Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) boxes. These boxes were the most popular electrical panels installed in homes from the 1950's through the 1980's. They are known today to cause fires and may also lead to electrocution. You can tell if this is the type of box in your home if it says Federal Pacific Electric on the face of the box.
Zinsco panels. Zinsco panels can cause the individual circuits to overheat and melt to the bus bar, which prevents the circuit from tripping if there's an overload.
Fuse boxes. Fuse boxes aren't inherently unsafe, but many homeowners made unsafe alterations to their fuse boxes over time (like the trick of putting a penny in a fuse), and that can lead to overloads and fires.
Get an inspection from your electrician. Whatever the brand or type, if your electrical panel is unsafe, your electrician will let you know and can help you get a breaker box replacement.
4. Use Extension Cords Safely
Extension cords are often used incorrectly around the house. Depending on how they're misused, electrical fires can be the result. Some tips for using extension cords safely around your house:
Use exterior-grade extension cords outside, and interior-grade extension cords inside.
Don't use extension cords as a permanent part of your home. If you need more electrical outlets, talk to an electrician.
Never run an extension cord under a rug, beneath a closed garage door or in a place where the extension cord could become frayed or overheated.
Check your extension cords from time to time. Look for signs of damage like cracks, broken insulation, melted areas.
Feel your extension cords from time to time. If they're overheating during use, they should be replaced.
5. Upgrade Your Electrical Service As Needed
Before 1950, the typical American home needed 30 amps of electrical service. Today, it's common for homes to be constructed with 200 amps of electrical service (or more). If your home doesn't get enough electrical service, you may experience problems like regular circuit overloads (and thus, tripping of the circuits). This can be dangerous, especially if your home doesn't have adequate dedicated circuits for all your appliances.
If you're not sure if your home has adequate service, here are some warning signs to watch for:
Lights dim when appliances come on.
Your home blows fuses regularly.
You know which appliances you can't run while other electrical devices are turned on.
If these are problems you experience on a regular basis, talk to your electrician.
6. Avoid Major DIY Projects
Doing it yourself can be very satisfying and cost-efficient. However, not every job should be done by someone who hasn't been properly trained to do the work. Unless you're very comfortable and knowledgeable of electricity and residential electrical systems, it's best to leave your electrical home upgrades to the professionals.
Big jobs like replacing your home's breaker box and re-wiring your home is best left to the electrician. If you need this work done and are concerned about costs, doing it yourself may seem to save money, but not if doing it yourself causes damage that leads to a home fire. Keep this in mind the next time you're planning your next home upgrade.
7. Know the Signs of Electrical Overload
Electrical overload in an individual circuit should trigger the circuit to trip. If this happens frequently, then you've got too many devices plugged into one circuit. Reduce the load on the circuit to prevent overloads and dangerous situations that can cause a fire. Keep in mind that if a malfunctioning circuit overloads, it may not trip like it should. Watch for these signs of a problem:
Heat around outlets
The smell of something burning or melting
The outlet itself melting
If you're noticing these problems, contact an electrician to have the situation evaluated and remedied if possible.
8. Update Your Wiring If It Needs It
Aluminum wiring and knob and tube can be dangerous. If your home has either one of these wiring types, you could be at risk for electrical fires and malfunctions. Your electrician can let you know if you have this type of wiring in your home, and if so, they can also let you know what needs to be done to remediate the problem.
Keep in mind that if your home has aluminum wiring, you may not experience any problems for many years. Connections in aluminum wiring can become loose as the wiring expands and contracts over time, and those loose connections can develop quickly. To protect your home and the people who live there, don't delay replacing, upgrading or remediating problems with your home's wiring.
Worried Your Electrical System is Unsafe? Contact Add-All Electric Today
At Add-All Electric, we help homeowners in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to maintain safe homes with strong electrical systems. Call today for a free quote on your home's next electrical upgrade.