Fire Safety

How to Prevent Electrical Fires

Electrical fires pose one of the more disastrous dangers involved in home ownership or property management. Fires caused by faulty or malfunctioning wiring can quickly get out of control, and can be difficult to extinguish as they often begin hidden behind walls. A bad electrical fire can even cause you to lose your entire home. Taking steps to learn how to prevent electrical fires will help you keep your home safe from this potential threat.

1. Avoid overloading your home’s electrical circuits. This is the easiest step you can take in reducing the risk of electrical fires, and it is also one of the most effective. Each circuit in your home is only designed to deliver so much electricity, and stressing these circuits by drawing too much power can cause the wires to spark or deteriorate.

  • The simplest way to avoid overloading circuits is by minimizing the amount of electrical equipment you plug into each outlet. In particular, minimize your use of power strips as much as possible, trying instead to limit the use of each outlet to the 2 plugs it provides.
  • If your home is very old, it may have very few circuits, as plug-in appliances and equipment were not as numerous when the home was built. A costly but effective measure to reduce stress on each circuit is to have an electrician run new wiring and install new circuit breakers on your electrical panel.

2. Replace or discard any frayed wiring. Frayed wiring, either in an appliance power cord or in your home’s wiring, poses a major risk of electrical fire. Appliance wiring in various gauges can be purchased inexpensively from hardware stores, and replacing frayed wiring on small appliances and electronics is a job well within the reach of an average DIYer.

  • While electrical tape can be used to provide temporary protection against arcing or melting of exposed conductors, it should not be used as a permanent solution.
3. Replace any old wiring in your home. Electrical wiring only has a lifespan of about 30 or 40 years, so homes older than that may be relying on deteriorated wiring. In addition, older wiring setups were not typically designed to handle today’s large electrical loads.

  • If you are relying heavily on extension cords or if your circuit breakers trip regularly, you are likely drawing more power than your old wiring can handle. Have an electrician inspect your home’s wiring as soon as possible.
  • Older homes may contain aluminum wiring, which poses a more significant risk of degrading and causing fires than copper wiring.
  • Having an electrician replace all or most of your home’s wiring is a very expensive upgrade, but will provide a virtual guarantee against electrical fires for decades.

Find out more about Electrical Safety and Fire Prevention here