Electrical fires are among the most dangerous fires that occur each year in the U.S. The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) states home electrical fires account for more than 51,000 fires each year, nearly 500 deaths, and more than 1,400 injuries. Not only are electrical fires tricky to extinguish, but they can often start behind walls and go undetected until it’s too late to prevent significant damage to your home. Don’t let your home and family become another statistic!
Danger Signs to Look for in Your Home
What causes electrical fires, and what can you do to protect your home, family, and pets? If you pay attention, there are usually signs that all is not well with your electrical service. If any of the following happens fairly regularly at your house, call for a safety inspection:
- Your breakers are constantly tripping, or you keep blowing fuses.
- Your light bulbs seem to be forever burning out not long after you’ve changed them.
- Your appliances aren’t running at full power.
- You don’t have ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets in your home.
- You hear crackling or other odd sounds emanating from your panel box.
Get an Electrical Inspection for Your Home
If you’re like most people, you probably haven’t had your older home’s electrical service and wiring inspected for a long time — if ever. So the first line of defense against an electrical fire is to contact a licensed electrician and have an electrical inspection as soon as possible.
Many older homes have aluminum, rather than copper wire, and aluminum wiring is more fire-prone 12 American Wire Gauge (AWG), which is what your home should have for safety’s sake.
Another danger sign is an electrical panel that provides less than 200 amps of power. How long has it been since you’ve looked at your panel — really looked at it, not just to reset a tripped circuit? Is there rust on the breakers or the panel itself? Loose wires? Your electrician can tell you whether it needs updating.
Use Electricity Wisely
Even with an up-to-date electrical system that’s in good working order, there are things you can (and should) do to protect your family, such as
- not overloading outlets
- not using extension cords with space heaters
- using light bulbs that match the recommended wattage on your light fixtures
- installing smoke detectors on every floor of your home (including the basement) and just outside of each bedroom