Top 5 Causes of Electrical Fires

December 7, 2020

common causes of electrical fires

Electrical fires are a huge problem in the United States that aren’t talked about nearly enough. In fact,  home electrical fires account for an estimated 51,000 fires each year, resulting in nearly 500 deaths and more than 1,400 injuries. These electrical fires also result in an estimated $1.3 billion in property damage each year. As you can see from these statistics, it is incredibly important to be aware of the dangers, as well as the potential causes, of electrical fires. This is the best way to determine how to best avoid them.

Today, our Raleigh electricians will be looking at the top 5 most common causes of electrical fires as well as how to prevent them. With this information, you can feel more confident that you can keep you, your family, and your home safe from an electrical fire.

Cause #1: Outdated or Worn Electrical Wiring

The first most common cause of electrical fires is found in outdated or worn electrical wiring. If your home was built more than 20 years ago, it is quite likely that it lacks adequate electrical wiring. Unfortunately, outdated wiring is among the leading causes of electrical fires in the country. Outdated or worn wiring doesn’t have the capacity to meet the strenuous demands of energy consumption and modern technology. For this reason, you may notice frequent power outages, circuit breaker overloads, and other common signs of faulty wiring.

How to Avoid Electrical Fires Caused by Faulty Wiring

So how can you best avoid electrical fires that are caused by faulty wiring in your home? The best way to prevent such an incident is by hiring a qualified electrician to inspect the wiring in your home. When an electrician inspects your home, they can identify any issues with wiring and replace the faulty wiring in question. With updated wiring, your home will be much safer when it comes to electrical fires.

Cause #2: Electrical Circuit Overloads

Although we have all been guilty of it at one point or another, plugging too many cords into a single power source can be very dangerous. When this happens, you stand a risk of overloading the circuit and this can eventually wear the system out, resulting in an electrical fire. Always avoid using a single extension cord to power multiple electronics and appliances at once, even if it is the most convenient option for you.

According to Electrical Safety Foundation International, some of the biggest potential indicators of an overloaded circuit are as follows:

  • Blinking, flickering, or dimming lights
  • Warm or discolored wall plates
  • Blown fuses or frequently tripped circuit breakers
  • Buzzing, crackling, or sizzling from receptacles
  • A burning odor emanating from wall switches or receptacles
  • A mild shock from receptacles, switches, or appliances

How to Avoid Electrical Fires Caused By Electrical Circuit Overloads

The best way to avoid electrical fires that are caused by electrical circuit overloads is by acting proactively. This involves using multiple outlets and ensuring that all electrical appliances in your home have a dedicated circuit. If you don’t have enough outlets or dedicated circuits in your home to allow this, never fear! A licensed electrician can easily install them for you!

Cause #3: Electrical Outlets in Need of Repair

damaged electrical outlet electrical fire

Believe it or not, most electrical fires start in electrical outlets. Ungrounded outlets are particular issues as they are at risk of sparking from an electrical arc, or even catching fire. That being said, even ground electrical outlets can catch fire if the wiring behind them is loose. GFCI outlets are highly recommended by electricians for this very reason. A GFCI outlet works to prevent fires by tripping the circuit in the event of a short.

How to Avoid Electrical Fires Caused by Electrical Outlets in Need of Repair

In order to avoid electrical fires caused by faulty electrical outlets, you should work proactively by inspecting each of the electrical outlets in your home regularly for common signs of issues. This involves looking for signs of wear as well as loose wiring. Common signs of wear on an electrical outlet include soot around the switches or sockets. In the event of loose wiring, tightening this loose connection will reduce the chances of an electrical fire. If you need a Raleigh electrician for outlet repair, feel free to contact us today!

Cause #4: Old Appliances

Although many of us are tempted to use an electrical appliance until it breaks, using an appliance from the 1950s isn’t the smartest choice in terms of preventing electrical fires. This is because the older an electrical appliance is, the less capable it is of meeting the demands of today. In terms of construction, safety regulations, and materials, outdated electrical appliances just don’t measure up. They are also much more likely to have loose wiring or damaged cords. This is an electrical fire just waiting to happen!

How to Avoid Electrical Fires Caused By Old Appliances

Make it a habit to always inspect your electrical appliances for signs of damage. If you notice an electrical appliance emitting strange noises or producing a burning smell, you should have the appliance inspected by an electrical appliance repair expert immediately. These are common signs that the electrical appliance isn’t operating properly and the risk of an electrical fire is much higher.

We also highly recommend replacing any and all older electrical appliances in your home as soon as possible. While you may be reluctant to spend the money on new electrical appliances, just think of how much money you’d have to spend repairing property damages caused by an electrical fire!

Cause #5: Light Fixtures

Light fixtures, lamps, and light bulbs are also common causes of electrical fires. For example, installing a bulb with a wattage that is too high for the light fixture itself is a leading cause of electrical fires in the country. For this reason, you should always check to be sure that the maximum recommended bulb wattage on any light fixture in your home and never go over the recommended amount.

In regards to light fixtures, another common cause of electrical fires is found in the act of placing flammable materials such as paper or cloth over a lampshade. When this happens, the material will heat up and even ignite, causing a fire. Finally, faulty lamps and light fixtures are also known for causing electrical fires.

How to Avoid Electrical Fires Caused by Light Fixtures

In order to avoid electrical fires caused by light fixtures, always ensure that all light bulbs and light fixtures are plugged into electrical sockets that match the recommended wattage. You should be careful to never overload light fixtures and take care to replace ones that seem excessively hot to the touch when lit. It is also highly recommended to avoid using extension cords for lighting purposes and any cords with frayed wiring should be replaced immediately.

Further, if your light fixtures won’t stay lit and light switch problems have already been ruled out, replace these fixtures as soon as possible. Our Raleigh electricians specialize in lighting installation in the Triangle. Finally, be sure to never decorate a lamp with materials such as paper or cloth as these materials are highly flammable and can ignite easily.

More Tips to Protect You, Your Family, and Your Home From Electrical Fires

Now that you know some of the most common causes of electrical fires, you can work proactively to prevent a horrible accident. That being said, it isn’t always possible to prevent all electrical fires- no matter how hard you work to do so. In the event that an electrical fire breaks out in your home, you and your family need to know what to do to stay safe. Our electricians have a few recommendations for the best way to protect your family in the event of an electrical fire:

  • Always avoid using electronics with broken or frayed wiring. These can easily spark and ignite.
  • Make sure that working smoke detectors are installed throughout your home. If an electrical fire breaks out, you and your family need to be notified immediately. Frequently test your home’s smoke detectors and ensure that you replace the batteries regularly.
  • Contact an electrician to ensure that your home is up to code and safe for use. An electrician will be able to make recommendations for better electrical safety in the way of upgrading to GFCI outlets, for example.
  • Make sure that your home has a working fire extinguisher. It should be noted that water doesn’t work on electrical fires. In fact, adding water to the equation can make the situation much, much worse. We highly recommend choosing a fire extinguisher with either an ABC or class C rating.

Electrical Upgrades Can Help Prevent Electrical Fires

When it comes to preventing electrical fires in your home, sometimes it’s just a matter of making a few electrical upgrades that can keep you, your family, and your home protected. Call our licensed electricians today at (919) 359-1017 to get your home assessed. Our electricians can inspect your home for any electrical problems and offer the electrical repair you need to stay safe. You can also contact us by filling out a Request Service form online. Let us help you stay safe!




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