Electrical failure or malfunctions account for almost 34,000 home fires, on average, per year and result in roughly 440 deaths and Rs 100 crore in direct property damage according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). This is a particular threat to homes built before the 1950s when electrical wiring standards were less stringent than today. However, even newer homes are at risk for an electrical fire. While older homes were built to handle 30 amps of power, most newer homes demand 100 to 200 amps.
In many homes. often as family increases, one tends to add on electrical gadgets, like geysers, air conditioners, etc., without changing the power amperage and cables.
This demand places a significant strain on a home’s wiring and electrical system.
Understanding the common causes, warning signs and appropriate safety measures can help prevent an electrical fire in your home. The most common causes for electrical fires are:
- Incorrectly installed wiring
- Overloaded circuits and extension cords
- Defective or improper plugs, switches and outlets
- Misuse and poor maintenance of lighting
Warning Signs of Faulty Wiring or Electrical Systems
To prevent an electrical fire, one must learn to recognize the warning signs that indicate a possible wiring or electrical problem. Contact a licensed electrician immediately to examine and repair electrical problems if you experience any of the following issues in your home:
- Flickering or dimming of lights
- Switches or outlets that are hot to touch and/or emit a foul smell
- Discolored cords, outlets and switch plates
- Repeatedly blown fuses and tripped circuit breakers
The Dangers of Do it yourself
When a wire is punctured, but not completely severed, the electric current can move away from its path and result in an incredible amount of heat. This leaking of the current is called an arc fault. The heat from an arc fault can eventually cause a fire, which may quickly spread to surrounding wood and other combustibles, as well as other wiring. Take extra care when doing home renovations to ensure you do not damage any wires when hammering or drilling into walls.
You can help prevent an arc fault from causing a fire by installing an arc-fault circuit interrupter to your circuit breakers. When arc fault circuit interrupters detect irregular current flow, they shut down the circuit to prevent overheating and combustion.
Cords, Outlets and Plug Safety
Electric currents carried by wiring, switches, plugs, and appliances generate heat. Excessive or uncontrolled heat can start fires. To help prevent electrical fires, know how to use and store plugs and electrical cords and take these precautions:
- Don’t run cords under carpeting, bedding, or other combustible materials; also avoid placing cords across doorways or frequently traveled areas
- Discard frayed or broken cords and never splice two cords together.
- Don’t overload outlets or use extension cords in place of outlets. Call an electrician to install additional outlets as necessary.
- Ensure plugs fit snugly in outlets to prevent shock and excess heat.
Combustible materials such as drapery, bedding, and upholstered furniture may ignite when exposed to hot bulbs. Follow these safety tips to help prevent light bulbs from causing electrical fires:
Use the right light bulb wattage for all lamps and fixtures.
- Position lamps away from open windows where strong breezes may blow curtains onto hot light bulbs. Lampshades can also prevent combustible materials from direct contact with a hot bulb.
Electrical fires are among the most dangerous forms of combustion due to how quickly they can spread and grow out of control. By following the information above, you can help reduce the chances of an electrical fire occurring in your home.