Data collected by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states that more than 47,000 home structure fires each year in the U.S. are caused by some sort of electrical malfunction or failure. These electrical fires result in truly devastating fatality numbers of more than 400 civilian deaths in that country. Injuries number up to 1,500, and property damage amounts to $1.4 billion annually.
The NFPA calculates that electrical fires account for about 13% of all home structure fires. Out of those, the main sources are:
- Wiring (63%)
- Lamps and light fixtures (20%)
- Cords and plugs (11%)
- Transformers and power supplies (6%)
The winter months from December until March are when nearly half of all home electrical fires occur, according to the United States Fire Administration (USFA). Fatalities are also highest between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. when people are caught off-guard by fires while they sleep, which is why it is so vitally important to ensure that your smoke detectors are working.
Ways to protect Yourself Against an Electrical Fire
Have an electrical inspection performed
Your electrical system is something we tend to forget about until something goes wrong, but there preventative measures that can be performed to help mitigate against potential problems and unexpected expenses. About every ten years it’s a good idea to have a certified electrician come by your home to perform a complete electrical inspection. An electrical inspection will include a thorough assessment of your electrical panel, including a fuse examination plus a testing of all connections for strength and safety. We will also ensure there is no leakage (or arcing) occurring in your wiring, check the wiring to your meter and confirm switches and outlets have been installed appropriately
Replace aluminum wiring and knob and tube wiring
Both aluminum and knob and tube wiring can be very dangerous. They are only found in older homes as each has been banned from use in Alberta. Aluminum wiring is common is homes built between 1950 and 1970 and is hazardous due to its tendency to lose contact with connection points, which can cause arcing, melting, and fires. Knob and tube wiring can be found in homes built from 1900 to 1950, and is extremely dangerous because it does not incorporate ground wires. With hot and neutral wires only there is zero defense from a fault.
Use surge protectors
Overloaded circuits can spark and cause an electrical fire. Surge protectors are your safeguards against these sorts of circumstances. Small surges coming directly from the power grid can happen several times a day. Internal surges can occur when large appliances are turned on, or because of faulty or inadequate wiring or an older or insufficient electrical panel. Advanced outlets come with surge protection built in, as do power bars. You can also have a complete building protector installed, which will do wonders for defending your sensitive electronics, appliances, and fixtures.
Check plugs and cords: When you regularly use appliances such as coffee makers it causes wear and tear on plugs and cords. Never pull a plug out by the cord. If you require more outlets, give us a call and we’re happy to install them. Inspecting your plugs and cords regularly greatly reduces your risk of an electrical fire.
Don’t overload your outlets: Only use extension cords and power bars as a temporary measure, never as a permanent solution. It is also advisable to only plug one heat-producing appliance into an outlet at a time. If you notice lights flickering and/or a buzzing noise when you turn on a certain appliance, it is a sign that circuit is overloaded and you are placing your home at risk. Again, if you require more outlets, give us at A-Star a call.
Know How to Use Your Fire Extinguisher
Along with a comprehensive smoke detector system, every home should have an easy-to-reach fire extinguisher on each level. Make sure all members of your family know how to use it. Your fire extinguisher should be rated A-B-C, which means it can be used for fires involving ordinary combustible materials, flammable liquids, and electrical equipment.
More Tips for Reducing Your Risk of Electrical Fires
- Unplug appliances when not in use. This will also help reduce your energy bills.
- Always follow the directions that come with your appliances and take note of any warnings.
- Do not use bulbs with wattage higher than the recommended limit in your light fixtures.
- Ensure outlets near sources of water have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters to stop surges.
Contact A-Star for Your Home Electrical Needs
A-Star Electric of Calgary is here to help make your home a safe and special place. Contact us for all your residential and business electrical needs.