House fires are, unfortunately, a fairly common occurrence in the United States, with around 78,860 house fires occurring each year. According to statistics, house fires cause about 2,400 injuries, 820 deaths, and over $2.8 billion worth of property damage each year. Since October 9-15 is known as Electrical Fire Safety Week in the United States, we will review how to keep your home safe and avoid common causes of electrical fires.

House fires are, unfortunately, a fairly common occurrence in the United States, with around 78,860 house fires occurring each year. According to statistics, house fires cause about 2,400 injuries, 820 deaths, and over $2.8 billion worth of property damage each year. Since October 9-15 is known as Electrical Fire Safety Week in the United States, we will review how to keep your home safe and avoid common causes of electrical fires.

How Can I Check for Dangerous Electrical Issues?

Although electrical fires can cause extensive (and expensive) damage to homes, they can also be prevented in many instances. The first step to preventing electrical fires is knowing where your electrical wiring system is located within the home and ensuring that it is visibly sound.

Since wiring systems are usually placed in parts of a house that aren't particularly visible, they can be tricky to locate. Most electrical wiring inside homes is tucked away within walls or other hidden places where they will receive less accidental damage.

Once you can locate the wiring system, look for signs of danger. This might include frayed electrical cords, scorch marks, electric sparks, or signs of previous electric sparks. Other potential warning signs of household wiring issues may include frequent outages (full or partial), lights that flicker, minor power surges, excessive heat from electrical devices and appliances, the smell of burning without an apparent cause, or sparks coming from outlets.

If you see any of these warning signs, be sure to call a professional electrician immediately. Electricians can implement electrical safety audits of a home's wiring system and other elements to identify where risks may occur. There are also plenty of ways to help prevent fires within your home.

On fire Adapter smart phone charger at plug in power outlet

What Causes Electrical Fires?

As you will see in the following section, some electrical items are at a much higher risk of causing an electrical fire than others. The truth, however, is that overuse of any electrical items can lead to overheating, circuit overwhelm, sparking, and potentially electrical fires. By being diligent about looking for faulty wiring, fire hazards, and outdated appliances, you are helping prevent house fires.

Some common causes of residential electrical fires include:

  • Household Wiring

    Old or damaged wiring in a house can be extremely fragile. Aged or damaged wires have difficulty maintaining the power that homes usually need to run correctly. Newly created electronic equipment can also cause too much strain on outdated wiring systems. Since these older systems were designed before new equipment was created, the wires can malfunction or fail even before external damage to the cables occur.

    Items such as new televisions, computers, home security systems, laptop chargers, and home help devices are used in many American homes. Adding these newer items to those already present in most houses (such as air conditioners, microwaves, and older TVs) creates a massive amount of strain that can lead to electric problems.

    If your wiring system is a decade or two old but trying to operate at the same level as newer wiring systems, you may be primed for some issues. An old system attempting to operate at the same rate as a newer system is too burdened. The added stress can overheat the wires, causing an extreme risk of electrical fires.

  • Misused Extension Cords

    Every homeowner knows how useful extension cords can be! Extension cords provide a way to use extra outlets or create electrical power in areas where other outlets aren't easily accessible. You may not know, however, that extension cords have some safety limitations. The primary safety concern with extension cords is that they can overheat and cause electrical fires if they are not used correctly. Items plugged into extension cords can also misfire or become fried if misused for extended amounts of time.

    To best use your extension cords, ensure you don't plug them into each other. Check each extension cord for damage before you use it, and verify that extension cords aren't run through places like the ceiling, floors, or walls. When extension cords are being used for high electrical output appliances, they can quickly overheat. If this is combined with being in a closed space, the air cannot dissipate around the cord and can quickly cause fires.

    Did you know that extension cords are also given various ratings and labels based on their ability to be identified for indoor or outdoor use? An additional factor is how much electrical power the cord can handle. Be sure you check whether your cord is labeled indoors or outdoors to use it best. Since outdoor extension cords have extra protection for outdoor environments, they can withstand slightly more. However, you will still want to ensure they are located far from water or other wet elements.

Extension cords, adapters and many cables
Extension cords, adapters and many cables
  • Space and Portable Heaters

    Many consumers consider space heaters to be one of the most helpful appliances on the market. And indeed, they are beneficial when it comes to keeping your house, or even a small space, nice and toasty during cold months. Although space heaters can help keep areas warm, they can also create extra hazards for electrical fires. If you use a space heater, you'll want to be sure also to know the safety factors.

    One common mistake when using space heaters is placing them near curtains, on a rug, or close to beds or couches. These items usually have fabric or other highly flammable materials, making them quite a fire hazard if the heater becomes too hot.

    Another common mistake is allowing the space heater to run for much too long. Don't leave space heaters on while you are gone from the house or even overnight. The longer a heater is on, particularly near a flammable surface, the more likely it will be to start a fire. You can also ensure that your space heater diffuses heat over its entire surface, like a radiator, and that it isn't used to heat damp clothing. These few steps, in addition to ensuring that your device is up to date, can reduce the likelihood of an electrical fire.

  • Light Fixtures

    Two mistakes occur most often when considering light fixtures in the home. First, ensure that the bulbs you use have a wattage lower than the recommended wattage on the light fixture. When light bulbs with higher than recommended wattages are used, space can become extremely warm, and fires are more likely to occur. Secondly, never place anything flammable near a light fixture or lightbulb. Lampshades can sometimes even be in this category. Even though they are usually several inches from the lightbulbs, they still get extremely hot. If you notice any of your lights flickering or having difficulty staying on, contact your local electrician for help.

  • Electrical Circuit Overload

    Suppose you notice that parts of your home are particularly electricity-heavy. In that case, you may consider using at least a few power strips in that area to avoid overloading the breaker box. Additionally, you will likely want to try to spread out the location of electricity-heavy items when possible. Blown fuses can occur if too many devices drain power from the same areas.

    Surges can also occur when this happens, potentially sparking an electrical fire. To reduce the chances of surges, you may want only to plug in items when using them, decreasing the load placed on individual wall outlets. Another way to help is by using surge protectors for your whole home. Surge protectors can extend your equipment's life and help prevent electrical fires.

  • Kitchen Equipment

    Fires in the kitchen are one of the most common household fires–even in outdoor kitchens. While burnt food or spilled oil can cause some of these fires, others may occur when electrical equipment malfunctions.

    Toasters, stoves, microwaves, and other appliances use significant electricity while creating high temperatures. The combination of these may cause sparks to occur. This is particularly dangerous, especially if there are nearby flammable materials. Homeowners should be sure to watch the temperatures and outlets found in the kitchen closely.

  • Fans

    Even though ceiling fans do not utilize extensive electricity, they can still be a fire hazard when left on all night. Since they often operate for hours at a time, they have a chance of overheating and starting a fire. Air conditioners also fall into this category, although they usually are much larger conductors of electricity than ceiling fans.

    Not only do air conditioners use a significant amount of electricity, but they can also acquire quite a bit of dust and lint within the vents. When large amounts of dust collect, they can act like kindling, sparking a fire swiftly. Keeping your vents clean and your appliances well maintained, and up to date, you help prevent electrical fires.

Electric vintage ceiling fan

Why Choose Hot Shot Electric?

This can be a lot for any homeowner, however. If you feel overwhelmed or want an expert opinion to ease your mind, contact Hot Shot Electric. Our team of eager professionals can help evaluate your home for any potential electrical threats. If you need help rewiring your home or business, we can also do that. We can provide electrical inspections, panel upgrades, maintenance or installation of smoke detectors, and various other electrical repairs and replacements. Our family-owned company is here to ensure that your Oklahoma home is as safe as possible!