3 Causes Of Electrical Fires

Electrical fires are a common occurrence in the United States. According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were 47,700 household electrical fires in 2011. These household electrical fires lead to the death of 418 people, the injuries of 1,570 more, and more than one billion dollars in property damage. Why did these fires happen? Here are three possible causes of electrical fires in homes.

Over-loaded circuits

If you live in an older home, your electrical system may not be designed to handle the large number of electrical devices that are a part of modern life. Televisions, computers, cell phones, and dishwashers may not have existed when your home was built, so the wiring wasn't designed to handle those demands. The wiring in older homes is generally able to handle only half of the electricity that modern people need.

To avoid overloading your circuits, make sure to plug major appliances like fridges into their own outlets. Avoid using extension cords to gain extra outlets if your home doesn't have enough outlets for your needs. If you notice that your lights or flickering or that your circuit breaker is tripping often, you are overloading your circuits and need to talk to an electrician right away to upgrade your electrical system.

Damaged wiring

Wiring can become damaged over time. This can happen for many reasons, including driving a nail through a wire when you're hanging a picture, pinching a power cord when you close a door, squirrels or other rodents gnawing on your wires, or even just old age. This damage is a serious concern because of the risk of arc faults.

Arc faults mean that your electricity needs to jump across the damaged part of the wire instead of safely traveling through the wire like it's supposed to. When electricity jumps like this, it creates a lot of heat. The heat created by an arc fault can reach temperatures of more than 1,000°C (1,832°F). That's a lot of heat, and it can easily lead to fires in the materials that surround the damaged wires.

To avoid damaging your wires, don't bend your power cords and be careful not to close doors on them. Before you drive nails into a wall, check with an electrician to find out where the wires are located. If you think that your wires might be damaged, have an electrician inspect your house.

Aluminum wiring

Modern electrical wiring is made out of copper, but if you have an older house, the wires could be made out of aluminum. Aluminum was used in wiring between the early 1950s and the late 1970s. Aluminum wiring is a problem for a few reasons.

The first issue with aluminum is that it tends to rust over time, and when your wires become rusty, they can overheat. This can lead to fires that start in your wiring and spread to the rest of your house. The second issue is that aluminum is softer than copper, so it's easier to damage it, and damaged wires are a fire hazard for the reasons that were explained in the last section. The third issue is that aluminum expands and contracts when the temperature changes, and this increases the risk of your wiring becoming loose. Loose wires can overheat and lead to fires.

If you have aluminum wires in your house, your electrician will inspect the wires to make sure they're still in good shape. If the wires aren't rusted or damaged, your electrician may recommend leaving them in place and inspecting them at regular intervals. If the wires are damaged, they will need to be replaced with copper wiring. 

Electrical fires are common, but many of the things that cause them are avoidable. You can help keep yourself and your family safe by not overloading your circuits, damaging your wiring, and getting old, aluminum wiring replaced. For more information, contact an inspection with a local electrician