Every time you flip a switch, turn on the TV, or use the toaster, you put your home’s electrical wiring to use. If the wiring is old or damaged, it could cause a fire. Nearly 54,000 homes are damaged by electrical fires each year in the US. These blazes result in over 500 deaths, 1,400 injuries, and $1.4 billion in property damage.
To protect your home, learn about the top five causes of electrical fires so you can make electrical upgrades before disaster strikes.
You can tell the difference between a grounded vs ungrounded outlet based on the number of slots it has. A three-prong outlet has a “neutral” slot, a “hot” slot, and a third “ground” slot. Under normal conditions, electricity flows from hot to neutral, but if a power surge occurs, the grounded slot provides a safe way for excess electricity to escape.
One the other hand, a two-prong outlet has no such safety mechanism. Only older homes are equipped with two-prong outlets. In fact, many high-powered appliances feature a third prong, making them impossible to plug into two-prong outlets. Upgrading to a grounded outlet is a job for a professional electrician.
No GFCI Outlets in the Bathroom and Kitchen
Another form of grounded outlet is called a ground fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, which provided added safety for electrical wiring in the kitchen and bathroom. This special type of outlet continuously monitors electrical flow to sense imbalances down to 4 or 5 milliamps. In as little as one-thirtieth of a second, the GFCI trips the circuit.
This feature is important for preventing shock and fire anywhere water is likely to come in contact with the outlet, such as in the kitchen and bathroom. Look for a “TEST” and “RESET” button on any outlet located near a sink. If you don’t see these buttons, it’s time to upgrade.
Knob and Tube Wiring
If you live in a pre-1950s home and haven’t made any electrical upgrades, your home probably has knob and tube wiring. This antiquated system has no ground wire, meaning if you want to upgrade to safer three-prong outlets, you’ll need to replace the old wiring. GCFIs can be installed in homes with ungrounded wiring, but a complete upgrade is the most reliable option.
Excessive Use of Extension Cords
Older homes have fewer outlets than those built today. Limited outlets may force you to use extension cords and splitting devices permanently. If this sounds familiar, you’re probably overusing the circuits and increasing your fire risk.
The top signs of overloaded circuits include flickering lights and frequently tripped breakers.
Your lights may waver when you turn on a high-powered device such as a vacuum or hair dryer. This shows you that the circuit is dangerously near full capacity.
Another side effect of high electrical demand is heat. The circuit breaker trips to prevent overheating that could cause a fire, but if you must frequently reset tripped breakers, your circuits are under constant strain. Over time, this can damage your wiring and eventually lead to a fire.
Recover from an Electrical Fire with Help from Rainbow International®
If you notice any of these top causes of electrical fires in your home, make electrical upgrades as soon as possible. Such precautions make your wiring safer and more functional.
However, if your home still succumbs to fire – whether caused by electrical wiring or another source – Rainbow International provides the fire mitigation and restoration services you need to get back on your feet. Contact us today to learn more about our fire restoration services.