The weather is cooler, the heaters are on. The holiday season is here and the lights are going up. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, December and January are the months with the most electrical fires because of the use of heating appliances and lights. Electric fires typically start in the bedroom, but fatalities occur in the den, family and living rooms most of the time. To help you to avoid becoming a statistic during the cold months ahead, here are the 5 most common causes of electrical fires include:
- Outdated wiring.
If your home is over 20 years old, you might not have the wiring capability to handle the amount of electrical appliances we have running through our households today. The average home has computers, numerous devices charging, gaming systems, widescreen televisions, many appliances running in the kitchen and so much more. The amount of electricity surging through a home to run everything going on is greater than what was required and wired for 20 plus years ago.
- Extension cords.
Often when we are charging our electrical devices we feel the need to be on them and working, playing or checking in. In homes where outlets are not placed every 5 feet, it is hard to be tethered to the wall and an extra 6 feet of extension cord helps stay tethered to the electricity. Misuse of extension cords is an electrical fire cause. Only use extension cords as a temporary measure. Appliances should be plugged directly into the outlet and not plugged into an extension cord.
- Space heaters.
These portable heaters are great for staying warm but often we put them too close to beds, couches, rugs and other combustible items. If you are using a coil space heater pay special attention because these hold more danger as coils become so hot they will ignite a flammable surface almost immediately on contact. Radiator-type space heaters are less likely to ignite flammable items because they diffuse the heat over the surface of the appliance. Use caution and care when using any space heater.
- Light fixtures.
Another common cause of electrical fires is light fixtures, lamps, and bulbs. Using a bulb with too high a wattage for the lamp is a leading cause of an electrical fire. Check the lamp or light fixture for the recommended wattage and do not go over that amount when choosing a bulb for that fixture.
- Faulty appliances and outlets.
The majority of electrical fires are because of old, outdated appliances and faulty electrical outlets. Never use an appliance with a frayed cord because it can send too much heat onto other surfaces such as curtains, rugs, and floors to start a fire. Other fires are started when there are faults in receptacles and switches.
- Other reasons:
- Cords run under rugs because the cord can overheat and start the rug on fire
- Removing the ground plug (the third prong) so that it will work in 2 prong outlet
- Putting cloth or paper over lampshade, as the material heats up it may ignite
- Outdated breaker boxes with worn out connectors that don’t trip when overloaded
Many fires occur because of human error. When in doubt hire an electrician to install a new outlet close to your favorite chair or to review your breaker box for signs of issues. Check appliance cords for signs of wear that could lead to a fire. Most importantly, be alert. If something seems like a fire hazard move it, unplug it or turn it off.