According to the Canadian National Fire Information Database, electrical failures or malfunctions cause an average of almost 50,000 home fires per year, resulting in roughly 450 deaths and $1.5 billion in direct property damage. Most of these happen during winter months due to increased use of heating, appliances and lights.
Here are the 5 most common causes of electrical fires.
- Faulty outlets, appliances
Most electrical fires are caused by faulty electrical outlets and old, outdated appliances. Other fires are started by faults in appliance cords, receptacles and switches. Never use an appliance with a worn or frayed cord which can send heat onto combustible surfaces like floors, curtains, and rugs that can start a fire. Running cords under rugs is another cause of electrical fires.
Never remove the grounding plug from a cord so it can be used in a two-prong electrical outlet. The reason appliances have the extra prong is so they can be only used in outlets that can handle the extra amount of electricity these appliances require.
2. Light fixtures
Light fixtures, lamps and light bulbs are another common reason for electrical fires. Installing a bulb with a wattage that is too high for a lamp or light fixture is a major cause of electrical fires. Always check the maximum recommended bulb wattage on any light fixture or lamp.
Another cause of fire is placing materials like cloth or paper over a lampshade. The material can heat up and ignite, causing a fire. Faulty lamps and light fixtures also frequently result in fires.
3. Extension cords
Misuse of extension cords is another electrical fire cause. Appliances should be plugged directly into outlet and not plugged into an extension cord for any length of time. Only use extension cords as a temporary measure. If you do not have the appropriate type of outlets for your appliances, hire an electrician to install new ones.
4. Space heaters
Due to the portable nature of space heaters, people often put them too close to combustible surfaces such as curtains, beds, clothing, chairs, couches and rugs. Coil space heaters are especially dangerous in this regard as the coils can become so hot they could instantaneously ignite any nearby flammable surface.
If you do use space heaters, we recommend the radiant style that diffuses heat over the entire surface of the appliance. These are less likely to ignite flammable items, but should still be kept at a distance.
Outdated wiring often causes electrical fires. If your home is over 20 years old, it may not have the wiring capacity to handle the number of electrical appliances in common use today: computers, large tv’s, gaming systems, microwaves, and air conditioners.
Some electrical fires happen due to problems in house wiring or appliance failure, but many occur due to mistakes that homeowners make like overloading electrical outlets or extension cords. Breakers should be triggered when circuits get overloaded, but outdated electrical panels can have worn connectors, causing the system to overload and start an electrical fire.
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