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5 Ways to Guard Your Home Against Electrical Fires

by Hickerson Brothers on May 6, 2016

5 Ways to Guard Your Home Against Electrical FiresThe Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is spending the month of May raising awareness for electrical dangers in the home.  In that spirit, we feel it’s our responsibility to help share a little essential electrical safety information ourselves.  So here are 5 ways you can guard your home from fires started by electrical problems!

Use One Heating Appliance at a Time

The oldest way to start a fire was to take something that’s highly flammable (tinder made of dry grass or plant fibers) and use sticks to generate heat through friction.  Once certain things become hot enough, they ignite.  We protect against this by covering wires in insulation and cooling heated components.

However, if you plug in more than one heating appliance ““ a coffee pot, hair dryer, portable heater, or microwave ““ into the same circuit and use more than one at a time, not only will you generate a great deal of heat in the device, but you’ll create high heat throughout the circuits wiring.

There’s no reason to run multiple fixtures on the same circuit at the same time.  Wait to turn on the coffee pot until after the microwave is done (or vice-versa).  Likewise, keep flammable objects away from all of these appliances.  Too much heat on a stack of papers, or leaving something flammable covering an incandescent light bulb or space-heater will lead to a fire.

Don’t Overload Lighting Fixtures

Check the rating on every piece of your lighting system.  From the circuit breaker to the light bulb itself, there’s a limit on just how much power can be pulled by your circuit.  Most wall switches and dimmers have a maximum rating of 600 watts.  Fixtures such as lamps, ceiling fans, and recessed cans have different maximum ratings as well.  If you aren’t sure what the maximum rating for your system is, then don’t exceed the wattage of the light bulbs currently in the fixture.

If wall switches, fixtures, or circuit breakers are hot to the touch (or your circuit breaker trips when all the lights are on) it’s time to back off on how powerful your lights are.

Test and Replace GFCI Outlets

Ground-fault circuit interrupters (which you’ll find near sinks, in utility rooms and garages, and attached to heating devices such as hair dryers) are an important part of protecting your home’s electrical system.  GFCIs prevent dangerous power draws and electrocutions when an appliance or receptacle develops a short to ground.  Regular testing (and replacement of the unit if it fails the test) is key to actively preventing a fire in your home.

To test a GFCI, press the TEST button on the receptacle.  You should hear a loud click and the reset button should pop out.  If you don’t hear the click, or the button fails to release, shut down the circuit at your electrical panel and have the GFCI replaced immediately.

Overloaded Outlets

Never overload your electrical outletsThis problem is similar to the heating appliance issue we started with.  Overloaded outlets are more than just a circuit-tripping annoyance, they can also become a danger quickly!  If you’re electrical panel is doing its job properly, the circuit breaker will trip before there’s a problem, but relying on a safety measure is not a safe practice.

Overloaded outlets are simply circuits that have too many things plugged into them.  This can happen by:

  • Placing too many high-load appliances on the same room circuit
  • Chaining power strips together
  • Using multiple extension cords

All of these practices can overload your outlets by putting too much demand on the circuit.  In a best case scenario, the circuit breaker trips.  The worst case leads to excess heat at the outlet, melting plugs and sockets or excess heat on the circuit which melts insulation from wiring in the walls, leading to a house fire.

Smoke Alarms

Of course, even if you follow all of these protections, things can happen that are outside of your control.  That’s when your best defense is a strong safety net.  Early detection and warning for house fires is the best way to survive in an emergency.  The sooner you’re aware that there is a fire, the higher your likelihood of survival.  For the best defense:

  • Use smoke detectors with both sensing methods
  • Place fire alarms one ever floor (and every bedroom)
  • Place alarms at highest points in room
  • Use interconnected smoke alarms
  • Test alarms every month and replace batteries immediately

Hickerson Electrical is your source for all home electrical services.  We’re ready and willing to deliver top-quality service to your home at a moment’s notice.  So call today at (703) 594-3913.

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