The 7 Most Common Causes of Electrical Fires In The Home

Posted February 27, 2014


There are nearly 30,000 electrical fires in the U.S. per year causing an estimated $1.1 billion in property damage and over 300 deaths. The winter months are the most common time of year for electrical fires. Most of these fires are cause by electric heaters. Other fires occur because of defects in wiring or appliance failure, and many happen because of overloaded electrical outlets or extension cords.

Here are the 5 most common causes of electrical fires in the home:

1. Faulty electrical outlets and aging appliances. This can include faults in appliance cords, receptacles and switches. If an appliance has a worn or frayed cord it can generate dangerous levels of heat, igniting surfaces like rugs and curtains, starting a fire.

 2. Using ungrounded plugs. Appliances have a third prong, so they can be only used in outlets designed to handle the demands of higher-wattage appliances. Never circumvent the ground on an appliance or power cord. 

 3. Overloading light fixtures. Installing a high-wattage bulb into a lamp or light fixture that it is not designed for is a leading cause of electrical fires. Always install a bulb that is within the recommended wattage. 

4. Placing flammable material near light fixtures. Placing cloth or paper over a lampshade can cause the material heat up and ignite, causing a fire. 

5. Extension cord misuse. Large appliances should not be plugged into an extension cord. If you do not have a nearby outlet for your appliances, you should have one installed.

 6. Space heaters. Placing electric heater too close to combustible surfaces such as curtains, bedding and furniture is a leading cause of house fires. Coil space heaters should be avoided if possible. Liquid filled "soft heat" electric heaters are safest. 

7. Old wiring. If your home is over twenty years old, it may not have the capacity to handle today's energy-intensive homes. In addition,  outdated breaker boxes often have worn connectors that do not work, causing the system to overload.

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