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Home Electrical Fire Safety

on October 14, 2016

Home Electrical Fire SafetyAll electrical devices generate heat in some manner.  The higher the power output, the more heat that will be generated as a result.  Electric furnaces and space heaters can be just as bad.  Faulty wiring or electrical systems that have been installed improperly are often to blame for house fires.  In the end, it’s up to you to have your home inspected and to take safety precautions against home fires.

What to watch for:

Burning Odor or Sparks

If running an appliance or flipping a switch fills the room with a burning odor (burnt plastic or a urine-like smell), or if you see sparks attached to an electrical connection, then there is a major electrical problem.  Any time this happens, you should immediately shut down the circuit and all an electrical technician to find the issue and fix it.

Non-Functional Outlets

An outlet or switch that isn’t working can be as simple as a disconnected circuit or a tripped breaker.  Deeper electrical issues should be diagnosed by an electrician, but a non-functional outlet is also one that isn’t working properly.  If a socket is too loose to hold a plug in place, then it should be replaced as well.

Electrical Shocks

It doesn’t matter what the source if, if anything in your home delivers an electrical shock when you touch it, then it needs to be repaired or replaced immediately.  Any work done will need the circuit to be shut off anyway, so you should go ahead and turn off that electrical circuit, typically by tripping the breaker.

Faulty Breakers

By design, breakers trip when there’s a problem on the circuit.  When you place too high of a load on your breaker or a sudden spike in load occurs, the breaker can trip.  Changing high loads to other circuits will fix this problem.  If it doesn’t, there may be a problem with either the breaker or the circuit itself.  The best case scenario for a breaker problem is that it continues to trip, shutting down devices.  Occasionally, your breaker will fail to trip when it should.  In cases such as this, keep an ear out for loud electrical humming or buzzing from the breaker box.  Excessive heat from the box or wires in the home are also a strong sign of a breaker box issue.

Hot fixtures and Outlets

Just like with your breaker box, if screws, switches, faceplates, or cables around fixtures and outlets are heating up, you’re either overloading your circuit, or there is a serious electrical issue within the walls.  If decreasing the load on the circuit doesn’t help, then call an electrician to help sort out the real issue.  Your wires may not be up to the task of handling the load, or could be damaged due to aging.

Flickering Lights

Flickering lights, not just dimming when you turn on the microwave, can be a symptom of bad electrical wiring or dirty AC power coming through the line.  Check the fixture itself to make sure that there isn’t an issue with connection points from your house wiring.  If you can’t find the issue at the wall switch or the fan, then it could be due to damage wires in between or a loose connection where you can’t reach.  At this point, you should call a licensed electrician

If you’re worried about the safety of your home wiring, then you should call Mainstream Electric.  We’ll be glad to conduct a home safety inspection for your peace of mind.  And remember, when it comes to space heaters:

  • Do not leave them unattended
  • Keep combustibles stay away
  • Ensure a tight fit on plugs
  • Perform regular temperature checks of non-heated surfaces and cords
  • NEVER use power strips or extension cords
  • Place on Stable surfaces
  • Don’t run cords under rugs/carpets
  • Keep them away from water
  • Use smoke alarms

Smoke and Fire Alarms

Where you place smoke alarms in your home is just as important as the type of smoke alarms you’re using.  In most home fires, you have just under a minute to escape unscathed.  Seconds count to help you reach an exit and get away.  Placing smoke alarms to detect a fire early and notify you quickly is essential.  You should always:

  • Place smoke alarms at the highest point in a room
  • Install smoke alarms on every floor of your home
  • Alarms should be located near any known fire hazards
  • Placing an alarm in each room is ideal, place one in each bedroom and main hall

Some ceilings are shaped strangely and require special installation as a precaution. For example, ceilings that end in a corner or triangle as the highest point should have smoke alarms installed 4-inches lower than the apex (the point) of the ceiling.  Consult the National Fire Protection Association’s guide to smoke alarm installation for details on all special-case installations.


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