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How To Protect Yourself From Electrical Fires
By Mike Holmes
Monday, January 21st, 2019 @ 8:33am
The Dangers Of Electrical Fires
They say where there’s smoke there’s fire. But when it comes to electrical fires, you don’t always see the smoke. And by the time you do it’s too late. The flames are climbing up behind your walls.
20 percent of all fires in Canada are due to electrical fires. That’s a lot – too much, because there shouldn’t be any electrical fires. They’re preventable if the right pros are brought in at the right time.
Faulty wiring is the number one cause of electrical fires. Sometimes fires happen because of poor workmanship. Other times it’s just wear and tear. But you need to know the warning signs.
“20 percent of all fires in Canada are due to electrical fires.”
Electrical Fire Warning Signs
What are they? Flickering lights; breakers that always trip; fuses that always blow; appliances that have a burning smell when they’re on, including the lights in a room; discoloured wall outlets; outlets that spark; outlets and switches that are hot when you touch them. They’re all signs that tell you something is wrong with the electrical system in your home. The longer you wait to get it fixed, the greater the risk of an electrical fire.
Electrical currents generate waste heat. And over time that heat can cause the conductor to expand and contract. Eventually it will loosen the connection. And once it’s loose the electricity can arc. When this happens the potential for an electrical fire is huge.
How To Protect Yourself
One way we can prevent electrical fires caused by an electrical arc is with Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI). An AFCI is a circuit breaker that detects potentially dangerous electrical arcs. It disconnects the power as soon as it detects one.
“Faulty wiring is the number one cause of electrical fires. Sometimes fires happen because of poor workmanship. Other times it’s just wear and tear. But you need to know the warning signs.”
Before AFCI’s were introduced the bedroom was where most electrical fires started. But in 2002 it became code to protect all circuits that feed outlets in bedrooms with AFCIs. Now, the kitchen and bathroom are where most electrical fires start.
It’s code to have AFCI’s in the bedroom. But in some states, like Texas, it’s code to have AFCI’s protecting all of the circuits in a home. I’d like to see this in our electrical codes. Why not protect the entire house if we can? It’s a no brainer.
Counterfeit electrical products can also cause electrical fires. But it’s hard to prove it because most fires destroy the evidence – along with everything else. Plus, some counterfeit products are so good the average homeowner would never suspect they aren’t legitimate/CSA approved. The only way to know that it’s counterfeit would be by sending it to a lab to test it out. And how many homeowners do that?
If It’s Broke, Fix It & Fix It Right
The problem is when an overloaded circuit starts to trip. Homeowners go in and replace a 15-amp fuse with something higher, like a 20-amp or 30-amp fuse. But this doesn’t fix the problem. The circuit still wants to trip. The wire is telling the fuse that it’s too hot. But the fuse says, ‘I’m still good.’ Before you know it the wire becomes your fuse and you’ve got a fire.
Whenever anyone purchases a home that’s 15-years old or older they need to get a licensed electrical contractor to check out the house—especially if the home has a finished basement. Too many homeowners think they can do their own electrical work. And too many of them do. How do you know if everything is up to code? If there’s knob and tube wiring? Or aluminum wiring mixed with copper? Or if the last owners hired someone who knew what they were doing?
Be Smart & Hire A Professional
Get a licensed electrical contractor to come in to do an audit of the entire house. They’ll make sure all the electrical work is up to code and that all the connections are tight.
How do you find the right electrician? The same way you find the right contractor. You check references. Speak to past clients. Make sure they’re certified. Ask them to show you their license. And never choose based on price alone. If 4 out 5 electricians charge $1,000 to $2,000 but one guy charges $700 there’s a reason. You get what you pay for, every time—no exception.
I never DIY electrical work, that’s why I always get Frank Cozzolino for all my electrical needs. As an Eaton Electrical Certified Contractor Frank always ensures my home’s electrical is safe and working properly. Looking for a certified electrical contractor to help you with your electrical needs? Go to myhome.eaton.com
Electrical Disaster Story With Frank Cozzolino
How often should we get a licensed electrical contractor to check our homes? Every 4 years, because given enough time, any home can be at risk of an electrical fire—wire insulation dries out, receptacles and switches can come loose, oil and dirt can cause electrical parts to overheat. Don’t wait for disaster to strike. It’s better to be safe than sorry.