Electrical fires account for a high percentage of house fires in Australia, but are easy to prevent if you’re aware of the causes and have a few safety measures in place. Remember that just because appliances are working doesn’t mean you should relax your maintenance schedule for electrical fire safety.
While smoke detectors and fire alarms may help save lives, prevention is a better course of action, such as regular electrical inspection and an appliance fault-finding mission. Inspections will help identify the need to install RCDs, or your circuits are overloaded.
Below, we’ve identified the most common causes of electrical fires:
An electric heater is convenient but needs to be positioned at the manufacturer’s recommended distance from combustible materials and only ever used for short periods at a time. Select up-to-date radiator models with modern safety features rather than a coil heater, which has a risk of catching fire with direct contact.
Faulty Outlets & Appliances
If cords are difficult to plug in or won’t stay put, the wires in your sockets may be loose and need replacing. Old appliances may also be short of today’s standards of wattage usage, material quality, and safety regulations. Not only will they use more power but may also have frayed cords that can spit sparks along your floors or walls.
If your home is over 20 years old, your wiring system may struggle with the influx of computers, TVs and air conditioners. Instead of ignoring the unusually warm appliances, flickering lights, and occasional sparks, upgrade your system to accommodate these high-powered appliances.
Keep tabs on extension cords being used to charge extra appliances and Christmas tree lights this holiday season. If they are plugged into a single extension cord, for example, the circuit might overload and cause a fire. Choose heavy-duty extension cords for temporary use only and plug larger appliances into the wall.
Installing a bulb with a higher wattage than what is required is a common cause of house fires. Always check the maximum recommended wattage and plug lamps into a power socket, not an extension cord. If your lights flicker and you’ve ruled out the above, replace your fixtures as soon as possible.
Circuit breakers protect an electrical circuit by automatically shutting off power to the circuit. If it fails, it can damage appliances or equipment on the circuit or lead to a fire. Replace circuits if you smell burning or if the breakers trip frequently or will not stay reset.
Piggybacking Power Boards
While many modern power boards and double-adaptors have inbuilt circuit-breakers, the warranty on them likely states that these may not function as expected when another adaptor is plugged into it. If you’re getting short on plug space, ask your electrician about adding another GPO (general power outlet) in your next visit.