Electrical Fires caused by electricity and faulty electrical wiring: Causes and Prevention
Unfortunately, regular safety checks that can prevent fires are done far too infrequently. This is often because people are ill-informed or become complacent – “it will never happen to me.” Fires caused by electricity, such as faulty wiring, can be devastating. Not only can homes be destroyed, but lives might also be lost. The importance of prevention cannot be overstated. Understanding the hazards and causes of electrical fires is crucial for avoiding them.
Fires caused by electricity in Australian homes
Faulty wiring and outdated electrical components are too common in Australian homes. We have often seen fire disasters in homes on television. People were utterly unaware of the dangers and thought their homes were safe. The most frightening thing about such incidents was that the electrical appliances were fully operating, powering their home. It is very concerning that there are still many homes in Australia where these conditions exist.
It is critical to conduct periodic safety checks to avoid such incidents.
Here we have listed the leading causes of an electrical fire down below:
Common electrical outlets or power points
Most electrical fires are caused by defective outlets (receptacles) or worn outlets that are not adequately grounded. In addition, as outlets and switches age, the wiring behind them also wears out, and wires become loose over time, potentially breaking and causing a fire.
Worn-out appliances cause many electrical fires because they use a lot of electricity, and appliances with frayed and damaged wiring pose an additional risk of starting a fire.
Outdated or worn electrical wiring
Outdated electrical wiring is often the cause of fires. If a home is more than 20 years old, in that case, the wiring may not handle the increasing number of electrical devices such as computers, big-screen TVs, video equipment, microwaves, and air conditioners that are now present in the average home.
Aging home wiring cannot handle the increased electrical load. Older wiring has a tendency to overheat and catch fire.
Sometimes it's hard to tell if you have old and unsafe wiring because the electrical work is usually hidden behind the walls of your home. However, keep in mind that wiring problems are a significant fire hazard.
Look for these signs of hidden electrical problems:
- Frequently overloaded circuit breaker
- Flickering lights or intermittent power outages
- Household appliances or electrical devices that are excessively hot to the touch
- Shocks or sparks from appliances or outlets
- Unexplained burning odour
If you see frayed power cords, they need to be replaced immediately by an electrician.
These exposed cables running on the floor or in the walls can be hazardous if they emit a spark.
Cables and circuit overloads
The unrestricted use of extension cords is a major fire hazard. When the TV, home theatre, computer, and other appliances are plugged into a single extension cord, it places an excessive current load on a single outlet that may not be rated for that load.
This indicates that the circuit has become overloaded, and there is a severe risk of an electrical fire in your home.
Therefore, you must make a conscious effort not to overload your outlets. If you don't have enough outlets to meet your needs, you should protect your home and family by hiring a trusted electrician to install additional outlets.
Kinked or crimped cords generate more heat and eventually melt insulation from the inside out.
Old equipment with frayed wires or loose or faulty wiring can catch fire. Since the old insulation used in these appliances is highly flammable, a simple electrical repair may not be enough to fix these problems. To ensure your safety, it is best to purchase modern appliances.
Older appliances risk being substandard in terms of wattage, material quality, and safety regulations. All the appliances you find in your kitchen can cause electrical fires: Stoves, toasters, refrigerators. Another problem with appliances and their fire hazards is when multiple devices are plugged into extension cords or power strips that are not rated for the large amount of power that appliances require.
Contact an electrician to install appropriate outlets for the type of appliances and your home. Electricians can also install ground fault circuit interrupters, which act as surge protectors and protect your home from power surges.
Lighting fixtures, lamps, and bulbs are another common cause of electrical fires. Always check the maximum suggested bulb wattage on any fixture or lamp before using it, and never use more than that.
Another cause of the fire is putting materials such as cloth or paper over a lampshade. The substance warms up and ignites, resulting in a fire. Defective lamps and fixtures also frequently cause fires.
Light bulbs are not one-size-fits-all, so follow the wattage guidelines for all lighting fixtures in your home. For example, when a 100-watt bulb is used in a light fixture meant for a 60-watt bulb, the entire thing can catch fire. That's why it's important never to exceed the maximum wattage listed on your light fixtures.
Keep in mind where you put your heaters during the winter and never leave them on for long periods, especially when sleeping or leaving the house. One of the most common fire causes is placing portable heaters next to curtains, rugs, beds, couches, and the like.
If you use a fan heater, you should use a radiator that distributes heat over the entire surface of the unit.
Electrical wiring legislation Australia (wiring rules)
With the number of deaths from preventable house fires on the rise in various Australian cities, the passage of this wiring legislation was critical. All residential circuits up to 32 amps must now be mandatorily equipped with a residual current device (RCD).
RCDs save lives; hence they should be installed in every circuit in the house.
Arc Fault Detection Devices add an extra layer of protection (and safety)
One of the many regulations introduced was the introduction of AFDDs (Arc Fault Detection Devices). AFDDs had been around for some time, but they were not readily available in Australia before the new legislation.
What do AFDDs do?
An AFDD provides an additional layer of safety to prevent fires from occurring due to arcing. An example of an arc is when you turn a light switch on and off and hear a crackling sound. This is an arc and a telltale sign that the switch is faulty somewhere.
Arcing can occur for a variety of reasons, including:
- Loose connections.
- Defective equipment.
- Deterioration of materials over time.
- Accidental damage to cables and connectors, such as crimping or pinching.
- Improper handling of equipment cables, e.g., plugs pulled by the cable rather than the plug tip.
How do AFDDs work?
Arcing generates heat from bad connections known as “hot connections”, and this is the cause of fires. AFDDs detect this arcing and automatically shut down the circuit to prevent current from continuing to flow, which causes heat generation.
AFFDs can be installed relatively inexpensively in a home. Not to mention the safety they provide your loved ones by detecting faulty materials and preventing fires.
Electrical maintenance: what you can expect
If you run a business or household, performing regular electrical maintenance is essential. Electrical maintenance includes testing, monitoring, troubleshooting, repairing, and replacing electrical equipment. In addition, the advancement and reliance on electrical equipment leave businesses vulnerable if a machine or major electrical system fails. For this reason, electrical maintenance is an integral part of a smoothly running business.
WHAT IS ELECTRICAL MAINTENANCE?
A licensed electrician performs electrical maintenance. The job consists of maintaining and repairing electronic equipment used in commercial, industrial and residential buildings. It comprises, but is not only limited to, the following areas:
- Problems with digital communications and computer software
- Electrical machines
- Hydraulics and pneumatics
- HVAC systems
- Lighting systems
- Overvoltage protection
- Electrical transformers
WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
We live here in this world that is digitised increasingly day by day, with an ever-increasing reliance on technology and digital communications. As a result, electrical equipment maintenance is more necessary than ever for businesses, as any electrical equipment failure can result in significant downtime and data loss. In addition, the regularity of weather disasters has brought electrical maintenance to the forefront.
Backup and standby generators are our first line of defence during emergencies, and when they fail or malfunction, they can become a safety hazard.
The nature of electrical wiring is one of the most difficult aspects of electrical maintenance, as pinpointing particular problems and locations can be impossible for anybody other than a specialist.
Early detection of all these problems is an important aspect of electrical maintenance. An irregular or neglected electrical maintenance program can cause all the services your business or household relies on to become unusable. This is why electrical maintenance is important and should be performed regularly and properly.
At Multivolt Services, we have developed a safety checklist that considers Australian standards.
Your safety and the safety of our team are the most critical aspects of our work. Talk to us now and let us solve your electrical problems.