How Do Electrical Fires Start in Walls?
In the U.S., electrical fires accounted for 6.3% of all residential fires, being approximately 24,000 fires reported each year. It is estimated that 83% of residential building electrical fires occur most often in homes with one and two families, and 12% of residential electrical fires often occur in January. Also, it is known that despite most electrical fires start in the bedroom, the highest number of fatalities occur with fires located in the living room. Statistics also show that the first items to catch fire in residential building electrical fires were electrical wire, cable insulation, and structural member of framing, while the main factors contributing to the ignition were an electrical failure, malfunction, and short-circuit arc from defective insulation.
How Do Electrical Fires Start?
It is important to know the most common causes of electrical fires when you talk about fire and life safety with your community or family.
Electrical Outlet Fire: Faulty Outlets or Appliances
How do electrical fires start in walls due to faulty outlets? Faulty electrical outlets and old, outdated appliances cause most electrical fires, while faults in appliance cords, receptacles, and switches cause some others. Therefore, you should never use an appliance with a frayed or worn cord, which could send heat onto combustible surfaces that could start a fire, such as curtains, rugs, and floors.
Other common causes of fires are running cords under rugs and removing the grounding plug from a cord to be used in a two-prong electrical outlet. Keep in mind that appliances have the extra prong to be used exclusively in outlets that can handle the extra amount of electricity that these appliances draw.
Commonly, a light fixture such as a lamp or a light bulb is what causes electrical fires at home. Checking the maximum recommended bulb wattage on any lighting fixture or lamp is very important as installing a bulb with a too high wattage often leads to electrical fires. Moreover, placing materials that heat up and ignite like cloth or paper over a lampshade, could start a fire.
Extension cords should only be used as a temporary measure, and not for a long time. If you cannot plug your appliances directly into the appropriate type of outlets, hire an electrician to install new ones. Making a detailed plan before building a house would include considering these details that might help you avoid future expenses or accidents.
As these heaters are portable, people usually place them too close combustible surfaces like beds, curtains, chairs, clothing, rugs, and couches. How long does it take for an electrical fire to start due to a portable heater? Well, as coil space heaters become extremely hot, they will almost immediately ignite any flammable surface around them.
It is recommended to use radiator space heaters instead, as these ones diffuse heat over the entire surface of the appliance, reducing the risk of a fire. However, they should still remain away from flammable items.
How do electrical fires start in walls due to the wiring? When a home is over 20 years old, it is possible that it does not have the wiring capacity to handle increased amounts of electrical appliances, such as wide-screen televisions, computers, video games, air conditioners, and microwaves, so keep in mind that older types of copper wire could be the cause of an electrical fire in your home. Besides, consider that old houses that remained unoccupied for a long time might have had pests. Therefore, as rats can chew through walls, they could have damaged the wiring as well.
When circuits get overloaded by too much electricity, breakers should be triggered, so how do electrical fires start in walls? Old breaker boxes often have worn connectors that do not work properly, which leads to an overload and an electrical fire. House wiring is important to be considered among the things you have to check when buying a house, especially if this one is considerably old.