Prevent Electrical Fires: 7 Safety Tips

by Shelley Frost
Short circuit damage Using non-standard equipment can be dangerous. overload

Sparks flying on a first date is a great feeling. But sparks flying when it comes to your electrical system is anything but a good thing. When power outlets in your home are sparking, the situation could end up in an electrical fire.

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The good news is that you can take several steps to prevent electrical fire risks in your home. Everything from the condition of cords to how you use outlets can affect the risk of fires.  

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Safety Tips to Prevent Electrical Fires

To prevent electrical fire risks, you might need to change some of your habits and upgrade some of your electrical items. The following electrical fire prevention tips can help keep your family safer.

1. Inspect Outlets and Cords

How often do you take the time to look at your cords and outlets? Most people simply push the plug into the outlet and go on with their day. However, a simple inspection could alert you to a potential electrical fire risk. Frayed or damaged wiring increases the chances of heating up the electrical components and causing a fire. Check the outlet for burn marks, loose wiring or anything that looks abnormal. Check the cord for damaged prongs or wiring. If you notice any issues, don't use the items. 

2. Hire an Electrician

It's tempting to do simple electrical tasks yourself, such as replacing outlets. However, hiring an electrician to do all electrical work can increase your home's safety. Electricians understand building codes and the potential risks of doing the work incorrectly. They can also recommend the correct type of wiring, outlets and other components to ensure your home's electrical system meets your needs. 

You might also hire an electrician to perform an inspection. They might spot minor issues the average person doesn't know about that could lead to an electrical fire. 

3. Install GFCI Outlets

Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets are a must near water sources. That means the outlets in your kitchen and bathrooms should be GFCI. You might also need them in other areas, such as your laundry room or workshop, if you have sinks in those areas. If the outlet detects a ground fault, it shuts down the flow of electricity. This can prevent an electrical fire and shocks. Have an electrician swap out regular outlets for GFCIs if you have an older home without them. 

4. Practice Outlet Safety

Even if the outlet and cord are in good condition, you could create unsafe conditions based on how you use the outlet. Make sure you fully insert the plug into the electrical socket so the prongs are completely hidden. If plugs don't fit snugly into the socket, don't use that outlet. You'll want to replace the outlet to improve the fit of plugs. 

It's also important to limit how much you plug into one outlet. Overloading the outlet with extension cords and power strips causes it to draw too much electricity. That can cause overheating and damage to the wiring, which could eventually cause an electrical fire. 

5. Be Careful With Extension Cords

On a related note, using extension cords can increase your risk of an electrical fire. Plugging several items into one outlet via an extension cord can overload the circuit. If you use extension cords, avoid putting them under furniture, rugs or other items. This can cause them to become damaged and potentially start a fire or cause electrical shocks.

What you plug into an extension cord or power strip also matters. Small appliances that draw a large amount of power, such as window air conditioners and space heaters, should plug directly into a wall outlet instead of an extension cord. Never plug one extension cord into another. If you don't have enough outlets to handle your electrical needs, consider hiring an electrician to add more outlets. 

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6. Leave a Buffer Zone Around Outlets

When you look around your home, you likely have lots of flammable objects, from curtains to decorations. Never allow those items to sit in front of or near your outlets. An overloaded outlet generates a significant amount of heat. Outlets can sometimes create sparks as well. If you have curtains hanging in front of an outlet or other flammable objects sitting near it, those objects could catch fire from the heat or spark. 

7. Replace Older Electrical Items

Holding onto items for as long as possible saves you money and reduces how much waste you produce. However, older electrical items could put you at risk for an electrical fire. They might have bad wiring or generate more heat than newer models. If you notice damage to the appliance or its wiring, dispose of it and replace it with a newer version. Other signs that the appliance should be replaced include sparking, flickering lights or excessive heat on the cord or outlet.

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