Each year there are around 25,000 electrical house fires in the United States. These catastrophes result in over $1 billion of property damage and approximately 1,125 injuries. Protecting your house from electrical fires requires a careful review of your home’s wiring to ensure you are not putting yourself at risk. Whenever you complete a new renovation or home improvement project, make sure you are not committing any common wiring mistakes. In addition, be sure you have taken all the necessary precautions in case fire does break out in your home. Early detection of home fires improves the chances that the proper authorities will be able to react quickly and efficiently to the emergency, thus saving you money and possibly your life.
To protect yourself from fire, make sure your electrical wiring follows certain safety protocols:
Never make connections outside of an electrical box: If you try to join wires without an electrical box, then you are exposing your home to the possibility of dangerous sparks that could start a house fire.
Make sure your wires are long enough: If you cut your wires too short while doing electrical work, you are more likely to make bad connections because you don’t have enough slack. Always cut your wires longer than you think you will need. You can always cut more off the wire, but you can’t add more on.
Properly support your outlets: Loose wall outlets are dangerous. When they move around within the wall there is a risk that the wires will come undone, arc and overheat. Regularly check up on your outlets to make sure they are snug.
Only install three-slot outlets when there is a ground wire available: Some people replace their two-slot outlets so they can plug in their three-pronged appliances. Doing so when there is not a ground wire available puts your house at considerable risk. The ground wire is important for preventing the build-up of potential charge. You can determine if your wiring is grounded by purchasing a circuit tester.
Attach electrical boxes flush to the wall: When electrical boxes are not flush with the wall, flammable materials such as wooden beams become exposed to the wires. If the box’s location makes it difficult to secure, use a box extension.
Don’t overfill an electrical box: If there are too many wires inside an electrical box, you run the risk of overheating the box.
Know your light fixtures’ wattage restrictions: Though not strictly a wiring issue, when you use a bulb that has a wattage way above the light fixture’s capacity, you create a very serious fire hazard. Make sure you know the wattage restrictions of all your light fixtures when changing bulbs.
After the appropriate preventative measures have been taken, you will want to also invest in a few responsive fire safety measures. Smoke alarms are incredibly important tools for detecting fires. However, a standard smoke alarm alone is often not enough. Monitored smoke alarms have the added benefit of not only alerting you that there is a fire in the house, but also automatically alerting the fire department whenever there is smoke or a rapid rise in temperature. No home security system can be considered complete without the addition of at least one monitored smoke alarm.
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