Electrical fires are one of the leading causes of domestic fires. Between 2012-2018 there where on average 1500 house fires each year in NZ connected to electrical issues (see stats here). With the NZ fire service reporting electrical faults being the second most common cause of fatal fire incidents (21%).
So, what causes electrical fires and how can they be prevented?
What causes electrical fires?
Faulty or old wiring is a major cause of house fires. Old wiring isn’t capable of powering all of the electrical appliances associated with our modern lives. Circuits can easily become overloaded, potentially leading to fires. Dodgy wiring can leave our homes unsafe and open to potential fires.
Switchboards safeguard our homes against fires and prevent electrical related injuries, but only if they are well maintained, in good condition and wired correctly. If your home is an older property, there’s a good chance that you do not have RCD protection installed. RCD’s protect you and your home from electrical fires by cutting off electricity when a fault is found within a circuit – hence avoiding fires and electrocution.
Downlights have the potential to cause a fire within your home if not installed correctly. This is especially true if installed too close to insulation. Particularly insulfluff. Be aware when purchasing downlights, to check how close the manufacturers state they can be installed to building materials. It is worth noting that currently there are no downlights available on the NZ market that are safe to be installed directly or closely to insulfluff (or other loose insulation).
What to watch out for:
- Flickering lights – this can be a sign of an issue with your wiring
- Circuit breakers and RCD’s tripping
- Burning smell / fishy smell
- Visible burns/scorch marks to sockets
These are all signs that your home could require an electrical upgrade. It would be a good idea to contact a registered electrician to take a look at your wiring sooner rather than later to keep your family and home safe.
”21% of fatal fire incidents in NZ where caused by electrical faultsFire Emergency New Zealand(2018)
Overloaded extension cords
I’m sure we have all been there, we need to plug something in but we find we don’t have enough sockets. So out comes the extension cord. Especially in older houses, where there’s often only one double power point per room. But please think twice before pulling out your extension cord in the future. These come with a huge risk. It’s far too easy to overload circuits when using extensions. Overloaded circuits are a big fire risk. Appliances such as kettles (jugs), ovens, heaters, washing machines and dryers all draw a large amount of energy increasing the load on the circuit.
If you find you are needing to use an extension cord at your home, it would a good idea to speak to an electrician to have extra power points installed instead.
Faulty appliances or appliances that are not maintained or used correctly can also be a leading cause of electrical fires. The most common appliances to cause fires are:
To ensure safety when using appliances it is always worthwhile being aware of manufactures instructions re operating and maintenance of your appliances. For example: making sure to clear the lint from your dryer before using it. Also make sure to check the appearance of the appliance, particularly the plug and cord before use.
To summarise, electrical issues are a leading cause of domestic fires. These are often preventable. Your home wiring does require maintenance – much like your car – to ensure everything is running safely. If you notice any of the warning signs mentioned above don’t hang around too long before having a registered electrician assess the electrical wiring or appliances in your home. Try to avoid using extension cords if possible and only ever use for appliances that draw a small amount of energy such as TVs. To avoid fires caused by appliances, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and ensure to monitor the condition of your appliances.
At Coastal Connections we really care about your safety and we always offer a free home safety check.
If you have any questions regarding the electrical safety of your home please don’t hesitate to contact us.