News and Events
Fire Hazards In The Home: Faulty Wiring
September 4th 2023
According to figures from Electrical Safety First, around a quarter of accidental domestic electrical fires in England are due to faulty appliances and leads, with damaged wiring being a common fire risk in the home. To help prevent electrical fires from starting, it is important to know what to look out for and to have a plan in place.
Recognising the signs of faulty wiring
It is crucial to be vigilant and recognise the signs of faulty, damaged or outdated wiring. These can include:
- Dimming or flickering lights
- Unusual odours, such as burning, coming from outlets
- Sparking from devices or outlets
- Hot or discoloured outlets or switches
- Frequently blown fuses or tripped breakers
- Electrical buzzing
Fire hazards caused by faulty wiring
Electricity can be a source of ignition as when damaged wires come into contact they can spark or overheat, resulting in a fire. Poor design, inadequate maintenance and installation are all risk factors to consider when it comes to wiring.
Common causes of faulty wiring
Faulty wiring can be caused by a plethora of things, including and not limited to:
- Broken appliances with damaged insulation
- Rodents and other animals chewing cabling
- Ageing and poor maintenance
- Damage caused by other appliances or systems
- Short circuits
- Open circuit faults – when wires break or electrical components melt
Wire damage over time
Age-related deterioration is a common problem. Electrical wiring has a life expectancy of 50-70 years and while copper wiring can last up to 100 years, the outer casing will deteriorate much quicker. It is recommended to get your wiring checked by a professional electrician every 5-10 years.
Understanding electrical overloads
Fires can start due to an electrical overload, occuring when a large current passes through electrical wires or a circuit that cannot handle it. Electrical overloads can be caused by a variety of situations:
- Too many loads in a single circuit
- Damaged material and products
- Faulty breakers or fuses
- Deteriorating isolation protecting wires
As well as fires, the consequences of overloading electrical devices range from destroyed devices and power outages to serious risks of shocks, injury and even death.
Unsafe DIY electrical work
Faulty wiring can unfortunately often be the result of DIY electrical work carried out by someone lacking expertise. There are a lot of basic, but potentially costly, mistakes that can be made - from not securing the outlet to reversing the hot and neutral wires. Along with DIY mistakes comes DIY risks. Houses can easily be destroyed by fires resulting from faulty wiring and some home insurance policies may become invalid.
Summary of fire hazard prevention
It is important to know the signs of faulty wiring and fire prevention in the home to minimise risk of injuries and damage to property.
Hire a professional electrician to do all electrical home improvements, as well as have all signs of faulty wiring checked out. Know your fire exit routes and prepare for what to do in an emergency. Seek professional advice and stop using electrical devices/outlets if you suspect there is a fault until these have been properly checked.
Preventing electrical fires: best practices checklist
- Inspect electrical devices periodically to determine if there is wear or fraying of the wires, or if devices are becoming too hot
- Don’t ignore warning signs of electrical failure – stop using devices immediately and contact an electrician if you smell anything burning, see smoke coming from the appliance, cord, or plug, or if the outlet is discoloured
- Use electrical appliances properly and do not overload outlets
- Never use extension cords with heating units or air conditioners
- Unplug appliances when not in use, especially at night
Tackling electrical fires
If a fire does occur, safety should be your first priority. Fighting the fire is best left to the professionals, so it’s recommended to leave the property if it is safe to do so and contact the fire service straight away. Not all fire extinguishers are appropriate to use on electrical fires and can cause serious harm if used incorrectly.
Fire suppression systems
There are products available on the market that can be installed to combat electrical fires in the home automatically. One such system that provides in-home fire suppression is Automist, a fast-activating misting system that suppresses fires with a dense fog of watermist. It works by depriving oxygen from the fire source and helps cool the flames. As fine water particles are used, the system is designed to tackle electrical fires safely and quickly, reducing both water and fire damage to the home.