Hidden Electrical Dangers That Can Exist in a Home
- Jun 19, 2017
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Most homeowners and apartment tenants take their electricity for granted. As long as electric current flows and appliances work normally, you have little reason to wonder how safe your wiring is.
Electrical systems are subject to wear and tear like any other, however. Small issues, left undetected, can become hidden dangers that threaten the value of the home or – in the worst case – the safety of its inhabitants.
Electrical Fires Can Be Prevented
Of all the hidden dangers that can exist in a home, the most severe are those that could cause electrical fires.
The U.S. Fire Administration estimates that an average of 25,900 electrical fires cause over $1.1 billion in damages each year. These fires also cause an average of 280 deaths and over more than 1,000 injuries each year. Most of those electrical fires are caused by entirely preventable conditions – obsolete components and old wiring.
Fortunately, there are some quick and easy ways look out for potential electrical fire hazards.
Look at Your Electrical Outlets
The easiest way to determine the age – and thus the general risk – of your electrical system is to look at your electrical outlets. As you're probably well aware, most homes have either two-prong or three-prong electrical outlets installed.
Modern electrical systems exclusively feature three-prong outlets. The third prong is called the ground circuit – it prevents electrical faults from shocking you when loose wiring creates a short circuit inside some appliances.
Your appliances that feature two-prong electrical cables don't need this extra ground circuit, but its presence ensures fire safety in tools and appliances that do – typically these are appliances with a conductive metal casing that could electrify in an accident.
On their own, two-prong outlets are safe so long as you don't attempt to cut and plug three-prong outlets in them. However, if your home is outfitted with two prong outlets, it means that most likely the underlying electrical system is old – this can be a problem.
Dangers of Old Wiring Systems
The main danger associated with wiring systems more than twenty years old is the difference in load between old appliances and new ones. Energy-saving appliances don't represent great risk, but some new appliances draw power more abruptly than ever before.
If your home's electrical system is not rated to handle the increased load, it could overload, short out, and cause a fire.
Also, old wires tend to be less efficient than new ones. Efficiency is important in home electrical wiring because it reduces the amount of heat the wires give off when electrical current passes through them.
If a faulty, old electrical wire is radiating heat and located near a flammable surface – like a rug – it could heat sufficiently to ignite and cause an unexpected electrical fire. This is similar to the danger of placing a flammable textile over a lampshade and accidentally letting the light bulb ignite it.
Verify Your Electrical Panel to Discover Hidden Dangers
Beyond looking over your electrical outlets, an inspection of your electrical panel can be instrumental in resolving hidden dangers in your home. Contact a licensed electrician and ask for an inspection, particularly if you believe your home's electrical wiring system may be old.