Electrical System Warning Signs Every Homeowner Should Know
There are a number of reasons why electrical fires can begin. Your home may have had improper electrical work done to it, it may be overloaded, it may be old, or you may have a defective wire. Unfortunately, an electrical fire can be hard to detect initially, as most start behind walls. By the time you figure out what is happening and where the smoke is coming from, extensive damage has already been done. However, most homes will give you warning signs that something is amiss with the electrical system before an electrical fire breaks out. Knowing what these signs are may help you prevent an electrical fire in your home. Here are three electrical system warning signs everyone homeowner should know and familiarize themselves with.
Tripping Circuit Breakers
By design, circuit breakers trip, or turn off, when they become overloaded. For example, if you were to plug in items that require a lot of power into one small area of your home and turn all the items on at once, you may trip the circuit breaker because it isn't designed to supply that much power at once. By tripping the breaker, it turns off power to the area of the home it supplies power to, which prevents it from overheating. If it were to overheat, it could lead to an electrical fire. Having a tripped circuit breaker every once in awhile isn't much cause for concern, especially if you know why the circuit breaker tripped. Maybe you hung too many Christmas lights, or maybe you had guests who were using way more power than you normally use in the area. However, if your circuits are tripping often, they are being overworked. This should indicate to you that it's time to upgrade your electrical panel box and circuit breakers to a higher wattage box so you don't overwork your system. This commonly needs to be done with older homes, which weren't constructed to support all of the electrical items we use these days, including computers and phone chargers. If your circuits are being tripped often, and you fail to address the issue, they could overheat before they trip one day and start a fire.
Ceiling Fixtures that Are Too Hot
One of the most common causes of electrical fires in homes is caused by ceiling fixtures that are too hot. And unfortunately, when the fixture is too hot, the electrical wires or the fixture itself can burst out in flames. There are two primary ways that ceiling fixtures can cause a fire. The first is due to poor wiring or low insulation inside the fixture. If the light fixture was improperly wired into place, if your electrical wiring is damaged, or if the fixture is old and the insulation has worn or charred, the wires will get hot. After the light has been on for at least 30 minutes, you can place your hand on the drywall near the light fixture and feel for this warmth. Your drywall is naturally a bit cool to the touch, so if it feels warm or hot, the wires behind the wall powering the light fixture are producing this heat. You should stop using the light fixture until you have a professional electrician assess the situation.
The second reason light fixtures become too hot is because you are using a higher wattage bulb than what the light fixture can handle. Always read the manufacturer's warnings when you buy a new light fixture. If you use a bulb that is over the maximum recommended bulb wattage, the fixture has to use more electricity than it is designed to. This can cause it to overheat and burst into flames.
Burning Smell or Noticeable Char Around Outlets
The last warning sign that your electrical system is in trouble is a burning smell or noticeable char marks around your electrical outlets. Both of these signs indicate that wires are burning. Fortunately, most wiring has plastic around it, so this plastic will burn off before a larger fire breaks out. This will leave a noticeable burning smell or char around the outlets. This can occur due to improper electrical wiring or old and dated electrical wiring. If you notice either of these, your electrical wiring needs to be inspected and possibly replaced as soon as possible.
An electrical fire can be devastating. It can spread quickly behind your walls, causing a great deal of internal damage. It can also spread beyond the walls and potentially burn your home to the ground. Luckily, there are things you can do to prevent electrical wires, such as not overloading your system and ensuring your electrical system is up to code. Knowing the warning signs of a potential electrical system problem will also alert you to issues that can cause a fire, helping you to correct it.
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