Birnie Home Safe, a Mississauga-based electrical contractor, says electrical fires are on the rise.
“We know that more than 50% of house fires are electrical in nature the good news is that they are preventable with the right education,” says John Flanagan.
Flanagan is the General Manager of Birnie Home Safe, a licensed electrical contractor that services the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). He says that as a home reaches a certain age, the electrical system should be inspected.
“Electrical fires aren’t a mystery. We understand why they happen. Things like aged and degraded wiring, overloaded circuits, faulty installations and arching are things we see every day and they are common in older homes,” he says.
According to the General Manager, Birnie Home Safe has a unique inspection service that can detect these hazards before they become emergencies.
“Our Electrical Risk Assessment (ERA), is the most comprehensive way to see what’s going on behind the walls without any cutting or drilling.”
The electrical inspection is performed by a licensed electrician who documents the findings. If electrical hazards are detected, the homeowner is notified and can decide whether or not they’d like to proceed with the repairs.
Birnie Home Safe, who’s visited thousands of homes in the GTA, says these are the 5 most common electrical hazards they uncover:
According to Flanagan, an overloaded circuit is an excessive electrical load on a particular circuit. This occurs when there are too many devices plugged into the circuit at once. When a circuit is overloaded for a long time the wires start to break down, overheat and can even start a fire.
When dealing with older homes there is added electrical danger explains Flanagan. “We now these homes have old, worn and brittle wires due to ageing and degradation and homeowners are plugging in all sorts of devices to already fragile circuits.”
Extension cords are for temporary use only and some are rated for indoor or outdoor use only. Extension cords are never a permanent solution for your wiring needs. The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) says that the improper use of extension cords causes approximately 3,300 residential fires each year. If you are someone who regularly relies on extension cords, consider hiring a licensed electrical contractor to install a new outlet.
John Flanagan says homeowners should run extension cords through ceilings or walls. “This is so dangerous, the use and abuse of extension cords may cause them to overheat and result in electrical fires.”
Aged Electrical Panel:
If your electrical panel has a 60-amp service, you should consider upgrading. We know that today’s electrical needs are greater than they’ve ever been and so your home’s electrical panel should reflect this. “An old panel is limited in space and hinders your ability to add new circuits…most old panels are maxed out, space wise, right after construction,” explains Flanagan. He says newer homes are built with 200-amp panels which fit our lifestyles.
And those with fuse panels should also consider upgrading. “The fuse system was safe for its time but chances are that if you have the fuse panel your wiring us old and can’t possibly handle all of the electrical devices we use today,” Flanagan Says. According to the General Manager, once a fuse blows it has to be replaced but a circuit breaker can be re-used which is another reason for making the upgrade.
If your home was built with aluminum wire you should have it inspected. This type of metal is soft, brittle and prone to oxidation which, according to Birnie Home Safe, can cause electrical fires. Flanagan says that aluminum-wired homes are 55 times more likely to reach fire conditions than homes wired with copper.
The aluminum itself is not a problem. The General Manager says the issue stems from the termination points. A termination point is where the electrical wire meets the panel or the device. Aluminum oxidizes much faster than traditional copper wiring, which is used today, resulting in electrical arcing and overheating. This means every plug, switch and junction box becomes hazardous.
Loose Electrical Connection:
A loose electrical connection, either at the outlet or circuit breaker, can cause arcing -sparks that jump through the air from one wire to another. Flanagan says the sparking or small flares can start a fire. “You may or may not notice blackening around the outlet plugs or a burning smell…you should never ignore this. Call a licensed electrical contractor right away.”
The General Manager goes on to explain that sometimes the wiring is perfectly fine but it’s the terminals on the device that are loose and have not been tightened properly which can also be dangerous.