Top 5 Causes for Electrical Fires and How to Prevent Them


Electrical fires are responsible for around 500 deaths in the United States every year and $1.3 billion in property damage. The best thing you can do to avoid being part of this tragic statistic is to educate yourself on causes and prevention of electrical fires. Below are the top 5 causes for electrical fires and tips on what you can do to prevent them.

Lightbulbs and Fixtures

Installing a bulb into a light fixture or lamp that exceeds its maximum wattage can cause electrical fires. Say you install a 100-watt bulb into a lamp or light fixture that is only equipped for 75-watt lights. That bulb is going to draw more power through the wiring than it was safely meant to handle, causing the wires and bulb itself to overheat. When this occurs, you’re at risk of melting the sockets, wires, and insulation, leading to a serious fire hazard.

Alternatively, placing flammable materials, such as paper or cloth, on lamp shades to dim the brightness of the light is dangerous. Light bulbs get hot and placing something over them that could potentially make them hotter can easily cause a fire.

Preventable Measures

  • Always check the maximum wattage for light fixtures or lamps prior to installing a bulb and never exceed that wattage.
  • Don’t cover your lamps with cloth or paper. If you’re unhappy with the brightness, find a lower lumen bulb (lumens determine brightness, not wattage).

Old Wiring

As your home ages, so does your electrical wiring. Depending on how old your wiring is, it may not be able to facilitate modern electrical appliances, such as computers and air conditioners. If working correctly, the breaker would usually trip if a circuit is trying to draw more load than it can facilitate. If the breaker box is outdated too, however, it may overload and cause a fire.

Preventable Measures

  • Make sure your wiring is up to date as well as your breaker box. It’s recommended to have your wiring inspected every 5 years.
  • If you notice some electrical problems in your home, call a professional electrician asap.

Improper Extension Cord Use

While extension cords are a convenient way to power that electric device that’s just a bit too far from the socket to connect, they should only be a temporary solution. Extension cords can overheat when devices that are plugged into them exceed more wattage than the cord can take, creating a risk of fire.

Damaged or defective extension cords can also heat up and melt, exposing conductors to flammable materials in your home or office.

Preventable Measures

  • Don’t use extension cords as a long-term solution. If you need more wall sockets to facilitate appliances, hire an electrician to install them.
  • Always carefully inspect the extension cord for visible defects and keep a close watch on it while in use. If you hear audible sounds from it when in use or smell burning wires or smoke, immediately discontinue use.

Faulty Appliances and Power Outlets

Many fires that occur can be traced back to an outdated appliance or old, faulty power outlets. As stated prior, wiring will age with time, and this wear and tear can cause breakage that could lead to a fire in the outlet. If your power outlet is faulty, it can catch fire even if you don’t have anything plugged into it.

Additionally, old appliances can draw more power or have damaged and frayed cords that could easily ignite flammable surfaces.

Preventable Measures

  • Always keep an eye on older power outlets. If you notice sparks, burnt spots on the outlet, or the devices plugged into that outlet are flickering – discontinue use and call an electrician.
  • Make sure cords on your appliances are in good condition and keep a lookout for signs of wearing.

Portable Heaters

It’s estimated that over 25,000 home fires that occur every year are caused by portable heating devices (space heaters). People often underestimate how hot the unit can get and place it too close to flammable surfaces, such as beds. The heat generated from these units can easily set fire to combustible items that are too close. This is especially true in cases where a coil heater is being used because of how hot coils can get.

Preventable Measures

  • Space heaters should always be placed 3 feet or more away from furniture and other flammable materials.
  • Always plug space heaters directly into a power outlet.
  • Look for space heaters that feature an automatic shutoff function.

Need a Professional Electrician?

If you need an experienced, reliable electrician in Sumner, WA – look no further than Tapps Electric! Our skilled professionals handle a wide range of electrical services, including Tesla car charger installation, hot tub electrical installation, and more! Visit the Tapps website today for more details or give us a call at (253) 344-4622.

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