3 Common Causes of Electrical House Fires and How to Prevent Them

3 Common Causes of Electrical House Fires and How to Prevent Them

Heres a quick overview to explore facets of  the  U.S.  fire  problem as  depicted  through  data collected  in  the  U.S.  Fire Administration’s  National Fire  Incident  Reporting. These can often times be preventable fires hazards. We take a look at 3 Common Causes of Electrical House Fires and How to Prevent Them.

Electricity is a basic part of life in the U.S. It provides the energy for most powered items in a home, from lights to heating systems to televisions. Today it is hard to imagine a home without electricity. It is a part of our homes and our activities that most of us take for granted. Yet, using electricity can have dangerous consequences.

Electrical fires occur frequently throughout the U.S., causing injury, claiming lives, and resulting in large losses of property.1 From 2014 to 2016, an estimated 24,000 residential building electrical fires were reported by U.S. fire departments annually. These fires caused an estimated 310 deaths, 850 injuries and $871 million in property loss. Residential building electrical fires continued to be a part of the residential fire problem and accounted for 6 percent of all residential building fires. The term “electrical fires” is defined as those fires that include electrical distribution, wiring, transformers, meter boxes, power switching gear, outlets, cords, plugs, surge protectors, electric fences, lighting fixtures, and electrical arcing as the source of heat.

  • From 2014 to 2016, an estimated 24,000 residential building electrical fires were
    reported to United States fire departments each year.
  • These fires caused an estimated 310 deaths, 850 injuries and $871 million in property loss.
  • Residential building electrical fires resulted in over twice the dollar loss per fire than residential building nonelectrical fires did.
  • Residential building electrical fires occurred most often in one- and two-family dwellings (83 percent).
  • Residential building electrical fires occurred most often in the winter month of January (12 percent).
  • In only 17 percent of residential building electrical fires, the fire spread was limited to the object where the fire started.
  • Residential building electrical fires most often started in bedrooms (15 percent) and attics or vacant crawl spaces (13 percent).
  • The leading specific items most often first ignited in residential building electrical fires were electrical wire, cable insulation (31 percent) and structural member or framing

3 Common Causes of Electrical House Fires and How to Prevent Them

Electrical Cords

The electrical cords that power appliances and fixtures are often the cause of electrical fires. Never use an electrical appliance with a worn or frayed cord – it can cause sparks, which can lead to fires. Also, extension cords should only be used for short-term use. Never use an extension cord for everyday use; it is a fire hazard.

Space Heaters

Especially in January in Minnesota, there are times you want more heat. Portable heaters are wonderful for warming up a cold room, but you need to be careful when using these appliances. Regardless of the type, you should never leave a space heater on when you are not in the room. Be careful of placing it too close to combustible materials, like curtains, furniture, and clothing.

Outlets and Circuits

Many electrical fires start in areas you cannot see – behind walls and in attics. Older wiring is a main cause of fires, especially in homes over 20 years old. Be aware of issues with your wiring. Do you have breakers that constantly trip or fuse problems? Have you noticed burn marks or heat coming from electrical outlets? These can be signs of bad wiring and unsafe electrical outlets. You should have your wiring inspected and updated if needed. This could prevent a deadly electrical fire that could put your home and family at risk.


At Affordable Electric, we are your source for reliable electrical service for your home or business in Minnesota. We offer electrical updates for older homes, and we can add more outlets in your home, to eliminate the need for extension cords. Contact us to schedule an appointment for an electrical safety evaluation. Take steps to prevent electrical fires in your home.


The Residential Building Electrical Fire Problem

Although electrical fires declined by 22 percent from 2007 to 2016, electrical malfunction was one of the top four leading causes of residential fires during each of these ten years. It has also been a leading cause of residential fire deaths, injuries and dollar loss during this time frame. Electrical fires involve the flow of electric current or static electricity and are caused by electrical system failures, appliance defects, incorrectly installed wiring, misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, and overloaded circuits and extension cords. These electrical fires can be unique. For example, electrical fires that start in walls can smolder for some time and cause smoke not to be seen immediately and detection to be delayed. By the time smoke is seen and fire is detected, the flames may have already spread behind and within walls. As a result, electrical fires have the potential to spread farther and cause more damage and injuries. In addition, electrical fires can be particularly problematic to extinguish. Since they involve electricity, and water conducts electricity, using water to put out the fire can cause electrocution unless power is reliably disconnected.

Over the last 35 years, homes have been dramatically transformed by electrical devices. Today’s electrical demands can overburden the electrical system in a home, putting it at a higher risk of an electrical fire. This may be particularly true for homes more than 40 years old that have older wiring, electrical systems, and devices. There is also the likelihood that older homes may not comply with more modern electric code requirements, which puts them at an elevated risk of hazardous conditions that could lead to an electrical fire. Eventually, given enough time, any home can be at risk of an electrical fire as wire insulation ages, connections loosen, receptacles and switches come loose or wear out, and oil and dirt cause electrical components to overheat.

Types of Fires

Building fires are divided into two classes of severity in the NFIRS: “confined fires” and “non-confined fires.” Confined building fires are small fire incidents that are limited in extent to specific types of equipment or objects, staying within pots, fireplaces or certain other noncombustible containers. Confined fires rarely result in serious injury or large content loss and are expected to have no significant accompanying property loss due to flame damage. Non-confined fires extend beyond certain types of equipment or objects. They are generally larger fires resulting in more serious injury and larger losses of property and content.

For the purpose of the report, the terms “residential fires,” “electrical fires,” and “nonelectrical fires” are synonymous with “residential building fires,”

Why Do My Fuses Keep Blowing?

Why Do My Fuses Keep Blowing?

In many older homes, fuses are used to protect electrical circuits. The purpose of a fuse is to provide protection in the case of circuit overload and short circuits. If your home was built after the late 60s, it will have circuit breakers, or trip switches, installed that control the flow of electricity. Unlike a system that uses breakers that you can reset, a blown fuse needs replaced.

The Importance of Fuse Sizes

The size of the fuses you use is important because they are designed to protect against circuit overload. The fuse will not allow wires to conduct too much power. For instance, you may use a 15-amp circuit breaker for wiring that is 14-gauge or higher. If you use a higher amperage fuse to replace a blown fuse, it won’t effectively protect the circuit during overload. This can result in wires overheating and starting a fire. 

Causes of Blown Fuses

Having too many devices plugged into a circuit is the most common cause of fuses blowing. This is particularly true of power-hungry devices, such as toasters. Most homeowners assume this is what is causing the problem and work around the issue by limiting plugged-in devices. Another potential cause of fuses blowing is a short circuit. When a hot wire touches either the grounding pathway or a neutral wire, it results in the circuit shorting out. This is what commonly occurs when a mis-wired device is plugged into a circuit. 

If your fuses are frequently blowing, there could be a serious issue with one or more circuits in your home. At Affordable Electric, we are committed to providing our customers with excellence in electrical service repairs. Call our offices today to report a problem, and we will send an experienced electrician to inspect your circuits and carry out any necessary repairs.

The Importance of a Pre-Sale Electrical Inspection of Your Home

The Importance of a Pre-Sale Electrical Inspection of Your Home

Some homeowners and even real estate agents are of the assumption it’s the buyer’s responsibility to have the home they intend to purchase inspected by a reputable home inspector. However, any homeowner who has their property listed for sale should have the home inspected. One part of the home inspection not to be skipped is its electrical system.

Safety Above All

While you may not have noticed any problems with the electricity in your home, there may be an issue you aren’t aware of. Most homeowners aren’t aware of what to look for, such as charred wiring, and don’t have the tools to check if a wire is “hot” or not. A hot wire has a direct current to it. 

There are two reasons why a detailed inspection of your home’s electrical system is important. 1) You may decide not to sell the home at some point, and you need to know the issues that should be fixed. 2) If you sell the home to someone else, you will either need to disclose the wiring issues to them or make repairs before signing paperwork. By law, you have to disclose issues you find via an inspection, but you also want the new homeowners to be safe. 

Upgrading to Modern Standards

During an electrical system inspection of a home you intend to sell, there may be no current problems, but you will likely realize some out-of-date electrical items or wiring. Electrical codes are updated often, based on newer and safer technology. If there are no safety issues with the electric in the home you plan to sell, it may be okay to leave it as is. A newly upgraded electrical system can keep the buyer from having to go through the inconvenience, not to mention the cost. This can raise your asking price considerably.

Understanding the Buyer’s Needs

Safety problems need to be addressed before a sale can go through. However, if the electrical system is okay but outdated, you have some thinking to do. The best option is to talk to the realtors of any prospective buyers and ask them whether they would be willing to pay more if you invested more in a new electrical system for the house. A new electrical system means the new owners can utilize all their new technology, smart-home integrations and more, without having to invest right away in the home.


If you’re considering putting your home on the market, whether in six weeks or six months, call Affordable Electric. We can come out and inspect the electrical system in your home to make sure it’s ready for a sale. If it isn’t, we can make necessary repairs and upgrades so it is. We might even make your home better than brand new, so making that decision to put it on the market might be a little harder. Call us today at 612-331-8658!