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Are There Fire Dangers Hidden in Your Walls?

An orange flame with a smile on its face.

Most people know that using frayed extension cords and burning candles unattended are unsafe practices, yet about 370,000 house fires in the US still claim lives and cause billions of dollars in damages every year. Some major causes of house fires have nothing to do with user error and everything to do with fire dangers hidden in your walls. Watch for signs of problems with your electrical wires and have them fixed without delay to prevent putting your home and family at risk.

Warning Signs of Electrical Hazards

  • Circuit breakers trip or fuses blow continuously.
  • Touching appliances plugged into the wall gives you a slight electric shock.
  • A persistent burning smell comes from a specific appliance or room in your home.
  • Plugs easily fall out of outlets.
  • The lights flicker.
  • Outlets often spark when you plug appliances in.
  • Light switch plates feel warm to the touch.
  • You find wiring that has been gnawed on by rodents or insects.
  • Your home has been flooded or experienced other water damage.

The best way to tackle a possible electrical hazard is to call an electrician to come take a look at your wiring. Now consider the top four fire dangers lurking behind your walls and causing these problems.

Old Wiring

Electrical wiring is only meant to last 30 to 40 years. If you just moved into a new home, this isn’t a huge concern, but if you live in an older home, you might have no idea how old the wiring is. It may be easy for the circuits to become overloaded since older fuses were only meant to handle 30 amps of power compared to today’s 200-amp fuses.

Having the wiring replaced is something electricians consider on a case-by-case basis. Have an electrician survey your home so he can recommend the best course of action to bring your wiring up to code.

Aluminum Wiring

Old wiring isn’t just a fire hazard because of low amperage capacities; it may also contain aluminum wires. This was the material of choice in the 60s and 70s, but we now know that aluminum oxidizes and corrodes faster than modern copper wiring. You can check for the word “aluminum” embossed on any exposed sections of wiring to discover if you have this fire danger hidden in your walls. An electrician can perform an even more thorough search.

The first solution is to install “pigtails,” or copper connectors at receptacles and circuit breakers. This is a temporary fix until you create a plan of action for rewiring your home.

Loose Outlets

Do you have any outlets in your home that have trouble gripping plugs? If the cord falls out easily, the blades inside the electrical outlet have become loose. This isn’t just a nuisance; the loose connection can generate a lot of heat and start a fire.

The best advice here is to replace outlets as soon as you notice plugs easily coming loose.

Arc Faults

If you have ever seen a spark fly from a power outlet, you just witnessed an arc fault. This can also happen out of sight behind the wall if drilling or hammering punctures the insulation surrounding wiring traveling there.

The scary thing is that spotting hidden arc faults is nearly impossible until they start a fire. Fortunately, you can prevent this from happening by upgrading your circuit breaker to an arc-fault circuit interrupter, or AFCI. This senses abnormal electrical sparks and shuts down the circuit before it overheats.

If you need help removing the fire dangers hidden in your walls, please contact Mr. Electric® today.