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5 common causes of electrical fires in homes

Best protect your home from electrical fires

Winter months are when homes are most at risk. It’s the time of year when the majority of electrical fires occur due to an increased number of heating appliances on in homes and plug sockets being overloaded to accommodate Christmas lights.

According to UK Government Fire Statisticsmost electrical fires start in the bedroom, with the highest number of fatalities occurring when fires start from within living rooms. Dorset is no different. Electrical fires happen because of problems in house wiring or appliance failures, but many occur due to mistakes that homeowners make like overloading electrical sockets or extension leads.

Here are the five most common causes of electrical fires in homes:

  1. Faulty Sockets / Appliances

    Most electrical fires are caused by faulty electrical plug sockets and dated appliances that have been around for a while. Don’t use an appliance with a worn cord which could send heat onto combustible surfaces like floors, curtains, and rugs that can start a fire. Removing the grounding plug from a cord so it can be used in an electrical socket can also cause a fire, the reason appliances have the extra prong is so they can be only used in outlets that can handle the extra amount of electricity that these appliances draw.

  2. Light Fixtures & Fittings

    Lamps, light bulbs, and light fixtures and fittings are another common reason for electrical fires. Installing a bulb with a wattage too high for the lamps and light fixtures is a leading cause of electrical fires. Check the maximum recommended bulb wattage on any lighting fixture or lamp and never exceed this amount. Putting materials like cloth over a lampshade is also a cause, the material heats up and ignites, causing fire.

  3. Extension Leads

    Appliances should be plugged directly into outlet and not plugged into an extension lead for any length of time. Only use extension cords as a temporary measure. If you do not have the appropriate type of plug sockets for your appliances, get an electrician in to your home to install new ones – a much safer alternative.

  4. Portable Heaters

    Many times people put these types of heaters too close to combustible surfaces such as curtains, beds, clothing, chairs, sofas and rugs. Coil space heaters are especially dangerous due to the coils becoming so hot that they will almost instantly ignite any nearby flammable surface. If you do use portable heaters, use the radiator-type that diffuse heat over the entire surface of the appliance. These are less likely to ignite flammable items, but should still be kept away from them.

  5. Outdated Wiring Systems

    If a home is over 20 years old, it may not have the wiring capacity to handle the increased amounts of electrical appliances in today’s average UK home, such as computers, televisions, games consoles, kitchen gadgets or even solar panel systems. Breakers should be triggered when circuits get overloaded by too much electricity, but outdated breaker boxes often have worn connectors that do not work, causing the system to overload and start an electrical fire.

Those were the top five most common causes of electrical fires in UK homes. If you can run through this list and be happy that every one has been considered or actioned, then you’ve given your home the best chance against fire. Accidents happen but usually an accident is penned down to wiring neglect or appliance failure that’s too near combustible material.

Your local fire and rescue service will be able to help and potentially conduct a home fire risk assessment. For more information, visit Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service. Also, read our Top Home Security Tips article for advice on how best to protect your home from being targeted by criminals this winter.