What Causes Electrical Fires in the Home?

The U.S. Fire Administration has determined that electrical fires kill approximately 485 Americans every year. Not only do electrical fires endanger human lives, they also cause roughly $868 million in property damage every year. Although some of these fires occur when electrical devices malfunction, many fires result from electrical equipment that is used incorrectly.

Know what causes electrical fires to prevent them from endangering your home and family.

Electric Heat Sources

The National Fire Protection Agency explains that electrical space heaters and fireplaces caused 66,100 house fires in the U.S. during 2008. When plugged into electrical outlets, space heaters cause the most fires, especially when placed close to flammable objects like curtains, furniture and bedding, which catch fire very quickly. Fires also occur when heating equipment experiences mechanical problems. To prevent electrical fires in your home, keep heaters at least 3 feet from flammable objects. Purchase only heating equipment that has been tested in a reputable laboratory, and install equipment according to the manufacturer's instructions. Finally, always turn space heaters off and unplug them before leaving the room or sleeping.

Faulty Wires

According to the USFA, most electrical fires originate from faulty power outlets and old wiring throughout the home. In urban neighborhoods alone, bad wiring causes 33 percent of electrical fires in residential areas. Electrical fires are often preventable, resulting from improper use of electric cords and inadequate maintenance of wiring. Electrical fires also result when electric cords are sequestered beneath rugs, preventing heat from escaping normally.

Electrical Appliances

The USFA explains that most electrical fires inside the home come from stoves, ovens and heaters that rely on electricity for power. In addition, televisions, stereos and record players also account for many residential electric fires. Typically, a fire will erupt when appliance power cords become damaged. Inspect appliance cords regularly, and replace them when they begin to fray or look worn.

Electronics Exposed to Water

Electrical cords will lead to electrocution and cause fires inside the home when they come in contact with water. The USFA recommends that you avoid placing electrical appliances near water sources, including wet floors, counters and sinks. Take caution when placing any electrical appliance in rooms where water is most often present, including kitchens and bathrooms.