Electrical Home Fire Safety – Winter Focus

Electrical fires are a great risk to all householders in London and elsewhere in the UK. Whilst some of these are caused by electrical system failures the majority are   caused by poorly installed or old wiring. Another major cause of electrical fires is overloaded circuits and extension cords

With winter coming this is a great time to check out your home for the sake of your loved ones.  According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) December and January are the most dangerous periods for electrical fires.

You can probably see some of the warning signs:

  • Fuses blowing or tripping circuit breakers.
  • Warm wiring
  • Sparking
  • Electrical burning smells
  • Flickering Lights
  • Cracked or broken electrical switch covers or sockets
  • Electrical shocks
  • Tripping over extension leads
  • Discoloured or warm wall switches or outlets
  • Damaged electrical cords.

If you see any of these call in an electrician to give you a quote. This is free.

You are more likely to see them now as you spend more time indoors with extra electrical appliances being used and heavier loads for the electrical heaters and lighting.

There are two areas of problems, those on the fixed circuits and those on portable or temporary extension cables.

The easiest to resolve is the use of extensions. In an ideal world one should not leave or constantly use electrical extension, but have them permanently wired in. That is a cost not just for the electrician, but may also need some patching up of the decorations. However this is the lowest risk solution. It might be a lower cost than you think. So why not call in a couple of electricians to give you some quotes for some additional sockets or for upgrading single sockets to doubles.

If you must use extension sockets, make sure:

they do not power fires or other appliances that use a lot of power. For these plug directly into the socket.

Make sure the extension cable is not coiled so that the heat generated can safely escape without a risk to the wires melting or catching fire. This is particularly a risk with the large extension cables on a wheel.

Clear the area around the extension cable, so paper etc cannot fall on them.

Also do not run the extension cables under rugs or in high traffic areas.

Unplug appliances you are not using

Ensure that the extension cable is in good condition. If in doubt chuck it out.

The fixed wiring issues such as faulty electrical outlets and old wiring are probably best fixed by calling in an electrical contractor who can survey your wiring and propose recommendations.  Whilst for old wiring it is often best to replace all the wiring, it may be that a partial rewiring may be cost effective. This may be the case when a loft was more recently attached. Sometimes only the kitchen may need to be rewired.

Modern Consumer Unit

An example of a modern consumer unit

If you still have an old style fuse board, it is likely that you should have a rewire. However changing to a modern electrical consumer unit with miniature circuit breakers  (MCB’s) and residual Circuit Devices (RCDs) is far safer than the old type of electrical fuse box.

Other things you can do to reduce the risks of a fire include making sure that you are using the correct wattage of bulbs for your shades. It might be a good time to get an electrician to change your pendants for low energy ones. Saving money and doing some good for the environment.

One recommendation that you should do is to go and check your smoke alarm (if you have not done it in the last month).

If you do not have one – go out and buy and install one. Or call an electrician to come round and install a mains powered smoke alarm.

Stay safe.