Five Common Causes of Electrical Fires

Electrical fires are responsible for more than 500 deaths and 1,400 injuries each year. In the United States, it is estimated that 24,000 fires each year are caused by faulty electrical systems. Because of this, it is crucial to be aware of the potential causes of electrical fires to prevent disasters from happening. Here are the most common causes of electrical fires:

Outdated Electrical Wiring

In homes that are older than twenty years, it is common to find outdated electrical wiring that cannot handle the increasing demands of today’s electrical appliances including computers, televisions, microwaves, and refrigerators. As a result, older wiring catches fire. Because electrical wiring is hidden within the walls of your home, it can be difficult to tell if the wiring is unsafe. However, some signs indicate that your wiring requires immediate attention:

  • Frequent flickering lights
  • Appliances that often feel hot
  • Sparks or shocks from outlets
  • Burning smells

Electrical Circuit Overload

When multiple appliances are plugged into a single extension cord, the socket to which it was connected might not be able to handle such a massive load. This puts your home in danger of an electrical fire. If possible, avoid using extension cords, or if really necessary, avoid using them for long periods. Large appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners should be plugged in directly into outlets. If your home doesn’t have enough outlets, contact an electrician who can safely install additional ones.

Spaces/Portable Heaters

Space heaters or portable heaters are common in households in the northern region of the United States. Because of their portability, people often put them beside beds, couches, rugs, curtains, etc. This is extremely risky, as space heaters tend to get excessively hot. If their coils come in contact with any flammable material, they can immediately ignite a fire.

Light Fixtures

When replacing a light bulb, always make sure that its wattage is not too high for the light fixture. Each lighting fixture, such as a lamp, has a maximum bulb wattage which is the amount of electricity it can use. It’s safe to use a bulb with a lower wattage but you won’t get as much light. However, you should never use a bulb with a higher wattage than your light fixture. This can cause damage to your equipment or worse -- cause a fire.

Frayed Cords

Over time, cords will become frayed especially if they are exposed to the elements. If you notice that a cord has visible signs of wear and tear, you must stop using that appliance immediately. Fires start when exposed cords come in contact with flammable surfaces such as carpets and curtains. It’s wiser to buy a brand-new appliance than to risk using one that could set your house on fire.


Prevent house fires by taking these simple precautions. Don’t put your home at risk just because you insist on using an extension cord, or if you ignore signs of danger like sparks from sockets. It’s always a good idea to have a fire extinguisher in fire-prone areas of your home such as your kitchen and garage.