7 Smart Ways to Prevent Electrical Fires at Home

Laura Hennigan
Written by Laura Hennigan
Updated January 13, 2022
A woman cooking on a gas stove
Photo: siro46 / Adobe Stock

Keep your home safe by taking these steps to help prevent electrical fires

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From plugging in devices to programming the automatic coffee maker, most households run on electricity all day, every day. And while the majority of homes are wired to handle heavy usage, sometimes accidents can happen. Over 25,000 residential electrical fires are reported in the United States each year, resulting in high numbers of both monetary damage and injuries. 

Thankfully this is a highly preventable problem with some simple steps homeowners can begin taking right away by following home electrical safety tips. Here are seven ways to prevent electrical fires at home.

1. Have an Electrical Inspection

Wiring is not designed to last forever, so hiring an electrician is a good idea if you live in an older home. It’s especially important to know what kind of wiring runs through your house since aluminum wiring is more susceptible to electrical fires than copper wiring.

2. Don’t Overload Outlets

The electrical circuits in your home are designed to send power to each outlet, but there is a limit on how much each one can handle. While it’s tempting to simply plug in an extension cord, be aware of any outlets that may be overloaded. When plugging in multiple items to one outlet, be sure to always use a surge protector. And if your entertainment area needs to house a TV, several streaming devices, and a laptop, consider hiring an electrician to install additional sockets to help spread out the electrical burden and prevent a fire at home.

3. Keep Flammable Materials Away

Any fabric items such as bedding, towels, and rugs should be stored a good distance away from all electrical outlets. This is especially important to pay attention to when hot devices, including space heaters or irons, are plugged in. Also, pay attention to the storage location of any flammable liquids, including lighter fluid and gasoline. Even in a garage, these liquids need to be kept a safe distance away from outlets to help prevent a fire in your home.  

4. Watch for Cord or Plug Damage

A bedside table lamp in a boho bedroom
Photo: brizmaker / Adobe Stock

Keep an eye out for any cords or wiring that show signs of fraying or ripping. These can overheat more easily, and should be replaced as soon as possible. Plugs can also show signs of being worn out or damaged, making them more likely to overheat or spark.

In some instances, such as with a large appliance, you can often simply purchase a replacement cord. In other cases, like a lamp with a faulty plug, the safest option is to replace the entire unit.  

5. Be Aware of Appliances

Additional kitchen appliances like instant pots and air fryers are all the rage right now, but be aware of when and where you are plugging them in. Be sure not to overload a kitchen outlet with too many appliances, and always unplug units when they are not being used. If your toaster, microwave, or other appliance emits sparks or begins smoking, stop use immediately, unplug it, and call an electrician to help prevent an electrical fire at home.

6. Pay Attention to Flickering

Unusual signs, including flickering lights or a strange buzzing from an outlet, can be a telltale sign of an electrical problem. Don’t ignore the issue, as this could be a sign of a potential fire hazard. Instead, discontinue using the light or outlet and call a professional electrician to take a look. 

7. Install the Correct Number of Smoke Alarms

In the case of an electrical fire, having the correct number of smoke detectors installed in your home can make a huge difference. There should be a unit approximately every 21 feet in your home, including in every bedroom and outside of every sleeping area. Don’t forget to include alarms in areas such as the basement, garage, and attic as well. 

It’s also a good idea to have a fire extinguisher on hand at all times. Since electrical fires cannot be put out with water, an extinguisher can help tackle smaller outbreaks.

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