Most homeowners don't think about their electrical wiring systems until something clearly goes wrong, such as severely flickering lights or noticeable hot spots in walls. However, electrical issues are one of the most common causes of household fires. Fortunately, you can lessen your chances of experiencing electrical fires by following a few simple maintenance procedures. Following are three strategies that you should have on your autumn checklist to keep you and your family as safe as possible from unexpected electrical fires.
Rodent-Proof Your Home
Autumn is the time when opportunistic rodents seek cozy indoor locations to move to for the winter. Rats that are living in your walls or attics pose significant fire hazards because they like to chew on the electrical wires. Fires most often occur when the exposed wires touch wood and ignite it. Your best defense against household rodent infestations is to make certain that the exterior of your home is tightly sealed and to remember that rodents can squeeze through extremely tight places. They can also climb, so don't neglect to seal all cracks and holes rather than just those located at ground level. It's important to do this before the nighttime temperatures begin to dip because rodents may have already taken up residence inside your home by then.
Take Inventory of Your Electrical Products
Cooler weather means that you and your family will be spending more time indoors, and this means that your electricity usage will rise. You'll probably be plugging in extension cords, power strips, and other electrical products if you've got limited outlets in your home, and like many consumers, you may not be aware that some of these products are counterfeit and pose serious safety hazards. Counterfeit extension cords, for instance, are crafted with unstable speaker wire that literally melts when you hold it in your hands. If you suspect that counterfeits are included in your inventory of electrical products, err on the side of caution and replace them with products purchased from reputable retailers. Always look for the proper seal from Underwriters Laboratories when buying electrical products, and keep in mind that bargain products run a high risk of being counterfeit, even from some retailers.
While going through your household electrical products inventory, check for frayed edges on extension cords and scorch marks on power strips -- these indicate that it's time for the item to be replaced for safety's sake. Also, if you're routinely using a lot of extension cords and power strips, that's an indication that your current wiring system isn't enough for the needs of your household and that it's time for an upgrade.
Have a Home Inspection
Because electrical use accelerates in autumn and keeps going strong for months to come, it's an excellent time to have an electrical system inspection, particularly if your home is over 30 years old and has never had a wiring upgrade. Wiring systems in homes that were built several decades ago may not have adequate power to accommodate the electrical demands of the average modern household, so even if the wiring isn't exactly frayed and otherwise worn out, it may pose a safety risk simply because it's perpetually overloaded. Your home may have also been wired with aluminum, particularly if it was constructed during the 1960s or 1970s. Aluminum wiring poses a fire hazard because it doesn't have the durability and long-lasting capabilities found in copper wiring. Have a qualified electrician inspect your home to make certain your wiring meets and exceeds the minimum standards set by the National Electrical Code.
Following the preceding strategies will help lessen the chances of your household experiencing an electrical fire, and you'll feel more secure knowing that you're wiring is safe. For more information, contact an experienced residential electrician in your area.