Friday, August 10, 2012

Where There's Smoke...

In this article, reposted from the Ottawa Citizen, Mike talks about the dangers of electrical fires. A large portion (20 percent!) of the fires in Canada are electrical related. Not sure what the stat is for the US, but I'm sure it's probably very similar. As Mike explains, all homes eventually become susceptible to electrical fires. Nothing lasts forever - even the wires in your walls will wear out with time, and when that happens, a fire can start. Although, as the article details, most of these electrical fires are not due to wear and tear, but to faulty wiring. These kind of fires are completely preventable. As with any kind of home reno project, if you don't know what you're doing, ditch DIY and hire a pro. Most of us aren't Frank the electrician, so it's probably best to leave the playing around with high voltage to people with the right credentials.

Dangers of electrical fires

Ditch DIY when fixing faulty wiring

Faulty wiring is the leading cause of electrical fires, most of which can be prevented.

Faulty wiring is the leading cause of electrical fires, most of which can be prevented.

They say where there’s smoke there’s fire. But when it comes to electrical fires, you don’t always see the smoke. By the time you do, it’s too late and the flames are already climbing up behind your walls.
I was up north a couple of weeks ago. I stopped at a pub I’ve known for years now and it was completely renovated, not because they wanted to; they had no choice — there had been an electrical fire.
Luckily, no one was hurt. But the truth is, it should have never happened.
Twenty per cent of all fires in Canada are electrical. That’s a lot — too much. In my world, there wouldn’t be any electrical fires because they’re preventable if the right pros are brought in at the right time.
Faulty wiring is the No. 1 cause of electrical fires. It’s what caused the fire at the pub. Sometimes fires are a result of poor workmanship and other times it’s just wear and tear. But, in any case, you need to be aware of the warning signs:
• Flickering lights
• Breakers that always trip
• Fuses that always blow
• A burning smell coming from appliances or in rooms
• Discoloured wall outlets
• Outlets that spark
• Outlets and switches that are hot to the touch
They’re all signs that tell you something is wrong with the electrical in your home. The longer you wait to get them fixed, the greater the chance of an electrical fire.
Eventually, every home is at risk of an electrical fire. Electrical wires gets worn out, just like everything else. Nothing lasts forever.
Electrical currents generate waste heat. Over time that heat can cause the conductor to expand and contract. Eventually, it will loosen the connection. And once it’s loose, the electricity can arc. When this happens, the potential for an electrical fire is huge.
One way we can prevent electrical fires caused by an electrical arc is with an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI). An AFCI is a circuit breaker that detects potentially dangerous electrical arcs. It disconnects the power as soon as it detects one.
Before AFCIs were introduced, the bedroom was where most electrical fires started. But in 2002 it became code to protect all circuits that feed outlets in bedrooms with AFCIs. Now the kitchen and bathroom are where most electrical fires start.
It’s code to have AFCIs in the bedroom. But in some U.S. states such as Texas, it’s code to have AFCIs protecting all of the circuits in the home. This is what we need to see in our electrical codes. If we can protect the entire house, we should protect the entire house. It just makes sense.
Counterfeit electrical products can also cause electrical fires. But it’s hard to prove a product is counterfeit when investigators come in after a fire to determine its cause because most fires destroy the evidence — along with everything else. Plus, some counterfeit products are so good the average homeowner would never suspect they aren’t legitimate or CSA approved. The only way to know that it’s counterfeit would be by sending it to a lab to test it out. And how many homeowners do that?
Overloaded circuits are also a risk. But the risk is less when a 15-amp breaker or fuse protects the circuit.

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