ARLINGTON, VA - Summertime increases the demand for
electricity and raises the risk of fire in homes with older or damaged wiring
systems. Air conditioning equipment, electric grills, and attic fans are some
of the seasonal appliances that can place added stress and strain on a home’s
electrical wiring and cause a potentially tragic fire.
Since electricity is uniquely unforgiving and can cause serious injuries or
death, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Electrical Safety
Foundation International are joining together to encourage consumers to protect
their homes from electrical problems.
Between 1994 and 1998, the CPSC estimates that there were over 360,000
residential fires each year, of which over 123,000 were related to electrical
distribution or appliances and equipment, and another 15,000 were related to
heating and air conditioning systems. These electrical fires caused an
estimated average of 910 deaths, nearly 7,000 injuries and nearly $1.7 billion
in property damage each year. Many of these incidents could have been prevented
by having an electrical inspection of the house to find hidden hazards.
This summer, CPSC and ESFI are encouraging homeowners to: 1) have an electrical
inspection conducted for homes 40 years and older, for homes 10 years and older
with major renovations or new appliances added, or that have been resold; 2)
learn the potential hazards posed by aluminum wiring systems and contact CPSC
if your home is among the two million built with aluminum wiring between the late
1960s and early 1970s; and 3) consider installing arc fault circuit
interrupters in place of ordinary circuit breakers, especially if your home is
over 40 years old. AFCIs are new technology designed to prevent electrical
fires by sensing unseen electrical arcing. AFCIs are particularly important
where wiring may have degraded with age.
“The Commission has been working to prevent electrical fires for decades.
We are currently working with other federal agencies and safety organizations
on a major research project involving aged electrical wiring,” said CPSC
Chairman Hal Stratton. “Our best advice for homeowners is to hire a
licensed electrical inspector or electrician to identify and correct hidden
electrical hazards before they become tragedies.”
“Most of us are unaware of how dangerous electricity can truly be within
our homes,” said Michael G. Clendenin, ESFI executive director. “As
summer begins, ESFI’s goal is to inform consumers of common household
electrical hazards and empower them to protect their families and homes. We
hope homeowners will come to regard electrical safety as an essential part of
routine home maintenance.”
It is important for homeowners to understand the severity of an electrical
wiring fire, as it often begins behind a wall, in a basement or in the attic
where the fire can spread throughout the home before setting off the smoke
alarm or becoming evident to occupants. This reduces the amount of time
available to escape a burning building.
Below are additional safety tips to help homeowners create the safest home
- Make sure smoke alarms are installed on every floor
outside sleeping areas and in every bedroom, and are in good working
- Look for telltale signs of electrical problems such as
dimming of lights, frequent circuit breaker trips or blown fuses.
- Ask a qualified electrician if your home would benefit
from AFCI protection, especially during inspections of older homes or
upgrades to electrical systems.
- Limit the use of extension cords, particularly cords
used to power room air conditioners.
- Use light bulbs that are the proper wattage for the
fixture – higher wattage bulbs can degrade the wires in and around the
From CPSC.GOV; For more information and safety tips, please visit: www.electrical-safety.org.