The National Fire Protection Association says that home fires caused by electrical failures or malfunction result in more than 400 deaths per year and cause $1.4 billion in property damage annually. Electrical fires can often be prevented, especially if homeowners learn to identify the signs of overloaded circuits. The Electrical Safety Foundation International notes that the following are some common signs of overloaded circuits.
Flickering, blinking or dimming lights
Warm or discolored wall plates
Burning odor coming from receptacles or wall switches
Frequently tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses
Cracking, sizzling or buzzing from receptacles
Mild shock or tingle from appliances, receptacles or switches
The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 50 percent of electrical fires can be prevented by arc fault circuit interrupters, or AFCIs. AFCIs are products that are designed to detect a wide range of arcing electrical faults in an attempt to reduce instances in which electrical systems are ignition sources of fire. Arcing is very dangerous and occurs when an electric current flows through the air between two conductors. When these currents flow through unintended paths, the result is high intensity heat that can ignite surrounding material, such as wood framing or insulation. AFCIs monitor circuits for normal or dangerous arcing conditions, serving as something of a safety net that can reduce the risk of home fires. Recognizing the signs of overloaded circuits and using AFCIs can help homeowners significantly reduce the risk of home fires in their homes. More information about electrical fires and how to prevent them is available at www.esfi.org and www.afcisafety.org.