How important is it to confirm your house's wiring is in good shape? Consider this: U.S. fire departments respond each year to an estimated 25,900 home electrical fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. These fires cause an estimated 280 deaths, 1,125 injuries and $1.1 billion in property loss.
Thirty-nine percent of home electrical fires involve outlets and receptacles, interior house wiring, and other electrical wiring.
While these numbers are staggering, steps can be taken to prevent your home from becoming a statistic. The electrical system in your home may need to be repaired or updated. A complete rewire with a new electrical panel can be a big expense, but that pales in comparison to the importance of keeping your home and family safe.
An electrical system will often display signs when there are potential problems. If you notice any of these warning signs, have an electrician inspect your electrical system:
- Frequent blown fuses or tripped breakers
- An over-amped or over-fused electrical panel
- Dimming or flickering lights, indicating the circuit is overloaded or has a loose connection
- Hot or discolored switch plates, cords, or plugs
- Light bulbs that frequently burn out in a socket, signaling a fixture that can't handle the bulb wattage
- Buzzing or sizzling sounds
- A burning smell
- Arcs or sparks from an outlet when you plug or unplug a cord
- Loose outlets
- Cracked, cut, or broken insulation
- Electrical shock when you plug in or touch a cord
The Guide to Home Wiring Hazards from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission highlights more warning signs of faulty wiring.
Other reasons to check the wiring
Even if you don't notice any warning signs of faulty wiring, it's a good idea to have your home's electrical system inspected periodically. Electrical codes vary depending on where you live, but there are common situations that warrant an inspection from a qualified professional.
- If your home is more than 40 years old
- If you're relying on extension cords for power
- If you've made major home improvements or added major new appliances that could strain your existing system
- If your home has ungrounded, two-prong outlets
- If your home has aluminum instead of copper wiring
Even when you don't see any of these warning signs, you can't go wrong with an expert electrical system inspection.