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Aging Electrical Systems

House on Fire

Bad Wires, Start Fires

Electricity is a powerful tool. But it can also be lethal. It is blamed for thousands of deaths, injuries, and over $1 billion in property damage each year. What some may think of as “minor” electrical problems in
older homes can lead to a dangerous fire.

Hidden Electrical Hazards
Did you know older homes can have serious hidden electrical hazards and that the Midwest region has the highest house fire death rate per capita? A recent, first of its kind study, looked “behind the walls” of
older homes and found hazards such as worn-out wiring, inadequate and overburdened wire & outlets, excessive extension cords, buried wire in reinsulated walls and ceilings, improper or missing ground wires, and improper electrical repairs. They are commonly found in homes with 60 amp electrical service (or less) and do not meet industry safety standards. These hazards can cause fires inside the walls that spread rapidly before being detected, making them deadly and devastating. There are affordable options available to reduce the hazards. For example, an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) will detect a spark from a wire inside the wall and shut off power preventing a fire. Standard breakers do not provide this
protection.

SAFETY DOESN’T JUST HAPPEN
Industry safety standards are the best prevention against electrocution and fires. Consider the following safety tips to reduce your risk of injury or damage:

  • If your home is 40 years old or older, have a licensed electrician or electrical inspector check the wiring and distribution system. Update all worn or damaged electrical components to meet the current safety standards.
  • Flickering lights, tripped circuit breakers, blown fuses, warm electrical components, arcs, sparks, sizzles, buzzes or unusual odor near a switch, receptacle, or lighting fixture are signs of a problem. If you suspect any electrical problems, turn off the circuit and have the electrical system checked.
  • Do not overload outlets. Limit the use of extension cords. They are intended for temporary use only.
  • Do not use extension cords with space heaters or air conditioners. Make sure your space heater will automatically shut off if tipped over.
  • Install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) breakers on all bathroom, kitchen, and exterior outlets to reduce shock hazards.

The information contained in this article has been obtained from sources Wisconsin Reinsurance Corporation and its subsidiaries (WRC) believe to be reasonably competent, reliable and tend to represent the best opinion on the subject. WRC does not make any warranty, guarantee, or representation as to whether this information is absolutely correct, complete, or sufficient. It is the responsibility of the user to comply with local, state, or federal rules, regulations, or other requirements. The content is not warranted to encompass all situations which may arise. WRC assumes no responsibility for damages resulting from the use of this information.

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