Common Red Flags of an Electrical Fire Not to Ignore

Residential electrical fires are a serious concern. Every year, these fires cause more than one billion dollars in damage and injure over one thousand people. Equally important is the fact that electrical fires are sometimes avoidable.

In many instances, early red flags will highlight a concern, but homeowners are either unaware of how to interpret them or ignore them. Learn about some of the common warning signs to ensure you’re prepared to react.


All light fixtures are not the same even if they look similar. From a chandelier hanging from the ceiling to a floor lamp, all fixtures have wattage limits, which is a reference to the type of bulb they can safely support. A common mistake some people make is using a bulb with a higher wattage limit than recommended because they think that the light will somehow be brighter.

However, when the wattage of a bulb exceeds the fixture’s ratings, this is known as overlamping. When overlamping occurs, the bulb heats up much hotter than it should. The excess heat from the bulb could cause fabric from a lampshade to ignite or get hot enough to melt the internal wire insulation, as well as the socket.

Either of these scenarios is dangerous. Always look at the fixture first to learn what type of bulb you need.

Faulty Outlets

Problems with a defective outlet are leading reasons for electrical fires. Fortunately, several signs indicate an outlet is failing. When you plug a device into an outlet, you may have seen a spark every now and again, which is common. The red flag is when the same outlet sparks each time you plug something into it. Frequent sparking indicates a possible short.

Stop using the outlet until you have it inspected. You should also try plugging the device into another outlet. If it’s still creating a spark, it could be the device itself. Stop using it until you find out what’s going on. An outlet that feels warm when you touch it is also problematic, as this indicates a wiring issue.

Again, have the outlet inspected immediately before using it again. Outlet discoloration, such as brown or black spots, means that the outlet is burnt, which could mean a fire already happened behind the outlet or one is currently burning. Discoloration accompanied by a burning smell means you need to contact the fire department right away.

Outdated Wiring

Electrical wiring maintenance is an ongoing process. As you make changes to your home, you should also update the wiring. Failure to do so could result in outdated wiring. Begin your efforts with a focus on age. Any home more than 40 years old that has not had the wiring updated is likely overdue for this upgrade.

A homeowner who has made additions to their house or significantly increased the number of fixtures they use, such as adding a hot tub, an extra bathroom, and a second washer and dryer in the basement, should also have their wiring inspected.

Using an excessive number of extension cords is also an indication of the need for rewiring, as it likely means you don’t have an adequate amount of outlets in the home. Faulty wiring may cause an overload that results in a fire. When in doubt, have the wiring checked out.

At the first sign of an electrical fire hazard, have your home inspected. A professional will come out to your house, find the source of the problem, and perform the appropriate steps to repair the hazard. For all your electrical inspection and repair needs, contact Oak Electric. We are here to help.

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