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How's the health of your home's electrical system?

February 08, 2017   By Willard Strong in Safety

Upgrading the breaker box could avoid a costly fire in your home.

There’s a nonprofit organization, the U.S. Fire Administration (USFI) that keeps statistics on home electrical fires. Who knew, right?

USFI estimates that there are about 51,000 home electrical fires every year, resulting in approximately 500 deaths, 1,400 injuries and $1.1 billion in property damage. That’s pretty sobering.

Sure, something such as a lightning strike can cause a fire but so many of these tragic losses are preventable, if homeowners would only do a few things to make their homes safer.

For example, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that electrical receptacles are a factor in 5,300 fires annually. Problems with 110-115 volt “outlets” as we commonly call them, are likely less of a factor if you own a newer home. More on that later.

If you have an older home, you’re probably more at risk for having an outdated electrical system overall with insufficient amperage, degraded wires and overextended circuitry. This can pose a higher fire risk.

An older house can provide you with warnings that you should not avoid. The breaker tripping or fuses blowing routinely after you’ve bought a new appliance or piece of equipment that draws more power is one major sign.

So where to start? The best approach is to work with a licensed and bonded electrician or firm with the expertise to inspect and correct your home’s shortcomings. Ask friends and neighbors who may have been helped by them.

The first recommendation might be upgrading your breaker panel, which could be woefully inadequate. This could stop breakers from tripping or fuses blowing. Back to the outlets: An older house may two-prong outlets throughout, as opposed to the newer three-prongers that are GFIs, which stands for Ground Fault Interrupters. A GFI is safer and is a standard installation in today’s electrical world. How about your smoke detectors and their batteries? Do you have enough installed throughout your home?

It’s easy to put off addressing these concerns, but investing in electrical safety is a big part of responsible home ownership. It doesn’t cost—it pays. Every year, too many people come home to a disaster. And how much is peace of mind worth knowing that your home and your family have a safer house while you’re in it or away?