In domestic and commercial buildings, electricity is usually supplied through a distribution system that varies in complexity according to the size of the business, the size and age of the residential street, as well as other factors. There are many circuits, circuit breakers, fuses and maybe even step-down transformers, so there’s quite a lot going on just to turn on a light. This complexity also increases the risk of electrical fires.
Electricity is the leading cause of serious – sometimes fatal – fires in residential and commercial buildings. If the building is running more electricity through its system than it can actually handle, wires and circuit breakers can get too hot, which increases the risk of fire and also of circuits failing. Thankfully there are several warning signs that your electrics need checking or updating – just make sure you pay attention to them.
The cardinal warning signs include:
- fuses blowing frequently;
- circuits tripping a lot suddenly;
- discoloured or scorched-looking wall outlets;
- lights flickering or dimming, and
- getting shocks.
Don’t use the same plug outlet
Nowadays we use far more electrical equipment than we used to and it’s all too easy to use the same outlet for two or three devices. This is OK if it’s low-draw devices like smartphones or tablets, but high-draw devices and machines should have their own socket.
Avoid extension leads
Many people use extension cords and plug several devices into it. This increases the risk of too much current and should only be used as a temporary fix until you can give each high-draw appliance its own outlet.
Take notice of blown fuses and tripped circuits
They’re not a nuisance, they could save your life or your building, as they’re the biggest indications of an electrical problem that you might not see otherwise. The same applies to flickering or dimming lights (unless it’s a regional supply problem). Dimming could mean arcing, a short somewhere or an overloaded system, all of which are dangerous and mean you should call an electrician.
Have an annual review
If you bring in an electrician once a year or so to look over your wiring then you could find problems before they become actively dangerous. Small issues can quickly grow into big problems, or even a devastating fire, so it’s important to have these check-ups.