In Australia, up to 40 per cent of all residential fires can be attributed to some form of electrical failure or fault. Whilst some of these may be prevented through more careful practices, such as not leaving a mobile phone to charge near flammable materials, others can be directly attributed to overloaded electrical circuits, faulty electrical appliances, and deteriorated wiring.
As your home ages and the demands on electrical systems increase, so too does the importance of remaining vigilant to signs of wiring degradation. Even homes built in the 1990s will not have been wired to cope with the electrical demands of modern technology, which may be beyond their capacity.
These things include:
- Scores of downlights
- Multiple computers, printers and devices
- Video games
- Air conditioning
- Ducted heating
- Big screen TVs
- Microwave ovens
Fortunately, there are often subtle clues beforehand which can be a red flag that your home’s wiring may be reaching the end of its useful life and requires attention. By understanding the signs which indicate your wiring may be failing and calling in a professional, fully-qualified Melbourne electrician, you can minimise the risk of an electrical fire in your home.
Tingling or shocks
It may seem obvious but if you experience even a tiny tingle from an electrical shock when using a light switch or power outlet, call an electrician immediately.
If these sensations are being experienced in wet areas, it may be due to incorrect wiring or lack of shock-resistant power outlets. Due to the presence of water, bathrooms and kitchens should be fitted with special Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs). If you suspect this is not the case, call in a qualified electrician to check it out.
Circuit breaker tripping
Circuit breaker boxes have proved invaluable in preventing electrical fires. However, outdated boxes, or those with worn connectors, inevitably create a fire hazard. If a circuit is regularly tripping due to a blown fuse, it needs investigation by a professional electrician to isolate the cause. This may be a faulty electrical appliance or relate directly to your home’s wiring.
Another indication that all may not be well with your wiring is buzzing or hissing emanating from a power outlet or light switch. This sound may indicate electrical arcing which can eventually ignite wiring insulation.
A strange odour emanating from a power outlet or fuse box may be a sign that there is something amiss. If you notice an unusual burning smell and suspect that the origin is associated with an electrical source, unplug appliances and call a qualified electrician immediately.
Discolouration around power outlets or on the surrounding walls should be investigated. If the surfaces have a scorched look about them, it is definitely time you got them professionally checked.
Dimming or flickering lights
Flickering lights may simply be the result of fluctuating voltage but there may be a more serious cause, such loose or faulty wiring, so it is vital that the cause is investigated.
New mandatory wiring laws are a far cry from those which were in place thirty years ago. The older your home, the more imperative it is that the wiring is checked by a qualified electrician due to the inevitable deterioration of wiring integrity over time.
Sparking is always a red flag but it is important to differentiate the cause. Sparking from an appliance usually indicates that the fault is with the actual product rather than wiring and its use should be discontinued. When sparks are issuing from a power outlet or fuse box it is a strong indication that there is something seriously wrong and it should be investigated by an expert immediately.
Once you have had your house wiring checked by a qualified electrician, stay safe by avoiding overuse of extension cords and power boards. Ensure ceilings and walls are secured to prevent rodents from gnawing on wires.
By treating electricity with the respect it deserves and staying vigilant for the above indicators that your wiring may be compromised, you can minimise the risk of fire – protecting your family and possessions. Stay safe.