In response to many customer's questions regarding the safety of electrical installations in their homes, this page is designed to give you some guidance as to the main things to look for regarding electrical safety with regard to fires and fire risk. If after reading the following information you feel that you may have a safety issue in your home, then I would be pleased to advise and quote on any action required.
1. Overloaded Sockets
This is a common cause of household fires, the problem is not necessarily overloading of the internal wiring of the house but the fact that the adaptor and/or plugs are slightly loose in their sockets, this can lead to arcing and subsequent fire. The picture below is of such a case I was called to in a house recently:
The solution to this problem is simple, install enough sockets to cope with the load you require.
2. Old wiring
Another major cause of house fires in Britain is where household cabling has deteriorated and the insulation has subsequently failed. This is more common where the cable has been in place for a very long time. Modern cable is made from plastic and takes a very long time to degrade, however older properties may still be wired with rubber cables which over time become brittle and disintegrate into a powder, this leaves the exposed bare copper which can then arc and cause fire. Exposed cables can also touch pipe work, which in turn could generate an electric shock hazard.
If you are worried as to the age of your cable then there is a very quick way of identifying the type you have in your house. If any cables you can see in your loft, fuse cupboard etc are light grey or white in colour then they are likely to be the newer plastic coated cables. If they are black there is a good chance they are the older rubberised cables.
3. Fire rated lighting
Recently there has been increased use of flush mounted down lighters within peoples homes. Together with this use, there has been an increase in the occurrence of fires started by such fittings. The problem is combustable material may be touching the back of the hot bulb, this can quickly catch fire especially if it is other household wiring. An example of the sort of damage which can be caused is shown in the picture below from a house I recently visited - here other wires had fallen onto the back of the light, melted and then caught fire. The owner of the property was very lucky that their house did not burn down!
This is an issue with all recessed bulb fittings with an exposed back, If you are unsure as to the type you have, I would be happy to come and check for you and advise as to any improvements/replacements that you may require. To combat this, fire hoods are now available to cover the hot "top" side of the bulbs of these fittings, or better still fire-rated lighting with a totally enclosed bulb are available. With this in mind, many local authorities are now insisting that fire-rated lighting is installed in new build properties. I can supply and fit a range of fire rated hoods and fire-rated lights.
4. Smoke Alarms
Smoke alarms installed in your home will wake you up should you have a fire in your household. For many years battery operated smoke alarms have been available and as long as the battery is maintained are quite sufficient. Better still are mains powered alarms with battery backup, if more than one alarm is installed (for example on different floors), these can be interlinked so that if one alarm goes off all the sounders go off thus giving better warning. I can supply and fit such alarms in accordance with BS 5839-6:2004 Fire Detection and Alarm Systems for Buildings: Code of Practice for the Design, Installation and Maintenance of Fire Detection and Fire Alarm Systems in Dwellings.
Copyright © 2011 Richard Coombs. All rights reserved.