Did you know there is a substantial increase in residential fires in Florida over the winter months? According to the NFPA, electrical issues are the leading cause of those fires, with heating issues coming in second.
So why are electrical issues so prevalent, and what can you do to prevent them? Most people ignore simple electrical safety measure, probably because they just were never taught, or do not understand how the system works. You simply plug something in and like magic it has power.
Let’s look a bit deeper and understand what you can do to reduce these risks this winter.
Electrical Issues: Not Enough Power
You have probably never actually seen the strain being put on your system during the winter months. Nonetheless, your system is feeling it. Some common symptoms you may be maxing out either particular circuits or your entire system include:
Circuit breakers tripping
Here are some of the things that can overload residential systems in Florida and what you may want to do.
Most people use a lot of extra lights during the winter months. After all, it gets dark substantially earlier, and you typically do not go to bed as soon as it does. So you turn to both table-top lamps a well as your ceiling lights to brighten your home.
In addition to the normal lights, many people also add some lights for the holidays. Unfortunately, most people do not understand the limits of any individual circuit, what is already plugged in, and how much more it can handle. Further, a lot of people do not understand the danger of stacking various forms of extensions on top of each other.
Space Heaters & Electric Blankets
Space heaters and electric blankets draw a lot of power when they are used. As such, it can overload some circuits, so you want to be careful of what else is on the same circuit. Further, be careful how high you have it turned up and for how long, as they can pull too much power through older systems.
Outdated Electrical System
Speaking of older systems, if your electrical system is more than 20 years, then you want to be careful. These systems use wiring other than copper, which can become unstable over time. The more power you try to draw the system, the more effects you will see.
Too Many Extension Cords
Stacking extensions or power strips on top of each other is never a good idea. The more extension cords you string together, the more unstable it becomes. You increase the risk of a faltering signal as well as shock and fire. The best practice is to use a single extension cord or a single power strip, but not more than one and certainly not both.
Electrical Fire Hazards
Going back to fire hazards, there are additional things you can look for to easily fix and reduce your risk.
Damaged Light Cables
Damaged cables are one of the leading causes of electrical fires, especially around the holidays. Most people do not inspect their Christmas lights before putting them on the tree. If there are any areas where the insulation is worn and the actual wire is exposed, this poses a huge risk. If you use a real tree, the risk is even higher. Be sure to check your light strands and discard ones that are damaged. Also, if you are using a real tree, be sure to keep plenty of water in the stand to prevent it from becoming too dry.
Extension Cords Not Properly Rated
Different extension cords have different ratings, which correlates to the amount of electricity it can handle flowing through it. When you try to pass more current through a cord than it is rated to handle, it makes the cord extremely warm. This can then cause the insulation to melt, and a short to occur, sparking a fire. Be sure you are using a cord that is properly rated for your use. If you are using it outside, be sure it is designed for outdoor use so it is insulated from the elements. All of this helps to reduce your risks.
When the weather gets cold, the humidity generally drops. This lack of moisture makes everything drier and increases the occurrence of static charge. That means that you have an increased risk of sparking a fire just by getting an electric shock.
To reduce this risk, consider running a humidifier. You can do individual humidifiers in each room, or you can look to a whole-house device that is installed in your HVAC system. Either way, you want to keep an eye on the moisture level. The ideal relative humidity is 35 percent to 50 percent. Less than that encourages more static electricity. More than that can lead to mold growth.