How to Avoid Electrical Fires this Winter
Updated: Apr 6
Winter in New South Wales means the arrival of colder weather. Many people stay warm by curling up in front of the electric fire or plugging in their electric blanket so it’s no surprise that electricity usage inevitably increases during the colder months. As a result, winter is known as the worst time for residential fires in Australia with electrical fires causing over 11,000 residential fires every year.
Now is the perfect time of the year to check for damage to your existing electrical system and undertake some preventative measures to protect you and your family from potential winter electrical safety hazards.
Real Electrical Solutions has compiled a list of safety tips that will help keep your home safe from electrical fires this winter.
Use electric room heaters safely and sparingly
As the temperature drops, many people use portable electric room heaters to keep their home warm. Beating the cold winter evenings with a space heater may seem like a good idea to get cosy but they come with many dangers and should be used with caution. Make sure you're using yours correctly with these electric room heater safety tips.
NSW Fair Trading warns that electric heaters could cause electrical fires and injuries if they are not manufactured to Australian Standards. Before purchasing an electric room heater you should first check to make sure that the appliance is marked with a safety approval number, which certifies that it has been approved for use in Australia.
Electric heaters and extension leads
It’s surprising the number of people who don’t know this, but electric room heaters should not be used with extension leads.
Electric heaters generate a lot of energy, with the heater sometimes reaching 90°C, which means they should only ever be plugged directly into the wall outlet. When connected to an extension cord, the outlet could potentially overheat, causing it to short-circuit or to catch fire.
Keep electric heaters at a safe distance
Electric heaters can cause furniture to catch on fire so it’s recommended to leave a minimum of three feet around the heater at all times. Do not place the heater on any surface that can overheat such as a table or on carpet. The ideal place for the heater is on a flat surface that will not overheat such as a tiled floor.
Be cautious when using electric blankets
Every winter, Fire and Rescue NSW see a 10% increase in the number of home fires, with more fires starting in bedrooms due to electric blankets.
Plugging your electric blanket into the wall is the safest option but if you choose to use an extension cord you should check to make sure it can handle the wattage specified for your electric blanket.
Before plugging your electric blanket in, you should check for cracks and make sure the plug isn't broken or the wiring isn’t exposed. When connecting to the outlet, make sure the plug is secured. Loose connections are a fire hazard and are the cause of numerous fires in the home every winter. If you notice any damage to the heater or the plug, do not use the electric blanket.
Check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
The risk of a fire breaking out is an ever-present concern during the winter months. To prevent an electric fire from spreading, smoke alarms should be installed on each floor of the house, including all bedrooms.
You are twice as likely to die from a fire in the home if you do not have a working smoke alarm so we recommend testing all smoke alarms at least once a month and replacing them every 10 years.
While you are checking your smoke alarms, you should also test your carbon monoxide detectors. During the winter months, the home is often closed to outside air. This reduction in ventilation can potentially lead to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide building up in your home. Carbon monoxide has no smell or taste and has the potential to kill if you're exposed to high levels.
Don't overload electrical outlets
Many homes are not fitted with enough power outlets or may have plugs in inconvenient locations. This can lead to numerous plugs overloading a single outlet but connecting multiple appliances can cause your circuit breaker to trip, or worse, start an electrical fire in your home.
To avoid overloading your home’s electrical system, you should contact a licensed electrician to add more outlets. A professional can assess your system to determine the best locations for new outlets so that you can have more power points without creating a fire hazard in your home.
Don’t forget, before you leave your house or go to sleep, you should turn off all of the appliances that are not in use.
Have an electrician check your electrical system for repairs
While it is not uncommon to encounter problems with your electrics throughout the year, some electrical problems are more common during the winter season. An experienced electrician can easily detect these problems during a visit to your home and fix any issues before they turn into a bigger problem. By catching the problems early, you can prevent the need for more extensive repairs later on.
A winter electrical inspection may involve the following:
Uncovering electrical hazards
Inspecting wiring for damage
Testing safety switches
Testing power points
Examining the power box
Checking smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
Finding electrical mistakes of contractors and previous homeowners
Contact Real Electrical Solutions for a winter safety inspection
Real Electrical Solutions wants you to be as safe as possible this winter. By following the winter electrical safety tips listed above, you can help ensure you and your family are better protected from the risks of an electrical fire breaking out in your home.
Want to be even more confident that you and your family stay safe this winter? Our Level 2 ASP Certified electricians offer winter safety inspections throughout Newcastle, Maitland, Central Coast, the Hunter Valley and surrounding regions. Give us a call on 0403306842 to schedule an appointment.