Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Are you at risk of electrical fire in your home?

Electrical fire is now the most common cause of house fire in the UK. Traditionally when people think of a house fire they believe the cause to be something controllable such as a candle, unattended cigarette or cooking fire.

The alarming thing about electrical fire is that there is very little control over them. Many electrical fires begin by the householder not even being aware of an electrical problem in the first place. A common cause of electrical fire is by overloading sockets.

Are you overloading your sockets?

As electricians in South East London we regularly see extension lead and plug overload in peoples homes. In older homes, extension lead use is very common as there is often simply not enough sockets in the home to cope with the number of electrical items in use.

Extension lead use can be safe but it can also be extremely dangerous if the extension lead becomes electrically overloaded. Unfortunately many householders are not aware about extension lead overload, let alone to know if their extension leads are actually electrically dangerous.

One of the most dangerous rooms in the home for overloading sockets in the kitchen. This because high powered appliances such as washing machines, kettles and even toasters can overload an extension lead and cause an electrical fire.

What do you use if you need additional plug sockets in your home?

The safest option is to have a qualified and registered electrician to install additional sockets in the areas of your home where more sockets are needed. However extension leads can also be a low cost option so long as you do not become dependant on them in your home.

The type of extension lead you use in your home matters. It could be the difference between an electrical fire starting or not.

Firstly multi plug adapters should never be used anywhere in your home. These are similar to a large plug but contain several plug sockets. Plug adapters have been known to cause damage to the actual plug socket itself due to the weight and also have the added risk of overheating and starting a fire inside the wall.

The extension lead you should be using is otherwise known as a 4 way bar adapter which contain a line of sockets with a lead that plugs into a wall socket. Some extension leads come in a reel allowing you to pull out the length of cable you need. As electrical contractors in South London we do not recommend using these as the cable could overheat easily. The number of sockets available on an extension lead can vary but here at Fulcher Edwards, we recommend no more than 4 sockets on an extension lead to avoid the very real risk of overload.

Never buy an extension lead without first checking the current rating of the extension lead. You need to ensure that the extension lead is 13A. Less than this and it will become overloaded as soon as you plug anything into it! Some extension leads we have seen in well known supermarkets have had current ratings of 10A or less. The current rating is marked clearly of the extension lead back or side.

Best uses for extension leads

Extension leads are best used for low voltage electrical items in your home – items such as televisions, games consoles, sky boxes, portable telephones, laptops and chargers. For this reason they are best suited for living rooms, home offices or bedrooms. Ideally households should not be reliant on extension leads. If you are using several in one room – or even using them in every room, you need to be seriously considering additional sockets.

Worst uses for extension leads

Extension leads should not be used in kitchens. Even small appliances such as a kettle and toaster plugged into an extension lead would overload it. Large appliances such as washing machines and tumble dryers should have their own individual socket and should never be plugged into an extension lead.

Find out if your electrical items are causing extension lead overload

The electrical safety charity Electrical Safety First has an excellent tool which allows you to check if your sockets are overloaded. Its a quick and easy way to find out if you are using extension leads safely in your home.

Never take a risk with extension leads and if you suspect a problem with them, stop using and unplug immediately.

Extension leads can be convenient but used incorrectly could have devastating consequences.