How is Electricity Involved in Starting Fires?
Fire investigators are faced with difficulty in determining the cause of a fire, they have often relied on the phrase 'the fire was electrically caused' as a 'catch all' to avoid the more appropriate phrase 'the fire cause was undetermined'. In fact, it is actually quite difficult to start a fire with electricity.
Three elements must be present in order for a fire to initiate. These are oxygen, fuel and heat. Not only do these elements have to be present together at the same time, but the fuel must be conditioned in a way that the heat source can initiate an exothermic oxidation reaction. Electricity can play an important role in this process by providing the heat source.
"One example of an electrical heat source is a short circuit. There exists two main types of short circuits; a dead short circuit and a limited short circuit."
If the circuit is not fused properly, the current can continue to pass through the wires causing them to overheat - which can ignite surrounding combustibles causing a fire.
In the case of the limited short circuit, "Wires come in contact such that the volume of material through which the current flows is smaller than the fusible link. This will create a spark or flash and result in melting of the copper of the wiring. This situation can also cause ignition of combustibles provided the mass of the combustibles contacting the heat source is small enough that the heat source can cause it to reach ignition temperatures and initiate a self-sustaining exothermic oxidation reaction or fire. Cotton products, sawdust, wood chips and combustible gases can be ignited."
"Over fusing of a circuit can result in high current flow through the wires overloading the circuit. Although electrical wiring is designed to carry current at much higher than its rated capacity, increasing current above this rated capacity causes the wire to generate excess heat. if the wire is enclosed within a small insulated space, such as the holes through which wires run through floor joists in a home, the heat in these areas may not be able to dissipate as quickly as it is being generated. As a result, the surrounding combustibles can pyrolyze and eventually ignite, causing a fire."
"Fires can also be caused electrically through what is called leakage current. Leakage current occurs when water is in the presence of electricity. Exposed wiring, which exists primarily at connectors and switches, can come in contact with water. Since water conducts electricity, a current will flow through the water between contacts or from the live to ground or common."
"Electrical contacts can also fail resulting in uncontrolled heating. Each time a contact is opened or closed, a small spark is generated. This causes degradation of the surface of the contact."
Check out the rest of the article that discusses how the investigators must assess liability.
A great way to insure the protection of your home or business is to have regular inspections by an electrician. And, as a backup to regular inspections and maintenance, you might want to consider adding fire sprinklers - it can reduce damage and lower insurance costs, as well as protect your family or employees. If you need to find a local sprinkler company, check out our blog on Fire Sprinkler Installation for more details.
Cost to Rewire a House
Factors in the Rewiring Cost:
- Age of the Home - older homes can require more work - the electrical box might only be for 100 amps while homes today need 200 amps.
- Number of Rooms - you can rewire one room, three, just the main floor, or the entire house.
- The Level of Intrusiveness - will the electrician need to go behind the walls to remove and replace wiring? Or will they be able to run new wire in the baseboards and through the floorboards through an unfinished basement and attic?
- Area of the Country - like any labor intensive job, costs can vary from state to state and within urban versus rural communities.
Talk to a qualified electrical pro:
Rewiring Your House
Make sure that the electrician installs GFI outlets in all the wet rooms. GFI outlets are instantly turn off the electrical supply when the appliance, cord, or outlet comes in contact with water. A wet room is the bathroom, kitchen, laundry room and even the garage is now considered to be such.
Plan on spending about $1000 to $1500 to rewire a single major room, such as your kitchen (which requires multiple outlets and usually has a lot of accent and task lighting.)
Smaller room could be in the $300 to $1000 range. To completely wire the average home in the U.S. it will cost anywhere from $8000 to $20,000.
To find a local electrician for your rewiring project - post the request with us at ConstructionDeal.com. We'll match you to electrical experts in your area and it won't cost you anything.
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Electricity Costs - Why Is My Bill So High?
Sure, a lot of people have heard about Energy Star appliances but may not know what the real culprit is when it comes to large electricity bills. It's a good idea to take a look at some of the major energy users and abusers in the average household to see where you can save money. According to the Energy Star website, the average home spends $1900 a year on energy costs per year. Whenever you do anything that reduces the amount of energy you use, you can not only cut your electricity bill but you'll even be doing your part to help the environment.
The largest users of electricity in your home are the:
- Air Conditioner and/or Heater
- Hot Water Heater
- Clothes Dryer
The smaller things in your house, like your stereo and computer and clock radio, do use electricity when they're on but they do not draw as much as these larger appliances. However, some of the smaller things do use electricity even when they're not on. Having a product on "standby" or any product that may have a clock on it will continue to pull power and cost you money.
How to Save Money on Electricity:
- Replace Older Appliances - if you can afford to swap out old fridges or dryers for an Energy Star appliance, it will definitely help lower your monthly bills.
- Replace Regular Light Bulbs - drop in halogen or fluorescent bulbs to cut down dramatically on the amount of wattage being used.
- Cut Down on Use - use light sensors to turn on when you enter a room and off when you leave, hang clothing out to dry instead of always using your dryer, do laundry on cold instead of hot, go with fans and open windows instead of air conditioning, turn off items instead of standing them by,
- Eliminate - get rid of the second refrigerator in the garage or any second appliance that you really don't need
If your city or state offers a decent rebate, you might even consider going solar. Solar is still very expensive to buy and install, which means your "payback" date would be years off, but if you're going to stay in your house a long time and want to "get off the grid", you'll really cut down on nearly all electric bills.
And don't forget about ConstructionDeal.com if you ever need to find a quality electrician. You can upgrade your house and save a lot of money by using a professional for any installations. It will be done right and will help make sure there is no potential fire hazard.
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