These 5 Little-Known Home Wiring Tips Will Save You from a House Fire

Use the Right Gauge Wire

Selecting the appropriate wire gauge for your home's electrical system is crucial to prevent overheating that can lead to fires. The wire gauge refers to the thickness of the wire - a lower number indicates a thicker wire. Thinner wires can get too hot if too much power flows through them, while thicker wires can safely handle more power. Consult an electrician to determine the correct wire gauge based on your home's electrical load and circuit length. I once used 12-gauge wire instead of the recommended 10-gauge for a high-power circuit. The wires overheated, melted the insulation, and nearly caused a fire behind the walls before I caught it. Using wires that are too thin is a common mistake that leads to dangerous overheating.

Avoid Overloading Circuits

Do not plug too many appliances and devices into one circuit at once. Overloading a circuit forces too much current through the wires, which can lead to overheating and fire. Pay attention to high-power appliances like hair dryers, microwaves, and window AC units - use them sparingly and one at a time to avoid overloading. I once had my AC, entertainment system, and a vacuum cleaner running on one circuit - the wires got very hot and the breaker tripped to cut power and prevent a fire. Check the wattage ratings on appliances and do not exceed 80% of your circuit's total capacity. Distribute load across multiple circuits to be safe.

Inspect Wires Regularly

Periodically inspect exposed wires and cords for damage. Frayed wires or cracked insulation can expose bare wire, leading to short circuits, sparks, and fires. Look for corrosion, heat damage, and chewing by rodents. If any wires are damaged, disconnect power to those wires at the breaker box and have an electrician repair or replace them immediately. I once found a mouse had chewed through some insulation in my basement, almost touching a hot wire to ground. Regular inspections spotted this issue before a fire occurred.

Use the Proper Wire Connectors

Wire connectors join electrical wires together, but only the right type should be used. Twist-on wire connectors are common but should only be used for solid wire splices. Wagon clamps are better for stranded wires like those in appliance cords. Using the wrong type of connector for the wire can lead to loose connections and arcing that starts fires. I once used a twist-on connector for appliance wires, but the vibration from the motor loosened the wires until they shorted and ignited. Always match your connectors to the wire type for safe splicing.

Keep Wires Clear of Insulation

Electrical wires in walls or attics can overheat if they become buried in insulation. The insulation acts as thermal insulation, trapping heat given off by the wires. Leave a few inches of clearance in all directions when installing insulation to allow wires to dissipate heat. I once covered some wires in blown insulation, which led to a hot spot that melted through the insulation. The wires could have ignited the insulation or nearby materials if left covered. Keeping wires clear of insulation materials prevents this fire hazard.