As an electrician I am always taking mental note of the electrical integrity of the homes I am called to service.
Electricity is a modern convenience so taken for granted, that the hidden dangers of age related deterioration can be overlooked. Recently while working in a customer’s storage room I turned on a light. Within just a few minutes I detected a burning smell eventually traced to the fixture pictured at right. The exterior shell is porcelain which can’t burn and appears fine. However, the electrical failure had taken place in the interior components which had deteriorated with age. The fire hazard occurs when the light is left on for an extended period. Sparking melts wires and ignites flammable items nearby.
Another case in point is the burnt-out thermostat pictured below. A recent service call showed me something I had never seen before. Over the phone the customer claimed that a fire had been started by a faulty thermostat. I politely informed him that was doubtful, since thermostats operate at a mere 24 volts in comparison to the 120 volts of a standard switch or receptacle. Upon arriving I saw the 24 volt thermostat which had overheated and ignited the carpet below. Fortunately the customer was home, smelled the odor and called the fire department. No doubt the house would have been a loss had he been absent. This was another case of electrical components failing with age.
Replacing old light fixtures, switches and receptacles is a wise move to minimize the risk of a home fire.