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How Dangerous is a Neglected Electrical System?

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

Protect your home and family from electrical fires and accidents with our electrical safety tips.

Electrical fire risk

As a home or business owner, you've likely come across your fair share of electrical problems, whether that's a flickering light socket or a buzzing electrical panel. But is it really that dangerous to ignore small electrical issues? Do you need to call an electrician for minor electrical hazards? And how unsafe is a neglected electrical system?

At EM2 Electrical Services, when we're called for electrical repairs in Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland, those repairs are frequently the result of a neglected electrical system. Our team is equipped to handle electrical restorations with a range of severity, but we hope to keep you informed on electrical safety tips and maintenance so you can prevent expensive electrical hazards.

Here, we're taking you through the dangers of overlooked electrical systems and what you can do to ensure you don't fall victim to these expensive mistakes.

Can Neglected Electrical Systems Cause Fires?

The number one cause of commercial and residential electrical fires is a neglected electrical system.

What do we mean when we say neglected systems? A neglected electrical system is not maintained by a professional. Minor issues are ignored, owners do not get regular electrical inspections, and elements of the system are old, outdated, or improperly installed.

Life gets busy, and your electrical system may not be on your list of priorities. But when you disregard maintenance, you're putting yourself, your family, and your property in danger.

Are Electrical Fires Dangerous?

Electrical fires are incredibly dangerous. Over 45,000 electrical fires occur in the U.S. alone every year, causing property damage, injury, and nearly 500 deaths. Additionally, most electrical fires occur between midnight and 6 AM when homeowners are sleeping and unable to recognize the emergency immediately.

These fires are especially dangerous because there is a chance of electrocution. That's why you should make sure everyone in your house is aware of electrical fire safety guidelines in the case of an emergency. Most importantly, never use water to extinguish an electrical fire, as it can cause electrocution.

At EM2 Electrical Services, we believe it's important to inform our community about electrical safety to prevent electrical hazards and fires. When you maintain your home or business's electrical system, you reduce the risk of electrical fires. However, accidents can still happen. If you find yourself in an emergency after an electrical fire has started, follow these rules:

Do's and Don'ts of an Electrical Fire



  • Call 911 FIRST

  • Safely cut off the electricity if possible

  • Contact an electrician to deal with repairs afterward

  • Don’t use water to put out the fire - check for a fire extinguisher, blanket, or baking soda

  • Don’t wait in the area - evacuate immediately

With those safety tips in mind, let's take a look at the common causes of electrical fires.

Elements of an Electrical System that Commonly Cause Electrical Fires

  1. Bad wiring

  2. Light fixtures

  3. Old electrical panels

  4. Cord and circuit overload

  5. Outdated appliances

How Faulty Electrical Systems Cause Fires

An electrical system includes light fixtures, electrical panels, and wiring, each of which can cause serious problems, as you'll read next. Maintaining your electrical system is crucial to avoid electrical fires and other dangers, as damaged or old materials can easily ignite with the constant flow of electricity through the system.

Is Faulty Electrical Wiring a Fire Hazard?

Old or faulty wiring is one of the leading causes of electrical fires. Unfortunately, lousy wiring systems can even ignite fires inside the walls, traveling quickly and spreading to outlets. Electrical fires can begin from faulty wiring in a few different ways:

  • Kinks in wiring can cause resistance, leading to the heat that ignites a fire.

  • Outdated wiring can become overloaded, making it overheat and wear out insulation.

  • Loose, old, or improperly installed wiring can cause electrical discharge and short circuits.

Risk of Fires from Light Fixtures

light fixture fire risk

When you neglect to care for your light fixtures, you run the risk of causing an electrical fire or electrocution. Ignoring minor issues, using bulbs with the incorrect wattage, or otherwise allowing fixtures to deteriorate can increase the risk of fire or electrocution caused by the wires.

The best prevention method is to contact your local electrician to inspect your light installations. Your electrical repair company can help you choose upgrades, make the necessary repairs, and keep your light fixtures in working order with minimal and affordable maintenance.

Can a Bad Circuit Breaker Cause a Fire?

Though circuit breakers are designed to prevent electrical hazards and fire by limiting the power flowing through a system, a bad circuit breaker can cause a fire. A circuit breaker should automatically detect a fault in an electric current, halting the flow and preventing it from overloading a system. However, circuit breakers deteriorate over time, especially when they are frequently met with power surges, overloads, short circuits, or bad wiring.

If a spark occurs in or around a circuit breaker, it can catch fire, though it is designed to be fireproof. That can then ignite a dangerous electrical fire.

When you notice signs of a bad circuit breaker, contact your emergency electrician as soon as possible to repair the issue. Look for signs like:

  • Burning smell

  • Warmth to the touch

  • Visible damage

  • Frequent breaker trips

How Do Extension Cords and Appliances Cause Fires?

extension cord risks

When misused, extension cords and other cables can cause electrical fires. A power overload can prompt the material to overheat at the plug, socket, or along the line, melting insulation or catching other material on fire. This generally happens with old cords that have deteriorated over time but can also happen when new cables are misused. To prevent extension cord fires, keep an eye out for damage along the cord or socket, check its capacity, and never overload it with appliances that are too powerful.

Similarly, outdated appliances can cause electrical fires when they overheat due to deterioration. Make sure only to use devices within their lifetime and upgrade to new, energy-efficient options when a machine starts to act faulty.

When to Call an Electrician After an Electrical Fire

The aftermath of an electrical fire can be messy. After safely managing the fire with the help of authorities, you may be dealing with property damage and other issues. If you've found yourself in this situation, never try and repair the electrical damage yourself. Contact a local emergency electrician to professionally rewire your system so you can handle the issues.

Don't Neglect Your Electrical System: Prevent Electrical Fires with EM2's Electrical Maintenance

A licensed local electrician is not just someone you call in an emergency. You should have an electrical repairman in your contacts to deal with emergency issues, but also to help with routine maintenance.

The best electrical repair contractors offer more than just repairs. They're there for electrical maintenance, installation, and routine inspections. At EM2 Electrical, we provide a full range of electrical services, including everything you need to keep your commercial or residential electrical system in working order.

As a resident or business owner in Northern Virginia, we also offer a complete service plan that helps you save on electrical maintenance costs. Sign up for $25 each month, and you get a year of electrical panel repairs, maintenance, and upgrades in your commercial or residential property.

Learn more about EM2's electrical services and contact us for all your questions and electrical needs in Southern Maryland and Northern Virginia.


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