What Causes Electrical Fires?

Have you found yourself wondering about what causes electrical fires? Maybe someone you know has had an electrical fire and now you want to know what your chances are of having one?

What Causes Electrical Fires?

Or are you curious and want to know more? Whatever brought you here today, we have the answers for you!

We know how scary a fire can be, especially an electrical fire. They seem to start suddenly, and the destruction they cause can be devastating.

Naturally, you want to do all you can to prevent these, and knowing what causes them is a good way to better prepare and protect your home from an electrical fire.

But finding this information out can be tricky and leaves many of us unsure what to do or where to turn!

Well, no more! Today, we have a complete guide that will walk you through what causes electrical fires, how they start, and anything else that you need to know.

Just keep reading to find out more!

What Causes Electrical Fires?

Electrical fires happen due to appliance malfunctions or issues with wiring in your home or building.

These can be caused by the appliance failing, or by people overloading electrical sockets or extension leads.

When the components inside an electrical appliance or wiring fail, they can spark and cause a fire. If the fire is not detected quickly, it can spread, damaging the room or your entire home.

There are lots of things that can cause electrical fires, so let’s take a look at five of the most common causes of electrical fires so you know what to watch out for in your home!

Faulty Outlets Or Appliances

First up, we have the most common cause of electrical fires - faulty outlets or appliances.

Typically, these appliances or outlets will be old or damaged. Fires are also caused by faults in appliance cords, switches, or receptacles.

To reduce your chances of an electrical fire, do not use appliances with worn or frayed cords, especially if the wires are exposed!

These damaged cords can send heat to floors, rugs, or curtains, which can ignite and lead to a fire.

Another cause of electrical fires is running cords under rugs, where the heat can rise onto a flammable surface.

You can also cause a fire if you remove the grounding plug from an outlet, allowing you to use a two-prong electrical outlet.

These plugs cannot handle the extra electricity, resulting in a fire. Avoid doing these things and regularly check the wires of your appliances to keep the chances of an electrical fire low.

Light Fixtures

Light fixtures, light bulbs, and lamps can also cause electrical fires! Often, this happens when you have installed a light bulb with a wattage higher than the fitting.

To prevent this, you will want to check the recommended bulb wattage on any light fixture or lamp that you have before purchasing a bulb.

Placing materials over the bulb or lamp shade can also cause fires. You should not cover a lightbulb or lamp shade with a cloth or wet paper, or any other flammable materials.

These can heat up quickly, ignite and cause a fire.

Another cause is also faulty lamps or light fixtures. If the wiring within them has failed, then this can cause a fire.

You will want to check older fixtures and lamps regularly to ensure that you aren’t using unsafe lights.

Extension Cords/Leads

Extension Cords/Leads

Extension cords are another common cause of electrical fires.

We should consider extension cords as a temporary measure, rather than a permanent place for you to plug your appliances into.

If you use them for extended periods, then you run the risk of an electrical fire.

We know they are an easy fix for many people, but we do recommend having an electrician come and install more sockets or update yours if you find yourself frequently relying on extension cords.


Old or outdated wiring can often cause electrical fires. Older wiring is not often able to cope with the demand modern living puts on electricity.

These days, flat-screen TVs, chargers, games consoles, kitchen appliances, and air conditioners all rely on electricity, and sometimes the wiring cannot cope, and it can cause fires.

You see this more frequently in homes that are more than 20 years old.

Your circuits can overload, which usually triggers breakers to prevent any fires or outages.

However, older breaker boxes might have connectors that are worn or no longer work. When they fail to intervene, your system can overload, resulting in an electrical fire.

To avoid this, it’s worth having an electrician check the wiring in your home and update it where necessary. Ask them to check your circuits and breaker boxes too.

Space Heaters

Space heaters or portable heaters are another common cause of fires. A contributing factor to this is where these heaters are placed in homes.

Often, they are too close to surfaces that are a fire hazard, like beds, clothes, chairs, rugs, curtains, and couches.

The heat radiating from these heaters can cause these surfaces to overheat, resulting in a fire!

Coil space heaters run a higher risk of fire too. These coils can become so hot that they can ignite instantly if they are near a flammable surface!

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use space heaters, but you need to be careful. Opt for a radiator type that will diffuse heat across the entire surface.

The chance of a fire is lower with these, but you will still want to keep them away from flammable surfaces and not cover them with laundry.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it, the five most common causes of electrical fires!

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but should give you an idea of the main causes to watch out for and how you can prevent them in your home!