Carelessness underlies many house-fire situations. When fire occurs in the home, the most common causes are well-known: cooking accidents, clothes dryers, smoking indoors, candles, electrical problems (overloaded circuits, outdated wiring, and damaged cords), grills and barbecues, and the improper storage of flammable liquids like gasoline and propane.
But did you know there are many other fire hazards in the home? And some of these you might never suspect. Let's go over them.
Overheated Cellphone or Laptop
The vast majority of Americans sleep with their cellphones on the nightstand, in the bed, or even under a pillow. And who hasn't been tempted to take their laptop to bed to finish some work, watch a movie, or play games?
Anytime you use an electronic device for an extended length of time with inadequate circulation/ventilation, it will most certainly overheat and may even cause a fire. The risk is highest when your cellphone or laptop is plugged in, charging, and placed on top of or under flammable items, which doesn’t allow the device to cool down. Sometimes, factors beyond your control – such as a design flaw or damaged/malfunctioning battery – could cause a cellphone or laptop to more easily overheat and start a fire. Cellphones, in particular, are designed to work <95◦F, so repeatedly exposing it to extreme heat may damage it internally and contribute to your fire risk at home.
Windows & Glass
Sunlight coming in through a glass window is another potential fire hazard. Glass refracts sunlight, intensifying the sun’s rays. When these rays are focused on something flammable inside the home, it could spark a fire. The process works much like when someone tries to start a fire using a magnifying glass. But you don’t even need a magnifier. Glass windows, mirrors, stained glass, terrariums, and other glass objects inside the house may concentrate the sun’s rays enough to generate the heat required to ignite flammable material inside the home. Keeping such items off windowsills and away from incoming sunlight can help reduce your fire risk at home.
The accumulation of dust, lint, or other small pieces of dry, flammable materials in the home isn’t just an annoying reminder to clean – it can be a fire hazard. Dust can quickly ignite after coming into contact with a heat source and spread to other flammable items in the vicinity. Heat could come from concentrated sunlight refracted by a glass sculpture near a window (see above), a spark from a nearby electrical outlet, a candle, or someone smoking in the area. It can also be provided by a hot iron or other hot appliance. Cleanliness, it turns out, isn’t just next to godliness – it’s also a good safety precaution.
Consider batteries tiny receptacles of electrical energy. Electricity is stored as chemical energy in the battery then converted back to electricity when released. When the positive and negative ends of a battery touch something metal – as in a flashlight – energy flows out of the battery to power the device. Should this happen accidentally with loose batteries kept in the house, it’s easy to see how a fire can quickly start and spread throughout your home.
You might think it unlikely both positive and negative terminals could accidentally touch something metal. Think again. “Something metal” could be any of many common objects found in the home, such as coins, keys, foil, gum wrappers, steel wool, wire, tools, and other batteries. It’s also especially easy to do with small, rectangular 9-volt batteries because of how close the two terminals are on this type of battery. In this fire safety video, a man explains how a few batteries he set aside to recycle later caused his house to burn down.
To help reduce your fire risk at home, put a piece of electrical tape over the positive and negative terminals of each battery before you discard/recycle them. This way, even if something metal brushes up against the terminals, it won’t have direct contact, can’t create a circuit, and won’t start a fire. Another good idea is to keep new batteries in their original packaging to ensure they don’t touch one another.
How we light our homes and communities has changed dramatically over the years. Traditional incandescent lightbulbs and the more recent fluorescent variety are being phased out, with more and more consumers opting for the superior energy efficiency and long-lasting appeal of LED lighting.
LED, or light-emitting diodes, can create a fire risk at home, however – primarily when using LED lights to replace traditional bulbs in an existing fixture, which can overload an electrical circuit and spark a fire. You’ll want to consider the wattage and circuit load of the fixture, as well as the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure the LED lights you’ve selected are compatible with the fixture. And be sure to purchase LED lights from reputable manufacturers/retailers to ensure they meet current safety standards.
Many of us use the same appliances we’ve had in our kitchens and bathrooms for 10 or 20 years – or longer! Some of these older appliances, especially if they get a lot of use, may have frayed cords or outdated wiring, making them a potential fire risk at home. You should regularly check the condition of your appliances and their cords before each use. Discard the unit if the cord or device is damaged.
Avoid Fire Risk at Home – Even in These Unusual Cases
At Florida Peninsula Insurance, we aim to provide you and your family the critical information needed to protect your home and everything in it. This includes not just the usual fire hazard suspects, but lesser-known hazards, too.
Do you have adequate homeowner’s insurance in place should disaster strike and you need to rebuild? It’s helpful to check in annually with your Florida Peninsula agent to make sure your coverage amounts match your current situation. We also offer a variety of customizable add-on options, such as animal liability insurance, identity theft protection, and equipment breakdown coverage.
Not currently insured with us? Get a quote now to protect your home, condo, or renter’s contents.