3 Tips to Prevent Electrical Fires in Your Apartment Complex

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, over 25,000 electrical fires occur every year in the United States. If you own an apartment complex, then you should take every step you can to prevent electrical fires. If a fire breaks out in just one apartment unit, this fire could quickly spread throughout your complex, potentially injure and displace many of your tenants, and cause thousands of dollars of property damage. 

Read on to learn three tips to prevent electrical fires in your apartment complex.

1. Obtain a Regular Electrical System Inspection 

Ideally, every apartment complex owner should obtain a full electrical system inspection once every three to five years. During this inspection, your electrician will check for safety and fire hazards within your building’s electrical system and recommend electrical updates that can help prevent fires. 

Just a few of the electrical fire hazards your electrician will check for during this inspection include degraded or damaged electrical wiring, oversized fuses or breakers, overloaded circuits, and outdated wiring such as aluminum or knob-in-tube wiring. 

Your electrician will also teach you about new electrical devices designed to prevent fires and suggest how you can incorporate them into your apartment building electrical system to keep it up-to-date. 

2. Install AFCI Outlets or Circuit Breakers

An easy way to help prevent electrical fires in your apartment complex is to add arc-fault interrupter (AFCI) protection to all building electrical outlets or circuit breakers. 

AFCI outlets and breakers protect your building from fires caused by a specific type of electrical short called an arc fault. An arc fault occurs when electricity released by a broken or frayed wire within a building wall comes into contact with another wire and creates a spark. This spark can cause an electrical fire if it comes into contact with wood, wall insulation, and other flammable materials located within walls. 

Standard circuit breakers do not offer AFCI protection, because most arc faults do not produce enough excess electrical current to trip the breakers. However, when an outlet or circuit breaker is equipped with AFCI protection, electricity to the wires that cause the arc fault is shut off as soon as the electrical short begins to occur. 

If your circuit breaker panels are newer, they may be compatible with AFCI circuit breakers. However, if AFCI circuit breakers are not compatible with your older breaker panels, you can add AFCI protection to your apartment buildings by replacing the first outlet of every branch circuit with an AFCI outlet. This outlet adds AFCI protection to every outlet on the branch circuit and prevents electrical fires. 

3. Replace Aluminum Wiring with Copper

Many structures built during the 1960s and 1970s were constructed with aluminum electrical wiring instead of copper wiring due to the high cost of copper during the time period. Unfortunately, aluminum electrical wiring has since been proven less fire-safe than copper wiring for several reasons. 

First, aluminum is a softer metal than copper, which makes it easier to damage when wires are installed and repaired. Just a small nick in an aluminum wire can cause an electrical hot spot that could cause the wire to overheat and start a fire.

Aluminum wiring also expands much more than copper wiring does when it heats up and then contracts greatly when it cools down. This extreme expansion and contraction can cause it to break loose from its connections over time, which creates a fire hazard.

Finally, when aluminum corrodes, it loses electrical conductivity, while copper does not. When electricity can no longer flow freely through a corroded aluminum wire, a fire hazard is often created. 

If your apartment building was built with aluminum electrical wiring, then have a licensed electrician replace this wiring with 12 American Wire Gauge (AWG) solid copper wiring to reduce the chance of apartment building electrical fires.

If you own or manage an apartment building, then you should take every step you can to prevent building fires that can cause extensive property damage and displace many tenants. Contact the licensed electricians at All Maintenance Electric Inc. for all necessary apartment building electrical services today.