The number of appliances and connected devices in homes has exploded in recent years

Computers, mobile devices, smartphones, connected home technology, large televisions – all of these new technologies put a strain on your home’s electrical system. And of course, let’s not forget blow dryers, curling irons and other things left plugged in which can sap energy.

Ernest Freeman, Vice President of Engineering at Hartford Steam Boiler explains why an electrical checkup is important and provides practical safety tips.

Is your home stressing your electrical system?

An over-burdened electrical system can lead to fire hazards. Make sure your panel can provide your home with enough power, which is measured in amperes, or ‘amps’.

Homes built 1940s-50s 60-amp service, very low by today’s standards

Homes built 1960s-70s

100-amp service, still low by today’s standards
Homes built 1980s 200-amp service, accommodated the growing electrical demands of modern equipment
Nowadays 400 to 600-amp service accommodates equipment and systems for everyday living

How to protect your home from electrical fires

1. Examine your switches and outlets
Young man unscrewing a switch panel
Contact a licensed electrician immediately if outlets or switches are:

  • Warm to the touch
  • Discolored
  • Buzzing or crackling
  • Loose-fitting

2. Inspect cords
Damaged cableDamaged cords can expose wires that are both a fire and shock hazard, and should be replaced immediately.

Also remember:

  • Don’t run cords under carpet or rugs – it restricts natural air cooling
  • Never remove the grounding plug for an appliance cord – appliances require the extra electrical load a three pronged outlet is designed to handle
  • Never attach cords with nails or staples as they can pinch, cut or damage wire strands

3. Extension cords are designed for temporary use only
electricity short circuit
Using extension cords permanently for power may damage the cord and create a fire or shock hazard.

  • If a plug is too far away, have a licensed electrician install new outlets or move the equipment closer to an existing, appropriate power source.
  • Don’t wrap up cords while they’re in use – it can increase overheating and fire potential.

4. Check bulbs and fixturesHand changing a regular light bulb for LED

  • Install bulbs that are the correct wattage – otherwise, the bulb could overheat and create a fire hazard. If you’re unsure of the wattage, use bulbs of 60 watts or less.
  • Never place anything over lampshades because they can heat up and cause a fire.

5. Get a pro to check wiring

  • Outdated wiring can result in electrical fire. Older homes may not have the wiring capacity to handle the increased demand from modern appliances, equipment and devices.
  • Have the breaker box checked out: Outdated breaker boxes could have worn connectors that do not work properly and that could cause the system to overload and start an electrical fire.

6. Keep track of tripped breakers
Closeup of man switching on fuseboard

  • Breakers and fuses are safety devices that help prevent overloading your home’s electrical system and prevent fires. Frequently tripped breakers or blown fuses can indicate a serious condition that should be checked by a licensed electrician immediately.

7. Upgrade to arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs)

AFCIs are advanced circuit breakers that provide improved fire protection.

  • Consider having a licensed electrician replace standard circuit breakers with AFCIs.
  • If you already have them installed, verify they’re working by using the ‘TEST’ button once a month.
  • AFCIs can stop working without showing signs of failure, so regular testing is necessary.

For more information on electrical safety in your home, visit the Electrical Standards Authority (ESA), or look up your province’s code authority.

Related Articles

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Electrical panel: maintenance and loss prevention tips



© 2017 The Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company of Canada. All rights reserved. This article is for informational purposes only. All recommendations are general guidelines and are not intended to be exhaustive or complete, nor are they designed to replace information or instructions from the manufacturer of your equipment. Contact your equipment service representative or manufacturer with specific questions. Under no circumstances shall BI&I or any party involved in creating or delivering this article be liable for any loss or damage that results from the use of the information or images contained in or linked to in this article.


  1. I sent a reply to the originator of this email the other day asking if I could use this material in some presentations I am asked to give from time to time, and I have not yet received a response. I would appreciate permission to do so, please.
    Thank you.

    Eldon Gaw


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