Electrical Risks – Electrocution & Fire

Most people assume a smoke detector is a smoke detector…this is not true.

In the mid 1970’s less than 10% of homes had a smoke detector; now over 90% do. Nevertheless, this dramatic increase in smoke detectors has had little impact on the risk of death by fire. Why? Some studies have indicated that many smoke detectors are either inoperable or have been disabled. Nuisance alarm activations are a major reason why detectors are disabled. National Fire Protection Association, NFPA, studies have indicated ionization alarms account for over 95% of all nuisance alarms.

Another reason is the age of the smoke detector. All smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years.

What are the statistics on ionization vs. photoelectric smoke detectors?

62-1The majority of residential fire fatalities are due to smoke inhalation. Ionization detectors respond an average of 15 to 50 minutes slower than photoelectric. Some studies indicate they completely fail to work 25% of the time. However, ionization detectors respond faster in fast flame fires. Studies show 30 to 90 minutes quicker than photoelectric. Certainly, either smoke detector is better than none at all. Of course, a functioning smoke detector is most important. But if time and reliability are vital to our chances of surviving a smoldering fire, a photoelectric smoke detector is the best type to install in your home.

Less than 10% of all smoke detectors in homes are photoelectric.

Doug Hastings
MN Home Inspector, Minneapolis & St. Paul
ASHI Certified Inspector, ACI
Kaplan University, Home Inspection Lead Instructor

In a fire, the issue is time. Minutes and many times seconds will make the difference between life and death. The combustible materials in our homes are different from the past and the technologies of smoke detectors have also changed. There are two types of smoke alarms, ionization and photoelectric. 90% of homes have ionization smoke detectors installed; about 5% Read More

Because of the high cost of copper, electricians began using aluminum wiring between 1968 and 1974. Determining that a house is wired with aluminum is not as easy as it may seem. You might start with determining if the electrical panel was installed during the period in which solid aluminum wiring could have potentially been used. After that only a Read More

What is the #1 cause of house fire? The answer is electrical wiring. During the holiday season wiring to Christmas lights and trees are particularly dangerous. Some tips to keep you safe are: Carefully inspect light strings each year and discard any with frayed cords, cracked lamp holders, or loose connections. When replacing bulbs unplug the light string and match Read More

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Is an AFCI the same as a GFCI and what is a GFI? AFCI or Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter and GFCI or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter are names for similar looking electrical devices that are used for very different purposes. An AFCI protects an electrical circuit against a specific kind of arcing. It’ function is to prevent overheating and fire Read More