In America, 13% of home fires are related to electrical problems. These fires are insidious because they can start through no fault of  your own while you're sleeping, on vacation, or even away at work. Although you may not be able to totally guarantee that such a fire won't happen to you, there are some steps you can take to increase the safety of your electrical system so that it's less likely to malfunction. Here are three ways to protect your home from a fire started by electrical problems.

1. GFCIs

GFCIs are designed to prevent fatal electrocution by interrupting the flow of electricity during an electrical shock. To do this, the outlet keeps track of how much current is flowing out and back into it at all times. Because electrical fires are often started by malfunctions where current escapes from the system, this type of outlet can stop the fire before it starts. It's not a guarantee, but it does make leaving things plugged in much safer. Fortunately, upgrading to GFCIs isn't a huge investment; often your electrician can wire several normal outlets "downstream" of each GFCI in such a way that it protects them too (similar to a circuit breaker, except the circuit breaker doesn't notice if current is escaping the system). So you may only need to buy about one per room. 

2. Updating old wiring

Some wiring systems used in the past, such as aluminum wiring, can be extremely unsafe. Others, such as knob and tube wiring, may have been safe originally but are often incompatible with additions that were made later. These additions can then cause fire hazards. And if you have an old wiring system, it's also quite likely that you need more power than it can safely carry. Ask your electrical contractor for advice if your wiring system is more than a few decades old.

3. Preventive maintenance

In order to stop electrical fires before they even start, it's a good idea to have your electrical system inspected regularly. You should have a licensed electrician inspect your system once every three to five years, but you should also perform safety checks on your GFCIs twice per year in between these scheduled maintenance checkpoints. To perform this type of test, all you have to do is plug something (such as a small lamp or other light fixture) into the GFCI, turn it on, and push the outlet's red TEST button. The power should go off, causing the light to go out. Then when you push the RESET button, the light should go back on.

These three methods will help you protect yourself, your family, and your belongings from an electrical fire. When you hire an electrician for your periodic inspection, be sure to find one who's licensed and has experience with residential wiring.

Contact a service like Cole Electric Inc to learn more.