Top Ten Wiring Hazards Threaten Life and Property

October 20, 2004


NEW YORK, NY— Electric power can be a friend - or a foe. In the interest of assuring that electric power remains our friend, the Copper Development Association has developed a "Top Ten List of Electrical Hazards in the Home". Correction of these hazards could prevent deaths, injuries and property damage. Arranged in the popular way, CDA's Top Ten list is as follows:

  • 10. Overloaded or damaged extension cords. This is an all-too-common cause of fires.
  • 9. Excessive attic temperatures. Larger diameter wires should be used to accommodate hot attic temperatures. Avoid bundling of wires as they pass through framing holes, since heat cannot be dissipated easily in such situations.
  • 8. Failing aluminum wiring connections. Many homes built in the 1960s and 1970s are exposed to this hazard. Check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Publication #516, "Repairing Aluminum Wiring" (
  • 7. No GFCI outlet protection in bathrooms or kitchens, outdoors or near swimming pools. The ground fault circuit interrupter has no doubt prevented many electrocutions. However, some early-vintage units were faulty and should be replaced.
  • 6. No AFCI protection in critical areas. The arc fault circuit interrupter is a relatively new device that can prevent fires.
  • 5. Not enough branch circuits and outlets. Consumption of electricity is rising in American homes. Be sure there are enough branches to deliver power to new appliances and electronics. And get rid of those extension cords in item 10, above.
  • 4. Fuse or circuit-breaker misuse. Improperly sized fuses, or bypassed fuses, are dangerous. It's equally dangerous if a circuit breaker's rated capacity exceeds the current rating of the wiring. Also, just because your house has "modern" circuit breakers, don't assume they'll last forever. Consider replacing them if they're old.
  • 3. Non-grounded or improperly polarized plugs and outlets. Grounding and polarization were introduced as safety features. Don't try to bypass them.
  • 2. Wire size insufficient for current loads. When in doubt, upgrade to 12 or 10 gage wiring.
  • And the Number 1 wiring hazard in homes today:
    1. Old wiring. This can take the form of bare or frayed wires, crumbling insulation or faulty switches or outlets. Nothing lasts forever, including electrical insulation. Homes more than 40 years old are especially susceptible.

The best way to safeguard against electrical hazards is to have a professional electrician install, inspect and - if necessary - upgrade your wiring. The National Electrical Code® published by the National Fire Protection Association ( provides detailed specifications on the safe use of electricity, primarily for use by electricians, and this Code is generally adopted as law by state and local governments. The National Association of State Fire Marshals ( and the Electrical Safety Foundation International ( also provide sound advice and useful updates on the safe use of electricity. If you have any doubts about the wiring in your home, a professional electrician who knows the Code will make sure your wiring is done right.

You can also visit our Building Wire section for more information about residential electrical wiring.