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How Pests Can Be a Fire Hazard in Your Home

White Electrical Outlet

You've always known that pests are inconvenient, annoying, and even a health threat. But did you know they could burn down your house as well? It doesn't happen with every pest infestation, of course, but both insects - such as cockroaches - and rodents - such as mice and rats - can cause electrical problems.

These problems range from annoying - such as a power outage - to downright dangerous - wire shorts or even electrocution or electrical fires. Here are some of the ways pests can become a fire hazard in your home.

Invade Electrical Outlets

Cockroaches are one of the most troublesome insect pests throughout the US, but they're especially prevalent in the South. With their predilection for tight spaces, these insects often like to spend time in spots such as the insides of your electrical outlets. Unfortunately, their presence is not benign; they can actually damage wiring through corrosion.

As you can imagine, corroded wires are compromised wires, and this means they're less safe to use and more likely to either quit working altogether or simply short out and potentially start a fire. Cockroaches aren't the only pests that can have this effect, though. Bedbugs pose a similar risk, and they even have a similar tendency to infest light switches and electrical outlets.

Eat Insulation

Cockroaches can even eat the insulation around your wires in some cases, if it's made of a natural material such as paper. Uninsulated wires are highly dangerous and prone to shorting and, again, starting fires.

Mice and rats (as well as other rodents) sometimes gnaw at insulation, too. In fact, when you think of rodent damage, chewed-up insulation and wires probably spring to mind first. This can leave the wiring uninsulated, which means it's vulnerable to shorting out later. 

Chew Through Wires

Mice and rats don't stop with chewing through the insulation, though. Often mice even chew into the wire. This means that sometimes the rodent will get electrocuted and cause overheating, starting a fire there and then.

Older wiring with paper insulation is most vulnerable to rodent damage, but they also chew on newer wiring. Rodents are actually a major cause of fires: in the US, they may cause up to a fifth of undetermined fires.

The more rodents you have at your home, the more likely this is to happen, but it can even happen with a silent infestation or a recent one you haven't identified yet.

Build Nests

The nests built by mice and rats often contain a jumble of materials, but one easy-to-use material they're likely to find in your walls is insulation. Whether it's wall insulation or AC duct insulation, it's built to keep heat in. So when a nest is built around or next to wiring or a junction box, it helps hold heat in, which contributes to overheating.

Overheating is a common cause of electrical fires, so keeping pests away from electrical components is critical. 

Nuisance birds such as sparrows and starlings can become pests as well, and are well-known for building nests in inconvenient places. Although these nests may not cause a fire directly the way gnawing at electrical fires might, they're well-known for being flammable. When nests are placed unwisely, they can start fires by providing kindling to get the fire going.

As you can see, pests have a lot more to do with your electrical system and your home's fire hazard levels than you might have expected.

If you think a current or past pest problem may have compromised your electrical system, you should waste no time in getting the damage evaluated and remediated. Call Nicotri Electric, Inc., to discuss your electrical needs and we can schedule an appointment to come and check it out.