What causes Air Conditioner fires and how to avoid them?

They say, 'Prevention is better than cure''. And they say it right. Adopting preventive measures to avoid Air Conditioner fires can save you from massive property damages and life losses. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) of the United States provided with astonishing figures of annual damages and losses caused by Air Conditioner fires. Here is a summary of the 2016 report covering the data for the year 2014;

- Around 78,000 home structure fires were reported to have been caused by AC fan or other Air Conditioner equipment. 
- A life loss of 50 people was recorded in 2014 in the US alone while over 200 were sent for medical treatment as a result of mild or severe injuries.
- A property loss of 213 million dollars also resulted from these fires.  
- From 2006-2010, up to 2,500 fires were caused by Air Conditioners annually. The fires caused by Heat Pumps were 500 (This does not imply that heat pump does not cause a fire. The difference in the number is due to the fact that more people use Air Conditioners).

What causes Air Conditioner Fires? 

Since Air Conditioner is an electrical-mechanical appliance, the fires usually have the very reason behind; electrical or mechanical. For example; up to 33% of fires in previous years were caused by failing insulation of the wire or cable, short-circuiting, over-heating of the appliance or poor wiring material used. 

Ways to prevent Air Conditioner fires 

- Strictly avoid over-usage

As mentioned above, over-usage was among the top reasons for fires as it over-heats at the appliance. It is common among Canadian homeowners to constantly run the Air Conditioner during hot summers. But whether it's a Split Air Conditioner or a Central Air Conditioner, non-stop usage is one BIG MISTAKE. And since a lot of people haven't yet shifted to Programmable or Smart Thermostats, the AC keeps on running on unusually high temperatures resulting in high bills and burdening the system.
So the solution is; avoid over-usage of the appliance and follow the right practices; turn off or lower the system when not in use. Choose hours of the day to give rest to the system. Use additional appliances; fan, portable Air Conditioner or fans as alternatives to give rest to the system and to use them when there are only a few people at home. 

- Maintenance ensures safety 

While a lot of homeowners think that the rant of HVAC technicians about Air Conditioner maintenance is just their way of ensuring more customers to make more money, the truth is that maintenance is a genuine need of the appliance. And, avoiding or postponing it becomes the cause of big loss and massive damage. Almost all the reasons for fires caused by Air Conditioner can be traced back to this one reason of no or bad maintenance. For instance; dirty filters cause fires, damaged wires that do not get in time repair cause fires, improperly functioning of fan motor cause fires, dried operational parts which produce sparks cause fires and the list of reasons goes on. All these reasons are those which can be identified and fixed if the appliance is given in time maintenance. 

To cut the long story short, the simplest and easiest ways to avoid Air Conditioner fires is to;
- Avoid over-usage
- Provide the system with regular maintenance