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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

Fire risk with Aquarium

1/15/2020 (Permalink)

Water and electricty do not mix Power strip left sitting on the floor that then had a water damage problem

Fire damage with a home aquarium.

Aside from the obvious water damage they can cause. The old adage that water and electricity do not mix is there for a reason.

Well let us start with the basics of an aquarium and what sort of electrical power they really need. I mean they are tanks full of water what could they possibly need.

Lighting

Heating

Filtration

Pumps

So let us get started on the things to be careful about. A short circuit in a frayed or improperly placed wire can be detrimental to the overall safety of your home. This is an obvious one to most but what can come as a surprise is getting the improperly sized equipment for the volume of water that you have.

Some less obvious ones start at the very outlet your equipment will be plugged into. The law requires any outlet near water to be GFCI ( the ones with the test/ reset buttons in the middle) which is why you see them in bathrooms all the time. Most people do not have them outside of kitchen and bathroom areas and fail to consult with an electrician prior to setting up their aquarium.

While we are on the topic of outlets let us talk about how much electricity a standard outlet can handle because it is so easy to overload the outlet. A standard single outlet can hold approximately 2400 watts. Wattage can be tricky with equipment that needs to turn on and off. This creates a surge to the system that must be accounted for.

We see this most often with Christmas decorations during the holidays.  Power strips and extension cords does not increase the number of things that can be safely plugged into it. It does give us a sense of false security especially if we got a fancy one with a lot of bells and whistles. Where we place these can play a roll in their safety. Make sure you never plug a power strip into an extension cord. Also avoid hiding the cord behind the aquarium for an out of site out of mind mentality can hide damage. You can not see if water is splashing over onto the tops of the cords, if somethings has fallen on top of them or if you have kinked up one of the cords causing it to break.

Heaters for example can have dire consequences. If the motor burns out can be an obvious danger, if he heater is too small and needs to run constantly to try and keep the water at the desired temperature. Should your system require multiple heaters you must ensure they are always fully submerged .  Water changes and or drops to the water level must be met with heaters being turned off at least 20 minutes prior to the adjustment. This allows the mechanism time to cool down and avoid a short to the unit.

Lighting is often very close to the water and may not have the proper protection from splash back or spill overs creating shorts in the ballasts. These shorts can result in sparks flying over to a curtain or wall. They can also burn out the lighting unit itself and cause a fire. Lighting is also not meant to be in the water unlike the heater. This means extra care must be taken to keep the cords out of the way.

Filtration systems for many aquariums are set up in a separate room. That being said it is imperative that these systems be on all the time for the health and safety of the plants and animals. While daily monitoring for these is not necessary it is a good habit to get into daily equipment checks. A failure or blockage of a filter can result in an overload on the system that will try and keep running it. Burning out the motor. This motor burn out can simply stop working or it can start a fire in an unmonitored section of your home going unnoticed longer than normal.

Pumps water pumps are another thing that need to run constantly and since water pumps through them failure and overloading is imminent. It is not a matter of if it is a matter of when. This means you have to check this equipment often and you have to ensure you have the proper size pump for adequate water movement. It is also essential for you to have it plugged into an outlet that can handle the power.

Misuse of power strips and extension cords cause more than 3000 home fires every year, resulting in 4000 trips to the emergency room killing over 50 people. Now while all of these are not from aquariums this is still a staggering number. Electricity is not a hobby and we always suggest consulting experts for every aspect of your projects that involve electricity. This article is meant to be informative and get you to understand the damage that could occur. This is not meant to be advise or guidance on any aquarium work that you undertake.

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