Safety warning: Make sure your AC unit doesn’t spark the next fire

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — These extra hot temperatures mean many of us are looking for ways to cool down but beware, some quick AC fixes can cause major fire hazards.

The fire department said if installed improperly, those units can cause a fire to spark. So it’s best to leave the installation to the professionals.

“Most of the time it’s all, the do it yourselfers that get involved in this and think they know what’s going on,” said Thomas Pugh with James River Air Conditioning.

When it’s hot, we’ll do anything to cool down but just one wrong wire can cause a major problem.

“The main cause of the HVAC fires is from electrical improper sizing of wire,” Pugh said.

The fire department said they often see people trying to plug in AC units to outlets that can’t handle that much power.

“If you are going to use a wall air conditioning outlet, you want that outlet used solely for that unit,” said Lt. Christopher Armstrong with the Richmond Fire Department.

Also, when it comes to older outlets, never try to alter the prong to get the chord to fit.

“If you have a third prong, that’s the prong that’s designed to be able to ground the electrical equipment,” Lt. Armstrong said. “You should never break that off, you should never try to reduce that. Also, when you are talking about using air conditioning, you should never use extension cords or surge protectors.”

If you are looking to get a wall or window unit, bigger is not always better. Most indoor outlets aren’t designed for that much electrical current.

“Don’t try to cool the whole house — cool the room that you are in,” Pugh said.

The fire department said it’s not just older homes that are at risk, new homes carry the same concerns.

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