Soaring temperatures see rise in suburban house fires

13 December, 2021

RAA Insurance claims data shows a significant spike in suburban house fires in the hottest months of the year.

And the most common cause of home fires in summer are malfunctioning air-conditioners, the claims figures reveal.

This has prompted a call from RAA Insurance for householders to be vigilant in maintaining their air-conditioner units.

The number of home fire claims in summer is more than double the number of claims made in winter, RAA Insurance records since 2016 revealed.

RAA Senior Claims Manager Hayley Cain said – excluding bushfires – there had been 320 home fire claims in the summer months compared to 148 claims in winter during that period.

“Almost nine in ten (87%) of those summer house fires were caused by malfunctioning air conditioners,’’ she warned.

“Many homes now have some form of air-conditioning, which not only provides relief from hot weather but can also be an essential device for protecting the elderly and young from heat stress.

“However, the use of electrical cooling equipment carries the same fire risk as other electrical equipment.’’

Ms Cain said cooling equipment, such as air conditioners, evaporative coolers and fans, can be dangerous if not properly maintained.

“The equipment can overheat if used continuously for long periods during heatwaves and cause a fire,’’ she said.

Ms Cain urged homeowners to follow the advice of the Metropolitan Fire Service to reduce the potential for fire in the following ways:

  • All electrical cooling equipment, both permanently installed systems and portable equipment, should be regularly serviced by a licensed tradesperson according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Clean or replace return air filters in reverse cycle air-conditioners (both ducted and split systems) in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Do not leave your air cooling equipment running unattended while not at home.
  • Watch for signs of your electrical cooling equipment overheating. Keep a spare, well maintained fan that can keep you cool while resting overheated cooling equipment.
  • Keep portable electrical cooling equipment away from wet areas to avoid the possibility of electric shock.
  • Children must be supervised when cooling equipment is in use. Keep an eye on children and pets, particularly when portable equipment is within reach.