By Simon Gould
Treadmills are very popular fitness equipment and have been for many years. Fifty million people in the US use one every year and many have them in their home. Most of them will be motorized and this means an electrical current is powering them. Sparks can happen and the treadmill is made of material like rubber and plastic that can catch on fire. So should we be worried? Can they cause a fire?
It’s very rare, but possible
A treadmill, being an electrical appliance, can definitely catch on fire like any other. They don’t generate heat as their primary function like a kettle for example, but heat is a by product. The motor will get hot at high speeds and there is friction caused just to turn the belt as we exercise on it. The console is powered too and any faulty wiring could ignite.
While that’s what could happen with a fire on the treadmill, we have to consider the cord connecting to the electrical outlet. Especially the connection between the treadmill itself and the start of the cord. Any open wires that get wet with sweat could cause a short circuit. Any wiring that develops a fault could cause a malfunction or fire.
Fires in the home are catastrophic especially if we’re in bed when it starts and we’re not aware of it, not everyone has a fire alarm. The same is if it occurs when we’re not in the home. The cost of a fire is high and the home is our most expensive purchase. Although a treadmill costs a lot too and it could be the thing that burns the house down.
5 steps to help prevent a fire occurring
As with any electrical appliance but especially a treadmill, there are steps we can take to protect our homes. They have many moving parts and a combination of components like the motor, belt and console. Most of the following advice is common sense but it doesn’t hurt to go through it again.
1. Unplug the treadmill
When not in use it’s a good idea to unplug it. The main reason is that the motor on some models is still drawing power even when it’s not in use. We should unplug all appliances but it’s a good idea for a treadmill. It’s a good habit to get into that when our workouts are done, just to unplug it straight away so we don’t forget.
2. Maintain it
After every use wipe the treadmill down and every so often remove the motor cover and vacuum inside. This is because there will be a dust build up in the compartment and dust can easily ignite in the wrong conditions. Otherwise lubricate the belt every 3 months to reduce the heat caused by friction. An annual service by a technician might be something to think about for safety.
3. Get a mat
You can buy special mats for fitness equipment and they have all kinds of benefits. One of them is fire protection. They also reduce the dust build up within the machine. It stops the treadmill from jerking and this will extend it’s life span. Mats are also great for noise reduction because they create less vibration through the floor.
4. Use a surge protector
These are usually found in power strips and offer valuable protection to any appliance. These have short cords and insulated wires. We use them for our computer equipment and we should do the same for our electrical fitness equipment. Use ones that are UL rated to offer your home the best protection.
5. Don’t use an extension cord
These cause many fires every year across the country. They should only be used temporarily for electrical tools, for example. Don’t overload any outlet with a long chain of extension cords and power strips. Doing this is a real fire hazard and you don’t want yourself and your home to be another fatal statistic.
Should we be worried?
If you think of the amount of treadmills around, if you include all of them you find in a gym then you can see how rare fires are. I’ve been around treadmills in my home all my life and I’ve never had any issues. I’ve never had a burning smell coming from my machine (stop immediately and unplug it if you get this). The majority of owners won’t run into any problems.
I’m sure the fire department or an insurance company have actual numbers of treadmills causing a fire. But then is it the treadmill itself or the carelessness of the owner? If you don’t take the steps above as a precaution, then is it the treadmill that caused the fire? If the electrical outlet is swamped with various extensions and plugs then you’re asking for trouble.
I have all sorts of appliances and they’ve never caught fire or burnt out. Yet we have everything on standby now. Our TV’s and other home technology is always left plugged in permanently. Somethings need power 24 hours a day like a security system. I do confess I have left my treadmill plugged in occasionally and it’s not necessary to have it like that.
Don’t let it stop you getting a treadmill, we just have to take care of it really and fires are incredibly rare. As some say the home is their castle so we’re always cautious around it. But don’t let that stop you getting a treadmill and reaping the health benefits they can provide. If we follow some simple precautions we can keep our homes and ourselves safe.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked*