Why do Squirrels Chew Electrical Wires?

Are you experiencing frequent fuse or circuit break pops and unexplained power outages? Do you hear scratching sounds coming from your walls or attic? If so, there might be squirrels in your home chewing on your electrical wires. One of the many questions that homeowners ask when they see wires chewed is why squirrels do it. More importantly, how dangerous is this, how can we squirrel-proof our home, and how can we protect our electrical wiring? The answers may surprise you!

Reasons Why Squirrels Chew on Wires

Squirrels are perfectly adapted to chewing because their teeth grow continuously. They need to chew to slow this process down as far as they can. As for other rodents too, constant chewing helps to harden and sharpen their teeth, which comes in handy when trying to crack the shells of hard nuts and fruit.

The Damage that Squirrels can Cause

Squirrels like to chew on all kinds of wires, whether power wires, phone lines, landscape lighting, or car engine wires. They are a serious threat to all your electrical wiring. Not only that, but they can spread diseases due to the waste they relieve. In either case, they can cause other types of house damage as well, such as ripping off paint, tearing things apart, mould, mildew, and general mess.

chewed wire in an insulated attic

Dealing with this nuisance when you see any signs of chewing on wires is important because it could result in the connected appliance not working, or even worse, losing power in your home or an electrical fire. These are certainly serious problems that deserve an explanation and exploring how we can prevent them from happening in our homes. Squirrels are responsible for an estimated 30,000 house fires in the US annually. They are also known to have caused whole houses to burn down and even cut out power in an entire town (1). In one such incident in the UK, an entire £400,000 home was burnt to the ground after squirrels chewed through wires in its loft (2).

Squirrel-proofing your Home

The fact that squirrels are most active in people’s homes in the winter and spring seasons suggests they seek out warm and dry places, which is why you might have them as uninvited guests in your home. Look for common entry points which could be used by a squirrel to enter your home. By blocking potential entry points, you will also keep other pests away like rats. Squirrel proofing your home may require undertaking repairs to your roof, eaves, and soffits. Also, do not leave food sources outside your home, keep trees and bird feeders at a distance, and do not let trees grow within 8 feet of the building.

squirrel looking through an opening in the roof

Protecting your Electrical Wires from Squirrels

Squirrels have a habit of chewing on hard objects, which makes metal wires ideal targets for them. It helps them to control their constantly growing teeth. Your electrical wiring should have good insulation. The greatest risk is with exposed wiring, so make sure no wiring in your home is exposed. It can be expensive to replace damaged wiring.

Deter squirrels from chewing your electrical power wires by using conduits or pipes. A conduit is a long hard tube that allows you to run your wiring through it. They are usually made of flexible plastic, PVC, or metal, and are essential if the wiring is exposed to the external environment. Telephone wiring can also be placed inside the conduits. Another option is to bury the wiring inside walls or underground while also ensuring waterproofing.

electrical conduits connected to a distribution box

Engine wires can be protected by using anti-rodent tape and electronic deterrent devices that emit ultrasonic waves. If using such a device, one with auto standby and low voltage protection would be ideal. This is especially important if your engine wiring uses soybean-based rubber for insulation.

Other Measures you can Take

Another line of defense is to spray your wiring or conduit with a hot pepper repellent. You can make this yourself by simply thinning hot pepper sauce by adding water. This is only suitable for the wiring inside the home, not your car or truck engine! It is an easy and cheap method when you need a quick solution.

hot pepper chilli sauce

Now that the potential risks have been highlighted, inspect your home thoroughly for any signs of chewed wiring. Ultimately, if the presence of squirrels in your home is confirmed, you should get rid of them right away by inviting a pest control team. The fire hazard risk is one reason alone for showing them the door and blocking all possible entry points! If your house is a haven for squirrels, perhaps the last resort would be using lethal traps to invite and kill them.

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References
(1) Jon Mooallem, New York Times. Squirrel power! Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/01/opinion/sunday/squirrel-power.html, August 2013.
(2) Daily Mail. Oh nuts! Squirrels chew through electrical wires… and burn down £400,000 home. Retrieved from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1298984/Squirrels-chew-electrical-wires—burn-luxury-400-000-home.html, August 2010.

About Sam Orlovsky

b1d87d2ee85af3e51479df87928bdc88?s=90&d=mm&r=gI realized early on carpentry was a huge passion for me and I’ve stayed in the industry for over 20 years now. This gives me a unique ability to really be able to tell you what the best tools and recommendations are. I’m not only a carpenter but I also like machinery and anything to do with electrics. One of my career paths starting off was as an apprentice electrician so I also have a lot of experience with electrical products and anything related.