If you are like most Americans, you probably take your electricity for granted until you have a problem. Waiting until you lose power can mean spending hours in the dark while you wait for an electrician to arrive. But, there are often telltale signs that you may be facing electrical problems long before you lose power or suffer a fire due to the wiring. Recognizing the signs of an electrical issue may save you time and money, eliminate the need for those emergency weekend calls to electrician, and keep your family safe from the risk of electrical fires, too. Here’s what to watch for.
1. Frequent Circuit Breaker Tripping
Your circuit breakers are located in a metal circuit breaker box that supplies the electricity to your home. If you live in an older home, especially one that had sections added to the home in the past, your home may have more than one breaker box. The breaker box is typically located in the basement or near the area where the electrical lines enter your home. It may also be located in the garage or even on the outside of older homes near the meter box. The circuit breakers are designed to shut off, often referred to as tripping, to prevent wires from overheating and posing a risk of a fire.
Occasional tripping may indicate that you have overloaded the line with an appliance or other electrical equipment. Unplug the appliance and plug it into another outlet. Some items, such as portable heaters, draw too much electricity to be used in an outlet with other electrical appliances. However, circuit breakers that trip frequently are sending you the message that you have an electrical problem in your home. Call your local electrician to investigate and fix the problem before you have a major issue.
2. Electrical Shocks
If you notice electrical shocks or tingles when you turn the light switch off and on, or when you plug in or unplug a cord in an electrical outlet, this may be a warning that you have a problem with the electrical wiring. If it only happens when you plug in a specific appliance, there may be a problem with the grounding in the appliance. Electrical shocks should not be confused with shocks from static electricity. Shocks from static electricity are common during the winter and typically occur after walking across a carpet in wool socks or rubber soled shoes. Static electricity shocks are not related to your electrical wiring and do not pose a danger.
3. Sparks, Smoke and Burning Odor
If you see sparks, smell or see smoke, or smell a burning odor from your outlets or switches when you use them, take heed. Sparks can ignite flammable material, and smoke and burning odor may indicate the beginning of an electrical fire. Static electricity in the winter can also cause sparks, but they do not leave an odor and are typically accompanied by a mild shock. Call your electrician right away if you notice any of these signs of an electrical problem.
4. Flickering or Dimming Lights
Flickering or dimming lights is a common occurrence during electrical storms and other severe weather due to damaged or downed electrical lines. This type of flickering and dimming has nothing to do with your wiring and should not cause alarm. However, if you experience flickering and dimming lights during fair weather, it may indicate a problem with your wiring. Check that the bulbs are screwed in securely and/or replace the bulb if flickering or dimming occurs in only one fixture. Otherwise, if the problem persists and affects your entire house, it is time to call your electrician. Sometimes, an appliance causes dimming or flickering when it turns off or on. Make note of this and talk to your electrician about how to solve the problem.
5. Outlets and Switches Not Working
If one or more of your outlets or switches stops working, check the breaker box and reset the circuit breaker to restore power to the outlet or switch if it has tripped. Typically, one circuit will control all the outlets and switches in one room, but some older houses may have more than one circuit per room, or the outlets in two rooms with adjoining walls may be combined on one circuit. Check the diagram in your breaker box to determine the correct circuit to the outlet or switch in question. If resetting the circuit breaker does not restore power to the outlet or switch, or the circuit breaker continues to trip, call your electrician.
Ignoring signs of an electrical problem is never a good idea. The problems are likely to get worse and may put your family’s safety at risk. If you suspect there is a problem with the wiring in your home, call and electrician, such as those at Advantage Electric, right away.