Your home is full of electrical systems, including wiring, computer networks and appliances. We all rely on electricity on a daily basis, and every one of us will face home electrical problems. But how can we respond safely and when do we need to call in an electrician?
Make a note of these top ten common household electrical problems, and let a professional handle the repairs when they come up in your home.
1) My Lights Keep Flickering
Flickering lights often result from grid issues, such as a downed line or problems further along in the system. But when your lights continuously flicker, even after you’ve changed the bulbs, there may be a poor wiring connection or a faulty fixture. Both require the attention of a trained electrician, not only to diagnose the problem, but also to handle the repairs safely.
Pay attention to the timing of those flickers. Is it windy? Frayed wiring often creates a short in your electrical system during a windy day, resulting in flickering lights and short power outages.
2) A Circuit Breaker Trips Every Time We Use the Microwave
Older homes may not be designed to handle the high-wattage loads commonly experienced in today’s homes. Overloads result in tripped breakers, and unless you can live with limited access to power in certain areas of your home, you’ll need to upgrade or add a circuit to accommodate for the load.
Subpanels can be added for a minimal investment, but older fuse boxes and panels that are too small for today’s loads may need to be completely replaced. Expect to pay between $600 and $900 to replace your panel, depending on your location and the size of service required.
3) My Receptacle Gets Warm When an Appliance is Plugged In
Dimmer switches often get warm when connected to certain sized bulbs, but a warm receptacle needs immediate attention. First of all, avoid plugging anything in that particular receptacle and check others in the room for heat or burn marks.
Faulty wiring and faulty receptacles can start a house fire and result in serious damage behind your walls. An electrician has the knowledge and equipment to get to the heart of this problem fast, preventing disaster and keeping your family safe.
4) My Electrical Bills Are Out of Control and Rising
An electrician can help to assess the energy efficiency of your home and recommend upgrades and replacements that will help get your electricity bills in line. Rising rates often lead to higher bills, but when your usage increases along with the rates it’s time to take action and improve efficiency.
Older furnaces, poor insulation and wasted power result in higher-than-necessary electricity bills. You may be surprised at how much money you can save with just a few small improvements around your home. Ask your electrician whether any of the proposed work is eligible for energy efficiency rebates or government programs.
5) My GFCI Receptacle Will Not Reset
These outlets help to reduce dangerous conditions in your home and are required by national building codes. When a GFCI receptacle will no longer reset after tripping, you need to hire an electrician to inspect the area and possibly replace the outlet.
GFCIs (or GFIs) are found in the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room and on your home’s exterior. Any outlets within 4 feet of a water source (sink, bath, tap) need to be GFCI-rated, and all outlets in the garage or on outdoor walls should also be GFCIs.
6) One of the Switches on My Three-Way Switch Has Quit
Three-way switches are included in a system that allows one fixture to be controlled by two switches. When one switch is damaged or becomes faulty, the other will continue to work. Replacement can be tricky, and often requires the expertise of a local electrician. Backstabbed wiring can also result in failure on any switch design.
In many cases DIY three-way switch replacement results in faulty switches. It may be a good idea to have the entire system replaced to avoid future problems, but in some cases individual elements can be replaced as needed.
7) Wires Have Been Left Hanging and Exposed After Our Renovations
This happens a lot with DIY basement renovations and other home improvement projects. Exposed wires present a fire hazard and can seriously damage your home when left unprotected. In some cases hanging or untidy wires present a tripping hazard and could result in harm to your children or pets.
Wires must be spliced and covered, and all hanging wires should be supported by or attached to structural framing members with strapping or staples. Your electrician can quickly clean up even the messiest batch of wires, ensuring all are properly supported and covered to reduce risk.
8) We Have Too Many Power Bars and Extension Cords
Modern homes are designed with multiple outlet locations, often more than one on each wall. This helps you to avoid the “octopus,” a dangerous condition that results when too many plugs are connected to one or two power bars. Hire an electrician to install more outlets and upgrade your panel, if required. This will provide you with the outlets needed for today’s lifestyle, and should put most of your extension cords and power bars out of a job.
9) Plugs Continuously Fall Out of the Outlets
Outlets contain contacts that grip the prongs tightly for a secure connection. When you notice that different plugs are falling out of the same outlet, call your electrician to replace that receptacle. Loose or worn contacts can cause an arc, which could easily ignite a fire behind the drywall.
10) A Strange Smell is Coming From My Switch or Receptacle
If you detect a faint smell coming from your receptacle or switch, stop using it immediately. Arcing in the device or fixture itself may cause this odor, in which case you’ll need to have it repaired or replaced.
Take a close look at the switch and/or receptacle and keep an eye out for damage. Replace the receptacle if you cannot locate another source of the smell. As noted above, arcs can quickly start fires and should be avoided at all costs.
Your electrician is fully trained and knowledgeable, with plenty of experience troubleshooting common home electrical problems. Call on them to replace switches and receptacles, upgrade your panel or diagnose flickering lights and faulty three-way switches. Their expertise is invaluable and helps you to maintain a safe, functional home.