3 Signs You are Facing Electrical Problems
If you’re a homeowner, there’s no system in your home more important than the electrical system. Almost every appliance and modern convenience relies upon your home’s electrical system to function. Without it, you’d be spending your nights in the dark with no heat (or A/C), no television, and spoiled food. Despite the critical role that a home’s electrical system plays, the way that it works and how to take care of it remains poorly understood.
Over the lifetime of a home, there will be times when the electrical system isn’t functioning as it should, and times when it may not function at all. As a homeowner, it’s incumbent upon you to get to know the ins and outs of how your home’s electrical system works, so you’ll be able to make sure that it is well maintained and working at all times. For those that have limited experience with electrical systems, here are three signs that you are facing electrical problems, and what to do about them.
1. Circuit Breakers Frequently Trip
The circuit breakers in your home’s main electrical service panel are there to protect you in the event of a fault by interrupting the power flow to the affected area of your home. As such, they are designed to be sensitive to fluctuations in your electricity and can trip due to problems that are temporary as well as for more serious issues. The common causes are:
- The circuit breaker is defective
- You have too many devices plugged into the circuit and have exceeded the capacity of the circuit breaker
- There is a short circuit in the service lines or in a device that is plugged into the circuit
If the circuit breaker is defective, it will trip at random intervals, regardless of the load on the circuit. If this is the case, you should have the circuit breaker replaced immediately. If the circuit is overloaded, you should disconnect or power off some of the attached devices to solve the problem. If neither seems to be the case, there’s a good chance that there is a short circuit somewhere, and you will need to have a licensed electrician examine the circuit to find and repair the problem.
2. Discolored Switches or Outlets
Another common problem that will occur in your home’s electrical system is primarily due to normal wear and tear. If you notice that any of your home’s outlets or switches are discolored or blackened, you’ll need to have them looked at by a licensed electrician immediately. This condition becomes more common as your home ages, particularly in outlets.
The action of plugging and unplugging devices into an outlet begins to wear out the internal components over time, leading to weaker connections. When this happens, plugs can slip out, allowing electricity to arc between the terminals. That’s what leaves the tell-tale scorch marks. In the case of switches, repeated use leads to a weakening of the pivot point inside the unit. When this happens, the switch won’t always lock into the on or off position, leading to an intermittent electrical arc. Replacing the faulty outlet or switch will remedy this common problem.
3. Burning Smell
If you notice a burning smell coming from any of the switches or outlets in your home, or from anywhere you cannot identify, turn off the circuit breaker in the affected part of your home immediately. Burning smells can mean that your home has developed a persistent short circuit somewhere that can pose a significant fire hazard. There are over 45,000 electrical fires in U.S. homes each year, and they happen most often when the home’s occupants are asleep, making them especially hazardous. If your home develops this problem, have it serviced immediately, as it could save your life.
Use Good Judgement
We’ve only covered three of the major signs that your home could be having an electrical problem, but there are many more we haven’t discussed. To guard against unexpected power outages or other issues developing within your home’s electrical system, you must stay alert and take note of anything that seems unusual. If you notice that your lights are flickering, or that an outlet or fixture seems abnormally warm to the touch, you shouldn’t wait to investigate the cause of the problem. Modern residential electrical systems are designed to be safe, reliable, and predictable, so if something seems off, there’s probably a reason. With a little bit of care, you can detect potential problems before they spread, and keep your home’s electrical system in top shape for the life of the home.