Signs There Could Be an Electrical Issue in Your Home: 8 Things to Look For

As homeowners, it’s hard to stay on top of every single problem in the house— especially when the problem is inside the walls and out of sight. However, there are some clues that can suggest there’s an electrical problem in your home. Outlets hanging, missing faceplate, discolored faceplate, Some of them can be really loud or noticeable, like an outlet or switch popping or cracking, or a breaker that trips when you use your microwave or hair dryer. Others are much less noticeable things that can be an indication of an electrical problem. Below is a list of 8 subtle things you can look for to make sure you don’t have any electrical issues in your home.

signs there could be electrical problem

 

1.  FLICKERING LIGHTS

Flickering lights can seem kind of scary, but the problem is usually pretty straightforward, like a loose electrical connection that needs to be tightened. If the problem is affecting multiple lights or rooms, then it is possible that it might be more complicated. If you find that the lights in the entire house are flickering, then the issue might actually be in the breaker box of your home. If that’s the case, it would be best to have a licensed electrician come take a look at it and troubleshoot your circuits.

electrical issue - flickering lights
2.  WARM/HOT OUTLETS OR SWITCHES

Most electrical appliances will generate heat when in use. However, if you find the outlet itself getting hot, you could be looking at a problem. If you do notice excess heat coming from an outlet or switch cover plate, immediately unplug any cords that are plugged into the outlet or turn off the switch and don’t use it again until you can troubleshoot and fix the issue.

However, dimmer switches can be an exception. They commonly get warm to the touch, since they are dissipating the excess electrical energy in order to create the dimming effect. With that said, even dimmer switch cover plates should never be uncomfortably hot to the touch.

electrical issue - warm switch or outlet
3.  BURNING SMELL

If you detect a burning smell coming from a wire, plug, outlet, breaker box, or etc., immediate action must be taken. Find out where the smell is coming from, cut power to that circuit, and get it resolved quickly. If you aren’t comfortable addressing the issue yourself, reach out to a professional ASAP!

electrical issue - burning smell
4.  LOOSE OUTLETS

Loose outlets are unfortunately very common in homes. These loose outlets can lead to sparks, shorts, and even potential fire hazards, so they should be repaired. To address your loose outlets, look at two factors. First, check that the outlet itself is secured to the wall. It shouldn’t wiggle around or be hanging by a screw. Second, check what happens when you plug a cord into the outlet. If the cord slumps downward or doesn’t stay in all the way, it’s time to replace the outlet. Over time, outlets wear out and don’t hold plugs in as well. Some people tweak the prongs on their cords for a quick fix, but it’s best to just change it out.

It’s a fairly easy fix and one that doesn’t take a lot of time to do. Here is a video to show you how to change out an outlet yourself. But, as with any home electrical project, if you feel nervous or uncomfortable, contact a licensed electrician.

electrical issue - loose outlet
5.  MESSY OR TANGLED WIRING

One point to make here is that a well-organized, nicely arranged wiring job doesn’t work any better than wires that are run haphazardly in an area. However, if the wiring was done sloppily or is disorganized, it could be an indication of rushed or poor electrical work.

So, if you notice places where there are really tangled lines or a junction box that looks like a big mess, it would be a good idea to look at the rest of the wiring and circuits in your home. A licensed electrician can come do a whole house electrical inspection to help you understand your home electrical and also give you peace of mind.

electrical issue - messy or tangled wiring
6.  UNGROUNDED = SHOCKS

If you get a shock when you touch a metal object connected to your home’s mechanical system, that can be an indication that your electrical system might not be properly grounded. This goes for electrical fixtures, such as lamps or ceiling fans, but also things such as water lines or furnace ductwork. So that you aren’t confused, it’s not a shock that happens with static electricity; those are much smaller and aren’t concerning, just annoying.

Note: If your electrical service is ungrounded but has three-prong receptacles, appliances that need to be grounded won’t be. Ungrounded three-prong plugs are one of the top-ten electrical mistakes that are made in residential electrical. If you have any questions about your home, be sure to contact a licensed electrician to do an inspection. 

electrical issue - ungrounded outlets equals shocks
7.  ALUMINUM WIRING

During the late ’60s and early ’70s, home builders typically ran single-strand aluminum wire for wiring in homes because it cost less than copper wiring. Unfortunately, exposed aluminum oxidizes far more rapidly than copper, which can lead to heat build-up and therefore, fire risks. Consequently, aluminum is not used for residential branch-circuit wiring any longer.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has found that homes with aluminum wiring run a risk of being up to 55 times more likely to suffer fire damage. There are some different ways to help existing aluminum wiring, from using specialized connectors to having your home completely rewired. If you think your home might have aluminum wiring, it is worth it to call a licensed electrician to look at it and discuss options for replacing it.

electrical issue - aluminum wiring
8.  RODENT ACTIVITY

No one likes to have a rodent issue in their home for many reasons. When it comes to electrical wiring though, rodents can cause issues. If you notice nesting material or rodent droppings near any electrical wiring in your home, inspect the wires to see if there are any chew marks on them. Often, rodents will gnaw wiring until it is bare. Most likely the critter won’t live past that point, but you could be the one in for a shock when the exposed wire begins to spark or overheat as a result of the damage.

electrical issue - rodent activity

Stay safe by checking for these signs in your home’s electrical system. However, as with anything electrical, if you feel like the problem might be over your head or if you feel nervous, call a licensed electrician for help.
 
If you’d like to have your electrical system evaluated by a professional, we have a special for $50 off electrical work running this month, click here for more details.

 

 

Author: Tammy Nelson
Copyright © 2020 by Any Hour Services

 

Jan 17th 2020

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