Electrical problems can be some of the most frustrating to deal with; especially if they leave you living in a permanent “disco-lights” situation. How do you know when your home or office needs an electrical repair? And what should you do about it?
Here are the most common electrical problems you might face; what causes them, and how to fix them before they become hazardous.
How To Spot An Electrical Problem
The first step when fixing a problem is knowing that it exists in the first place. Here are some sure-fire ways to detect some of the most common electrical problems.
There are a few things you should know about electrical outlets and switches, including whether or not they should feel warm. While most appliances will generate heat when being used, the outlet should never be hot to the touch. If any of your outlets start giving off heat, unplug everything and have the outlet inspected before you continue to use it.
Switch cover plates follow the same rule, except for those used for dimmer switches. These will get slightly warm since they are dissipating excess electricity (this produces the dimming effect). If you can’t comfortably touch the cover plate because it has gotten too hot, there is an electrical problem that needs to be fixed before you continue to use it. One way to prevent this is to ensure you have the correct wattage of the dimmer switch installed.
Remember that disco-lights-situation we mentioned? Flickering lights are usually a sign of loose electrical connections. If a single light fixture is flickering, fixing it is a simple procedure. If several lights or rooms are affected, there is probably an issue farther back in the circuit. If the entire home or office is flashing, your breaker box or utility drop could be the culprit.
“Is Something Burning?”
The smell of burning should be an instant sign that something is wrong. Sometimes your electrical system’s wiring heats up enough to melt through its plastic sheathing – which is a huge fire hazard and requires immediate attention.
Electrical malfunctions or failures were the second highest cause of U.S. home fires between 2012 and 2016, and the cause of 18% of civilian deaths. If you smell something funky – get it inspected right away!
If a metal object that is connected to your home’s mechanical system shocks you when you touch it – there is a very high probability your electrical system is not grounded correctly. This is the case for electrical fixtures, as well as for water lines or HVAC ductwork.
Causes Of Electrical Problems
Dangerous or DIYed Wiring
When wiring does not conform to code standards, it can easily result in electrical fires. In fact, 6% of house fires are caused by electrical equipment.
Surges can be caused by poor wiring in the home itself, or lightning hitting nearby power lines. Common and potentially damaging, frequent surges can lead to accelerated degradation of equipment over time.
Have a look at the device connecting your home to the grid or the wiring itself and try disconnecting poor quality powerboards or devices from the outlet. If you experience any more surges after doing this you’ll need to call a technician from Art Plumbing, AC & Electric to sort out the issue.
Overloading occurs when your light fixture has bulbs or other fittings that have higher wattages than the fixture. An overloaded fixture can cause excess heat to melt the socket and the insulation of wires, resulting in sparks between wires. These sparks are very dangerous and can easily lead to electrical fires.
The damage remains even after the bulb or fitting is removed, so be sure to install bulbs and fittings of the correct wattage.
Aluminum was used as a cheap substitute for copper wiring in the late 60s. Although it has since been discovered that these wires corrode easily and are not a safe option for electrical wiring, older homes may still have a few aluminum wires installed.
Risk of Electrical Fires
Electrical malfunctions cause around 51,000 fires in the U.S. per year, which is around 10% of all residential fires. Annually, they result in nearly 500 deaths, 1,400 injuries, and over $1.3 billion in property damage.
Electric fires are typically caused by:
- short circuits, which lead to sparks that ignite building materials
- overloaded circuits, which cause wires to overheat
These fires often start in hidden places and turn into major fires before anyone notices them, which is why they are the most dangerous form of residential fires. This is why it is important to fix any electrical issues as soon as you notice them, and have regular electrical safety inspections.
A final reminder that electricity is dangerous and should not, under any circumstances, be tampered with. We understand how tempting it can be to try to save money by attempting repairs on your own, but without experience and in-depth knowledge, it is far too risky.
If you suspect you have an electrical problem, contact us at Art Plumbing, AC & Electric in Boca Raton and we’ll send a technician to help you out.