Your electrical system is essential, but it can also be potentially dangerous. As your home ages, so does your electrical system and the electrical wiring that makes it all work.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), “U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 45,210 home structure fires each year between 2010 and 2014 that involved some type of electrical failure or malfunction as a factor contributing to ignition.”
If you experience any of the following electrical wiring warning signs or have any doubts when it comes to your electrical system, contact a professional electrician immediately. In fact, we highly recommend scheduling a professional electrical safety inspection every year. It’s well worth the investment, especially in older buildings.
Electrical Wiring Warning Signs
If your home is older than 40 years, you want to pay extra attention to the electrical system in your home. Here are some common signs or wiring problems in the home:
Frequently Tripping Breakers and Blown Fuses
Your electrical panel is the command center for your entire electrical system. The breakers and fuses that make up your electrical panel are designed to shut down power in the event of an unsafe electrical situation. If you trip the breaker or blow a fuse, this is a good sign. That means that your electrical panel is properly protecting your home from overloading electrical circuits.
The most common reason for electrical circuits shutting themselves off is if you plug too many high-power devices into the same circuit. If you aren’t overloading your circuit, however, the circuit breaker or fuse may go out if there is a short circuit in the wiring.
Your home’s electrical wiring is connected to your electrical panel. The wiring is specifically designed for the size of the circuit breaker or fuse. This is why it is inadvisable to replace the breaker or fuse with a higher rating unit.
If you have frequently tripping breakers or blown fuses and you cannot attribute it to electrical overloading, then you most likely have a wiring problem that should be addressed by a professional. You can test whether amp load is tripping the breaker with a circuit breaker tester if you aren’t sure.
If you have breakers and fuses that go out on the regular, contact an electrician right away.
Flickering and Dimming Lights
While lights that automatically flicker and dim can seem cool during Halloween, they are a clear sign there is a problem with your electrical wiring situation. Usually, flickering and dimming lights indicate an overloaded circuit.
Sometimes, you will experience this when you turn on a high-powered appliance such as the HVAC system, washing machine or dryer. This is as fairly normal occurrence.
While momentary dimming or flickering doesn’t necessarily indicate an electrical wiring problem, frequent or prolonged dimming and flickering does. If you are experiencing frequent or prolonged dimming and flickering, you may have a problem with electrical wiring or a bad circuit breaker. Play it safe and contact a qualified electrician to check it out.
Burnt or Discolored Switches and Outlets
One of the most dangerous signs of an electrical problems in your home is discolored, smelly, or tingling outlets and switches.
If you notice any charred, burnt, or discolored outlets or switches, contact a professional electrician right away. This normally indicates a bad wiring situation behind the witch r outlet plate. In many cases, a loose connection causes an electrical current to “arc” jumping acroos the wiring, causing a short.
The uncharted electrical path can cause a lot of unwanted heat build-up, burning the plastic components surrounding the wiring, including the outlet or switch surface. Eventually, the heat will build up and cause an electrical fire.
If you notice discolored outlets or switches, we highly recommend turning off power to the circuit and waiting for an electrician to deem it safe to turn the power back on.
Usually, the outlet/switch and the wiring behind it will need to be replaced.
Smells, Sounds, and Sensations from Outlets and Switches
In addition to the visible sign of a discolored outlet or switch, some other signs are sulfur/rotten-egg/burning plastic smells, tingling situations, and
Plastic components that burn behind outlets and switches emit a powerful smell that can be mistaken for something else. Some people describe this scent as sulfuric, rotten-egg like, or a sulfur/burning plastic smell.
If you smell something like burning plastic or rubber around any of your outlets, switches, or electrical devices, turn off power to that circuit right away and contact a professional electrician.
If you experience a shocking or tingling sensation from any of your outlets or switches, contact an electrician immediately.
Wiring Warning Signs Conclusion:
Contact an electrician if you experience any of these wiring warning signs:
- Warm, tingling, shocking, or discolored outlet or switch plates.
- Strange odors, such as burning plastic and rotten eggs emanating from electrical devices, such as switches and outlets.
- Dimming and flickering lights.
- Frequently tripping breakers or blown fuses.
Keep on the lookout for these common electrical safety warning signs. If any of these electrical wiring warning signs present themselves, contact a professional electrician right away.
For more important electrical safety advice, visit our electrical safety archives.
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