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6 Frequently Asked Electrical Questions

Jul 14, 2020

A close up of a light bulb that is plugged into an electrical outlet and turned on.

Many homeowners have questions when it comes to electrical work but don’t necessarily want to have to contact their electrician to get them answered. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of frequently asked electrical questions to make your search for answers easier. 

Get the answers to all your questions about common electrical issues right here, such as “Why do lights flicker?,” “What is a GFCI outlet exactly?, “What causes a short circuit?,” and more.

Answers to Frequently Asked Electrical Questions

Why Do Lights Flicker?

Having your lights flicker occasionally is perfectly normal, but if the flickering didn’t used to happen, is happening regularly now, or is happening at a severe rate, there may be an underlying electrical issue. That issue could be simple, such as a loose bulb or the wrong type of bulb for a dimmer switch, a faulty light switch, or other appliances in the home pulling a lot of energy on startup, causing a small voltage drop for the lights.

Alternatively, lights flickering could be an indicator of a far more severe issue, one that requires the attention of your electrician. It could be a sensory overload on a circuit, loose or outdated wiring leading to your lighting issues, voltage fluctuations, or even an issue with your main service cable connection.

What is a GFCI Outlet?

Most commonly found in areas where moisture is likely to accumulate, such as kitchens, bathrooms, basements, and garages, a GFCI outlet is used to protect you and anyone else in your home from electric shock when moisture is introduced to the outlet. These outlets have a test/reset button which, when pressed, turns off the GFCI. The reset then turns it back on after it’s been tripped.

Newer homes or homes that have recently been renovated will have GFCI outlets, as they’re required to pass building inspection. If your home doesn’t have GFCI outlets, especially in your kitchen and bathrooms, you and your family are at risk of electric shock. Contact your electrician to see about upgrading your current outlets to GFCI to better protect your home.

What Causes a Short Circuit?

A short circuit usually occurs when a hot wire makes contact with a neutral wire. This can happen when a hot wire is loosened from its original connection and makes contact with another wire, causing an electric surge to stray outside its intended circuit with little to no resistance. 

Short circuits happen if the plastic insulation on the wire melts or peels off, exposing bare wires, but it can also happen if wires become loose and fall into one another. Any frayed, damaged, loosened wire is capable of causing a short circuit, so be sure to get your wiring inspected annually to prevent a short circuit from happening.

What’s the Difference Between a Fuse and Circuit Breaker?

Both a fuse and circuit breaker accomplish the same goal: sensing a fault and disrupting the flow of electricity when that happens. The difference between the two is that a fuse requires replacing once it’s tripped while a circuit breaker does not. That’s why fuses tend to be used far less than a circuit breaker.

How Do I Reset My Breakers?

If your breaker has been tripped, you have to turn it off completely before turning it back on. Some circuit breakers don’t look like they’ve been tripped even when they have, which can be confusing. The best way to resolve the issue is to turn the breaker all the way off and then on again.

When Should I Call in an Electrician?

Anytime there’s an electrical issue you don’t feel comfortable handling yourself or you’ve never handled it before, you should call in an electrician for assistance. Beyond that, here are other common electrical issues that require a professional to handle:

  • If you’re needed to reset your circuit breaker too often
  • If your breaker is hot to the touch
  • If you can smell electricity burning
  • If your lights flicker or turn off and on again when the AC or heating turns on
  • If you need to replace your outlets
  • If you have overburdened outlets
  • If your wiring needs to be updated

What Electrical Questions Do You Have?

If you ever have more specific electrical questions about a situation in your home, always feel free to reach out to our experts at CroppMetcalfe. Trust CroppMetcalfe’s 5-Star Electricians to keep your power on and running safely. Call us at 1-888-250-6809 to schedule an appointment or schedule an appointment online today.


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