7 Common Electrical Problems


Aug 04, 2017

7 Common Home Electrical Problems

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While some electrical problems may seem like only an annoyance, others can pose serious safety hazards. In fact, home electrical fires account for an estimated 51,000 fires, nearly 500 deaths, more than 1,400 injuries and $1.3 billion in property damage each year.
 
The circuits in older homes can’t always handle the power required by today’s gadgets. Without following the proper precautions to prepare your house for modern appliances, you could be setting yourself up for a fire or other dangerous electrical issues. 
 
If you’re looking to buy a house, especially an older one, pay attention to the age, number and appearance of the home’s electrical outlets. Washington, D.C. has some of the nation’s oldest housing stock, and even a thriving Virginia city like Warrenton had over 70 percent of its housing inventory built before the 21st century.
 
If you notice strange things happening with your home’s electricity, whether with outlets, power delivery or wiring — don’t try to fix it yourself. It’s best to leave the electrical projects to experienced professionals.
 
When we’re called out for Warrenton electrical repair, we keep an eye out for some of the common issues that homeowners face. Here’s a list of some of those issues that we see every day.
 
1. Overlamping
Overlamping occurs when a light fixture is fitted with a bulb with a higher wattage than the fixture can handle. While it doesn’t seem like a big deal, overlamping can be very dangerous — when a bulb overheats, the socket and wiring insulation in the lamp can actually melt. When you have that kind of damage on wires, you're at a big risk for arc faults — the electrical current is literally forced to jump, or arc, across a frayed wire. Arc fault are a leading cause of home fires..
 
Every modern light fixture should disclose its wattage rating. Don’t go above that number! If the fixture is older and doesn’t include a recommendation, it’s a safe bet to use a 60-watt bulb or lower — or to buy a new lamp.
 
2. Flickering lights
There’s a pretty extensive list of haunted places in Warrenton online, but when your lights start to flicker, you need Warrenton electrical repair, not a ghost hunter. 
 
Flickering lights can be a common occurrence, and oftentimes are harmless. There are some instances, however, that flickering lights can be a sign of a serious electrical issue. Flickering lights are often due to a poor connection somewhere in your system. 
 
If your lights flicker when it's windy, it’s likely because frayed wiring causes a short whenever the cables move. Be careful, though, since frayed wires can arc (see the overlamping section above) and start a fire.
 
You shouldn’t ignore the problem. If your home has  flickering lights, consult with a professional electrician.
 
3. Lack of home outlets
Some homeowners choose to make up for a lack of home outlets by using extension cords. If you choose to use extension cords, make sure they’re heavy duty — 14-gauge or thicker. As a general rule of thumb, the thicker the wire, the lower the gauge number. Whatever you do, don’t use undersized extension cords, as they run the risk of overheating and igniting a fire.
 
If you want to maximize your electrical usage and avoid safety issues altogether, call a licensed electrician to install more outlets.
 
4. Regularly blown circuits
We’ve all dealt with the occasional blown circuit. You shouldn’t, however, have to deal with this problem on a recurring basis. To mend a blown circuit, it’s important to understand its three common causes:
 
  • Circuit overload: The most common cause, circuit overload is usually a result of tripping. Tripping occurs when one circuit has too many heavy power consuming devices at the same time. This happens to prevent overheating.
  • Short circuit: A more dangerous situation, a short circuit occurs when a hot wire touches another hot wire or a neutral wire in an outlet. This touch creates a large amount of current flows, producing more heat than the circuit can hold.
  • Ground fault: Put simply, a ground fault happens with a hot wire touches the ground wire on the side of a metal box.
 
If you blow a circuit because you’re running the toaster, hair dryer, iron and vacuum cleaner at the same time, try planning your morning a little more efficiently! If you find you blow circuits even when you’re not using a heavy amount of home electricity, it’s time to contact an electrician.
 
5. "Dead" outlets
If one of your outlets isn’t working, it may be due to a tripped GFCI outlet. Since the 1970s, the National Electrical Code has required buildings to use a ground fault circuit interrupter for outlets near sinks. CGI outlets serve as a safety precaution, instantly opening the circuit to prevent electrocution.
 
These outlets automatically shut down when they detect overheating, which causes the breaker to flip off. A popped GFCI can even cause a circuit in another room to trip if they’re on the same circuit. This is especially common in older homes. If your electrical outlet stopped working, reset all GFCI outlets in that room.
 
When it comes to older homes, outlets can stop working for many reasons. In many cases, wires will come loose and the entire unit may need replacement. This type of electrical work can be dangerous. When you need an outlet repaired or a new unit installed, be sure to contact an experienced professional. 
 
Over 32 percent of Warrenton homes were built before 1969 — if you have a dead outlet, call a Warrenton electrician to make the electrical repair.
 
6. Receptacle doesn't hold plugs anymore
If you plug something in and the prongs of the plug won’t fit snugly into the outlet, it may just be the plug. Make sure the prongs aren’t splayed or mashed.  
 
If the outlet will not grip the prongs, however,  it’s time to take a look at the outlet itself. Over time, outlet contacts wear down. As they loosen, it becomes harder to securely grip a plug. Not only is this incredibly annoying, but the missed connection can cause electrical arcing — as we’ve mentioned, this is a major risk for house fires.
 
If your receptacle doesn’t hold plugs anymore, call in an expert. An experienced Warrenton electrician can not only detect whether or not a receptacle has a loose connection, but whether or not there is any more structural damage underneath.
 
7. Burning odor or sparks
If you notice a burning odor coming from outlets, switches or any other electrical sources, turn the power off at the electrical panel and call an electrician immediately. While this smell could be a result of a faulty device, it could also indicate the start of an electrical fire. Similarly, it’s safe to avoid any cords or receptacles that are warm, as they could be a sign of an electrical problem.
 
When it comes to sparks, occasional occurrences are not unusual. If sparks are large or happen frequently, though, there may be a loose wire or other problem with your unit.
 
Don’t wait to solve home electrical problems
When you need Warrenton electrical repair or service, look to CroppMetcalfe's 5-star technicians for the expertise you need. Call CroppMetcalfe at 1-877-740-6657 now or schedule a service appointment online.