ances at once for fear of tripping your breaker? Or perhaps you have noticed that with everyone working from home during COVID-19, fuses are blowing more frequently.
For homeowners that have property older than 25 years, there are a number of common signs that wiring may need to be updated. Timely updates will prevent larger issues such as electrical shock or fire. Some signs include the following:
1. Hot or “Active” Outlets
For tech-heavy households, an easily avoidable issue is overloading outlets. While a surge protector or adapter is convenient to power all of those electronics, it is important to remember that those should not exceed their safety ratings. The same can be true if you are utilizing multiple or chained extension cords in certain areas of your home or yard. The result may cause the outlet to overheat, hum or vibrate, potentially leading to a fire.
Double-check outlets in high use areas, such as the living room, office or kitchen, to make sure that outlets are not overloaded and that they are well ventilated to allow excess heat to escape.
2. Flickering Lights
While there is likely no cause for concern with the occasional flicker, regular or constant flickering may indicate a larger issue that needs to be addressed.
Sometimes it is as simple as a loose bulb or wire wire, larger concerns include the use of improperly sized wiring or a faulty appliance.
Start with replacing the bulb and carefully inspect for any loose or frayed wiring. If detected, turn off the breaker that controls that light and see if the problem continues. Consult with your local electrician before any other actions.
3. Burning Odor
Any or all of these common signs can also lead to a burning smell or other odd odors. Often this is a result of overheating.
First flip the breaker to the area that you are smelling the odor. For homes that have natural gas, failure to do so can potentially cause a fire or explosion.
4. Breakers Constantly Tripping
A breaker that regularly trips is a tell tale sign of larger electrical issues. Culprits can include circuit overload, short circuit or a ground fault.
You may notice this when running multiple appliances at once, such as the coffee pot, microwave and toaster. Individually, the breaker is able to handle the load, but with each additional pull the system is stressed.
Have your service provider check the breaker box and fuse panel to see if another breaker needs to be added to account for the increase in energy consumption.
While the common signs are more easily identifiable, scheduling an electrical safety inspection or audit of your system will close the gap on any underlying issues that may need to be addressed.
When (and When Not) to DIY Electrical Repairs
There is a difference between being handy and being a licensed professional. Due to the potential risks of faulty wiring, all work on your home’s electrical system should be handled by a professional.
Here are some of the risks of tackling electrical issues by yourself:
It should be no surprise that the biggest risk is fire, potentially resulting in death. Electrical fires can be caused by a variety of issues but the likelihood is increased when wires are frayed, cracked, loose or overheated. While these issues are more common as a system ages, even newer homes are susceptible and should be inspected thoroughly.
Issues often arise when cutting, splicing or replacing wires. This can include using the wrong gauge of wire, improper insulation or failing to secure loose wires.
In the event of an electrical fire, remember to first shut off the electricity, then pour baking soda on the flame to help smother the fire. DO NOT pour water on an electrical fire as it is a conductor and can lead to the next risk.
Electrical shock is another risk that electrical work poses that can range from minor to fatal. Professionals have been trained to use, and are equipped with, all of the tools that are needed to safely carry out an electrical project.
Shock is most common when working with outdated outlets, when water comes into contact with a source of electricity or with faulty plugs/switches.
A popular choice for sources near water is the installation of GFCI outlets. These are designed to shut off when irregularities in the current are detected.
Your best bet is to work with someone in your local area that can conduct an audit of your electrical system to accurately address any issues.
What is a Home Electrical Safety Audit?
During an electrical safety inspection, a licensed professional will be looking for points of failure. These can be based on the age of your home, signs that you mentioned, or common issues that they have encountered with other homes in your area.
Here’s what a home safety electrical audit should check for:
For homes that are more than 40 years old, one potential red flag is outdated wiring. This can be in the form of older cotton insulated wires or aluminum wiring.
Aluminum wiring popular choice for contractors in the 60s and 70s. These types of systems are not put into newer homes due to a shorter lifespan that results in corrosion and poses a potential fire hazard.
The good news is that your electrician will be able to easily identify if your home has aluminum wiring and if the aluminum should be replaced. For most of these repairs, a partial system replacement is an option.
Older homes may still have two-pronged outlets that do not have a ground. Ungrounded outlets pose a fire risk in the event of an unstable current and the option to have them installed in a home has not been allowed since 1968.
For homes that fall into this category, ask your provider about the GFCI outlets that were previously mentioned or having a ground wire installed to prevent any future issues. Pricing varies and while the GFCI option may save money in the short term, a secured ground wire is a better longer term option.
Faulty Electrical Work
There is an old saying that “not all contractors were created equal.” Too often, there are stories of shortcuts being taken: using improperly sized wires or leaving jobs half finished. Licensed and top-rated professionals will be able to easily identify these areas of concerns and remedy the situation.
This also goes for the projects that were completed by DIYers. Sure, there is no shortage of electrical home repair videos available for home improvement projects but there is always a possibility that something is overlooked. You cannot replace experience and expertise.
Simply put, go with experience and hire a trusted electrician for the work that needs to be done.
The system itself is only half of the equation. It is equally important that your service provider also inspect your major appliances. This includes your AC and/or furnace and hot water heater, so that they can be easily shut off in the event of an emergency.
This is not to say that an electrician will be able to get your AC up and running, rather that they will be able to determine if adequate power is being sent to the unit.
Keep the areas around major appliances free of debris and accessible for inspection. It is much harder to identify issues if the electrician cannot get to the area in question.
Find Electrical Repair Near Me
Whether you have never had your electrical system inspected, are seeing signs that there is trouble on your horizon, or are getting ready to install a new appliance, the only bad time to act is when it is too late.
Most providers suggest that an inspection occur every 5-10 years unless there are signs that repair is needed. You may also consider scheduling inspections before seasons that will see peak usage, such as winter for those of us here in the midwest.
With preventative maintenance and regular electrical safety inspections, you can avoid expensive repair bills, being stuck in an emergency situation and have the peace of mind knowing that you are doing what is best for your home.
Choosing a provider can be a challenge, but you can make it easier by starting with a team that is licensed and trusted in your local area. Randy’s Electric is the Twin Cities’ trusted source for all of your home electric needs, offering up-front pricing and a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee. Contact us to schedule an appointment or learn more.