electrical repair services close-up of hands checking electrical fuses

Be Safe in Your Home: Warning Signs That You Need Electrical Repair Services

Preventing house fires caused by electrical malfunctions is essential, and there are several warning signs to watch out for. Start by checking the date of your last inspection on your fuse box or breaker panel. While most municipalities only require an inspection when there have been renovations or additions, the Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests having a professional inspection every 10 years. Following a Home Electrical Safety Checklist can prevent potential problems before they happen.

Potential Sources & Causes of Electrical Fires

1. Too Many Extension Cords

too many extension cords

Aside from aesthetics, burying electric wires within walls serves a practical purpose. It ensures that the wiring system remains undisturbed and can function indefinitely. However, when the system is disturbed or altered, it can lead to potential problems. 

Using extension cords introduces additional points of vulnerability, as cords can be easily kinked, shorted out, or pinched. This can result in tripped breakers, damaged outlets, or even a fire. 

To mitigate these risks, extension cords should only be used sparingly and for short periods of time, such as cold winter months and during the holiday season. If you find that you consistently require more outlets, it is advisable to hire a professional electrician to install them.

2. Dimming or Flickering Lights

Light fixtures typically do not draw a significant amount of power, so dimming or flickering is usually not caused by a problem with the fixture itself. The issue is more likely to be related to major appliances or space heaters that are connected to the same electrical circuit. These types of appliances, which require a lot of power, can potentially cause the lights to dim.

If you are experiencing this problem, it is advised to consult with an electrician. They can suggest options such as moving the lights to a different circuit or installing dedicated lines for the major appliances.

3. Funny Odors

man holding nose from bad smell

If you notice a strange smell coming from an outlet, immediately turn off and unplug any devices connected to it. It is important to refrain from using it until a licensed electrician can inspect it. Likewise, if you encounter a peculiar odor coming from your fuse box or breaker panel, it is essential to contact an electrician as soon as possible.

4. Sparking

Sparking is never a good sign and should be addressed promptly. However, the specific steps to take depend on the source of the sparking. If you notice sparking from a breaker panel, fuse box, or outlet, it is important to contact a licensed electrician immediately. These professionals have the expertise to handle electrical issues safely and can identify and resolve the underlying problem. 

On the other hand, if the sparking is coming from an appliance, such as a dishwasher or washing machine, it may indicate damage to the fixture itself. In such cases, it is recommended to call an appliance repair person who can inspect the appliance, diagnose the issue, and perform any necessary repairs. If the appliance is still under warranty, the repairs may be covered. In any case, it is crucial to address sparking promptly to prevent further damage and ensure safety.

5. Hot Outlets or Switch Plates

Appliances that generate heat, such as toasters or space heaters, should not cause the outlet to become hot. While a slight warmth on the switch plate is normal, if the outlet is uncomfortably hot, it is recommended to unplug the appliance and test it in a different outlet. 

If the outlet continues to get hot even without anything plugged in, there may be incorrect wiring. It is advisable to consult with an electrician who can provide guidance on flipping the breaker or removing the fuse for that outlet until the electrical system can be serviced.

6. Frequently Blown Fuses or Tripped Breakers

closeup vacuum cleaner living room

If you notice that a specific appliance, such as a hairdryer or a vacuum cleaner, consistently causes a circuit breaker to trip regardless of where it is plugged in, the appliance itself is likely the culprit.

However, if you find that using a particular outlet repeatedly blows the same fuse, it is indicative of an overloaded circuit. In such cases, it is advisable to seek the assistance of a professional electrician who can help upgrade the circuit or install a new line to prevent overloading and maintain electrical safety.

7. Buzzing

What does electricity sound like? Usually, it is silent. When electricity flows smoothly between connections, there is no sound. However, if there are loose prongs, outlets, or fraying wires, the current may jump and result in a buzzing sound. If you hear a sound originating from an outlet, it is important to stop using it and contact an electrician for assistance.

8. The Wrong Outlets in the Kitchen or Bathroom 

Kitchens and bathrooms are areas where water is commonly present, making it important to have special outlets called ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) for added protection against electrical shocks. GFCIs have particular features that make them safer in these environments. If your kitchen or bathroom outlets do not have GFCIs, it is recommended to replace them with these outlets to enhance safety precautions around water.

9. Messy or Tangled Wiring

angry man tangling wires at workplace

The outward appearance of electrical wiring has no impact on its effectiveness. However, disorganized and chaotic cabling can suggest shoddy electrical work. If you come across tangled lines or jam-packed electrical boxes, it is advisable to conduct a more extensive evaluation of your home's electrical system.

10. Improperly Grounded Flexible Gas Lines

Corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST), also known as flex line, is a popular choice for gas supply in homes. However, it is essential to ground this tubing properly to avoid dangerous blowouts. In the event of an electrical surge, like a lightning strike, an improperly grounded CSST can rupture, leading to a gas leak or explosion.

11. Old Aluminum Wiring

During the late ’60s and early ’70s, high copper prices prompted builders to utilize single-strand aluminum wire for electrical services. Research conducted in laboratories showed that aluminum wire was a viable substitute for copper, making it an appealing choice to reduce costs. 

However, exposed aluminum wire corrodes at a faster rate than copper when exposed to the elements, causing heat buildup and posing a fire hazard. While this was not an issue in controlled laboratory conditions, it became a concern in real-world settings, such as homes, especially in branch circuits.

As a result, aluminum wiring is no longer used for residential branch-circuit wiring. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has discovered that homes with aluminum wiring may be significantly more susceptible to fire damage, with a risk up to 55 times greater. There are various ways to address existing aluminum wiring, ranging from specialized connectors to a complete rewiring of the entire house. If you suspect that your home has aluminum wiring, it is advisable to consult a licensed electrician to assess the situation and discuss the available options for rewiring.

12. Ungrounded Electrical Systems = Shocks

If you experience a shock when touching a metal object connected to your home's mechanical system, such as a water line or furnace ductwork, it could be a sign that your electrical system is not properly grounded. This is not to be confused with small static electricity shocks, which are less concerning. If your electrical service is ungrounded but has three-prong receptacles, appliances that require grounding may not function correctly.

13. Loose Outlets

If you find that the internal parts of an outlet are shifting around when you plug in a cord, it is a sign that the outlet is loose and needs to be fixed. A loose outlet can cause the wires to come loose as well, which can pose a fire hazard. Thankfully, this problem can be resolved easily by your electrician even if your electrical cord has been chewed by a pet.

14. Rodents Are Ruining Your Wires

cute rat in the kitchen

If you notice the presence of rodent droppings or nests near your electrical wiring, make sure to inspect for any signs of chewing on the wires. Rats and mice are known to gnaw on electrical wiring until it becomes exposed. Although the critter may not survive past that point, you could potentially be in danger if the exposed wire begins to spark or overheat. If you observe any signs of rodent activity near your home's wiring, thoroughly examine for any damage and educate yourself on methods to prevent mice infestations.

If you notice any of these danger signs in your home, it’s time for electrical repair services! Contact Helping Hands Electric and we will be happy to come out and fix your electrical issue to keep you and your family safe.

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