One of the most important yet most often overlooked parts of the home is its electrical system. From the stove to the range hood, interior lights to the HVAC system, everything requires electricity. In many cases, homes are subject to a wide range of electrical problems, as well. These can range from the potential to trip breakers to the possibility of starting fires.
Understanding the most common electrical problems in a residential home is important to help ensure your safety and that of your family. The good news is that many of these problems can easily be spotted and rectified. In this post, we’ll explore the most common electrical problems in a house and what you should know.
Lights Flicker in the Wind/Storms
It’s natural for your lights to flicker if a transformer somewhere up the line blows. However, if you notice that your lights flicker during winds and storms but don’t actually go out, it could be a sign of a more serious problem. In some homes, the wires that transfer electricity from the grid enter through what’s called a weatherhead. If the wiring is frayed within the weatherhead, it can cause a short when they move in the wind. The most serious issue here is that electricity will arc from the frayed point and start a fire.
No GFCIs in Wet Areas
GFCIs, or ground-fault circuit interrupters, are designed to cut the power to an outlet within four milliseconds. That’s less time than it takes the current to deliver a deadly shock. These should be installed in all kitchen outlets, patio outlets, garage outlets, and bathroom outlets. However, older homes may not have them. The single greatest threat with these is that moisture will cause a dangerous shock.
Too Few Outlets
Today, our homes are pretty power-hungry. We have all kinds of devices that need to be plugged in, from your TV and Blu-ray player to your Amazon Echo and phone charger. The problem is that older homes weren’t really built with that type of demand in mind. If you find that you have to connect power strips and multiple extension cords just to handle your everyday power needs, it’s a good sign that you have too few outlets. Note that this isn’t a major issue in and of itself, and so long as you use 16-gauge or lower extension cords, it might remain a minor threat. However, thin extension cords and overloading outlets can increase the risk of an electrical fire in the home.
In most cases, the electrical outlets in your home should be cool to the touch, even when something is plugged in and operating.
If you notice that an outlet is warm or even hot to the touch, it’s an indication that there is a problem.
The chances are good that there is corrosion or a short somewhere in the wiring. It could also be due to moisture or to overloading the outlet, as well. In all situations, a hot outlet is a sign of danger and could lead to an electrical fire or shock.
Circuit breakers are installed to prevent overloading situations where too much current is pulled, causing a hazardous situation. When this happens, the circuit breaker trips, disconnecting the circuit and preventing an accident, such as a fire. It’s normal for this to happen occasionally, such as when you plug in too many appliances on the same circuit. However, if you notice that one or more breakers continue to trip, it is a sign that there’s a deeper underlying problem. Some of the more common causes here include bad wiring and ground faults.
Power Sags and Dips
The chances are good that you’re familiar with outages, but what about power sags and dips? In these cases, the power drops momentarily, similar to what happens in a brownout. In some cases, these can be caused by problems with the power supply on the utility’s end, but they can also be caused by problems within the home, such as an appliance drawing too much power from an outlet or if there is a faulty outlet.
Nonfunctional Outlets and Switches
Have you ever moved into a new apartment or home and found a light switch that just didn’t seem to do anything? Or have you plugged an appliance into an outlet only to find that there’s just no juice? Dead outlets and switches are signs that there’s a deeper problem – there’s a reason that they do not work, and it could be a short somewhere in the line that might mean a fire hazard for your home.
You Have Aluminum Wiring
This should not be an issue for modern homes, but those built during the 1960s and 70s may have aluminum wiring. It was seen as a more cost-efficient alternative to copper, but it does not have the durability of the more expensive metal. What’s more, aluminum corrodes when it comes into contact with copper, which can mean loose connections and the potential for electrical fires due to arcing.
Ever plug an appliance into an outlet only to see the plug slowly fall out? That’s a problem with the outlet, not the plug. Before you try to bend the prongs outward to prevent it, understand that the issue is actually worn contacts within the receptacle. These should be replaced before they become serious threats.
Struggling with Electrical Problems?
Many of the problems we’ve covered above can seem like minor inconveniences or “quirks” of an older home. However, they are all signs that there is something wrong with your electrical system.
Never take chances when it comes to electricity – shocks and fires are surprisingly common and almost always disastrous.
With that being said, the solutions to many of these issues are often pretty simple – replacing a worn-out receptacle takes just a few minutes, for instance. Of course, it’s generally best to call on the professionals when it comes to electricity-related problems.
At BEST PRO BUILDERS we offer a full range of professional construction services and solutions to fit virtually any need or budget. From full design/build services to installing that backyard patio and outdoor kitchen you’ve been dreaming of, you can trust our team to deliver.