Basic wiring can be a relatively simple fix for many homeowners, whether it’s installing a fan or replacing a light fixture. However, do-it-yourselfers be warned, many electrical repairs in the home require technical expertise many of us don’t have. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, home electrical fires account for 51,000 fires each year and more than $1.3 billion in property damage costs. Unfortunately, many of the problems in your home can be directly related to electrical issues. Learn more below about why those home quirks aren’t as common as you once thought.
Pro Tip: Anytime you are dealing with wiring or anything electrical, make sure to turn the circuit or breaker off.
1. Why did my outlets and lights suddenly go out?
This sudden darkness or loss of power is often known as tripping a circuit or blowing a fuse. It isn’t hard to fix this problem, though. Simply find your utility panel and the corresponding switch to reset the breakers or GFCIs. If you do this and still have problems, you may need to contact local electrician. Better safe than sorry!
When outlets in bathrooms, kitchens, garages, and the exterior go dead, it means something entirely different than anywhere else in your house. In the last 30 or 40 years, outlets in these areas have been required to go dead from a GFCI, whenever it senses a problem that could shock you. You’ll want to reset the tripped circuit, as that is likely the cause of your dead outlet. To keep your home up to code, you should have a GFCI in place anywhere water can get within four feet of the outlet. Some people try to replace the GFCI receptacle on their own, but if you are concerned at all, it’s always best to contact your local electrician.
If you frequently have to flip switches on your electrical panel, then you may be overloading your circuit. Some devices don’t immediately trip the breaker, but over time they can wear down the circuit. If you aren’t able to redistribute where you are using these devices, then you will need to have an electrician add an additional circuit in that area. This will be your best option for redistributing power accordingly unless you choose to use lower wattage devices or the reduced watt settings.
2. Are my outlets supposed to warm up that much?
The easy answer is NO! While some electronic chargers -- think laptops and cell phone chargers -- may heat up a bit as the transformers in the chargers convert the voltage from AC to DC power, most plugins should not continue to emit strong heat. If your outlet is warm when these devices are unplugged, this will need to be addressed immediately. If you are noticing that your outlets are heating up, you have a problem with either loose wires, a broken outlet, or an overloaded circuit. If your outlet is cool enough, unplug any unnecessary devices or turn the circuit off entirely. Then contact your local electrician to inspect and replace any damaged wiring or outlets. This is not something you should ignore.
3. Is that supposed to flicker?
Overlamping is when a light fixture has a bulb screwed in that is a higher wattage than it is supposed to, and it can be highly dangerous. The bulb’s intense heat can burn or melt the socket and insulation on the fixture wiring, which causes an increased risk of arcing - sparks jumping around your wires - the most significant cause of electrical fires. Damage can remain to a socket even after you switch the bulb to the correct wattage. This may also be the reason that you have to change bulbs frequently. Always stay within the suggested wattage range for your lights. If the wattage is not listed, then your best option is probably to use a 60-watt bulb or lower.
4. I can’t get my plugs to stay plugged into certain outlets.
Contacts in the outlet receptacles can wear out over time causing the prongs to lose their grip on your plug. This can be a serious situation because loose plugs have a high chance of arcing. The flying sparks, no matter how small, can catch dust and dry wood on fire. Replace those old receptacles as soon as possible! They are cheap to replace and are an easy DIY that will save your home in the long run. While you’re busy replacing those loose outlets, make sure you are installing 3 prong receptacles to keep your electronics grounded and avoid any chance of electrocution. Until you get them replaced, you should be using three prong adapters. Discover the benefits of whole home surge protection for more ways to optimize your outlets.
5. Why is our electrical bill always so high?
The majority of wiring in older homes weren’t set up to handle the developing modern technology. Many of the devices you are using in your home may not have even been around when the wiring was installed. Because of this, you may be seeing raised utility bills as your home tries to overcompensate. To keep your energy consumption down, always unplug devices you aren’t using (like phone chargers) and be mindful of the devices you do have plugged into your outlets. Never overwhelm your outlet with multiple power strips. Follow our electrical safety checklist for more electrical do’s and don’ts if you want to learn more.
If you’re ever unsure about the electrical safety of any aspect of your home, Hiller is here to help. We want to answer any of your electrical safety questions and needs whether it’s having an electrical audit done by one of our expert electricians or a simple rewiring. We want you to be safe.