Signs of Electrical Problems in the Home
Knowing how to spot signs of electrical problems in your home can keep you and your family safe from the potentially lethal dangers of fire and electric shock.
Over 2,600 electrical fires occurred in homes in British Columbia from 2004 to 2017, and 150 people were injured or killed. The main causes of electrical fires include faulty wiring systems or other issues such as loose connections.
The flow of electrons through the body from a severe electric shock can cause major muscle contractions and stop your heart.
Although most of your house wiring is hidden behind walls or in ceiling spaces, many home electrical issues show warning signs before disaster strikes.
Common signs of electrical problems in the home include the following.
Circuit Breaker Problems
It’s normal for a circuit breaker to trip occasionally. They’re designed as a safety feature to shut off power in the event of a system overload. In most cases, you can simply switch it back on, but if the breaker trips persistently it’s an indication of a potentially dangerous underlying issue with your home’s wiring.
If you have an old breaker that keeps tripping, or an outdated fuse panel, you may need a new electrical panel., which in Vancouver needs to be fitted by a qualified electrician to standards laid down by BC Hydro and Electrical Safety Codes.
Some electrical appliances can trip circuits. If it keeps happening with the same appliance, it’s likely to be a fault with the appliance rather than the electrical system.
Flickering or Buzzing Lights
Lights that flicker or buzz – especially when multiple appliances are on the go – can indicate an issue with your electrical wiring, even if your circuit breaker hasn’t tripped. Lighting circuits are generally rated lower than circuits with outlets, so they’ll be the first affected by disruptions in power.
If your lights keep flickering or buzzing for no apparent reason – like a badly-fitting lightbulb – it’s probably for one of these reasons:
Overloaded circuit drawing more power than it can safely handle.
Poor connection that can result in sparking, overheating and fire.
Abnormal voltage fluctuations, which can get worse over time.
A fault in the switch or light fixture.
Issues with Electrical Outlets
Electrical outlets that get warm or start vibrating or develop scorch marks are often a sign of an electrical problem in the home. Warm or scorched outlets in particular may indicate a serious safety issue requiring attention from an electrician as soon as possible.
If an outlet goes dead, it may be your breaker taking action because of a bad connection or a build-up of heat, which can result in melted wires.
Smell of Burning
Burning or smoky smells or other unusual odours near your electrical panel or outlets can be a sign that fire damage is already under way.
In cases like this, it’s vital to get the issue fixed by a professional electrician immediately – it means wires are melting and a short or a fire is imminent. If you can identify the problem circuit, close it down; if you can’t, shut off all the power until the experts arrive.
If you get a minor electric shock when you plug something in, there may be a problem in the circuit – an overload or another issue. If you feel tingling or a mild shock when you touch an appliance, it can indicate a ground fault in the appliance or defective electrical wiring.
If you experience a shock when walking on a carpet, it’s probably just static, and not cause for concern.
Damage to wiring is a major fire and shock hazard. The problem can arise from defective electrical work by amateurs or through wear and tear in older systems. Frayed wires can also be the result of chewing by pets or rodent home invaders.
Are Rodents Chewing Up Your Wiring?
Some signs of electrical problems in the home – such as flickering lights – may be down to rodent infestation.
Mice, rats, and squirrels are notorious for chomping on electrical wiring, which can expose the metal part of wires, with the risk of overheating that can spark a fire.
This wiring damage – and the rodents – may well be hidden behind walls or under attic insulation, and safety experts suspect rodents are responsible for 25 percent of fires without a definite known cause.
Signs that electrical problems in the home are being caused by rodents include:
Bite marks on the wires you can see.
Debris or droppings near outlets and wiring runs.
Appliances or computers going on the blink.
Keeping Your Home and Family Safe
While it pays to be vigilant when it comes to electrical home safety, attempting a DIY fix can be dangerous and make the situation worse.
If you notice what may be signs of electrical problems in your home, a professional electrician will be able to carry out a home safety electrical inspection – including checks for rodent-damaged wiring – and advise you on how to make your house safe.