According to statistics, electrical wiring problems cause 12 500 fires and 2 500 shock incidents annually in the United Kingdom alone, most of which are preventable. Such occurrences of various complexity are actually more common at residential properties than one may assume.
If you’re worried that there might be an electrical fault in your home, this article offers handy advice to help you confirm or eliminate your suspicions by providing you with the five most common signs of wiring-related problems in households.
Note: Be Cautious
Before diving into the matter of electrical faults, there is a point that should be made clear. It’s highly recommended not to attempt to fix electrical problems by yourself, regardless of how simple they might appear to be. When it comes to a dangerous and volatile power such as electricity, the do-it-yourself approach is one of the most hazardous. Electrical shocks can be lethal and faulty appliances, light fixtures or sockets can cause a fire or lead to an injury.
When dealing with electrical faults, the safest course of action is to call a handyman service or licensed electrical services that have all the necessary equipment and knowledge to deal with such issues safely.
#1 Circuit breakers frequently turning off
Circuit breakers are designed to turn off when the circuit gets overloaded. Their main purpose is to shut down the electrical current in case of a closed circuit and overloading. This way, they prevent the entire system from overheating and catching on fire. Once a breaker turns off, you only need to flip the breaker back on to restore your electricity supply. However, if one or more circuit breakers at your home trip frequently, it’s a sign of an electrical wiring problem.
Such issues may arise from too many extension cords. An undisturbed wiring system can virtually last forever, but when it’s altered, malfunction is inevitable. Extension cords add extra points where the cables can malfunction, which often leads to tripped breakers, outlet damage and even fires. To prevent that, it’s highly advisable to use extension cords in moderation and only for short periods of time.
#2 Lights buzzing, flickering and dimming
Modern light fixtures are designed to work silently and only draw a small amount of power. That’s why one of the first signs of a light-fixture-related electrical problem is a low buzzing sound and unusual dimming. Typically, this can happen because other appliances throughout the household demand electricity from the system. However, if this isn’t dealt with on time, it can lead to more severe complications. Additionally, if you feel minor vibrations or a slight shock when touching the lightbulb, there’s probably an issue with the entire fixture.
Another often overlooked sign of faulty light fixture wiring is flickering lights. If any of the lights at your home flicker and changing the bulb doesn’t solve the issue, call an electrician.
#3 Sockets buzzing, smelling or being hot to the touch
Electrical outlets aren’t supposed to buzz, be hot to the touch or have black char marks. If you notice a sharp odour of burnt plastic in proximity to the sockets around your house, there’s definitely an electrical fault in the wiring.
Another sign of an electrical fault is a dead socket. If it doesn’t work when a device or an appliance is plugged in, this is most probably a result of damaged, loose or frayed wire. In such cases, it’s safest to call an electrician who can test both the appliance and the outlet for any issues.
#4 Frayed or damaged wires
Damaged wires and cables with broken insulation are often overlooked by homeowners. However, they pose a significant fire hazard. With such issues, regardless of the origin of the damage, the cables must be repaired by a licensed electrician as soon as possible.
Besides that, keep in mind that the kitchen and bathroom need a special type of electrical protection. Because these spaces typically have water running through them, which is an excellent conductor of electricity, they require special shock-resistents outlets and wiring. The outlet models designed for kitchens and bathrooms typically have two small buttons that provide an extra layer of protection.
#5 Sparks coming out of the outlet when plugging appliances in and out
Sparks coming out of the outlet when plugging in a new appliance the first few times aren’t unusual. However, if you see large ones coming out on a regular basis or you feel a slight shock, there’s likely an electrical problem with the socket. In addition, if you detect an unusual smell coming from the outlet, avoid using it again until a professional has come to inspect it.
Keep an eye out for pests
The attic and the basement of your home are typically environments that provide the perfect hiding spots for rodents and squirrels. While taking shelter in there, they can take up on the habit of chewing on the electrical wiring to keep their teeth from overgrowing. Often, until you’ve realised that this is the cause of the problem, the situation can turn into a huge electrical failure.
Pests being the trigger for electrical failures in households is actually a widespread occurrence. That’s why it’s highly recommended to inspect your house for any possible hiding spots and install solutions that will prevent them from accessing the electrical equipment and causing electrical accidents that may cost you a lot in the long run.
Diagnosing electrical problems is a tricky task. However, if you’ve noticed any of the above mentioned signs in your house, the chances that there’s a problem somewhere along the wiring is highly possible. Even if you currently don’t have such problems, it’s advisable to regularly schedule an inspection with a specialist for a preventative examination every six months to check for potential electricity faults.
When it comes to electricity, it’s always better to be cautious and on the safe side to avoid accidents and damage in the long run. If you notice occasional malfunctions, sharp odour, buzzing sounds or feel a slight shock or vibrations when touching the surface of electrical devices, the safest course of action is to call a licensed electrician.