More than 51,000 home fires start because of an electrical issue according to the Electrical Safety Foundation. They result in more than 500 deaths, 1,400 injuries and more than 1.3 billion in property damage.
Those are some pretty sobering numbers. Many of them could have been avoided with some electrical troubleshooting earlier on. Unfortunately, that’s something even confident DIYers tend to shy away from.
The risk of serious injury is very real. However, the condition that is causing the electrical problem can also be very serious. It needs to be investigated before it can escalate and cause a home fire or injuries.
Fortunately, there are levels of troubleshooting that anyone can do on their own. There are also some safety steps you can take to minimize your risks.
Common Electrical Issues
Just as there are common plumbing issues every homeowner faces, there are electrical problems that are typically harmless. Frequently tripped circuits in your breaker box, for example, can be caused by two things that are both easy to fix.
The first is if you have multiple small appliances plugged into a single outlet, unplugging some, or spreading them around to different outlets may solve your problem. On the other hand, when you only have one hairdryer plugged into an outlet, but it that always trips the circuit breaker, you should probably replace the hairdryer since it, and not the circuit, is the problem.
Some seemingly small issues can indicate much more serious electrical problems. These include:
- Flickering lights – could be a loose connection
- Light bulbs that burn out often – could be a loose connection in the socket or the circuit
- Recessed lights that burn out frequently – could also be caused by nearby insulation overheating which causes the fixture to shut off
- Dead outlets – could have started with a loose connection
- Warm outlets or switches – should be addressed by a professional
In many of the cases above, the problem starts with a loose connection. This can lead to arcing, where the electrical current jumps from one exposed wire to another. That can lead to sparking, overheating, and fires.
Warm outlets and switches could indicate the threat of fire or they could lead to wires melting together in your circuit breaker box. In cases like this, a professional like AMP’D Electrical can quickly pinpoint and correct the problem for you.
Even if the cause of your electrical issue seems to be obvious, there are some steps you need to follow to ensure safe troubleshooting and a repair that truly fixes the problem. These steps are
- Determine the issue – is it in the lamp, appliance, etc. or in the outlet or switch
- Determine where the issue lies – is it in the outlet, your breaker box or outside of your home (and your control)
- Test for power – using a lamp or appliance that you know works or a voltage meter
- Turn the power off – before beginning your repair
Once you have identified your issue, you should start with the simplest repair. Only if that doesn’t work should you escalate to replacing outlets or switches.
Don’t DIY Too Much
You may become quite good at electrical troubleshooting and identifying issues that could become safety hazards. That doesn’t mean you’ll eventually be able to, or even want to, repair all those issues yourself.
On the other hand, your troubleshooting may cure you of your fear of electrical projects. In that case, you might want to check out this article on how to install your own chandelier.