9 Signs of Serious Electrical Trouble

The bad news: in 2017, there were over 1,319,500 fires caused by electrical problems. These fires resulted in 3,400 deaths, 14,670 injuries, and $23 billion in damages. The good news: if you keep an eye out for the warning signs, you can prevent these kinds of fires. What kind of warning signs? Let’s take a look at a few:

Too many extension cords

If you have so many extension cords it looks like your house is filled with Medusa’s wigs, then it’s pretty obvious your wiring can’t handle your electrical needs.

As a rule, all your electrical wires should be safely hidden inside your walls. You should have enough outlets to handle all your electronics. Pets can chew on extension cords, which could shock someone or expose wires that could start fires. Cords may also get pinched and kinked and short out, which could trip breakers, damage outlets, or start fires. If you need more outlets, get some installed. Don’t rely on extension cords.

Dimming or flickering lights

Lights don’t use a lot of power, so if they dim or flicker the problem probably isn’t the fixture itself. Instead, an energy hog like a refrigerator or AC unit is probably connected to the same circuit as the light.

The big fixture is using so much power that not enough can get through to the light. As a result, you get a dim or flickering light bulb. The easiest solution to this problem is to give the big appliance its own circuit. Put the light bulb on a different circuit so that it gets the power it needs.

Funny odors

We’re not “funny, ha, ha” odors–that’s a different problem. Instead, we’re talking “funny, odd” odors. If you discover an odd smell coming from an outlet (it’s probably a little like “eau de burning plastic”), immediately turn off or unplug anything connected to it. That smell is the plastic around your outlet burning. It happens because of exposed wiring, damaged wiring, incorrectly installed wiring, overloaded circuit boards. fires in the outlet box, or something in the box that’s not supposed to be there.

Don’t use that outlet until you get it fixed. If there’s an odor coming from your fuse box or breaker panel, call an electrician immediately.


If you have sparks, call an electrician. That’s it. That’s the whole entry.

Hot outlets or switches

If an outlet is unusually hot, turn off or unplug whatever’s plugged into it. If there’s nothing plugged in and the outlet is still hot, it’s probably not wired right. Flip the breaker or remove the fuse for that outlet at the circuit box. Then call an electrician to find and fix the problem.

Fuses blow or breakers trip all the time

Like a team tanking so it gets a better draft choice, circuit breakers and fuses are designed to fail. When there’s something wrong with the circuit, the breaker or fuse fails (flips or burns out) to prevent overloading.

If an appliance trips a breaker, no matter where you plug it in, it’s the appliance’s fault. Get a new appliance. If one outlet blows the same fuse, the circuit is probably overloaded. It might be time to upgrade the circuit or add a new line.


Electricity is supposed to be silent. But, sometimes, there’s a buzzing sound and the cause is loose prongs, outlets, or a fraying wire. If your outlet is buzzing, stop using it and call an electrician.

You have the wrong outlets

If you’ve read the other Early Bird blogs, you know all about ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). You put GFCI outlets in the (say it with us) places where water is present, like the kitchen and bathroom.

GFCIs do just what the name says they do:they interrupt the circuit and turn off the electricity. When it does that, a little button “pops.” To start the flow of electricity again, all you have to do it hit the reset button.

Not getting an inspection

There was a time when electricians only made inspections when electrical systems were installed, modified, or upgraded. Fortunately, times change.

Today, we recommend you have a pro inspect your electrical system at least once every ten years. Start by checking your fuse box or breaker panel. Look for the date of your last inspection. If it’s been a long time, consider giving us a call.

If you’ve noticed any of these signs of electrical trouble, give Early Bird a call right away. Our licensed experts are always ready and waiting to fix your problem and set your mind at ease. Fixing electrical problems quickly and effectively is what we’re all about!