The Most Common Electrical Problems

Just because these electrical problems are common doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about them or get them fixed. Unfortunately, even common electrical problems can be expensive or even dangerous if they’re left alone. Here are some of the electrical problems pretty much everyone will have to deal with at some point. Let’s go over why they happen, why you should fix them, and how to go about fixing them. If you have any of the following problems, don’t panic; you’re far from alone.

Flickering lights

You’ll never say “my friend flicker” because flickering lights are so frustrating. You’ll… probably also never say that because you’re too young to remember the 1955 TV show “My Friend Flicka.” Sigh. Anyway! As we wrote in “What Should I Do When My Light Flicker?,” there are several reasons why lights start flickering. There are also several easy ways to stop them from flickering:

  • First, make sure it’s completely screwed in.
  • If that doesn’t work, remove the bulb. Clean the bulb’s metal base.
  • Energy-saving Fluorescent Bulbs (CFL) and low voltage lights need a specially-rated dimmer.
  • A faulty light switch may fail to connect with the bulb. Replace the switch.

Circuit breaker trips whenever the microwave, AC, or fridge turn on

If you have an older home, it probably can’t handle the high loads. Tripped breakers are frustrating, but they’re just doing their job and preventing fires and shocks.

To solve this problem, you might need to add a circuit to your breaker panel. If the panel is too small, you probably have to bite the bullet and get a whole new panel. Wait: think ahead before you commit! Will you be adding additional electrical fixtures to your home and/or that room in the future? Consider getting a panel with the capacity to meet your current needs and then some. It never hurts to plan ahead.

Is that receptacle supposed to be warm?

You need to do something about a warm receptacle immediately. First, if there’s anything plugged into it, unplug it. A warm receptacle could indicate faulty wiring or bad receptacles, both of which and that can start a fire. If your electrical receptacle feels warm, consider calling a qualified electrician right away.

It feels like I need to take out a loan to pay my electrical bills

Older furnaces, poor insulation, and wasted power can really drive up your electricity bills. Little things, like not turning off lights and appliances, can also waste considerable energy. Making small improvements can make a big difference and some might be eligible for tax savings, energy efficiency rebates or government programs.

More on saving energy in our previous blogs How Can I Use Less Electricity, parts one and two.

That GFCI receptacle should reset, right?

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) receptacles switch off when there’s a problem with the flow of electricity. You’re supposed to be able to turn them back on with a simple push of a button. If a GFCI receptacle doesn’t reset when you push the button, call an electrician to find the cause.

More on GFCIs in the blog Why Did My Outlet With The Buttons Stop Working?

Those exposed wires left hanging after a renovation can’t be safe…

You’re right! They’re not. We’re talking a fire hazard, tripping hazard, and shock hazard–especially to kids or pets.

You’ll want to splice and cover all exposed wires with electrical tape. If wires are hanging, attach them to joists, support beams, or other framework with strapping or staples. Just be sure they’re secure and out of the way.

What’s the deal with all these power strips and extension cords?

Old houses usually don’t have enough outlets to handle all our electrical needs. Computers, tablets, home entertainment centers, and chargers all need power. Too many plugs connected to too few outlets look bad and they can be dangerous. Hire an electrician to install more outlets and, if needed, upgrade your panel.

Plugs fall out of the outlet

Outlets have contacts that tightly grip the prongs of a plug to make a secure connection and keep the plug in place. If the plug falls out, it probably means the contacts are loose or worn. Loose or worn contacts could allow electricity to arc out of its wiring. Arcing electricity could cause a fire. If plugs keep falling out of an outlet, then it’s probably time to replace the receptacle.

Those are the most common electrical problems. Some of them, like replacing your breaker panel, require a qualified electrician. Others, like replacing an outlet receptacle, are surprisingly easy to yourself. All you need are the right tools and the right directions.

As always, learn how to do the job, plan your work, and follow all the steps. Always prioritize your safety. Before you start any electrical work, turn off electricity at the breaker so you’re not dealing with hot wires. Be safe!