10 silent signs your house has a major electrical problem
Popping or crackling in an outlet. The sudden hush of appliances as a breaker pops. These sounds can indicate a problem with your electrical system. But did you know that there are signs you should be on the lookout for that are less noisy, yet no less serious? Here are 10 silent clues that your home may have a serious electrical problem.
Many electrical appliances generate heat during operation. However, the outlet itself should never get hot. If you notice heat at an outlet, immediately unplug any cords and do not use the outlet until you can troubleshoot the issue.
Switch cover plates should be treated in the same way, with one exception: Dimmer switches commonly get warm to the touch, since they are dissipating the excess electrical energy in order to create the dimming effect. However, even dimmer switch cover plates should never be uncomfortably hot to the touch. Excess heat is why you should always check the wattage before you install a dimmer switch.
Sure, Hollywood movies would have us believe flickering house lights are a sure sign of ghostly visitors. But it’s much more likely there is a loose electrical connection. If the flickering is contained to a single light fixture, the fix is usually fairly straightforward. If it’s affecting multiple lights or rooms, then the problem is likely farther back in the circuit. If it’s the whole house that flickers, the problem may lie in the breaker box or at the utility drop outside your home. In that case, your best bet is to contact a licensed electrician to handle the troubleshooting for you.
In the late ’60s and early ’70s, high copper prices led home builders to run electrical service using single-strand aluminium wire. Laboratory tests had shown that aluminium wire was a suitable replacement for copper, so it seemed like a good way to keep costs low. The problem was that exposed aluminium oxidises far more rapidly than copper, building up heat and leading to fire risks. In perfectly controlled laboratory conditions this wasn’t an issue, but in the imperfect, real-world environment of your home, aluminium wiring (especially in branch circuits) was a fire hazard.
As a result, aluminium is no longer used for residential branch-circuit wiring, and homes with aluminium wiring have been found to be up to 55 times more likely to suffer fire damage. There are a few different ways to address existing aluminium wiring, from using specialised connectors to a complete home rewire. If you suspect your home has aluminium wiring, it’s worth a call to a licensed electrician to discuss options.
It’s probably no surprise that the smell of something burning should be an immediate warning sign! If the wiring in your electrical system is heating up enough to melt its plastic sheathing, then you’re facing an imminent risk of fire, and you need to take immediate action. Try to identify the source of the issue – whether it’s limited to one fixture or is a problem at the breaker box – and get it resolved quickly by reaching out to a pro.
Corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST) or “flex line” is a popular choice to supply gas throughout your home. But it’s important that it is properly grounded to avoid disastrous blowouts. An electrical surge (most often in the case of a lightning strike on or near your property) can potentially rupture the corrugated tubing, leading to a gas leak or explosion.
While we’re talking about grounding electrical systems, it’s worth noting that you may have grounding issues on a wider scale than just your gas line. If you touch a metal object connected to your home’s mechanical system and receive a shock, it’s a strong sign that your electrical system is not properly grounded. This certainly goes for electrical fixtures, such as lamps or ceiling fans, but also things such as water lines or furnace ductwork. Don’t confuse these shocks with static electricity pops, which are much smaller and shouldn’t be concerning.
If your electrical service is ungrounded but has three-prong receptacles, then appliances which need to be grounded won’t be.
If you plug a cord into an outlet and notice that the insides of the outlet are moving around, it’s time to pop open that outlet and get it squared away. A loose outlet will eventually shake its wires free, and that leads to shorts, sparks and potential fire hazards.
Underwriters Laboratory is an organisation dedicated to ensuring that products meet minimum safety standards. Items ranging from extension cords to smoke detectors carry a UL sticker, indicating that the device and its manufacturing facility have passed inspection. Unfortunately, some manufacturers step around UL inspection by using counterfeit labels. If you’re buying cheap electrical devices, give that sticker a second glance, and look for typos or other signs that seem off to you.
If a manufacturer is avoiding UL inspection, it’s probably because they know their goods fail to meet basic standards. So whether you’re installing a security system or setting up the perfect home theatre, remember to check that your electrical items have a genuine UL sticker or mark before you get started.
Electricians don’t get points for appearance. Beautifully arranged, well organised cabling doesn’t conduct any better than wires that run a bit haphazardly or aren’t quite level along a joist. However, signs of extreme disorganisation or slapdash work can be an indicator of poorly done or rushed electrical work.
If you see excessively tangled lines, or junction boxes that look like rats’ nests, you may be well served to do a more thorough inspection of the rest of your home’s electrical service.
Moving from metaphorical rats’ nests to real ones – if you see rodent droppings or nest material near your electrical wiring, it’s important to check for any chew marks on the wires. Rodents often gnaw wiring until it’s bare. And while the critter probably won’t live much past that point, you may be the one in for a shock when the exposed wire begins to spark or overheat.
If you see any indications of rodent activity near your home’s wiring, check for damage and then read up on how to keep pests at bay.
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Source: The Family Handyman