In many cases, electrical problems at home present in a rather dramatic or obvious manner: a fuse, light bulb or other appliance blows up with a loud bang, and then the house becomes dark and quiet as all pieces of electronic equipment lose power. However, serious problems with electrical circuits can still be present without causing such a scenario — and these hidden issues can actually prove to be more dangerous because they are often overlooked and left unattended. To keep homes safe from electrical accidents and fires, here are five warning signs homeowners must look out for and address immediately:
- Frequent instances of blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers. Fuses and circuit breakers are designed to withstand a certain amount of amperage before breaking down and “blowing up”. These safety devices effectively protect homes from electrical overloading and fire. Fuses may naturally break down over time and blow up because of regular use; however, if these happen frequently, there may be an underlying problem with the connections in your home.
- Getting a shock from touching electrical appliances.
Getting a shock or feeling tingly after touching an appliance in your home can be painful, but a lot of people may overlook this and chalk it up to static electricity. However, there are other more serious causes such as ungrounded circuits, loose connections and short circuits. Make sure to unplug the device, and have both your appliances and your home inspected by a qualified electrician.
- Outlets that are discoloured, warm or produce sparks.
Outlets are not supposed to show any signs of burning, nor should they produce sparks at all. These signs may indicate damaged or faulty wiring, problems with the outlet’s receptacle, or burning, smouldering or arcing of components behind the outlets. Don’t use outlets that show these signs and have them checked by professionals as soon as possible.
- Flickering lights.
Flickering lights can be caused by damaged or improper placement of light bulbs, and if this is the reason, replacing the bulb will fix the problem. However, if the flickering persists, or if other appliances in the house suffer frequent resets or failures, then you might have more serious problems, such as cyclic voltage dips, faulty wiring, loose electrical panels, circuit overloading and power build-up. These are all fire hazards and should be addressed immediately.
- A constant burning smell.
This may indicate an overheating or malfunctioning appliance. If you can easily locate the source of the smell, unplug the appliance and have it checked. However, if you can’t find the source or if the smell is becoming stronger quickly, this might indicate bigger problems such as faulty outlets and wiring. Stay safe, turn off the circuit breaker, and call an experienced electrician to handle electrical repairs.