According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, home electrical systems cause around 55,000 fires per year, leaving 1,400 with injuries, killing more than 500. At a cost of approximately $1.4 billion, it isn’t something to be taken lightly.
No matter what home maintenance project you are taking on, there are electrical handling rules that should always be kept in place.
Always assume overhead wires are live and fatal to the touch. If a wire falls or landscaping interferes with it, call the utility company and never touch it yourself.
Never operate electrical equipment near standing water.
Use a ground fault circuit interrupter in any area that can possibly come in contact with water.
Never repair electrical equipment without proper training.
With those thoughts in mind, there are things you can do as a homeowner to diagnose a situation before you make the call and a qualified electrician arrives.
What should I do if an electrical outlet doesn’t work?
Start by checking the circuit breaker. If the breaker hasn’t been tripped and the problem exists only in one outlet, you may have a burned out outlet. If it shows any sign of blackening, don’t touch or use it. Even if one plug is still working, it should be checked and replaced immediately to avoid an electrical fire.
What should I do if an electrical outlet sparks?
In some cases, you may see a spark fly from an outlet when you put it into use. This can be a normal process. For instance, when power is suddenly transferred to an appliance, the quick draw of electricity can cause a brief spark. Once the electrons are flowing, there is no longer a reason for sparks to form.
If too much heat builds up in the outlet, when a connection is made, serious sparks can occur. This can cause the circuit to short out. And in some cases, an electrical fire can occur. If you notice sparks on a consistent basis, it’s time for an electrician to take a look.
What if my lights flicker on occasion?
If you notice flickering lights infrequently, it may be a power surge. If you notice flickering lights on a more regular basis, it may be the signs of a poor connection. The only way to tell for sure is to have an electrician evaluate your electrical system and determine where the problem lies.
What if my recessed lighting turns on and off by themselves?
Recessed lighting has a built in mechanism that turns off if it overheats. Once they’ve cooled, they flip themselves on once again. This can be a sign that you have the incorrect light bulb in use. It can also mean there is a problem with the fixture or the wiring attached to the fixture.
What if one of my appliances continually trips the circuit breaker?
Nothing can be more frustrating than having one personal item continually trip the circuit breaker. It’s usually high wattage items running at the same time. You may notice it when several appliances like hair dryers and curling irons are used in the bathroom each morning, for example. To solve this problem, an electrician can install a separate circuit to meet demands.