Trouble with your home’s electrical system can quickly become a major issue, disrupting your day and upsetting your plans. The fastest way to get the issue resolved is to reach out to trusted professional electricians, but many homeowners want to see what they can do on their own first.
While inexperienced homeowners should not attempt electrical work — for their own safety and the integrity of their home’s electrical system — there are a few simple troubleshooting tips that most people should be able to handle with no problem.
What to Do When You Lose Power Completely
Losing power to your home is the most serious issue you could face that will not mean immediately calling for emergency services. Unlike with a fire, you can take a few steps to avoid unnecessarily calling in professional help.
The most basic electrical troubleshooting you can do in this case is taking a look out the window to see if your neighbors have lost power too. If your entire neighborhood is without power, it is an issue with the electrical company, and calling an electrician will not help.
Most electrical companies have some form of online service where you can check the status of any known outages.
If the issue is isolated to your home, then you can move on to the next step. You can open your electrical panel and see if the main circuit breaker has been flipped.
This breaker is the big switch that controls the entire power supply. If it is tripped, then you will not have any power. Make sure to check if other circuit breakers have been tripped as well.
If turning the main switch back on restores power, then you might not have anything else to worry about. While something must have caused it to flip, it could have been an isolated surge.
If flipping the switch does not restore power or if it switches off again, either immediately or soon after, then it is time to call in the professionals to find out what is really wrong.
Troubleshooting Electrical Circuits in Your Home
You can also find that you have lost power to specific rooms, outlets, appliances, or lighting. This outage is likely a problem with an individual circuit assigned to a particular breaker in your panel. The first thing to check is if any of the circuit breakers have been flipped off. You can flip them back on and see if that solves the problem.
There is a chance it will simply turn off again. That is likely because you have too many devices drawing power on the same circuit. It could also be due to short-circuiting or faults, which are more serious issues that could lead to a fire.
If you unplug everything from that circuit and the breaker still trips, then those issues could be putting your home at immediate risk, and you should call a professional electrician.
Of course, you should not forget electrical troubleshooting basics when looking into individual circuits. If the issue is with lighting, maybe it is the bulb or the fixture itself. While you might not be able to figure out if the fixture has problems independent of the circuit, you can certainly change the light bulb to find out whether that is the problem.
Lighting issues can potentially be caused by loose wiring at either the fixture or the switch. This problem is particularly common after a new installation, especially one that has been handled by an amateur rather than a professional.
Loose wiring could become a real problem if the wires touch the metal switch box or a metal part of the lighting fixture, creating an opportunity for shocks.
Common Electrical Issues and Troubleshooting Tips
There are plenty of times when you will not really know what is wrong with your home’s electrical system. You can watch out for important signs like sparks from your outlets, burning smells, and smoke to know when it is time to call an electrician for emergency services. You can also learn more about common issues and how to avoid them.
Problems with Lighting
One of the most common issues you are going to run into is over-lamping with your lighting in particular. This problem is when you put the wrong wattage bulb into a socket, like a 60-watt bulb in a 40-watt socket. This mismatch can cause the bulb and wiring to get too hot. The wire sheathing can melt, leading to an electrical fire.
This problem is not really an issue with newer LED bulbs that draw much lower wattages, but it can still happen if you are using incandescent bulbs. Any light fixtures made later than 1985 have the wattage limit clearly listed on their base, so just double-check first.
If you notice a connection between high winds and flickering lights in your home, it could be an issue with your weatherhead. That is the part on the outside of your house where overhead power lines connect to your home’s electrical system.
If the wires there get frayed, they can short when the cables move due to wind and weather. Troubleshooting electrical systems like these are too dangerous for homeowners, so call the professionals if you suspect an issue.
Residential Electrical Wiring Troubleshooting Tips
One of the most common wiring issues that people run into with switches and outlets is called backstabbing. Many switches and outlets can be wired by either fixing the hot and neutral wires to screws on the side or by pushing the wires into holes in the back.
While backstabbing is quicker and easier, the wires often have a higher chance of coming out. This issue will stop the switch or outlet from working and potentially lead to a short circuit.
One thing you want to watch out for is plugs falling out of the socket. Contacts can wear down in older sockets, eventually failing to keep a firm grip. A plug that is only partially in has the potential for something to contact the prongs and cause a short. These components need to be replaced. There is not much more to it.
You should replace any two-pronged sockets in your home. These are not grounded, so they are not as safe. They are also incredibly inconvenient if you need to use anything with a three-prong plug. You will need a professional electrician for this, though, because it will require changing wiring, not just swapping out identical outlets.
Making Sure Your Home Has the Latest Safety Features
One of the best home electrical troubleshooting tips is ensuring that everything in your house is up-to-date and safe. Older homes commonly have electrical components that have since been deemed unsafe or have been considerably improved upon.
If you ever notice that your home’s wiring appears silvery-white instead of the familiar reddish-brown of copper, you have aluminum wiring. This kind of wiring can break down incredibly easily.
You should also make sure you have GFCI outlets—the ones with the reset buttons on them—in your kitchen and bathrooms. If you notice any of your home’s electrical components are outdated, you should consult an electrician about an upgrade right away.
Professional Electrical Troubleshooting in Riverside, CT
If you notice anything wrong with your home’s electrical system but are not quite sure what it is, you can always count on the professionals at Safe and Sound Electric to get to the bottom of it.
We have the knowledge, tools, and experience to diagnose any issue and carry out quick and effective electrical repairs. Safe and Sound Electric provides services in Greenwich, Norwalk, Stamford, Darien, CT, and Lower Fairfield County.