Electrical problems cause about 9 percent of home fires. Most electrical fires can be prevented with a little knowledge and vigilance. First check the date on the sticker affixed to your breaker panel or fuse box. If it’s more than 10 years old, get an inspection from a licensed electrician. Here are some trouble signs that all homeowners should be aware of.
1. Flickering Lights
Most home lighting fixtures will perform well for years if properly installed. If your lights start to dim and flicker, the problem is most likely elsewhere. Major appliances like heaters and air conditioners can draw off power if they’re on the same circuit. It might be wise to move them or add a separate line to avoid overload.
2. Strange Odors
New appliances, or appliances that haven’t been used for a while, may give off strange odors. Usually these odors go away in a few minutes. If they don’t, and you’ve got lingering odors that smell like melting plastic or singed fabric, there might be a connection overheating. If the smell comes from a device, unplug it. If it comes from an outlet, turn off everything and call an electrician.
If sparking comes from an outlet, this is an emergency that requires an electrician. Turn off everything that might be on that circuit. If sparks are coming from an appliance, unplug it immediately. Depending on the value involved, you might want to call a repairman or look up your warranty contract.
4. Blown Fuses
Whether your home uses a circuit breaker panel or the older fuse box, both are designed to break connection of overloaded circuits. If using the same outlet tends to trip a breaker, that circuit may be overloaded. When the same device like a steam cleaner tends to trip a circuit no matter where you plug it in, it’s the device. Try shutting off other appliances when you use an energy-hungry device. If that doesn’t help, there may be a problem with the circuit.
5. Warm outlets or wall plates
Even with space heaters or cooking appliances, the device may get hot but the outlet shouldn’t. If you feel an outlet becoming warmer, unplug everything from it immediately. The same is true on wall plates for switches, dimmers, and the like. If they are hot, turn them off and call an electrician at a company like Royalty Plumbing and Gas for help.
Before investigating any electrical issues, it’s always your best bet to call an electrician who can fix the problem safely, quickly, and correctly.