17 Signs Your House Has a Major Electrical Problem

Identifying major electrical problems in your home early can prevent dangerous situations, such as fires or electrocutions. Here are 17 signs that your home may have significant electrical issues.

Hot Outlets or Switches

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Though electricity does generate heat, outlets should not be hot to the touch. If you notice heat at an outlet, immediately unplug any cords and do not use the outlet. Switch cover plates should be treated in the same way, with one exception: dimmer switches commonly get warm to the touch since they dissipate the excess electrical energy to create the dimming effect.

Flickering Lights

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If your lights are flickering, think of loose electrical connections, not hauntings. A single light fixture flickering could be a simple fix, though the more lights that are flickering, the more complicated the fix can get. If the whole house is flickering, it could be the breaker box or utility drop box, in which case you need to call a professional, according to Family Handyman.

Burning Smell

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The smell of something burning is never a good sign unless you’re at a campfire. If the wiring in your electrical system is heating up enough to melt its plastic sheathing, the risk of fire is imminent, and you need to take immediate action. Try to identify the source of the issue, whether at one fixture or the breaker box, and get it resolved quickly.

Loose Outlets

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If your outlet wiggles when you plug something in, you need to unplug it and check it out.

A loose outlet will eventually shake its wires free, leading to shorts, sparks, and potential fire hazards. Though this is a serious problem, it is an easy fix.

Electrical Shocks

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It shouldn’t be shocking when you plug something in. Experiencing a shock when plugging or unplugging devices can indicate a problem with the home’s electrical work. If you get shocked when using a certain plug, unplug everything and do not use that outlet until you have the chance to have it checked out.

Aluminum Wiring

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In the late ’60s and early ’70s, high copper prices led home builders to use single-strand aluminum wire. Laboratory tests had shown that aluminum wire was a suitable replacement for copper. The problem was that exposed aluminum oxidizes far more rapidly than copper, building up heat and leading to fire risks. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has found that homes with aluminum wiring may be up to 55 times more likely to suffer fire damage.

Improperly Grounded Electrical Systems

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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. If your electrical service is ungrounded but has three-prong receptacles, then appliances that need to be grounded won’t be.

Rodent Activity

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Rats and mites can also chew your electric wires and damage the cords. If you find rodent droppings in your basement or attic, check all the cables in those areas for any signs of damage. If you can’t spot any, contact a specialized contractor to further examine your wiring and fix all the damaged cords before they become hazardous.

Bogus UL Stickers

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Underwriters Laboratory is dedicated to ensuring products meet minimum safety standards. Items ranging from extension cords to smoke detectors carry a UL-listed sticker, indicating that the device and its manufacturing facility have passed inspection. Some manufacturers circumvent UL inspection by using counterfeit labels.

Messy or Tangled Wiring

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Though electrical wiring doesn’t have to look like beautiful line art, it does need to have at least a little bit of care put into it. If the wiring resembles a rat’s nest more than a train track, it could be a sign of shoddy electrical work.

Noticeable Odors

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A burning smell or musky scent can indicate overheating systems or rodent infestations. A burning smell, as we went over, is an urgent issue, meaning a fire is about to start. Another odor you should be aware of is a musky or ammonia-like scent. This may be an indication of a rodent infestation in the home, and they could be chewing on wires.

Frayed Wires

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Wires that are cracked, frayed, or punctured can cause electric shocks and fire outbreaks. Exposed wiring is a major hazard for everybody in the home and should be fixed as soon as possible. Frayed wiring is usually caused by rodents, pets, and sometimes amateur or unqualified handymen.

Spiking Electric Bills

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Keeping an eye on your electric bill may be the first sign that there’s something wrong with your electrical system. If your bill suddenly increases significantly, it could be due to damaged cables causing energy leaks. To manage energy consumption, repair all the damaged wires, patch any leaks, and identify and fix equipment that could lead to power surges. Also, always unplug appliances and chargers when they’re not in use.

Frequent Circuit Breaker Tripping

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It is common for trips to happen in homes; circuits are designed to trip when the system becomes overloaded. When this happens, people are usually able to switch it back on and continue with no issues. It’s important to take notice of how often this occurs; if your circuit trips multiple times a month, it’s a sign that there is an electrical problem.

Sparks from Outlets or Switches

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We all want sparks in our love lives and the things we are passionate about, not our electrical outlets. Sparks can indicate a serious problem and are a common cause of electrical fires.

Discoloration or Scorch Marks

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If you spot any discoloration or scorch marks around electrical installations, this is a sign that heat has been released due to damaged wiring. Be sure to stop using the socket immediately and contact a professional. If the installation continued to be used, it could result in an electrical fire.

Buzzing or Sizzling Sounds

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Electrical systems should operate silently. Any unusual sounds can indicate loose wiring or other electrical problems. If you notice any of these signs, it’s crucial to take immediate action by contacting a licensed electrician to inspect and address the issues. Ignoring these signs can lead to more severe problems, including the risk of fire or electrocution.

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