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Troubleshooting Residential Circuit Issues: How to Decide When to Call Us

Gearing up for a day of home electrical troubleshooting? Slow down there cowboy, some electrical issues require expert attention. Though some common electrical issues are simply the result of bad habits, others are deeper issues in need of professional repair and troubleshooting. Which projects are DIY-friendly and which require the help of a pro? Keep your home and family safe with the help of these tips from Mr. Electric.

Troubleshooting Home Wiring? These Projects are Generally DIY-Safe

That is, provided the requisite knowledge to perform them. J

  • Simple Circuit Overloads
    When we say simple, we mean those that result from too many appliances plugged into the same outlet or circuit. This issue is easily solved by unplugging or relocating appliances to a different outlet or circuit, spreading power draw.
  • Malfunctioning Dimmer Switches
    Poor workmanship or sub-par materials can cause dimmer switch malfunction. Taking a closer look at switch installation often uncovers issues that can be resolved by a do-it-yourselfer.
  • Frequent Bulb Blowouts
    How many DIYers does it take to change a light bulb? Enough to notice that frequently blowing fixture is housing a bulb with the incorrect bulb wattage. Swap out for a low-wattage LED to ensure success and savings.
  • Temperamental Recessed Lights
    Recessed lighting requires specific bulb types designed to properly dissipate heat. If your bulbs are turning on and off, that means safety features are intervening to keep things cool. Read bulb packages carefully, opting for recessed-compatible options.

Embarking on a DIY Endeavor: Know the ‘Golden Rule’ of Electrical

DIY electrical troubleshooting can be dangerous. However if you live by this ‘golden rule’ of electrical work, you’ll stay safe: You cannot suffer a shock if no electricity is present. Before beginning any electrical sleuthing or repair, always:

  1. Turn off the breaker on the appliance/outlet in question before beginning your project.
    Flip the breaker of the appliance/outlet in question to the OFF position. Touch the panel with one hand only, leaving the other at your side to reduce electrocution risk. Turning the breaker to the OFF position instantly removes electricity from the equation (provided you choose the correct breaker). When the power is OFF, electrical protection is ON.
  2. Place a piece of tape over the breaker, warning yourself/others.
    This will prevent the breaker from being accidentally turned ON while you are working.
  3. Check the outlet/wires/appliance with a non-contact electric tester.
    Even if you think the breaker is OFF, test with a non-contact pen-style electric tester. Available for less than $20, this is your best defense against mislabeled breakers/wires. These testers ring/flash if electricity is flowing, simply touch to the object in question.
  4. When working, recap wires.
    Like breakers, caps likewise lower the probability of mishap.
  5. Avoid working in moisture-prone areas.
    Be mindful of your work environment. Water and electricity don’t mix.

Outside the Comfort Zone: Electrical Issues that Require a Pro

These repair issues should always be attended to by a licensed electrician:

  • Dimming/Flickering Lights
    Lights that dim or flicker indicate a loose/faulty connection that require the expertise of an electrical pro for the fast detection and resolution necessary to prevent damage/fire.
  • Outlet Malfunctions
    Buzzing and burnt outlets, as well as loose outlets that cannot hold a plug, indicate a very old wiring system in need of attention. Is your home short on outlets, plagued with 2-prong/ungrounded outlets, or frequently tripping breakers? If so, it’s time for an update!
  • Repeated Breaker Trips
    If redistributing/reducing circuit load does not solve this issue, you likely have a short circuit resulting from dangerously exposed/touching wires, broken wires, a loose connection or a ground fault.
  • Humming/Buzzing from Breakers
    Humming/buzzing breakers indicate a faulty breaker that is overloaded and cannot trip. Flip it OFF manually, and get a pro out fast to prevent electrical fire.
  • Outdated Wiring
    Ancient knob-and-tube and unsafely installed aluminum wiring is extremely dangerous. If you skipped the home inspection at purchase and your house is older than your grandparents, you may need a whole home rewiring for safety.
  • Insufficient Power Supply
    Houses even a few decades old may require a bigger, better wiring system to power the glut of appliances and devices today’s families rely on. 60-amp service is no longer sufficient for modern homes.
  • Water Related Issues
    Any issues in moisture-prone areas, including problems involving plumbing, should be addressed by a pro.  

Scratching your head over an electrical circuit issues? Better to be safe than sorry. Keep your home and family safe with the help of Mr. Electric today.

This blog is made available by Mr. Electric for educational purposes only to give the reader general information and a general understanding on the specific subject above. The blog should not be used as a substitute for a licensed electrical professional in your state or region. Check with city and state laws before performing any household project.