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It is important to pay attention to your home when it is telling you it is having electrical problems. Most homes, regardless of their age, will provide you with clear warnings that something is wrong with your electrical system and needs to be repaired.

Ignoring your home and these warning signs is never a good idea. Doing so could eventually lead to unexpected shocks or, worse, electrocution or an electrical fire which burns down the entire home.

man holding electrical cable with dirty burnt face

Most homeowners are able to diagnose and troubleshoot many of the warning signs of electrical problems. For other types of problems, you will need to call in a qualified electrician from an electrical repair service company.

  1. No GFCI outlets in the kitchen or bathroom.

GFCI electrical outlets are those 3-prong outlets with the breaker switch in the middle. They are designed to provide an added layer of protection in areas of the home where water or moisture is a concern. If your kitchen or bathroom does not have these, there are risks of shocks or electrocution if the outlets get wet and you attempt to plug something into them.

  1. One outlet with multiple power strips chained together.

If you have two or more power strips plugged into a dual-outlet, you are potentially overloading the outlet. A single outlet is not designed to handle all of the demands of a modern home entertainment setup, video game consoles, and other such devices.

electrical wall outlet overloaded with extension cords

When you overload an outlet, it may initially blow a breaker. However, the power strips could also get very hot, long before the breaker even blows. This heat can cause the plastic power strips to melt and start a fire.

  1. Funny smells coming from the outlets.

If you can smell burnt plastic or “hot metal” from around your outlets, something is wrong. You will want to turn the breaker off for that outlet first, and then unplug any devices. Do not turn the breaker back on until you get the outlet inspected by your electrician since there is a risk of electrical fire.

surge protector caught on fire

  1. Brown or black marks on the face covers or outlets.

If you notice brown or black marks on face covers or outlets, it means the outlet is getting hot enough to melt the plastic and create a burn mark. Continuing to use the outlet increases the risks of electrical fires. Stop using the outlet, shut off the power to it at the breaker box, and call for electrical repair service.

  1. Lights flicker, dim, buzz, or crackle.

If the lights in various fixtures around the home do any of these things, it means different things. The first thing you will want to do is check the bulbs in the fixtures to make sure they are the proper wattages for the fixture.

Using a bulb that is rated higher than the fixture can cause it to all of these things. The bulb will also burn hotter, generate more heat, and, potentially, damage the fixture and create other electrical problems.

If the bulbs are the right wattage ratings for the fixtures, then the cause of the problem is based on what the lights are doing. For flickering or dimming lights, it often means something else is drawing a massive amount of electricity, like when your furnace or air conditioning unit turns on or the washer changes from a wash to spin cycle.

electricity wire burnt

Some homes may have been originally wired in such a way that certain appliance outlets were combined with the wiring for light fixtures. In this case, the problem can be fixed by having your electrician run new wiring for the light fixtures and put them on their own fuse or breaker switch.

Buzzing and crackling sounds could indicate the light fixture is getting too much electricity than it is designed to handle. One possible reason for this is the light fixture was not grounded correctly when it was installed or the grounding wire has come loose.

  1. The breaker or fuse keeps blowing.

Depending on the age of the home, you may have a fuse box or a breaker box. Fuse boxes are not as common as they once were, but they are still found in older homes. Both fuses and breakers function similarly. If there is a surge of electricity that passes through the fuse or breaker which causes an overload, the fuse or breaker blows.

If this keeps happening after replacing the fuse or resetting the breaker, it means there is too much power coming through the fuse or breaker. You need to determine what is drawing power from that fuse or breaker.

Next, you should unplug any devices from the outlets the fuse or breaker powers, and then replace the fuse or reset the breaker. If it doesn’t blow, then you know the devices are drawing too much power and your wiring and fuse or breaker need to be upgraded.

If it still blows without anything plugged in, then it could mean the protective insulation on the exterior of the wires has cracked and two metal wires are touching together. The wiring will need to be replaced. It could also mean the fuse outlet or breaker switch is bad and needs to be replaced. Since it can be hard to tell what is wrong, you will want to call your local electrician for help.

electrician working on an electrical panel

  1. You receive minor static electricity shocks when plugging or unplugging devices from outlets.

If your finger gets “zapped” and tingles, like it does in the winter months when there is static electricity in the home, something is wrong with the outlet. The most common cause is because the outlet is not grounded correctly or it is wired incorrectly.

You may also get mildly shocked by your appliances if they are not grounded or the outlets in which they are plugged are not grounded. Stop using the outlet or appliance and call for electrical repair service to verify the outlet or appliance is grounded correctly.

  1. Humming or buzzing sounds are coming from the fuse or breaker box or specific outlets.

If you can hear humming or buzzing sounds, this is not good. It means there are loose wires where the electricity is “jumping” around inside the box or outlet. This can increase the risks of electrical shocks and burns if you touch the outlet or open the fuse or breaker box with your bare hands.

If you hear humming or buzzing, do not use the outlet and avoid touching the fuse or breaker box. Call your electrician and have them come test your outlets and fuse or breaker box to determine where the wiring is loose or if there is another cause for the problem.

electrician worker taking tools out of professional truck van

Please keep in mind, these are just some of the more common warning signs your home can give you to indicate something is wrong with its electrical system. If you see, smell, or notice something that does not seem right, like sparks shooting out of an outlet after plugging or unplugging a device, do not take any risks.

Call a professional electrician for help right away. Even when the problem is urgent and needs to be addressed immediately, you can call for emergency electrician service.

  • SAFETY TIP: While it may be tempting to try to fix certain problems on your own, it is highly discouraged. Current building codes require that electrician contractors install all wiring, outlets, breakers, and so on, to ensure they meet current requirements. By having electrical repairs and upgrades completed by an electrician, you know the work is completed correctly.

To have electrical problems in your home diagnosed and fixed, or for emergency electrical repair service, please feel free to contact A+ Services at 360-491-2900 today! We service the Olympia, Thurston, and Pierce County areas and offer 24/7 emergency service.