Keeping the electrical system in your home running smoothly is a bigger job than most people realize. Not only should you have maintenance performed by a professional once a year; you should watch for potential safety hazards and ways to reduce your consumption at all times.
With a third of all house fires caused by faulty electrical systems, it’s important to keep a close eye on the operation of your electrical system to avoid the risk of fire or other problems.
When to call an Electrician
First, know when to call in an electrician. Most people assume when their lights flicker that it’s a storm or a problem on the power grid. But it can be your wiring arcing or overloading. If this is the case, or if you smell burning or hear noises from the electrical system, call a professional to inspect it right away.
Additionally, make sure all of the outlets in your bathrooms and near the sink in the kitchen use GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets. These immediately shut off the power if water gets near the outlet. They severely reduce the risk of electrocution by an overloaded socket in a damp bathroom or kitchen.
Another thing to look for is faceplates and covers for switches and outlets. Most homes have them, but if you have an open outlet, especially with pets or children, get it covered up fast. In your lighting, make sure the bulbs fit properly and if the bulb breaks or gets stuck, turn off the light switch and the circuit breaker before calling someone to help with removal.
If an appliance stops working, it can be a number of things, ranging from a bad appliance to an issue in your electrical system. To test your appliance, first check to make sure the circuit isn’t overloaded. In many homes, large appliances are placed on their own circuits to avoid an overload. If your dryer, freezer and two outlets are all on one circuit, it could be that they are overloading the circuit when in use at the same time.
Also, check for damaged plugs or cords, any loose wiring and take note of changes in the actual operation of your appliance. If you suspect an electrical problem, call an electrician for assistance.
The fuses in your panel box are an important part of the electrical system in older homes. They each have metal strips on them that allow electricity to pass through into your circuits. If the current is too great, the metal on the fuse starts to melt and the current cuts off, effectively flipping your breaker.
There are three major types of fuses. A Plug or Type S fuse has a metal strip that melts when overloaded as described above. The time delay fuse has a small spring loaded metal strip that allows a short overload before it flips. A cartridge fuse will not show signs of having overloaded so it needs to be tested.
If you notice any of the signs of overload or are unsure (in the case of a Cartridge fuse), call an electrician to check and replace blown fuses. If you replace your own fuses, make sure you use the same amperage and type of fuse and always turn off the power source before changing the fuse.
Modern homes usually have circuit breaker panels instead of fuse boxes. It’s easier to tell when circuit breakers have overloaded as they will flip over, shutting off the power source. In some cases, however, if the breaker flips repeatedly, it should be inspected by a professional electrician.