If you’re a homeowner, you already know maintenance seems never-ending. Electrical problems are one common task you’ll have to deal with eventually. While they may seem daunting at first, understanding more about common electrical issues can help you keep your property safe and help you avoid risks, such as fire or electrical-related injuries.
Fixing home electrical issues can be costly when you hire a pro, but it’s better than ignoring or putting off problems that could result in a fire or injury to you or someone else. Electrical problems in the home are a serious issue, but proper maintenance can help to avoid bigger problems.
In this article, we’ll talk about 12 common electrical problems. We’ll explain what they are, how to find them, and what to do about them. Some of these issues you can DIY, but some require an electrician. Ready to take a look at common signs of electrical problems in the home? Read on.
12 Common Electrical Problems
Note: If at any point, you feel uncomfortable trying to follow these tips, stop and call an electrician. Better to choose the cautious approach then endure an electrical shock or worse.
1. Cut or Damaged Extension Cord
If an electrical issue stems from a cut or damaged extension cord where wires are exposed, consider yourself lucky. This is an easy problem to fix.
- First, unplug both ends of the cord. Then, cleanly cut off the old plug, carefully remove about an inch and a half of the outer shielding, and strip each wire with a wire stripper.
- Then, make sure each wire is twisted tightly at each end.
- At this point, you can marry the wires to one of the three clamps in the connector of the new plug you’re using, ensuring that the clamp matches the wire’s color (typically, black, white, and green).
- After that, carefully and fully tighten the clamps to secure the wires in the connector.
- Then, slide the new plug cap over the connector, tighten any outer screws on the cap, and you’ll have a repaired extension cord.
Pro tip: Never use electrical tape as a way to repair exposed wires in an extension cord.
2. Simple Short Circuit
Short circuits usually happen with appliances like hair dryers. Most hair dryers have a reset button, but if you have one appliance that consistently short circuits, then the issue is not your wiring--the device is faulty. If multiple appliances are short-circuiting, then you have bad wiring. An electrician should address faulty wiring.
3. Broken Light Switch
Broken light switches are a relatively easy fix you can do yourself. First, turn off the circuit breaker for the whole house. Then unscrew the faceplate and remove the light switch. Test the two wires connected to the screw with a digital multimeter tool to be sure there is no current. If it’s safe, disconnect and then reattach the wires to the new light switch.
Pro tip: Take a photo of the wiring before you disconnect the wires to help guide you when reconnecting them to the new switch.
4. Loose Outlet Plug
If you have a loose outlet plug, turn off the circuit breaker and carefully check the outlet using a voltage meter. Unscrew the cover plate and install outlet shims. This can help make the outlet flush with the wall.
5. Dead Outlets
Dead outlets can result from a tripped breaker or a poor connection (that can possibly arc). Excessive heat buildup can trip a breaker, creating melted wires or outlets. You can try to replace the outlet, but if you encounter melted wires, be sure to have your electrical system immediately inspected by an electrician.
6. Light Bulbs That Burn Out Rapidly
Light bulbs can burn out quickly because of a loose connection in the circuit or socket. If you have lighting that frequently fails, it could be due to nearby insulation causing overheating. Many light fixtures have safety features, so they are designed to shut off in case of overheating. Have an electrician come inspect the sockets.
7. Hot Outlets and Switches
Outlets or switches that let off heat are always a safety concern. If you find a warm outlet or switch (that isn’t a dimmer), you should turn off the circuit and contact an electrician immediately.
Pro tip: Dimmer switches typically can feel hot to the touch, but if you have any concerns, call an electrician to have them check whether the switch could be overloaded.
8. Breakers That Trip Often
When your circuit breakers trip often, your wiring is having trouble handling the electricity load. You could install an additional circuit or upgrade your electrical service. Consult an electrician to help with power issues.
9. Uncovered Junction Boxes
An uncovered junction box can expose people or pets to wires, potentially causing dangerous shocks. A junction box cover can occasionally needs replacing. In either case, it’s important to install a new junction box cover. Fortunately, junction box covers are inexpensive.
Overlamping is when a light fixture hosts a bulb rated for higher wattage than the lamp is designed to hold. Overlamped fixtures can overheat and catch fire. While this poses a dangerous problem, it is easy to fix. Simply replace the bulb with the appropriate wattage or 60-watt bulbs for fixtures that date from before 1985.
11. Too Few Outlets
If you have a spaghetti of extension cords and power strips connected to the outlets in a room of your home, you probably need more outlets. Until you can call to have an electrician install additional outlets, a quick, temporary solution is to use extension cords of 14 gauge or thicker. Thinner cords can overheat and cause fires.
If you want to have an electrician install more outlets, the job will usually run $100 or so per outlet—double that amount for new outlets that need to be installed on the second floor or higher in a building.
12. No GFCIs
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) are a safety feature in outlets. GFCIs are essential for safety in or near wet areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens, because they shut down circuits in 4 milliseconds or less. Your local or state building codes will typically require GFCIs for any outlet located less than six feet from a sink.
To increase safety in the home, many homeowners replace older receptacles with GFCIs that can be bought for around $12 at home supply stores. A quick browser search will provide you with videos to follow so you can more easily DIY this task.
Pro tip: While you can use GFCI outlets anywhere in a home, building codes require that you use a GFCI in the garage, basements, and any outdoor outlets.
When Should I Call a Professional?
If you feel that a task is beyond your skill level or don’t have the right tools available, do not attempt home electrical repairs yourself. Any tip in this article noted as requiring an electrician shouldn’t be attempted as a DIY project.
Hiring a professional electrician that knows how to fix an electrical short in a house or any of the other common electrical issues covered here is important to ensure all repairs are completed safely.
Discover How First American Can Help
First American has been working with homeowners for years to ensure they have the home warranty protection they need to avoid expensive repairs when home systems and appliances fail, including electrical systems. Learn more about our home warranties, or contact us to get a home warranty quote today!
The contents of this article are provided for general guidance only. First American Home Warranty does not assume any responsibility for losses or damages as a result of using this information.