At least 30,000 non-fatal shock incidents occur in the United States each year. While not deadly, many are severe enough to need emergency medical aid. Others even result in hospitalizations and burn unit admissions.
All that should make you wary of electrical problems you may experience at home. Although not every minor issue warrants an electrician right away, most do.
So, to help you and your loved ones stay safe, we came up with this guide listing the most common electrical issues. Read on to discover what they are and when you need to call a licensed electrician for help.
1. NEC Violations
NEC stands for the National Electrical Code, which all 50 US states have adopted. The NEC lists the minimum standards that electrical systems should meet. It exists to ensure the safety and effectiveness of electrical systems.
In short, the NEC protects people and property from electrical malfunction hazards.
However, the NEC undergoes revision every three years. Those changes ensure that the new codes align with changes in how people use electricity. So, if it has been over three years since an electrician last visited you, chances are, your system isn’t up to code.
You won’t get arrested for NEC violations. But unfortunately, they still indicate you have an outdated electrical system. That can then put you, your loved ones, and your property at risk of electrical hazards.
Electrical injuries aside, an aging electrical system can be a fire risk. As per the latest US FEMA data, 6.8% of the estimated 354,400 home fires in 2019 were due to an electrical malfunction. That’s more than 24,000 home fires caused by faulty electrical systems!
That should be enough reason to call an electrician to inspect and fix NEC violations you may have.
2. Defective FPE Stab-Lok Panels
Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) was a company that manufactured electrical panels. Unfortunately, there was a time wherein it produced defective products. Worse, experts estimate that as many as one million of these faulty products are still in use in US homes.
If your electrical panel bears the name FPE Stab-Lok, it’s best to have it replaced ASAP. Otherwise, its circuit breakers may not trip when they should. If that happens, they have the potential to cause an electrical fire.
3. Mini Blackouts in Certain Rooms
The circuit breakers in your electrical panel are safety switches that control current. One of their chief responsibilities is to cut the power flow when they detect anomalies. That occurrence is what you most likely know as “tripping.”
Circuit breakers should trip to prevent electrical surges from frying up your electronics. They also cut the power when they sense a potential circuit overload, short, or arc.
So, if you’ve had mini blackouts in specific rooms or isolated areas, it’s likely a tripping breaker. But as long as it happens very rarely, there’s no need to panic.
If you go to Buellelectric.com, though, you’ll see that it lists tripping breakers as common electrical issues. That may indicate a faulty circuit breaker switch. Your panel may also be to blame, or a circuit somewhere is overloading or shorting.
So if your breakers trip several times a week or even once a day, don’t delay calling an electrician.
4. Random Dimming or Flickering of Lights
Before hiring an electrician for this problem, ensure your light bulbs aren’t loose. It’s also best to check that you don’t have LED bulbs installed in an old dimmer switch. Dimmers designed for incandescent bulbs can make LED lights dim or flicker randomly.
Call a pro if tightening your lamps and ensuring you have compatible dimmers don’t help. Your lights may be dimming or flickering due to aging wires or connection problems.
5. Odd Sounds From the Electrical Panel
Faint, almost inaudible humming from your electrical panel isn’t a cause for concern. That’s usually the sound produced by electricity flowing through it.
What’s not normal is a loud buzzing, crackling, or hissing noise coming from the panel. Call an electrician if you hear these, as they often signal more severe problems. That includes overloading or shorting circuits or ground faults.
Please don’t touch your panel either, as live electricity may be flowing out of it. Instead, wait for the electrician to turn off your power and fix the problems with your system.
6. Outlet and Switches Feel Too Warm
It’s normal for dimmer switches to get warm sometimes, but they should never become too hot to the touch. Likewise, be on the lookout for other outlets and control boards that give off excessive heat. They might have loose, aging, or faulty terminals and wires inside.
Call an electrician as soon as you notice those symptoms. If you delay electrical repairs, your outlets and switches may fail early. Worse, they might trigger an electrical fire if the problem has to do with faulty wiring.
7. Burn Marks on Outlets and Switches
Overheating can ultimately result in scorch marks forming on outlets and switches. High temperatures and excessive electrical use can also contribute to such problems. Likewise, aging and corroded wires can spark a fire inside them, leading to burned spots.
Hire an electrician as soon as you see scorching on outlets and switches.
8. Lack of Outlets
A solid sign that your home lacks electrical outlets is a heavy reliance on extension cords. Please keep in mind that these extendable sockets are only for temporary use. Moreover, you should avoid plugging too many appliances into the same extender.
Call an electrician if you use many extension cords at home for prolonged periods. Have the pro install new NEC-approved outlets in your home.
Never Underestimate These Electrical Problems
As you can see, many electrical problems you might encounter at home warrant a call to an electrician. That’s especially true if you have an FPE panel, if your breakers keep tripping, or if your panel makes noise. A licensed electrical expert can help diagnose and fix all those issues promptly.
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