Most households do not give much thought to their home’s intricate electrical system until there is a problem of some kind. Your home’s electrical system is a precise network of wires, currents and outlets, resulting in seamless access to energy to power everything from appliances to lighting.
Unless you are a professional electrician, turn most of your household electrical problems over to an expert. However, you can solve some of the most common household electrical problems and take care of them yourself. It is important to remember that when you are fixing your home electrical problems is to remember, safety first!
Electricity is a big part of our everyday life. With its constant presence, it is helpful to be reminded of its potential dangers to ensure that you are always safe, regardless of how much electricity you use.
It is easy to become complacent about electricity. However, as accustomed to electricity as people have become, electrocutions still rank 4th in the cause of industrial fatalities. A shock as low as 600 volts can cause death and the National Safety Council has estimated that around 600 people are killed each year due to electrical accidents.
Light bulbs burn out often
The average light bulb lasts for 750 to 1,000 hours and the most common reason for early failure is incorrect wattage for the light fixture. If you use light bulbs that are too tall, it can cause the bulbs to burn out faster. When the light bulb gets too hot, the heat cannot be dissipated and the bulb connectors become stressed and eventually fail.
Solution: Check each light fixture to ensure that the bulbs you are using are the correct wattage and do not exceed in order to extend the life of each light bulb. Cheap light bulbs can also contribute to the problem, because the filaments inside are not as safe or of high quality.
Dead electrical outlets
When an electrical outlet doesn’t work, don’t assume faulty wiring is the cause without testing a few simple fixes. Most outlets in kitchens and bathrooms are connected to a GFCI, or ground-fault interrupter, which is installed in areas where there is potential for water to come into contact with plugged in equipment. You can recognize a GFCI outlet because it has two buttons in the center of the plug, labeled “Test” and “Reset.” Note that the GFCI may be located in a different room than the dead outlet, such as in a basement, garage or utility room.
Solution: Find the GFCI outlet and try resetting it by pressing the button labeled “Reset.” The button should snap into place when working properly. Plug a small appliance into the dead outlet to make sure it works. If the dead outlet still doesn’t work, check the breaker box to see if someone is tripping. Reset the breaker, then reset the GFCI and retest the outlet.
Flickering bulbs in recessed lighting fixtures is another common electrical problem. Each enclosed device is designed with thermal sensors to cut off when the canister gets too hot, preventing overheating. Once the canister cools, power is restored. If your recessed light smokes or works intermittently, it usually means it’s getting too hot, triggering a cut-out.
Solution: Make sure all bulbs are tight in the sockets, as expansion and contraction due to heat can cause a loose bulb to flicker. Or, try installing a lower wattage light bulb in the recessed light canisters to reduce heat. Check that the style of light bulb is appropriate for the device. Use an Aluminized Parabolic Reflector, or PAR-style bulb, designed to project heat out of the open end of the canister.
Peter Wilson, of Hedgehog Electric, has more than a decade of experience in home improvement—from design and DIY projects to construction and renovation. If you need an electronics expert, visit Hedgehogelectric.com for a free consultation.