Sign 1: Breakers and Fuses Go Out Regularly
Circuit breakers help to protect the house from fire by “tripping” when the circuit begins to overload by exceeding the number of amps the circuit is rated for. Fuses provide the same protection, but circuit breakers are reusable where fuses need to be replaced whenever they “blow out.” Circuit breakers do wear out over time and, as they trip more often, they can sometimes go bad. If a circuit breaker or fuse goes out regularly, one of two things may be happening. If too many high amp appliances are plugged into a single circuit, the breaker or fuse may blow out because the total amps plugged in are more than the breaker or fuse is rated for. If, however, the amp load of the appliances is less than what the circuit breaker or fuse is rated for, then there may be a short in the wiring somewhere along the circuit.
Sign 2: Dimming and Flickering Lights
Dimming and flickering lights are a sign of an overloaded circuit. As another device turns on in a circuit, especially motor driven devices, they pull more amps. This is somewhat normal; very good wiring on a circuit that is close to capacity will rarely dim or flicker. However, even on good wiring, dimming or momentary flickering is normal in some cases. If it happens often, however, this may be a sign of faulty wiring or a bad circuit breaker that needs to be replaced.
Sign 3: Buzzing, Charred, or Discolored Outlets and Switches
Buzzing, charred, and discolored outlets or light switches are a very bad sign of a potentially dangerous situation. The outlet or switch should be replaced right away, but the problem is not always in the outlet or switch. In some cases, faulty wiring in the circuit, usually near the outlet or switch, or a loose connection on the switch is the cause and causes a short.
Sign 4: Burning Smell
A burning smell in a home with no identifiable source can be scary. An electrical fire initially has a fairly acrid smell and a short that causes a brief burn has the same smell. Electrical fires that catch surrounding material on fire, however, have a very different smell. If a burning smell is present, especially if it smells acrid, call an electrician immediately. In some cases, the short is in the outlet, but if it is in the wiring inside the wall, it can more easily catch surrounding materials on fire. Either way, homeowners should also turn off the circuit breaker or remove the fuse for that circuit until the electrician can examine the circuit.
Sign 5: Shocking Switches and Outlets
Shocking switches or outlets are a good indicator that the switch or outlet is bad. Sometimes, however, it means that there is a wire in the circuit shorting out to the conduit enclosing the wires. Aside from being physically unpleasant, this is a sure sign that something is shorting out. It could be a device plugged into the plug, the plug or switch itself, or a wire that has lost its insulation. If devices are removed or replaced and it still happens, the outlet or switch should be examined or replaced.
Safety Concerns of Old Wiring
According to a 2009 study by the National Fire Prevention Association, faulty wiring is the most common cause of house and apartment fires in the United States. As fire codes and building codes improve over time, electrical wiring becomes more safe long-term. However, any wiring over 40 years old should be checked by a qualified electrician periodically.
If you or anyone you may know has a concern about old wiring in their home give us a call. We will send out
one of our highly trained electricians to take a look at your wiring and give you peace of mind.