Electrical issues in your home can be dangerous, so you never want to put them off. Unfortunately, knowing when to call an electrical contractor can be difficult for homeowners who don't know what to look out for. Here are four signs you need electrician services.
1. Warm Outlets
If you ever notice that light switches or electrical outlets in your home are warm to the touch, there is likely a problem with the circuit. Outlets that are overloaded with too many plugs can overheat when they try to draw more power than they're rated for. Extension cords and multi-outlets should only be used as temporary solutions.
Overheating outlets will sometimes display other signs of damage. Don't attempt to use an outlet that has scorch marks, a broken cover or sockets, or that is hanging out of the wall. Outlets must be secured in a junction box to ensure their terminals and wires are insulated.
2. Breakers Tripping Frequently
It's easy to see a tripped breaker as nothing more than an inconvenience since you can simply reset the breaker to restore power. However, if one or more breakers are tripping frequently or repeatedly, you must stop to consider the cause. Frequent breaker tripping indicates that the circuit is not operating safely and there may be a fire hazard.
Breakers most often trip because the circuit is overloaded. This is even more likely if you have recently added a new appliance to the circuit or if the breaker always trips when a certain appliance is in use. Microwaves, air conditioners, and space heaters are a few examples of appliances that can easily overload circuits that are near max capacity.
Short circuits and ground faults are the other two most common causes of a tripped breaker. Short circuits occur when a hot wire touches another hot or neutral wire, and ground faults happen when a hot wire touches a ground wire. If reducing the circuit load doesn't solve your breaker problem, stop using the circuit until it is inspected by an electrician.
3. Electrical Noises
An electrical buzzing or humming noise in your home may be no cause for concern, or it may be a sign of an electrical fault. Many homeowners know firsthand how difficult it can be to track this issue down, especially if you can't pinpoint the source of the noise.
Starting with harmless sources of electrical humming, you can test if you still hear the noise when you turn your lights off. Fluorescent bulbs and even some incandescent bulbs will create a low hum while they're in use. You should also unplug any nearby appliances or any device that contains an electric motor. Some AC motors make a low, harmless humming noise called "mains hum."
If you hear humming or buzzing near an outlet, behind your walls, or near your electrical panel, a more thorough investigation will be needed. You may be hearing the sound of overloaded wires or a defective breaker. Call an electrician for a professional inspection as soon as possible.
4. Rising Electricity Bills
Just as a plumbing leak can cause a runaway water bill, your electricity bill can steadily rise due to hidden power draws. Before you begin to suspect a problem, consider if you have changed your electricity usage habits, such as by adding new appliances. Review your bill carefully as well to make sure your utility provider hasn't increased your electricity rate.
Many appliances that homeowners commonly leave plugged in will draw power continuously. This standby power draw accounts for as much as ten percent of a home's energy use. Power bill creep may also be caused by outdated or failing appliances that have lost efficiency over time, so it's time for an inspection if you still cannot locate the cause.
If you identify any of these electrical issues in your home, don't hesitate to call an electrician so you can be sure your electrical system is safe and efficient.