It’s important that homeowners and business owners keep an eye on electrical installations within their properties – spotting any possible hazards and getting them looked at as soon as possible can be a matter of life or death. However, it can be difficult for the general public to spot dangers ahead of time as they may not be aware of what the warning signs are, this is why those in the industry should share knowledge and advise homeowners on what to look out for. We have put together this list highlighting common signs that there may be an electrical problem…
Sockets and switches not working properly
If a socket or light switch stops working, it’s probably due to loose wiring. Wobbly sockets are also something to be aware of, people often think they just need to be screwed back in, however, loose sockets can shake wires free – if it has been unsecured for a while, the wiring may have become loose. If sockets or switches stop working properly or become loose, it’s important to switch it off and hire a qualified electrician to fix this as trying to do it yourself may result in shock.
Flickering, buzzing and dimming lights
All of these can be a sign of dated and damaged wiring. Sockets and switches should operate silently, if you hear a buzzing, sizzling or crackling sound then it is likely there is an electrical problem. If lights are flickering or dimming, this can be a sign of loose wires, damaged sockets, overrated bulbs, or too much insulation. Take notice of whether just one light flickers or multiple, if it’s just the one then it is probably just that fixture with an issue, if multiple flicker or dim, it is likely to be a more complex problem.
Warm or vibrating sockets
Although electricity gives off heat, sockets should not feel hot to touch, they also shouldn’t vibrate. If either of these things happen, unplug any items and switch the socket off until it has been seen by an electrician. The same goes for switches, they should not feel hot to touch. Dimmable light switch cover plates will sometimes feel warm as they disperse excess electrical energy to create dimming, however, they should not be uncomfortable to touch – if they are, they should be switched off and not used until they have been looked at.
Burning smells and strange odours
Of course, any burning smell in the home is cause for concern, if you have checked everywhere and can still smell a strange, burning odour in your property, it could be electrical outlets or appliances. If you do smell a burning or smoky scent, try and sniff out where this is coming from, if you figure out it is coming from a certain electrical socket, be sure to unplug everything, switch it off and arrange for a qualified electrician to have a look at it. Be sure to check your fuse box, if the smell is coming from there, be sure to seek a professional as soon as possible – burning smells mean that fire damage may have already begun and, if that’s the case, it’s imperative to have it fixed by an electrical professional immediately.
Receiving small shocks
We have all experienced small ‘shocks’ from touching random objects, such as door handles or even other people, this is known as static shock and is very common and harmless. If you notice you are getting a small shock every time you touch an electrical installation or appliance, it could be a much more serious issue. Receiving a small shock when flicking a switch or plugging in an appliance can be a sign there is something not quite right with your electrics and they will need checking.
Discolouration or scorch marks
If you spot any discolouration or scorch marks around electrical installations, this is a sign that heat has been released due to damaged wiring. If this occurs, be sure to stop using the socket immediately and contact a professional. If the installation continued to be used, it could result in an electrical fire.
Frayed or chewed wiring
Exposed wiring is a major hazard for everybody in the home and should be fixed as soon as possible. Frayed or chewed wiring is usually caused by rodents, pets, and sometimes amateur or unqualified handymen. If you notice this, be sure to check the rest of your home and electrical equipment for signs of rodents, as they will continue to cause electrical damage if not dealt with.
Circuit breaker trips
It is common for trips to happen in homes, circuits are designed to trip when the system becomes overloaded. When this happens, people are usually able to switch it back on and continue with no issues. However, it’s important to take notice of how often this occurs – if your circuit trips multiple times a month, it may be a sign that there is an electrical problem. This could potentially be an electrical wiring issue, or that you are using too many high powered appliances, overloading the system. Overloading can be dangerous for a range of reasons, try and limit how many items are plugged in at once. It’s also a good idea to check the circuit breaker itself for any possible issues.
All of the above are telltale signs that there may be electrical issues within the home, whether it’s damaged wiring, overloading, loose wiring, or broken installations, all of which bring hazards, the main ones being electrical fires and electric shock. Whilst there are many DIY guides out there for ‘fixing’ these issues, it can be extremely dangerous and homeowners should hire a qualified professional to fix any issues and eliminate electric dangers in the home.