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Back to Basics: The 5 Most Common Electrical Issues

Does That Electrical Issue Need Repair or Replacement?

Back to Basics: The 5 Most Common Electrical Issues

Electrical issues might feel overwhelming and complicated when they happen in your home—so many wires hidden in walls! The electrical panel has too many choices! Was that a kitchen smell or a burning electrical odor? The simple fact is that electricians tend to see some common electrical problems over and over, regardless of where you live.

The warning signs of an electrical issue can indicate something simple to solve or a bigger problem. When you see flickering lights, smell something burning, or have frequent outages, an electrician is going to be looking for some common culprits.


These are the five most typical causes behind the visible sights and smells of electrical issues in homes:

  1. Faulty wiring. It’s probably not your fault that your wiring is bad and causing lights to flicker or bulbs to burn out quickly. If you experience regular power outages or blown fuses, chances are that an electrician will be looking at the wiring to solve the problem. A wiring issue could be small and easy to fix, or lead to the discovery of larger problems to be addressed. Keep in mind that solving electrical issues is about keeping a home and its occupants safe since a small spark can start a fire. An electrician will be checking to see what your local electrical codes are and if your property—based on age, primarily—is required to meet certain codes and make recommendations on the best choices for you.

  2. A device or appliance could be the problem, not your home’s electrical system. Sometimes you have that microwave or clothes dryer or some other item that requires electricity in the home and it just keeps shorting out. You’ve tried the outlet, but it seems fine. A professional electrician will be able to quickly test all of the possibilities and let you know if you need to instead contact the manufacturer for a replacement. It can be a relief to know that you weren’t imagining the weird symptoms and that your home’s electrical is in good working order.

  3. Are you short a couple of outlets? Having too few outlets in the home can lead to a fire if there is too much demand for power at the site, and when the incorrect type of extension cord is used to add outlets. While some older homes were grandfathered in when codes were updated, there can be a benefit to having an electrician install a few more, for safety’s safe. This is usually a fairly small and affordable job to have done professionally. When there is an electrical overload caused by too much use at one outlet, this can also create a power surge.

  4. There can be many causes for a power surge, which is when there is a spike in voltage after the power comes back on after being interrupted. Typically, lightning and an area blackout or power outage precipitates a power surge, which might seem natural but in fact is causing damage. Whether it is frequent and small power surges or one big surge, there can be damage to all of your devices and some appliances. An electrician can install a surge protector for the whole house, and there are smaller options like an extension cord with surge protection built in.

  5. Circuit breakers can go bad due to excessive use or age, and then it’s time for a replacement. This is usually a problem in older homes as circuit breakers should be able to last about 30 years. An overloaded circuit breaker—which can happen when there is too much demand from the increasing number of devices being used at the same time in a home—can cause a fire. While it can be tempting to DIY, it’s best to get in an electrician who can check for an underlying issue that has caused the circuit breaker to go bad at this time—especially if it’s newer.

Does That Electrical Issue Need Repair or Replacement?

Recycling and reusing are important choices to make around the home to prevent creating too much waste. However, there are times when something has completed its full lifespan, either because of longevity or damage. Recycling or reusing items can also save money, yet safety should always be the most important consideration when it comes to anything that is related to electrical use.


Is It a Big Deal or a Little Thing?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if that little spark or is an electrical emergency or just a quirky nuisance in your home. Your local licensed Patriot electrician does know the difference so a call to see if you need a minor repair or complete do over.

Some ways to tell if you have an electrical issue (and share with your electrician when you call to describe the problem):

Sniff: is there a burning smell or other unusual odor?

Listen: do you hear a new buzzing or humming sound?

Feel: did you just get zapped when you touched a switch?

Look: are the lights continuously flickering?

An electrician will be able to follow these clues and determine if wires or outlets—or even lamps or microwaves—need to be replaced or repaired. Sometimes this is good news—it wasn’t a wiring problem, your microwave was just old! Sometimes the good news is more complicated and you learn that your keen senses alerted you to a major faulty wire and prevented a fire.

Learn more about what might be an electrical emergency here.


The Types of Electrical Repair

Not only are Patriot electricians trained and licensed, the work is guaranteed for a period of time after the repair is done.

While occasionally there is a surprise, most electrical repair work is for the following services:

  • Faulty wiring—both inside and outside of a home

  • Circuit breaker malfunction

  • Power outage of individual home

  • Electrical panels

  • Generators

  • Ceiling fans

We’ve explained in greater detail how to tell when there might be an issue that needs repair here. An electrician is looking for ways to fix what is broken, and not to start from scratch.


When It is Time for a Replacement

Ideally, the first time a home was wired it was done by a professional, and the same goes for when a ceiling fan or generator was installed. Yet often an electrician arrives to find that someone with good intentions and a DIY mindset made mistakes that have left a homeowner with recurring electrical issues or non-functioning devices.

When a Patriot electrician determines that a ceiling fan isn’t operating due to incorrect installation, for example, this will likely mean that you need to buy a new fan for them to install properly. An electrical job that was not done to code is not safe for even a licensed electrician to fix and it benefits the homeowner to get it done right by a professional.

Also, when an electrician finds an old or undersized electrical panel at a home, there will be a recommendation to replace this with a new panel that will support the current electrical needs of the home. Or an electrician can recommend the installation of a new subpanel that can provide the needed capacity for your family.

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