When you purchased your older home, you knew it would need some extra care. The faucet leaked, the carpet had stains, and the weeds had overgrown the grass.
But despite the apparent problems, you never felt worried about the electrical system. All the switches turned on like they should, and all the outlets charged your phones and computers with ease. You didn’t notice any drops in power, and your appliances worked normally even when you ran them at the same time.
However, your electrical system might be in more danger than you think. In fact, if you spot any of the following warning signs, your system may be on the brink of failure.
1. Light Switches Feel Hot to Touch
Although your light switches turn the lights on without too much fuss, you may find that your switches feel hot when you turn the lights off again. This heat could occur for a variety of reasons, but the primary reason is electrical overload.
As power flows through your switch, it generates trace amounts of heat. Poorly installed or faulty switches draw more electricity than they can handle, which in turn results in excess heat. The heat causes extra wear and tear on the electrical components, and as the wiring deteriorates, you may soon have a fire on your hands.
2. Charred, Discolored, or Broken Outlets
Dirt, dust, grease, and grime can all cause some minor yellowing and staining on your outlets. Oftentimes, you can wipe away the debris to keep your outlet looking new.
But if you see charring or soot on your outlet, then a small fire has already started inside the walls. Poor wiring leads to sparks, which then lead to flames. The flames give off soot and smoke, creating the brown discoloration on the outlet.
3. Frequent Circuit Breaker Trips
Circuit breakers protect your electrical circuit from overloads. When the breaker senses excess electricity flowing through the wires, it stops, or “trips,” the power before damage occurs.
The occasional trip shows that your circuit breaker has done its job. But frequent breaker trips indicate faulty wiring and electrical panel issues. Additionally, frequent trips could mean that your newer appliances and electronics may draw more volts than your current system can handle, and you’ll likely need a system upgrade to meet your electrical demands.
4. Dimming or Flickering Lights
Your lights could flicker for a variety of reasons depending on where they are in your home and how often they flicker:
- They flicker in one room. In this case, a bad lightbulb causes the lights to flicker. When you replace the bulb and screw it in tightly, the flickering should go away.
- They flicker when the furnace turns on. Heating and cooling appliances draw a lot of power when they turn on, sometimes more than 100 amps. The average home has a 200-amp electrical service, so the extra draw on power causes the remaining lights to flicker. To minimize flickering, you may need to wire your outdoor unit to the max ampacity and double-check that the connections remain secure.
- They flicker throughout the home. If you don’t have any major appliances running and the lights flicker throughout your home anyway, some service conductors may have come loose in your electrical panel.
- They flicker throughout the neighborhood. Do your neighbors have the same problem? Damaged power lines and electrical equipment could affect the power in your area. The power company may need to temporarily shut down power to isolate and repair the problem.
No matter the reason, you should always exercise caution around flickering lights and talk to an electrician about the problem.
5. Blown-Out Bulbs
Depending on the brand you use, the average incandescent lightbulb lasts approximately 1,000 to 2,000 hours before it burns out. As a result, you’ll need to replace your lamp and ceiling lightbulbs on a regular basis to ensure even lighting.
But if you notice that your bulbs rarely meet that life expectancy, you may need to consider repairs. Faulty wiring can cause too much electricity to flow into the bulb, resulting in premature deterioration. And if your covered or recessed light features were installed incorrectly, heat can build up inside the bulbs, which also results in a shorter life span.
6. High Utility Bills
In general, your electric bill should reflect your lifestyle. If you only use lights for a few minutes before you go to bed and have few, if any, large appliances, your monthly utilities should be low. But if you constantly charge phones, tablets, computers, and gaming consoles while you run your dishwasher, dryer, and air conditioner, your bills should rate higher.
However, if you move to an older home and notice that the bill jumps up significantly, your home may have faulty wiring. Poor wiring and corroded elements draw more electricity to power your appliances, upping your kWh (kilowatt-hour) consumption.
Talk to Your Electrician for Help
As you can see, many of the above problems increase your home’s likelihood for fire and other damage. So if you see any of these warning signs, talk to an electrician about rewiring or upgrading your current system.