Utah Homeowners: Signs It’s Time to Consult a Professional Electrician
Posted on February 2, 2024 by Oozle Media
Your home’s electrical system. It doesn’t just power all of those modern devices you simply can’t live without anymore, but it also helps keep you safe. Problems with your electrical system can cause fires, make your fridge stop keeping food cool (wasting food and endangering your health), or leave you without heat on the coldest day of the year.
So, when should you call a professional electrician? Let’s talk about the signs that you need to make that phone call.
Importance of Electrical Systems in Homes
The typical home electrical system has the following components:
- Electrical cable, also called wiring, which is the cable that takes electrical power to all of your light fixtures and receptacles.
- The main service panel. This contains the main switch that lets you shut down all power. This is where the utility company meters your home and is the source of all grounding and safety. This panel is often the first thing that should be upgraded when addressing electrical issues because all other electrical devices and equipment derive their safety from here.
- Electrical panel. This is the interior breaker box that allows you to turn off individual circuits. Very old houses may still have a fuse box; if this is you, you need to talk to your electrician about upgrading. Some larger houses may also have sub-panels, especially if you have a workshop, pool house, or shed with lighting.
- Circuit breakers. Each circuit breaker controls a different part of your home. They can be used to manually switch off a circuit but will also trip if they detect a safety hazard, particularly excessive current draws. Your bathroom, kitchen, garage, basement and outdoors should also have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) that will trip when current leakage is detected, which happens when wires get wet. (If they don’t, you need to call an electrician and get those put in).
Your electrical system needs to be kept up to code. As mentioned, fuse boxes should be replaced and so should receptacles in kitchens, bathrooms, and pool houses that don’t have GFCI. Some older homes also have aluminum wiring; consider replacing this as it burns more easily and can make electrical fires worse.
A fault in your electrical system can lead to loss of power to one or more circuits or even to a fire. Loss of power to appliances can be expensive and inconvenient. Power surges can damage modern electronics.
Signs of Electrical Problems
Here are some signs to watch for that might indicate you have an electrical problem:
- Flickering lights. Flickering lights can indicate that a fluorescent or incandescent bulb needs to be replaced. LED bulbs do not usually flicker before they die, but rather get dimmer. They can also indicate a loose bulb, but if you replace and/or tighten the bulb and still get a flicker, or if you have multiple bulbs flickering, you have a problem. Flickering lights can be caused by voltage fluctuations, loose wiring, or just a faulty switch. All of these need to be checked out. Note that if you try to use a dimmer switch designed for incandescent bulbs with LEDs, this will also cause flickering.
- Frequent circuit breaker trips. Any circuit breaker tripping needs to be monitored, especially if the weather is clear. If a circuit trips repeatedly, you either have an overloaded circuit or faulty wiring. Make sure you don’t plug in heavy-duty appliances such as dishwashers or stoves to “regular” receptacles.
- Burning smells. A burning smell from an outlet or an appliance should be treated as an emergency. Cut the power immediately and call an electrician. If you aren’t sure what circuit it’s on, cut power to your entire home. This is most likely an overloaded circuit, but could even be the start of a fire.
- Buzzing sounds. If the buzzing sound is coming from a fluorescent light it might simply be that the ballast (part of the light) is failing and you need to replace the tube or bulb. Otherwise, it’s most likely a loose wire inside the socket or fixture that needs to be tightened. If the buzzing is coming from your main panel, it’s a bad circuit breaker that needs to be replaced. Turn off the power and call an electrician to get it checked out.
- Warm switches or outlets. This is another sign of a circuit overload, as is discoloration around the switch or receptacle. Some devices may cause a bit of heat, particularly modems and phone chargers. If an outlet is warm when not turned on, call an electrician because you have a problem behind the wall. Also, call an electrician if the wall is warm near the outlet.
- Sparks or electrical shocks. If you see sparks, arcing, or get a shock when plugging something in, call an electrician immediately. You have a significant circuit problem that could easily turn into a fire.
Pro tip: If you move into a new place, check the breaker box. Even if it’s labeled by the previous owner, go through and throw each breaker, then document what outlets are affected. Then label it neatly. This reduces the risk of having to turn the power off to the entire house when you have a problem.
Why Consult a Professional Electrician?
In Utah, you need a permit for any electrical work beyond replacing lights and receptacles with equivalent devices. You should not try to DIY any electrical problems.
Here are some reasons to always bring in a professional:
- Safety. Professionals know what they are doing and will always make sure the circuit is turned off. They know how to avoid injury (and worse) from mistakes.
- Expertise. These people have seen all variations of your problem. They can troubleshoot and diagnose it far faster than you can, and know exactly what works and doesn’t work to fix it.
- Compliance. As mentioned, you need a permit for anything other than very minor electrical work. A professional has pulling permits down and will make sure that the work is in compliance and that everything is up-to-code. DIY repairs also make a great excuse for your home insurer not to pay out on related claims.
- Long-term cost savings. Timely repairs can prevent a fire, but they can also prevent damage to expensive appliances and electronics. Getting things checked right away means that you don’t have power surges shortening the life of your dishwasher, for example. Also, it helps keep your insurance premiums down.
Your home’s electrical system is one of its most important components. Watch for signs of problems such as flickering lights, burning smells, odd sounds, or breakers tripping repeatedly. These problems need to be addressed immediately to keep you, your family, your pets, and your possessions safe. Prioritize safety by consulting with a professional every time.
JP Electrical provides high-quality electrical repair work, including emergency repairs. Call us at 801-683-0374 or fill out our contact form. We have been serving Utah residents since 1997 and know exactly how to fix your problems.