10 Most Common Electrical Problems In Your Home

10 Most Common Electrical Problems In Your Home

Last updated on December 12, 2023

Electrical problems at home can be incredibly frustrating. They can lead to loss of power, disrupted technology, the inability to complete specific tasks, and more dangerously to risky and harmful situations.

Electrical problems are actually much more common than many people realize. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than 10,000 fires in residential buildings were caused by faulty wiring in 2017. These fires caused 74 deaths, 1,500 injuries, and more than $1.2 billion in property damage. Fortunately, you can take steps to protect your home from electrical problems.

This article highlights the major electrical problems homeowners experience and how you can prevent them:

1. Overloaded Circuits

A circuit overload occurs when too many appliances are plugged into the same circuit.

For example, if you have a circuit dedicated for an electric oven, plugging in the oven and a stove simultaneously will overload the capacity on the circuit. Plugging too many appliances into the same circuit can cause the circuit to overload and trip the breaker.

Another way a circuit overloads is when the circuit is overloaded with a current rating higher than that of the circuit breaker, causing the breaker to trip.

If you fix a bulb with a high wattage on a light fixture that supports low wattage bulbs, the high temperature of the bulb might melt the socket and the insulation in the fixture, causing sparks to form between wires, and resulting in an electrical fire.

Even if you remove the bulb, the socket and wiring will have already been damaged. Always ensure compliance between the bulb and the fitting wattage to avoid damaging the fixture. If the fixture does not show a marking for the wattage to use, use a bulb with a maximum of 60 watt rating, to be safe.

Make sure not to overload electrical devices, by avoiding plugging too many electrical devices into the same outlet, and monitoring sockets to avoid excess capacity. Excess loads can not only overload electrical circuits, causing circuit breakers to trip but can also damage the electrical equipment.

Circuit overloads are a common cause of electrical fires, so it is essential to maintain the electrical systems in a good condition.

2. Flashing Lights

Generally, high voltage surges, loose connections, or faulty wiring can cause flickering of the light fixtures and dimming of the light output. Additionally, older and outdated electrical equipment can cause failure or dimming and flickering.

Often in older residences, wiring gets damaged over time, causes faults and requires replacement. Also, old light fixtures nearing the end of their lives may cause the lights to flicker or dim and require replacement.

To fix the problem, you can replace the power supply with a “smart” power supply. These power supplies monitor the current and voltage levels in the power supply and regulate them as needed.

You could also install dimmer switches, which deter voltage spikes before they affect the lights, or use motion sensors with CFLs and LEDs.

As a general rule, proper installation of light fixtures and thorough and expert wiring is the key to safekeeping your electrical equipment and avoiding damage and discomfort.

3. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs)

GFCIs are electrical safety devices designed to prevent electrical shock as they can sense electrical surges and trip the circuit. GFCIs may trip due to faulty operation of appliances, poor wiring or loose connections.

GFCIs can trip even when minor loads are connected, including when you use the electrical system to charge phones or laptops. GFCIs are designed to reset themselves when you turn the power off and back on again. However, some GFCIs may continue to trip even if the problem is fixed.

4. Tripped Circuit Breakers

A circuit breaker is designed to protect your home from electrical overloads. The breaker shuts off automatically when there is too much current drawn from the circuit. Tripping electrical circuit breakers is inconvenient and could have potentially dangerous outcomes. Fortunately, flipping a circuit breaker back on is typically an easy fix.

Several issues can cause circuit breakers to trip.

Most commonly, circuit breakers trip due to a circuit overload, after which you should reset the circuit breaker or turn the power at the breaker box off. Another cause for a breaker to trip is loose wiring, in which case you should tighten the wiring or contact a professional electrician.

Faulty electrical devices, such as lights or dimmer switches, can cause circuit breakers to trip, and you’ll need to reset the circuit breaker but also replace the device as well.

Overloading power boards is also a major and frequent cause for circuit breakers to trip. Most homes and flats, even modern ones, do not have enough power outlets to support, for example, a full home entertainment unit setup.

If your home’s circuit breakers are constantly tripping, it could be due to a circuit overload.

5. Electrical Surges

Electrical surges can cause fires and damage to your electrical appliances and electronics.

An electrical surge occurs when electricity travels faster than usual, usually due to a power outage, damaged ground wires, faulty wiring, improperly installed appliances, or even metal pipe fittings coming into contact with live wires.

Lightning can also cause an electrical surge, and to prevent this problem, you should use a surge protector to detect and block surges before they damage your equipment.

Some surge protectors are very simple devices requiring the user to insert the devices into the outlet and then manually connect the device.

However, other more sophisticated surge protectors have automatic detection, automatic disconnection, the ability to monitor and report voltage/surge conditions to a central monitoring station, and automatic reconnection.

6. Electrical Sockets and Switches Not Working

Electrical sockets and switches are a common source of problems, and there are all kinds of reasons why their operation might fail, from loose wiring to faulty fittings. Over time, the rubber seals around sockets and switches can dry out and become brittle, causing them to break.

The wiring connections to switches and sockets can also become loose over time, so they could stop working altogether. If your socket or switch is loose or is causing an electrical fire, it is essential to fix the problem.

Problems with your electrical sockets and switches can be hazardous, and it is important to address them and fix them as soon as possible, as these problems can put residents at serious risk.

7. Electrical Shock or Electrocution

Electrical shock can occur when the voltage exceeds 120V, for instance when a wall switch is turned off or when lights are turned off. Electric shock occurs when electricity travels through your body and causes severe damage to your body.

Electrical shock is a severe condition as it can cause brain damage, paralysis, severe burns, limb loss, coma, and even death. To help prevent electrical shock, you should unplug any unused electrical devices, and should install ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) in any area with potential water risk.

Faulty electrical wiring, faulty outlets, and defective appliances can cause electrical shocks. Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) protect you by sensing when an electrical shock is occurring and shutting off the electricity immediately.

Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) are inexpensive and can be easily installed by an electrician.

8. Poorly Grounded Circuits

Several homes have circuits that lack properly grounded plugs and switches, making them highly vulnerable to electrical shock. If outlets are poorly grounded or even not grounded, the risk of electrical shock increases significantly as a grounded outlet provides an additional safety measure.

A lack of ground connection can cause additional problems, since electrical currents may flow back into the electrical system, leading to circuit overloads and ground faults, which can lead to tripping circuit breakers and may lead to fires.

Furthermore, ungrounded receptacles can overheat, also leading to fires. If your home suffers from such circuits, you should have them inspected and, if necessary, replaced.

9. Power Sags and Dip

Power dips and sags are further types of electrical problems. A voltage dip is a temporary drop in voltage that is often caused by a faulty appliance, whereas voltage sags are long-term drops in voltage that are the result of equipment overloads.

Sags and dips can also be caused by operating several large appliances simultaneously, especially if they are outdated and consume a high amount of power.

Power sags can also affect your home’s heating and air conditioning systems, as HVAC systems must work harder to maintain a comfortable temperature, which can raise your energy bills. The best way to prevent power surges and dips is to unplug appliances that you aren’t using.

When you’re not using your appliances, you can plug them into power strips that can be turned off. That way, you won’t have to worry about unplugging everything when you turn off the power.

10. Loose Wires

One of the most common electrical problems homeowners face is loose wiring. Loose wires can cause fires, which is why it’s important to use electrical tape to fix cables in place. Electrical tape also helps prevent water and insects from getting into wires.

Loose wires are usually the result of wear and tear as wires can get frayed or exposed over time, which can lead to fires. Loose wires can also occur because of damaged or poorly installed wires. Poorly installed connections can lead to arcing, which can loosen ties and create sparks that can cause a fire.

Bottom Line

Your home may suffer from many electrical problems, such as electrical surges which can cause significant and extensive damage to your equipment.

These problems can occur for various reasons, including damaged ground wires, faulty wiring, improperly installed appliances, or even metal pipe fittings coming into contact with live wires.

Sometimes these problems occur due to a loose connection, while at other times the problem could be a faulty appliance or fixture.

Your entire electrical system should be inspected and tested, as it’s not uncommon for the electrical system as a whole to fail, causing wires to short circuit.

When this happens, the entire home’s power may be affected, as the breaker box turns off the power until the wiring is fixed.

Electrical problems can also occur due to faulty appliances, including hairdryers, televisions, air conditioners, and microwaves. These can be quite easy to spot, if appliances are malfunctioning, they require immediate repair.

It’s always advisable to call an electrician to handle the problems. Most electricians are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and they’ll come immediately to assess the problem.

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