We’ve all heard the old cliché, “Nothing lasts forever.” It’s true. Nothing does last forever, but we can lengthen life expectancy of items just by applying proper maintenance. If you want your vehicle to last, you regularly get your oil changed. Do you want to live longer? Yup. Better see the doctor once a year for a checkup. Maybe eat more veggies too. Oh, and drink lots of water and do some jumping jacks. Even your house needs regular maintenance. Change out those furnace filters. Clean out the gutters. But you know what? We don’t often think about getting our electrical systems checked. We should though. Faulty or worn out electrical wiring can have dire consequences. Electricity can shock, burn, and start fires. Electricians recommend having our electrical systems inspected every 3-5 years. GFCI outlets (the ones with the red TEST buttons on them) should be tested twice a year at home. Here are 5 signs that your home needs electrical maintenance:
1. A Wornout or Tripped GFCI– A GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interupter) is designed to detect dangerous electrical flow. If it detects a dangerous flow, it shuts power off to the outlet. If you press the red TEST button and then the black RESET button, everything should be reset. Something could be wrong if the GFCI continually trips. Continual tripping could indicate that your electrical system needs maintenance. Newer GFCIs are designed with a sensitivity circuit. These sensitivity circuits wear out after about 10 years and need to be replaced. Don’t replace them yourself. You could get severely hurt if you don’t know what you are doing. Call a commercial electrician for safety and to ensure correct installation.
2. Humming Sounds – You really shouldn’t be able to hear your electrical wiring hum. The one exception is lights on dimmer switches. Dimmer switches cycle power on/off very quickly to dim lights. They don’t actually cut the power. This constant cycling may cause humming. Humming coming from wiring could be the result of an improperly ground circuit. In this case, get an electrician to come out and perform maintenance on the system. A circuit breaker that is humming could indicate that it is overloaded and is not shutting off due to a fault. Same thing here. Get a professional electrician to fix this.
3. Burnt Smell – The smell of burnt wiring is quite distinctive. Take this smell extremely seriously as it can indicate the beginning of an electrical fire. Try to follow the smell back to its point of origin and then shut off the breaker that supplies power to that circuit. A burnt smell is a clear indication that your electrical system requires service and maintenance.
4. Hot Outlets – If electrical cords plugged into a power outlet get hot, this could indicate faulty wiring. Power outlets should never get hot if they are correctly wired. Hot outlets could be a sign that too much current is flowing through the circuit. If this is true, there is a problem with your electrical system that requires maintenance. Unplug all power cords from the outlet until you can get it inspected. Contact your electrical company as soon as possible.
5. Flickering Lights – Don’t worry. It’s highly unlikely that your house or businesses is haunted. Lights can flicker due to a bad or loose lightbulb. It’s an easy fix if this is the case. Power surges from appliance often cause flickering lights. A number of things can cause power surges including appliances drawing more power than usual or there is a large draw of power from a home or business near yours. Flickering lights can also indicate there is a loose connection somewhere with in the electrical system. It’s best to have a certified electrician inspect your electrical system to ensure there is no problem.
It’s always a good idea to understand your electrical system’s capabilities. This understanding can save your life and prevent expensive repairs. Here are some quick tips to protect yourself and your home ore business:
- Use surge protectors on sensitive electrical items such as your computer of home entertainment system. They come in doubly handy if lightning strikes a tower near you
- Only use lightbulbs that are rated at or below the light fixture manufacturer’s recommended wattage
- Try not to use extension cords. If you do need to use them, place the cords where they won’t be easily walked on or can be chewed on by pets.
Electricity can be very dangerous. Have your electrical system inspected every 3-5 years to ensure that it is performing the way it is supposed to. A certified electrician can usually inspect the entire system in just a few hours. Regular electrical maintenance offers safety and peace of mind.