Electricity is a necessity in the modern household. This is especially true when the weather cools down. Unfortunately, many homes experience problems with their electricity in the winter months. You want your family to be safe and comfortable, so check out this guide on how to deal with the 12 most common electrical problems during winter.
Why Electrical Issues Are a Big Deal
Without reliable electricity, you can’t keep the lights on, cook, refrigerate your food, charge your phone, or accomplish any important tasks. To make matters worse, electrical problems can be extremely dangerous. Electrical wires contain enough voltage to stop a person’s heart, and home electrical fires cause around 500 deaths per year in the United States. Because electricity is so deadly, you must act quickly when you notice an electrical issue.
Common Electrical Problems
Wind and heavy rain can knock branches onto a power line and cut off your home’s electricity, so you should make sure that all power lines on your property are clear of limbs and other obstructions. If an at-risk power line is not on your property, then you can call your city to take care of it. Energy companies can only respond to an outage if they’re aware of it, so you should contact your electricity provider as soon as the power goes off for the quickest response.
Breakers typically trip when there is a power surge somewhere in your home. Without functioning breakers, excess electricity would course through your house, fry electronics, and possibly start a fire. In some cases, a tripped breaker may indicate that your home’s wiring is faulty.
Each breaker should have a label that clearly designates the location of its circuit, so you should pay attention to which breakers trip often and share this information with a reliable electrician if you keep having problems. Breakers also tend to trip when you use too many electrical devices in one area in your home. This is especially common when you connect space heaters and other appliances to a single power strip, so spreading out space heaters, appliances, and other devices more evenly across your home may prevent breakers from frequently tripping.
Dead Light Bulbs
If multiple light bulbs are burning out in your home, then you could have a wiring problem or a buildup of moisture around your fixtures. Drastic changes in temperature cause condensation, which can damage light fixtures over time. Moreover, constant breaker trips will send excess electricity through your light fixtures and damage light bulbs. If the light bulbs in a single fixture are constantly going out, then you may simply have a faulty light fixture. In any case, a good electrician in Houston will repair your light fixtures and perform any necessary maintenance on your electrical system to keep the lights on.
Sometimes, the protective material over a wire can wear down or become damaged and expose the wire. An exposed wire can start a fire or give someone a deadly shock. With that in mind, you should repair or throw away any devices or power strips with damaged plugs, sockets, or wires. While bad wires on your devices are immediately visible, many of the wires in your home are hidden behind walls, making damage difficult to detect.
Nonetheless, you can still notice signs of damage if you have a keen eye. Discolored spots in your walls and ceilings often signal a problem with your wiring. When wires are exposed, they can send electricity through the nearest wall, which transfers heat and singes the surrounding area. This is a massive fire hazard, so you must reach out to a professional to deal with the problem as soon as you notice it.
Dead or sparking outlets aren’t just inconvenient, but they can also be very dangerous. A bad outlet can easily shock someone or start a fire. On top of that, a faulty outlet puts everything else in the same circuit at risk of electrical damage. Outlets usually malfunction due to faulty wiring, physical damage, or power surges. An outlet can become faulty at any time, so you should keep appliances and furniture at least a few inches away from them to minimize the risk of an electrical fire. Ideally, outlets should also be plainly visible so that you can easily notice any smoking, sparks, or discoloration.
Damp Wires and Fixtures
In many cases, discolored walls are the result of water damage. Water damage won’t only lead to mold and compromise the integrity of your home, but it can also cause short circuits and electrical fires. Heavy wind and rain damage your roof and cause leaks. On top of that, bad weather will slowly wear away the soil around your home’s foundation and allow water to seep into your basement. If you notice musty smells, dampness, brown stains in your walls and ceilings, then you should call a reliable contractor immediately to prevent the problem from getting worse. You might also need the help of an electrician if there’s any evidence of excess moisture around your wiring or electrical fixtures.
The winter months are often dry, and dry conditions can cause a lot of static electricity to build up. Static electricity is mostly just a nuisance, but a fire can break out if an electrical charge goes off near flammable materials. Static electricity is more likely to build up in homes with many carpets, rugs, and upholstered pieces of furniture. To avoid getting shocked or starting a fire, you may want to set up humidifiers in the driest parts of your home.
Grounded outlets allow excess electricity to escape appliances without causing any damage. Without proper grounding, power surges, outages, and other electrical problems can start fires, shock people, and fry whatever you plug into them. Unfortunately, older homes often have ungrounded outlets, but a good electrician can fix this by replacing outdated outlets with modern ones. Replacing fried appliances can be costly, and you don’t want a fire to break out, so it’s a good idea to replace ungrounded outlets as soon as possible.
Bad Space Heaters
Space heaters might be a decent way to warm up a room, but they can cause a ton of electrical problems. Because space heaters take a lot of power to function, they’re prone to tripping breakers. This is especially common in rooms that where a bunch of devices or appliances are already running. Cheaper space heaters are more likely to malfunction and set something on fire.
Even high-quality electric space heaters are fairly inefficient and can greatly increase your electricity bill. With that in mind, you should insulate cold areas and explore other ways to heat chilly rooms before purchasing an electric space heater. If a space heater is your only option, then you must only use one when you’re awake and in the same room as it. They’re just too dangerous to leave unattended.
Odd Sounds and Odors
Do you often hear an annoying buzzing noise but don’t know where it’s coming from? Does a certain room often smell like smoke, hot metal, or burning plastic? If you notice any strange sounds and smells but can’t find an immediate cause, then there’s a good chance that a hidden wire is damaged. Electricity generates a lot of heat as it arcs between frayed wires and surrounding objects. There is a high risk of fire when wires are damaged to the point of buzzing and burning, so you must hire an electrician to diagnose and fix the problem before it’s too late.
Many households have generators to keep lights and vital electrical appliances on during power outages. Although generators can be integral to your family’s comfort and safety when the power’s out, you must be very careful when using one. You should only run your generator outside. Otherwise, the people in your home will quickly die of carbon monoxide poisoning. Remember to keep your generator at least 20 feet away from your home, point the exhaust vent away from your home, and make sure that it’s not close to any flammable materials or obstructions. Do not operate a generator near open water or in rainy weather. If your generator is hot, emits a strange smell, makes an unusual noise, or runs abnormally in any way, then you need to immediately shut it off.
Dead Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors save countless lives every year, so it’s a good idea to have an electrician hardwire at least a couple of the alarms in your home. However, even if you have hardwired smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, you should still test them monthly and regularly replace the batteries. After all, these alarm systems wear down over time, and they need fresh batteries to work in case of a power outage.
What To Do When You Have an Electrical Issue
Switch the Main Circuit Breaker Off
You should be able to find the main breaker in a metal box somewhere on one of the walls of the lowest level in your home. The main breaker is usually larger than the other breakers, and the inside of your breaker box should contain a diagram labeling each breaker. By switching it off, you will cut off the flow of electricity to your home. Switching your other breakers will simply cut off power to their respective circuits. Before you switch a breaker off, you should shut down any computers and smart appliances on the circuit.
Investigate the Cause
An electrician can fix the problem quickly if they know what to expect. Therefore, you should take note of all aspects of the issue. Relevant details to discuss with the electrician include the location of the problem, any strange sounds or smells, malfunctioning appliances, how long the problem has been going on, discoloration, frayed wires, dead outlets, electrical arcs, and anything else that might come to mind.
Take Your Family Somewhere Else
Once you notice an electrical problem, you must turn off the electricity in your home until a professional can deal with it. It can take several hours or days for an expert to fix your issue, but your family can’t live without electricity for that long. Thus, to keep everyone in your family safe, you should find accommodations for at least a few days while you wait for the electrician to finish the job.
Stay Safe This Winter
Winter weather can wreak havoc on your electrical systems and cause a ton of issues in your home. However, as long as you make proactive decisions and understand the dangers of electricity, your family will be safe. Only an expert can fix an electrical issue, so you should reach out to Right Touch Electrical as soon as you notice a problem for timely and professional electrical installation, maintenance, and repairs.
Call a Licensed Professional Immediately
Although an electrical problem may seem insignificant, it can eventually result in a deadly accident. You may be tempted to fix the issue on your own, but electricity can kill you in an instant. Only an experienced professional can conduct electrical installation, maintenance, and repairs. On top of that, if there are any signs that a layperson has worked on your wiring, then your home insurance provider may have grounds to cancel your policy, and most professionals will refuse to do any work on your property.