You have noticed your home electrical system is having some trouble. Being the handy person you are, you want to try to tackle it which may lead to an outlet repair.
While this is noble, it can also be a serious hazard to people who are not properly prepared. Yes, training comes is the best way to be prepared, but even a deep knowledge of how electrical circuits work will help you out.
Once you are armed with this initial knowledge, there are things about your home that will help you be prepared and stay safe. Consider the following before you attempt any electrical repair work.
Old Wiring can Lead to Outlet Repair
If your home was built before 1965 and has never been upgraded, it is likely you have aluminum wiring. These degrade more rapidly than copper, especially around connection points, creating a significant fire risk. The average service life is 30 years for aluminum, so wiring that was installed in the ‘60’s or before is already well past that. You want to have a professional replace this wiring immediately.
Ensuring You Have the Right Safety Built In
Safety is key to regulating your home’s electrical system. You want to be sure you have your circuits matched to your breakers. What this means is that your wiring is rated to transmit the amount of current your breakers are rated for.
You also want to consider GFCI outlets wherever you have excess moisture. GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor and basically acts as a mini breaker if it detects irregular current flow in the circuit. At a minimum, consider putting these in your bathrooms, kitchen, and utility rooms. If you have a pool or jacuzzi, you want to use these near those as well.
Matching Your Appliances and Outlets
Appliances are not just your refrigerator, stove, and washer or dryer. This term is actually used for anything you plug into your electrical system.
For greatest safety, match the plugs on your appliance with the outlet. That means not using adapters to use a three-prong plug with you only have two in the wall. It also means matching how much current you need with the outlet and wiring.
Dealing With Outlets that Are Not Working
It is obvious there is a problem if one of your outlets is not electrical current coming from it. The very first thing to check is others on the circuit. Next, check the breaker to make sure it was tripped by drawing too much current. If that does not solve it, consider calling a licensed electrician to troubleshoot what else may be going on.
Burning Smells and Scorch Marks
You have a problem if any of your outlets emit a burning smell or have scorch marks on the cover. These indicate you have some electrical arcing, which is a major fire hazard. If you notice either of these, turn off the current at the breaker and call for an electrician.
Appliances Will Not Stay Plugged In
A common problem in older outlets is the appliance plug not staying seated in the wall. Some people try to force things to stay plugged in, which can create additional problems. This problem is caused by the contactors loosening over time. The only outlet repair is to replace it. Be sure to avoid the risk of electric shock or worse by turning off the current to the circuit before you begin.
Another major problem is if your cover is warm to the touch. This heat is generated by passing more current than the circuit can handle. Worn or aging wiring and outlets can reduce the amount of current it can pass. Another problem is that the wiring in the wall is not rated for the same amount of current the breaker will pass. This will generate extra heat and pose a fire hazard.
We have all seen lights flicker when a refrigerator cycles or the air conditioning turns on. In a properly structured system with a distributed load, lights should not flicker at all. If lights do flicker, it should only be on a single circuit not through the entire house. If you see this, it can indicate any number of problems, including shorts and worn-out outlets. Flickering lights can be a difficult electrical repair to navigate because of the litany of possible causes. Be sure to enlist the help of a licensed electrician.
Chipped or Cracked Covers
Chipped and cracked covers are a little of an eyesore but actually pose a safety problem to your outlets. These allow extra dust and dirt to settle into the outlet. If any heat is generated or any arcing occurs it can ignite a significant fire inside your walls. This is an easy an inexpensive fix most people can do on their own with a screwdriver.