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Identifying Electrical Problems

Electricians and Energy Topics
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Electrical problems in the home can wreak havoc on your day-to-day life, affecting such major items as your refrigerator and heating system. Electrical failure can stem from your power company or a tripped circuit, or it can be result of more complicated problems such as bad connections or faulty wiring. Although in most cases an electrical problem is going to require a professional, there are certain things you can do to isolate the problem. Here are some ways to identify electrical problems in your home. Keep in mind that electricity can be dangerous, so be sure to research and follow all safety precautions before tinkering with your electrical wiring system.

Electrical Problems

Simple Resolutions

If you discover that an electrical device is not working, before you conclude that it's due to faulty wiring or other electrical problems, double check the device first. Is it turned on correctly? Is something like a light bulb burned out? You might try plugging another device that you know is working into that same outlet to see if you get a different result. It’s also important to determine at this time if the problem is localized to one part of your house or if your entire electrical system is out. Usually when the problem involves the entire house, it’s stemming from the power company. It’s worth a call to see if this is indeed the case.

Identifying the Circuit

The next step is to check out your breaker box to see if a circuit breaker has been tripped or a fuse has been blown. There should be a chart by which you can tell which breakers are related to the outlet or area you’re having trouble with. Before you reset the breaker, inspect that circuit to see what you have plugged in there. High energy users like a hairdryer might cause a simple trip, whereas a space heater may have already caused bigger problems. Call an electrician to be sure before you reset anything.

Inspecting the System

If you’ve identified the problem circuit and want to probe further, then before you do anything else, you need to shut off power to that circuit and label it so that others know you are working on it. Then you might troubleshoot the system, checking for loose connections and worn wires, which can lead to a short. You might check any switches with an OHM meter to see if they’re working properly as well.

When determining electrical problems, it’s important to know your limits. Only troubleshoot to the extent you feel comfortable. Be sure you understand electrical safety, and ask for help when you need it. After all, even if you discover the problem, you may need an electrician to fix it anyway.

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