Top 10 Electrical Troubleshooting Tips
Electrical troubleshooting is a standard process of elimination by which one determines the root cause of an electrical problem. Electrical failure can be caused by something as simple as a tripped circuit breaker or something more complicated such as faulty or incorrect wiring that’s gone bad or even bad connections that have been aggravated by conditions in the environment, such as moisture.
There’s a lot involved in a home electrical wiring system, and chances are that you may ultimately need an electrician to resolve the issue. But if you want to try to find the source of the problem on your own, here are the top 10 electrical troubleshooting tips to follow. Keep in mind that when working with electricity, you always need to consider safety first. Be very careful that wires aren’t live before you come into contact with them.
- Double check the device that’s not working. Before you go any further, be sure the device in question is turned on or the light bulb is working. You might also try plugging another working item into that particular outlet to see if the problem is that the device itself is broken.
- Determine whether the problem is local or widespread. See if this problem exists in a localized area of your house or all over. House-wide electrical outages usually have to do with a problem your power company is having. You might also check to see if the issue exists within your neighbors’ homes as well.
- Check your breakers and fuses. Sometimes the answer is as simple as a tripped circuit breaker or blown fuse. Circuit breakers are meant to be a safety feature, in that when a circuit is overloaded, it cuts off the power, preventing fire or severe electrical shock.
- Use your electrical schematic drawings. These provide a map of all the electrical wiring in your home and how the circuits are divided. This will further help you to pinpoint the issue.
- Shut down the problem circuit. Once you’ve determined the faulty circuit, shut it down if you haven’t already. This is an important safety precaution that needs to be taken. Once it’s shut down, label the circuit so that others will know you are working on it.
- Locate the trigger. Once the circuit is down, inspect that area of your home to see if you can identify what triggered the breaker trip. How many things do you have plugged in on this circuit? Is something like a hairdryer triggering the overload? Space heaters are notorious in overheating a receptacle over time, leading to wiring problems.
- Check the switch. Sometimes the problem can be due to a faulty switch. Check the switch with an OHM meter to rule out this possibility.
- Inspect your connections. Making sure the power is off, be sure all the connections are well made. A loose connection can lead to problems, including shorts.
- Look at your neutral wires. If a hot wire doesn’t test okay to a neutral wire, it can shut the circuit down. Be sure to check all neutral connections at the source and at any junction leading to the problem area.
- When in doubt, call an electrician. Only troubleshoot to the extent you feel comfortable. Electricity is dangerous to work with, so don’t proceed if you’re unsure. Once you’ve determined the issue, an electrician may be needed anyhow to fix the problem.