For most of us, the depth of our electrical knowledge extends to flipping a switch. We know that it turns the lights on and off because of wiring, but past that, it’s a mystery. However, as our homes become increasingly modern and technology starts to take over our lives, more and more people are getting involved in their home’s electrical needs. Rather than trying to figure things out all on your own, here are 12 of the most commonly asked electrical questions and their respective answers.
1. What’s the Difference Between a Fuse and a Breaker?
This is one of the most commonly asked electrical questions that we get. The main difference between a fuse and a circuit breaker is that a fuse needs to be replaced when it’s tripped. A breaker, on the other hand, can simply be switched back on when the problem is fixed. Both fuses and breakers perform the same task, which is why a lot of people have trouble with differentiating the two. When an electrical problem is sensed by the system, fuses and circuit breakers stop the electrical flow through the damaged wiring to avoid serious problems.
2. Why Are My Lights Flickering?
Flickering lights is an annoying problem, especially when it disrupts your everyday life. If your lights are frequently flickering, take note as to whether it continuously comes from the same source or not. If it’s always the same source, it might be the light bulb. You can try changing the bulb and seeing if the problem persists. If the lights continue to flicker on that one fixture, or if they’re flickering throughout your home, you’ll need to get an electrician to fix the problem.
Flickering lights are usually an indication that your electrical wiring is outdated and too weak to carry sufficient amounts of electricity safely throughout your home. However, this isn’t always the case. Flickering lights can also indicate problems with power supply or circuits, so call an electrician to make sure you confirm, and then fix, the underlying cause.
3. What does Short-Circuiting Mean?
A lot of people hear the term “short-circuit” and don’t exactly know what it means. They know what happens when short-circuits occur, but the details and information behind the electrical aspect is lost. A short-circuit is when the wire that carries the electrical current makes contact with a grounded material or the equipment ground. This proceeds to create excessive heat and then power loss. This is because most circuit breakers have a built-in mechanism to detect increased temperatures to help reduce the chances or avoid electrical fires. The sudden break in power is what most people understand as a short-circuit. Whatever device or light that electrical wire was delivering power to will stop working or go out.
Short-circuits can happen for a number of reasons, but most commonly it’s due to an exposed wire or a wire that’s become frayed or loose. If the circuit breaker doesn’t have a failsafe and does not stop sending electricity through a damaged wire, it results in sparks, which can be dangerous and cause electrical fires.
4. Why is My Light Switch Hot?
If you’ve ever felt an overheated light switch, you understand the panic that it causes. It’s unnerving and that’s understandable. Your light switch shouldn’t be conducting heat and if it’s hot, you need to call an electrician. Overheated light switches are an indication that something is wrong and needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Turn your light switch off to break up the circuit and avoid turning it back on until a professional inspection is made. When you continue to use the light switch, you’ll put yourself at risk for a major electrical fire.
5. What is a GFCI Outlet?
GFCI outlets have safety measures built in to reduce the chances of encountering an electrical shock. If there is any moisture present, the GFCI outlet will shut off. You can easily turn them back on using the small reset button—located between the two outlets. If the outlet doesn’t reset and turn back on, you’ll need to diagnose the problem with a professional electrician inspection. These types of outlets are most commonly installed in areas where moisture is prone to accumulate, such as in bathrooms, kitchens, and outside.
6. What’s a Surge Protector?
A surge protector is a small device that helps keep your electrical devices protected in the case of a power surge. These are usually built in to your electronic devices, but occasionally they’re included in the electrical wiring of homes. You can also add a surge protector to your devices using a special plug for the wall. While power surges don’t occur regularly, surge protectors are inexpensive and prevent any problems—it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
7. Why Aren’t my Outlets Working?
One of the most frustrating things you can deal with is going to plug something in and getting no response. When your outlets don’t work, it’s not necessarily a sign that something’s wrong. A lot of the time, there is a light switch that controls the outlet, so first try to look around and make sure that the proper light switches are on. If there are no wall switches around, or the ones that are there still aren’t working, check your circuit breaker. You might have to flip a tripped circuit back on. If everything looks good, call an electrician so you can get to the bottom of outlets that aren’t working.
8. How Can I Tell if my Electrical Panel is Safe?
Electrical panels are comprised of a lot of parts and sometimes, it’s a little confusing to tell what you’re looking at. You should, however, always know whether or not your electrical panel is safe. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to do this unless you’re a licensed electrician. If you think that your electrical panel is causing problems, or feel like something is going on, call an electrician to come out to your house and inspect the panel. Outdated panels are much less safe than modern ones, so you might need to replace your electrical panel to keep your home safe.
9. How Can I Tell When an Electrical Outlet is Unsafe?
This one’s fairly simple. If you see any outlets that aren’t secure or move when you touch it or try to plug something in, the outlet should be considered unsafe. Similarly, if your plugs are constantly falling out of the outlet, it’s not as safe as it should be. Finally, if you notice an outlet radiating heat, unplug your devices and call an electrician. All three of these instances are indications that the electrical outlet is unsafe.
10. My Light Bulbs Blow Frequently, What’s Happening?
If you experience light bulbs that frequently blow out it means that your lights are overheating. This isn’t safe and you should make sure that you have a professional electrical inspection to better understand what’s causing this to happen. When light bulbs blow frequently, you’ll spend more money on replacements and be more at risk for fires.
11. Can I do my Own Electrical Repairs?
No. Even if you think you understand the electricity of your home, if you’re not a certified electrician you should not do your own electrical repairs. Doing so can cause more harm than good and may violate permits that your house needs to be livable. It involves years of training to be an electrician for a reason and to keep your family and your home safe, you should always leave electrical repairs to the professionals.
12. When Should I Call an Electrician?
If you notice any of the problems listed above, or you think that something’s not right, don’t wait to call an electrician. Call a professional, like the ones at Viper Electric, as soon as you notice a problem to avoid electrical fires or more serious damages to your home’s electrical wiring. While these questions are a good starting list, electrical knowledge goes much further than simple questions being answered. Always leave electrical issues up to the professionals and call an electrician whenever you notice a problem
Finding an Electrician
If you need to find an electrician to make an inspection on your home, or fix any electrical problems that you’re having, make sure you us an experienced electrical company like Viper Electric. At Viper Electric, we have the experience you want and need when taking care of any electrical problems.
Viper Electric is a modern business comprised of certified electricians who excel in everything from simple electrical repairs to smart home and business automation. We currently service the Northwest Arkansas area and are here to make sure your home is safe and you don’t suffer through annoying, or dangerous, electrical problems. To learn more about our home automation services, or need to schedule an inspection, give us a call at 479-305-2296 today.