Simple Troubleshooting Steps to Take When You’re Having an Electrical Issue

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Handling electrical problems yourself is generally ill-advised. The electrical current that runs in your walls can be deadly. As a rule of thumb, electrical wiring repairs should only be made by a professional who knows the science behind electricity and how to safely make the repair for you. However, specifically identifying your electrical problems and knowing when to call an electrician is a tricky task that every home owner faces from time to time.

You want your electrical problems to be handled by someone who can get you in good shape without burning your home down, but you don’t want to pay to bring a professional residential electric contractor to your home if you just have a blown fuse or it’s actually the toaster that isn’t working, not the electrical wiring in your home itself. If it’s any comfort, this isn’t the first time your electrician has made a house call for a silly reason, but you don’t want to stuck paying the bill with a red face.

Before calling in a professional electrician for electrical problems, here are a few simple trouble shooting steps you should take to ensure it’s an issue you need an electrician for:

  1. Narrow down the source of the issue.
    When you plug in an electrical appliance that worked yesterday, and you get a big fat nothing from it, there could be several issues. If it is an electrical issue in the wiring of the outlet, you should definitely leave the repair in the hands of a pro. However, before calling an electrician, take a few minutes to narrow down the source of the issue:

    • Make sure your appliance is switched on. No, we’re serious. You’d be surprised. Likewise, sometimes there is a light switch that turns power to the outlet off. Go ahead and make sure that isn’t the case before proceeding to the next step.
    • If your electrical device has a ground fault interrupters (those black and red buttons that are on gizmos that use a lot of electrical power, like heaters and hair dryers), press both buttons to make sure that’s not the reason for the radio silence.
    • Like the previous point, if the outlet itself has a ground fault interrupter, make sure to play around with that. If both the outlet and the electrical device have ground fault interrupters, this might take some coordination.
    • Plug the appliance into another outlet on another circuit (try another room across the house). If it works in another outlet, you know the issue isn’t the appliance itself. Plug another appliance into the malfunctioning outlet to narrow down the issue.
  2. Check the breaker box.
    Your breaker box has several safety features to prevent your wiring from being overloaded and burning your home down. If too much energy is flowing through the circuit at one time, the switch might break, to prevent an overload. Otherwise, it might be a blown fuse (an extremely simple issue to repair yourself). Simply scan the breaker box and check to see if any switches are off or if a fuse is blown. In the latter case, you might have to make a trip to a hardware store to get a new fuse.

  3. Look for an obvious problem.
    If you know the issue is a wiring issue, you might be able to save your electrician some time by identifying the issue before they arrive. Of course, only follow this step if you have enough knowledge of electricity to stay safe.

    1. First, switch the breaker off to cut power from the entire area.
    2. Next, inspect the problem area for any visible damage.
    3. Take the face plate off the outlet and look for loose wires or signs of burnt wires.
    4. If you have a OHM meter, test the outlet for an electrical current. If it is not working, you know it’s time to call in the big dogs.
  4. After you have followed these steps, you will either have identified the simple cause for the issue that you can fix yourself, will know what the issue is and know that that you need a professional electrician, or you will not know why you’re having electrical issues, but will know that you need a pro to fix it!

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