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3 Subtle Signs of Electrical Problems in Your Home

Nobody wants an electrical fire, but even the most up-to-date electrical wiring can carry a small risk of electrical problems. Whether it's due to age, human error during installation, or a faulty part, electrical problems can cause fire hazards, shock hazards, and power surges.

Because of these risks, you need to be aware of the signs of electrical problems, hazards, and other issues that might occur in your home. Some of these, such as smoking outlets, are easy to spot. Others, though, can be more subtle. Here are three signs of electrical hazards that may be easier to miss if you're not on the lookout.

1. An Odd Smell

If you smell smoke, you're going to be running for the fire extinguisher, but electrical problems aren't always that easy to spot even when you do follow your nose. A short, arc, or other electrical or wiring problem can produce scents even before anything starts smoking.

These smells aren't always as strong and acrid as a smoke scent; they can be strong or much more subtle, and can take many forms such as:

  • A singed smell (anything near the bad wiring can get singed)

  • An ozone scent, similar to the smell before a thunderstorm

  • Melted-plastic smells from damaged wiring insulation

If any unexplained odors such as these appear in your home, you may have a wiring or other electrical fault. To be safe, call an electrician. If you can isolate the area where the smell is coming from, make sure you turn off the electrical circuits for that area right away while you wait for repairs.

2. Lights That Flicker Oddly

It's fairly common for lights to flicker when a large appliance, such as your AC unit, turns on. However, the type of flickering can tell you whether there's likely to be a larger problem or not. For example:

  • If the lights momentarily brighten first and then flicker, you could have a problem with the circuit breaker's neutral wire

  • If the lights seem to flicker for some other reason, such as from vibration, there could be a loose wire somewhere

These and other odd behaviors can mean that your case of flickering lights isn't the norm and needs to be checked out by an electrician.

3. Infestations of Pests

If you have pests in your home, that doesn't necessarily mean that your electrical system is compromised. However, there are several types of pests that can cause damage to your wiring, and the areas of your home they typically invade (such as the attic and the crawlspace) usually have wires running through them. Here are some of the pests that can cause problems:

  • Mice, rats, and squirrels are all rodents and love to chew on things such as exposed wires

  • Raccoons are fairly large animals and can be extremely destructive to anything in the areas they invade

  • Birds such as pigeons leave corrosive droppings everywhere and can scavenge electrical components for nesting materials

  • Bats don't chew as much as rodents, but they do leave guano everywhere, which can corrode electrical components

  • Fire ants are drawn to electrical things and can short out electrical connections

  • Roaches like to live in enclosed areas such as electrical outlets and thus can cause electrical problems

These common types of pests can all cause damage to your electrical system and pose shock hazards. As you can probably tell, rodents are one of the riskiest types of pests because of their penchant for chewing, but the other types of pests can also cause electrical problems, especially if you're unlucky or have a severe infestation.

If you're on the lookout for these less-obvious signals of electrical problems, you'll be able to get on top of the issue and repair the hazard before it causes any damage or injury. If you find any of these signs and need them checked out, call Street Brothers Electric today for your free safety inspection.

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