symptoms of electrical problems in the home
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symptoms of electrical problems in the home

Do you have lights in your home that dim when the refrigerator kicks on? Have you ever felt a slight shock when you touch your stove with wet hands? These are just two situations that should be looked at by an electrician. I didn't give any attention to the lights that were dimming in my laundry room when I turned my dryer on. A few months after I had noticed it, we had a small electrical fire in the ceiling. To find more home electrical symptoms that shouldn't be ignored, visit my website. Here, you will find symptoms, problems and solutions for each.

symptoms of electrical problems in the home

Oh No, Your Circuit Breaker's Trippin': What Causes A Breaker To Trip And What You Should Do If It Happens Too Often

Emily Ford

Did you grow up in a home where the hair dryer and the vacuum cleaner couldn't run at the same time or you'd lose power? Maybe your older home today has issues when you try to turn on too many appliances at the same time. Fortunately it is relatively easy (depending on where it's located—those basement spiders can be scary!) to flip your circuit breaker back on. But if this happens too many times, there could be a significant problem with your residential electrical system.

Understanding Circuits

Before thinking about what is causing your breaker to trip, it's helpful to understand what circuits are and how they're typically set up. A circuit is basically a route that power goes through; each room or group of rooms in your home is on a circuit. 

Bedrooms and living rooms that usually only have lamps and maybe a TV don't need as much power, so they're on 15-amp circuits. (The "amp" is short for Ampere, which is a measurement of how much power flows past a point in a second.) Rooms where you've got appliances, like kitchens, laundry rooms and bathrooms, usually have 20-amp circuits. Sometimes you've got a big appliance like a water heater or range that takes a lot of power, so it's on its own circuit and may take an even higher amp breaker.

Most of the time, you won't have every electricity-demanding item that's on a circuit operating at the same time. Circuits are usually set up with the assumption that not everything will be on simultaneously, and if it is, the circuit doesn't function right. It's similar to how cell phone service normally works great unless everyone is trying to call out in an emergency, and then calls are dropped or won't go through at all.

What Causes Breakers to Trip

If you do operate too many things on one circuit, it can pull more power than than the circuit is designed to handle. A circuit breaker is a safety feature that is designed to shut off power if too much is going through a single circuit. This prevents damage to wiring or appliances, or worse, a fire.

There are three main reasons why circuit breakers start to trip regularly:

  1. Overload: There's too much on one circuit, and you're using it all at the same time. You might notice this happens when, for example, it's hot day and you have the normally quiet air conditioner running at full blast, then try to turn on the TV. The circuit isn't designed to handle the power requirements of both the lamps you may have on, the air conditioner and the television set. You can either turn things off or, long term, look at rewiring some of the appliances on their own circuits.
  2. Short circuit: This happens when something goes wrong with your wiring, and normally non-touching hot wires make contact. When they do touch, it pulls current and your breaker will click off. You might suspect this if you turn off all the appliances on a circuit and the breaker is still snapping off immediately.
  3. Ground fault: This is when a hot wire touches the ground wire. It's similar to a short circuit. 

There are also a few other reasons for circuits to trip, including thunder storms that cause a power surge or defective breakers. 

Regardless of what causes your breakers to trip, if it's occurring regularly or you can't get the breaker to come back on for more than a couple of seconds, don't force it. Call your residential electrician (like those at Sun Coast Electric & Networking Inc) for an evaluation and a fix for your overloaded or malfunctioning wiring.