Is an Electrical Repair an Emergency?

March 6, 2024

There are always times when you’ll need to have certain things in your home repaired. You can put off many home repairs until you have time to handle them yourselves or save up enough money to hire a professional. However, there are also some things that you definitely shouldn’t put off and need to be taken care of immediately, especially with certain electrical issues. Having an outlet or a light fixture that suddenly quits working is generally not much more than an inconvenience. However, all of the other problems we’ll discuss in this article are emergencies since they can all be major safety hazards.

Electrical Shocks

One obvious sign that you need to contact an emergency electrical repair service is if you get shocked when you try to plug something into an outlet or turn a light switch on or off. There may also be situations where you get a small shock when you touch a faucet or other metal plumbing fixture, which indicates that a live wire is touching a pipe. Electrical shocks can occur due to various issues and are definitely not something you should ignore.

Outlet Is Burnt or Starts Smoking

If you ever have an outlet that starts smoking or smells like it is burning, it is essential that you take immediate action to lessen the risk of it catching fire. The first thing to do is unplug everything from the outlet. Then, you should go to your main electrical panel and switch off the circuit breaker that controls the power to that room or part of the home just to be safe. If you’re not sure which circuit breaker it is, you can also just shut off the main breaker to stop power from flowing into your home.

If an outlet starts smoking or burning, it almost always indicates that one of its connections is loose or one of the wires feeding it is damaged. When these issues are present, the electricity can start arcing when you use the outlet. Arcing often produces sparks that can start to melt the plastic on the outlet or the wire, which leads to the outlet beginning to smoke and possibly catch fire. This risk of fire is why you should leave the power off to the outlet until you can have an electrician inspect and repair or replace it. If you have any outlet that shows signs of burning, melting, smoking or scorching, it’s also important that you don’t plug anything into it until an electrician can check it out.

Electrical Panel Makes Humming or Buzzing Noises

When you stand right next to your electrical panel, you may occasionally hear a very faint buzzing or humming sound. This is actually normal, and all you’re hearing is the sound of the electrical current flowing through the panel. However, a louder buzzing or humming noise is definitely not normal and often means that there is a malfunctioning circuit breaker that didn’t trip when it should have.

Circuit breakers are designed to trip instantly any time too much current flows and the circuit becomes overloaded. This is important since a spike in current can easily cause its wiring to overheat quickly and possibly catch on fire. Due to the extreme risk of fire and potential damage to your home and electrical system, you should immediately shut off the main breaker in this situation and then call for an emergency electrical inspection.

You may also hear loud buzzing, sizzling, sparking or popping sounds because of a loose connection or damaged wire in the panel. These issues can again cause the current to arc or jump between wires and give off sparks. In this situation, you shouldn’t even go near the panel since you could get seriously burned or electrocuted.

Outlet, Light Switch or Electrical Panel Feels Hot

An outlet or light switch that feels warm or hot to the touch is an obvious sign that it has some issue that is causing it to overheat. As with most other electrical problems, this usually results from a loose connection or a wire that is frayed or otherwise damaged. However, it can also be an issue with a circuit breaker, the electrical panel or simply because your wiring is old and in poor condition. Since overheating could lead to an electrical fire, this is yet another situation where you should immediately shut off either the individual circuit breaker or the main breaker.

Your electrical panel will often feel somewhat warm, but it should never feel hot. If it does feel hot, it means that it has a major issue of some sort that you need to get fixed immediately.

Circuit Breaker Continually Trips

The most common reason a circuit breaker will trip is that you’ve overloaded the circuit by plugging too many things into it and attempting to draw more power than what it is rated to handle. This is something you can easily check for by unplugging everything and then resetting the circuit breaker. If the breaker now stays on, all it means is that you need to be more careful to avoid overloading the circuit.

If the breaker trips again after you’ve unplugged everything, you can be sure that the circuit has a fairly major issue that is causing a short circuit or arc fault. These issues mean that the outlet is unsafe to use due to the risk of fire, so you should always just leave the breaker shut off until you can get an electrician out to inspect everything. Another possibility is that an appliance that is hardwired to the circuit is damaged or malfunctioning and pulling too much power.

GFCI Outlet Doesn’t Work When You Test It

Newer homes should have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets in all electrical receptacles near a source of water. This obviously includes all outdoor outlets as well as outlets in a garage, basement, bathroom, laundry room, utility room and kitchen. GFCI outlets are designed to trip instantly in the event of a ground fault, which happens when the current flows out of the outlet into any unexpected path, such as a person. Ground faults are a serious safety hazard since they can easily lead to fatal electrocution, which is what GFCI outlets are supposed to prevent.

The internal circuit breaker in a GFCI outlet doesn’t last forever and may eventually stop working and fail to trip as it should. This is why you’re supposed to test all GFCIs every month just to make sure they still function. When you press the Test button, the light on the outlet should go out, and no more power should flow to it. The light should then come back on when you press the Reset button and restore power to the outlet. If nothing happens when you press the Test button, it means that the GFCI failed, and you should not use or touch the outlet until you can have an electrician replace it.

Since 1987, Brennan Electric has been providing expert electrical services to customers in Lynnwood, Lakewood and throughout the Seattle area. We specialize in all types of electrical installations and electrical repairs and we’re always here to handle any electrical emergencies you may have. Contact Brennan Electric today if you need an electrical inspection or any other service.

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