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5 Signs Your Electrical System Needs an Upgrade

We take electricity for granted. Until, of course, we don’t have it. If you’ve lived through a prolonged blackout you know what I mean. But not all electrical problems are caused by catastrophic events. You may find that your home’s electrical system isn’t keeping up with your needs because of increased electrical usage, causing problems like overloaded outlets, tripped circuit breakers, and more. And with more of us working from home and plugging in more equipment, like laptops, printers, monitors, televisions, and the like, it’s possible that you’ll begin to detect signs that your electrical system is in need of an upgrade.

Some upgrades are simple affairs, and some may require a more extensive makeover. Let’s take a moment to look at the basics of your electrical system and then examine five signs that your system needs an upgrade.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR ELECTRICAL SYSTEM

Let’s take a moment to understand how your electrical system works, and where the weak points of your current system may be. The electricity for your home enters at a single location, where it feeds into a circuit breaker panel. Think of this panel as the distribution center for power in your home. In the panel, there will be a number of circuit breakers, each feeding power to a different portion of your home — the kitchen, living room, bedroom, etc. If your home has an old circuit breaker panel, it may not have enough circuits to handle your current needs, or the individual circuit breakers may not have enough capacity to handle the demands you put upon them. 

If the panel isn’t designed for the demands being placed upon it, it’s possible that excess heat will build up, causing your wiring’s insulation to melt. That can create sparks that will lead to a fire. And if the individual circuit breakers aren’t up to the demands of your home’s needs, they’ll be prone to trip and shut off power when you need it. That’s an inconvenience at best, and a danger at worst. 

1. YOU’RE TRIPPING CIRCUIT BREAKERS

One of the most obvious and common signs of trouble with your electrical system is having one of your circuit breakers trip. You’ve started your morning coffee and fired up the toaster, but when you turn on the microwave, everything shuts off. That’s a clear indication that the individual circuit powering your kitchen isn’t up to the task.

The simplest and most obvious solution to this problem may seem to be to replace the circuit breaker supplying your kitchen with one that has a greater capacity. But this can create new problems if the wiring supplying the kitchen isn’t designed to handle the greater load. If you have problems with circuit breakers tripping, consult a qualified electrician or contractor so you can examine all of your options. A simple circuit breaker swap may do the job, but it may be necessary to add an extra circuit or upgrade your wiring to solve the problem.

2. YOUR SWITCH PLATES, OUTLETS, OR ELECTRICAL PANEL ARE HOT TO THE TOUCH

If you ever touch a light switch or electrical outlet and find them unexpectedly warm, you could be facing a serious problem. This shouldn’t happen in a properly designed and maintained home electrical system. Consult with an electrician right away and have them check to see if your home’s wiring is up to the task you’re asking it to do.

3. OUTLETS AND CORDS AND STRIPS, OH MY!

Have you been afraid to look at the jumble of cables under your desk, or use caution to avoid tripping on extension cables when walking across the room? If you’re running out of wall outlets and find yourself relying on power strips, extension cords, and multi-outlet power taps to plug in your equipment you could be looking at a real problem.

Not only are these stopgap measures a messy solution, but you also run the risk of overloading the circuit that these extra outlets are plugged into, resulting in tripped breakers or overloaded wiring. Consult with an electrician about adding extra outlets in heavily used areas, and upgrading the wiring and circuit breaker for that room if necessary.

4. DIMMING OR FLICKERING LIGHTS

Dimming and flickering lights can indicate several potential problems with your home’s electrical system. To have an idea of what the problem is, you’ll need to categorize the behavior.

  • Your lights dim when you increase the load on a circuit. For example, if the lights in your kitchen dim when you turn on a toaster or other appliance, or if the lights in your family room dim momentarily when you turn on the television, that’s an indication that the wiring in that room’s circuit doesn’t have the capacity to handle the demands on the circuit. That can cause overheating in the wiring or the receptacles, a potentially very serious problem.

  • Light in your home flicker randomly. First, take note of whether this occurs with only one light, or with numerous lights. If the issue is limited to one light, the wiring leading to that light may be faulty. If numerous lights are involved, you may have more extensive issues.

If flickering or dimming lights are an issue in your home, don’t delay. Get it checked out by a qualified electrician or electrical contractor.

5. DISCOLORED OUTLETS

If you notice any discoloration or what appears to be burn marks on or around any of your electrical outlets you may have a serious issue with your electrical system. Discoloration often indicates the presence of high temperatures in the outlets, which means that your circuits are carrying more current than they should. Outlets that experience excessive heat can experience failure, leading to sparking and the potential for fires.

To DIY or Not?

If you’re handy around the home, you may be tempted to go the DIY route and fix electrical problems yourself. Proceed with caution before going down this route. While some very basic electrical issues, like replacing an outlet or light switch, may be suitable for the handy homeowner, more extensive issues should be diagnosed and repaired by qualified electricians. At Team Enoch, our electricians have the training and experience to tackle just about any electrical system problem, from small to large. Be sure to get in touch with us. Estimates are always free, and the job may be less expensive than you think!

Get the Pros Onboard

Unresolved electrical problems can be more than just an inconvenience. They can directly affect the safety of your home and everyone who lives in it. Don’t delay if any of the signs we’ve discussed, or others, show up in your home. Schedule a check and get an estimate by getting in touch with one of our qualified electricians.

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8 comments on “5 Signs Your Electrical System Needs an Upgrade”

  1. It makes sense that you should seek professional help immediately if you notice that your outlets are hot since it can be a sign of a faulty electrical system. My wife hurt her hand when she was trying to plug her phone's charger into our bedroom outlet before bed, and we would like to ensure that our wiring is safe before we adopt a child next year. Maybe we should hire an electrician that will ensure that our home is safe.

  2. Thank you for mentioning how the wiring leading to one of your lights may not be working properly if it is the only one that is flickering. My brother is interested in installing recessed lighting in his living room before he hosts a party this weekend, but he has noticed that some of his lights tend to flicker whenever he keeps them on for too long. Maybe he should find an electrical contractor that can assist him.

  3. I feel strongly about it and really like mastering more on this subject. If feasible, as you acquire experience, would you mind updating your blog with much more information. It is very helpful for me. thanks for sharing amazing information.

  4. I like that you said that I should consider calling an electrical contractor if we're running out of outlets and rely heavily on extension cords because we might overload the circuits. Our office has recently upgraded to new computers and printers, so we bought a couple of extension cords for the new technologies. I'll talk to my boss later about what you said, so we can prevent a disaster and contact a commercial electrical contractor soon. Thanks for this!

  5. It’s hard to come by experienced people about this subject, however, you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  6. I had no idea that your wiring's insulation may get damaged if your panel is being overworked. My wife and I need to hire an electrician that can help us before we sell our house next month. We'll look for someone that can handle our electrical problems soon.

  7. It really helped when you talked about how your house's flickering lights mean you're dealing with major electrical issues. Recently, my wife and I got a home theater system, and every time we use it, our lights start to flicker lightly. We thought it was nothing, but now, we'll be sure to look for an electrician's help before it's too late! Thanks for the information on electrical failures and when it's time to call a professional.

  8. Thank you for explaining that discolored outlets can be dangerous because it shows they could be overheating. My husband and I have been noticing some of this around our house. We'll be sure to talk to someone soon to see what is wrong.

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