Electrical issues such as an outlet or light switch that stops working can be annoying, but they generally aren’t an emergency or something that you need to have fixed immediately. However, some electrical problems are definitely an emergency, as they could cause serious damage or lead to a risk of fire or electrocution. We’ll take you through the most common household electrical emergencies so that you know what to do if they arise and when you need to call for emergency electrical service in Shakopee, MN.
One obvious sign that your home has electrical issues is if you ever get shocked when you plug something in or touch a light switch, appliance, or electrical device. You may also encounter a situation where you get shocked when you touch a metal part on a plumbing fixture, such as your faucet or showerhead handle. This issue means that a live wire has come loose and is touching a metal pipe, which causes electricity to flow into the water and through your plumbing system. In either case, it’s best to shut off your home’s electricity by flipping the main breaker off. Once the power is safely off, call for an electrical inspection.
The Electrical Panel Hums or Buzzes
There are often times when you’ll hear a faint humming or buzzing noise when standing in front of or near your main electrical panel or a subpanel. If the noise is faint and it doesn’t get louder over time, you usually have nothing to worry about. In this case, the sound you hear is usually just the electrical current flowing through the panel.
If you can hear a loud, continuous humming or buzzing, even when not standing directly at the electrical panel, it typically indicates that one of the circuit breakers in the panel has failed. Circuit breakers should always trip instantly any time the circuit is overloaded. If the circuit gets overloaded and the breaker fails to trip as it should, it will often result in a loud, constant buzzing sound. This is an extremely serious issue that requires immediate attention. An overload can cause the wires in that circuit to become extremely hot and potentially catch fire. In this situation, it’s a good idea to flip the main breaker in the panel off to stop electricity from flowing into your home and greatly reduce the risk of fire or serious electrical damage.
There are also situations in which an electrical panel can start making a sizzling or sparking sound, and you may even see the panel sparking. This issue typically indicates that one of the wires in the panel is damaged or one of the connections is loose. It can cause an arcing fault where the electricity arcs or jumps from one wire to another. An arcing fault is one of the most serious electrical issues and poses an extreme safety hazard. In the United States alone, arc faults cause more than 30,000 house fires each year, so this is another issue that requires immediate attention. If you notice this problem, don’t touch the panel or even go near it, as the current could jump across and seriously burn or electrocute you.
The Circuit Breakers Continually Trip
Circuit breakers should rarely trip and only if you have too many devices plugged in and are trying to draw too much power. If you have one breaker that often trips, it typically means that a loose connection or damaged wire is causing a short circuit and leading to the power spiking. It could also be that an appliance connected to the circuit or a device you have plugged in is damaged and short circuiting. In this situation, don’t keep resetting the breaker, as it could lead to a safety hazard or severely damage the wiring and anything that connects to the circuit.
If you have multiple different circuits that keep tripping, it typically means that the wires in those circuits are bad and causing arc faults or that there is an issue with your electrical panel itself. In this case, you’ll need to have an electrician perform a complete inspection to check for bad wires, loose wire nuts, etc.
An Outlet or Light Switch Feels Hot, Smokes, or Has Burn Marks
An outlet or switch that feels hot, starts smoking or has any visible smoke or burn marks on the cover plate is another issue that requires major attention. Any of these issues are a sign that there is too much current flowing through the circuit. This can happen simply because the circuit is overloaded. It can also be a sign that one of the wires is damaged or one of the connections or wire nuts is loose. Again, these issues can cause a short circuit, leading to the current arcing and the wires heating up so that the cover plate on the outlet or switch feels hot. If you see or smell smoke, it means that a wire has gotten so hot that the insulation around the wire or the plastic on the plug has started to melt.
If you notice any of these issues with one of your outlets, immediately unplug everything from the outlet. You should then shut off the circuit breaker that controls whatever circuit the outlet is on or the circuit that the light switch is on if it has any of these issues. In most cases, each circuit will be clearly labeled in the electrical panel so that you can quickly find the right one and shut it off. If the panel isn’t labeled or you can’t find the right breaker, just shut off the main breaker instead.
The GFCI Outlet Won’t Shut Off
Most modern homes have ground fault circuit interrupter or GFCI outlets in the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, utility room, garage and any other place where the power source could be exposed to water. If water does get inside the outlet, the GFCI will instantly trip so that you don’t get electrocuted if you touch the outlet or plug anything into it.
GFCI outlets are easy to identify, as they have a small green light in the corner and two buttons labeled “Test” and “Reset.” All GFCI outlets in your home should be tested monthly to make sure the internal circuitry still works and will shut off electricity to the outlet if water causes a ground fault. If the GFCI is working, the outlet will lose power when you press the Test button, and the green light will go out. If nothing happens when you test the outlet, you should have an electrician replace it as soon as possible to ensure that the outlet is safe.
If you ever experience an unexpected electrical emergency, our experts at Finch Home Solutions are available to help 24/7. Our licensed electricians specialize in electrical inspections and all types of electrical repairs. We can also assist if you need a service upgrade, a new panel installed, rewiring or any other electrical upgrades or installation services in Shakopee or the surrounding areas. No matter what type of electrical emergency you have, give us a call, and we’ll take care of it immediately.