When it comes to hammering, you nail it. Mounting, you rule it. But with electrical issues, there is no room for test and learn and YouTube DIY. Let’s look at the most common problems with outlets, light bulbs, dimmer switches and overall power, and learn how to assess if it’s something you can fix yourself or if you should call an electrician.
My outlet is sparking
Although this might worry you, it is perfectly normal from time to time to see a small spark if it’s just a very quick flash. If the spark lasts a few seconds, is bright yellow and is accompanied by the smell of smoke, or if there are burn marks around the outlet, then this is a cause for concern. It is most likely due to one of the following three factors:
- The outlet is wet. This is not uncommon for outlets in the kitchen or the bathroom. The solution here is to install a residual-current device. This will instantly break the electric current if there is a leakage and prevent you from electric shocks or serious fire hazards. Get an electrical contractor to install it for you
- The outlet is old. Like anything and everything, outlets suffer from wear and tear and sparks are usually the first sign that you need to replace it.
- The outlet is overloaded with multiple power strips and appliances. This can cause sparks or a buzzing sound. The solution here is to avoid using multiple power strips and to plug a few devices into another circuit.
- A short-circuiting outlet. The wire insulation may have melted from excessive current and heat. Check carefully for visible signs of melting or scorch marks as this is a serious fire hazard.
Do I need to call an electrician if my outlet sparks?
Verdict: Most likely yes, unless it’s a very small spark that only happened once or twice.
I have a switch that doesn’t do anything
Remember Monica in Friends tearing up her apartment to figure out what a switch with no apparent use does? Her pain is oh so relatable. An easy explanation is that the switch could no longer be in use due to the remodeling of the house. Or it could be that it was meant as a control switch for the room lights but it was never properly wired. Maybe it was meant to control a ceiling fan or a light that was ultimately not installed. So, how can you check?
- Turn off the power and gently remove the cover plate to see if the switch is connected to any wires. If it is, better book a Tasker to help you. Maybe you’re turning the neighbor’s TV on and off every time you flick it!
Do I need to call an electrician if one of my outlets has no apparent use?
Verdict: Yes if it is wired, no if it isn’t. Get help for your electrical work
My bulbs are constantly blowing out
If you are googling this, then the frustration is real. You probably went to the hardware store thinking it was just a bulb issue. And now you’re three bulbs down and none the wiser. There can be several reasons for this:
- A faulty wire connection causing a spark, which leads to overheating and a burned-out bulb.
- A voltage that’s too high can also drastically shorten the lifespan of your bulb. The only way to know if that’s the issue is to either get the help of an electrician or buy a voltage tester.
- A socket that’s too big, too small, or not stable enough can also lead to bulbs regularly blowing out. The socket has to make enough contact with the bottom of the bulb or it might create an electric arc and ultimately overheat. Sometimes just reshaping the metal tabs of the socket with pliers – with the power turned completely off – can fix the issue.
Do I need to call an electrician if bulbs are blowing out regularly in one specific socket?
Verdict: Most likely yes. Find electrical services near you
The power shuts down when too many electrical appliances are on
Old houses especially weren’t built to accommodate many electric devices running at the same time. This can be frustrating when you end up having to choose between the TV, the toaster and the radiator… Frustrating, but also dangerous as the issue can come from a short circuit, your fuse box or a faulty circuit breaker. So calling an electrician is probably best if the power regularly goes out in your home.
Do I need to call an electrician if the power keeps shutting down?
Verdict: Yes, and rather sooner than later, unless you resolved the issue by disconnecting power strips with many plugged in electric appliances.
My light is making a buzzing noise
It could just be a ghost, trying to communicate with you👻. But, most likely, it’s an electrical issue. And a common one with dimmer switches. So what can you try to do before calling a local electrician?
- Turning up or down a dimmer naturally causes the filaments to vibrate if you’re using an incandescent light fixture. This is just the nature of how a dimmer works. So sometimes the only solution is to switch to an LED bulb. First, make sure your dimmer supports LED bulbs and only buy LEDs that are marketed as dimmable.
- If you’re not using a dimmer and still have that annoying humming sound coming from a ceiling light, have a look at the fixture itself. Is the bulb fitting perfectly? Are the screws of the fixture tightened? A very small vibration from a loose part can be the explanation as it can echo on the metal plates.
Do I need to call an electrician if my light is making a buzzing noise?
Verdict: Probably not, unless changing light bulbs and/or dimmers had no effect. In that case, better call an experienced Tasker, or a medium if you adhere to the ghost theory.