If you’re a homeowner, you’ve probably tried a few DIY home improvement jobs. If you’re the handy type, some jobs are fun and easy. And doing them yourself can save you some money. For instance, handing a door, installing new blinds, painting a wall, or installing new cabinets can all be done yourself if you have the tools and the will. The nice thing about these jobs is that if you get them slightly wrong, the problems are mostly cosmetic. While it may bug you, a door that hangs slightly crooked won’t hurt anybody.
The same can’t be said for electrical work. If you get a DIY electrical project wrong, at best, your new outlet, fixture, etc., won’t work. And at worst you risk a dangerous shock or even a fire. Using an electrician for running new wires keeps you safe from improper wiring that could endanger your home, your family, and your neighbors. Here are some situations where your best bet is to call an electrician.
1. Your Circuit-Breaker Keeps Tripping
An occasional tripped circuit breaker is not a big deal. You can usually just head to your circuit breaker and flip a switch to turn the electricity back on. In fact, if your circuit breaker trips once in a while, that means it’s working to protect you. A circuit breaker trips to quickly shut off electricity when it detects an unsafe power surge that could damage your appliances or, in some rare instances, cause a fire. But if your circuit breaker is tripping more than once in a while, you may need an electrician.
Frequent power surges may indicate that you are overloading your home’s electrical system. This is especially common in older homes. Decades ago, electrical systems were built to handle a relatively small number of appliances. Today, homeowners tend to have many more electrical devices, from microwaves to televisions to computers and other electronics. Running all of those devices on an electrical system that was not built for them can overload the system and risk damaging your appliances or even causing a fire.
The best way to solve this problem is to add additional circuits and power outlets around the home. And that kind of work should only be done by a licensed electrician.
2. Your Outlets Only Have Two Prongs
This is another problem that is more common in older homes. Many older appliances were not grounded. Grounding makes an electrical circuit safer, but it requires a three-prong plug and outlet. The round third prong is the grounding wire. If your home is lacking three-prong outlets, you may have trouble plugging in many modern devices. Electronics, such as TVs and computers, often use three-prong outlets. If you ever need an extension cord, you will also find that almost all extension cords are grounded—i.e., three-pronged.
Adding a grounded circuit is not hard for a licensed electrician, and it is a relatively small job. But it’s not a DIY project. Wiring mistakes can be dangerous and lead to hazardous shocks or fires. To update your home’s circuits and install grounded outlets, you should always turn to a licensed electrician.
3. Your Outlets Have Black Burn Marks
The saying goes, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. That is not precisely the case with burn marks on your outlets, but it’s close enough to raise an urgent alarm. Black burn marks on your outlet indicate that a wire is loose and is arcing, creating a spark. Obviously, sparks inside your walls are not a good sign, and could easily cause fires if not attended to.
Wires can come loose for many reasons, but mostly it is just a matter of aging. As electricity passes through the wires, the wires expand and contract slightly. This is especially true of aluminum wiring, which is common in homes built between 1965 and 1975. The expansion and contraction slowly loosen the connection with the outlet, and electricity has to jump across a tiny gap to reach the outlet. That jump takes the form of a spark—essentially fire—which is what is causing the burn marks.
An outlet with burn marks requires immediate attention from a licensed electrician. It should be considered a severe fire hazard.
4. Light Switches and Outlets Feel Warm or Tingly
Sometimes it’s nice to feel all warm and tingly. But not when you’re flipping a light switch or plugging something into an outlet. If the light switch or outlet feels warm to the touch, you likely have poorly insulated wires behind them. This is similar to the problem of loose wires that cause burn marks. They are a risk factor for house fires and need to be dealt with immediately.
Similarly, if you feel a slight tingle when you flip a light switch, what you are actually feeling is a tiny electric shock. Wires that are securely fastened and adequately insulated can’t shock you. So if you’re feeling an electrical tingle, something is wrong with your wiring. A licensed electrician can diagnose and fix the problem before it becomes a hazard.
5. You Have Wires Galore
If you find yourself using extension cords, power bars, and outlet extenders, you may be overloading your power circuits. If your home was built with fewer outlets than you need, it probably wasn’t built to handle the amount of power you are drawing. Overloading your home’s electrical system is dangerous. It can damage your appliances and even cause fires. Overloaded power strips and extension cords can also become hot or even spark.
The solution is to run new circuits and add outlets. As we mentioned, running electrical wiring yourself isn’t just a bad idea; it’s dangerous. This type of job definitely requires a qualified licensed electrician.
A good electrician can be hard to find. It’s a highly skilled profession, and you want to make sure you get someone who knows their stuff. If you want to be sure you’re hiring a great electrician, work with a TrustDALE certified electrician company. You’ll be protected by TrustDALE's 7-point investigative review and Dale’s trademark $10,000 Make-It-Right™ Guarantee.