Even for longtime Metroplex homeowners, electrical wiring problems can be easy to miss. Faulty or old wiring is a leading cause of house fires, so it is important to be able to detect a problem before it becomes a big issue.

Know the Source

It’s easier for homeowners to diagnose electrical problems when they understand how their electrical systems are designed. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, the heart of a home’s electrical system is the electrical service panel, which routes the electricity coming into the home to various outlets. Electrical service panels also contain fuses or circuit breakers that cut off power if electrical system failure occurs or if the system becomes overloaded.

Older homes tend to have more electrical problems, often starting at this service panel. According to Dallas-based Milestone Electric, older homes often have undersized panels that can’t handle modern electricity usage levels. Putting too much strain on an old panel by using too many electronics, small kitchen appliances, and computers can cause trouble with the home’s electrical wiring. Homeowners can determine if their panel is failing by checking to see if the copper bus bar has any arcing, pitting, or discoloration.

Time to Move the Panel?

If your panel is in a bathroom or bedroom closet — both common locations in homes built before 1980 — Milestone Electric recommends moving it. Although most Metroplex municipalities originally had homes with these setups, locating a panel near flammable clothing or water is dangerous. Most modern home builders install the electric service panel next to the electric meter outside the home.

Although checking the electrical service panel is a good idea when trying determine if a home has electrical problems, most homeowners notice problems elsewhere first. Problems tend to surface first with air conditioners or with certain appliances, such as microwaves. According to Milestone Electric, the following symptoms are signs that an electrical system needs repair or an upgrade:

  • Power outages
  • Buzzing noises
  • Sparks around an electrical appliance
  • Outlets, wall plates, cords, power cords, or plugs feeling hot to the touch
  • Smell of burning wire or plastic
  • Flickering lights, especially when the air conditioner or other appliances are in use
  • Circuits tripping or fuses blowing in the electric panel

Although it’s best to be vigilant all year, Dallas-Fort Worth homeowners are most likely to notice problems in the summer months, especially if they have an electric air conditioning unit. Air conditioning units require a lot of power; on very hot days when the units run almost continuously, using excess appliances or electronics can overload older homes’ electrical systems. Being informed about these types of electrical problems can help prevent future damage to homes.

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