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10 Common Home Electrical Problems

After over 50 years in Denver providing residential electrical services to the metro area, we’ve come across just about every electrical problem out there.

Here are a few of the more common home electrical problems.

Light switches not working properly

Just like other items with moving parts, switches wear out over time and, unfortunately, they can’t be repaired, so they must be replaced.

If you are new to your home, you might find switches that don’t seem to operate anything. In those cases, look for a wall receptacle that appears to have been installed upside down. This could indicate that the receptacle has been wired to be controlled by a light switch. “Switched” outlets can be used to control a table lamp via the switch rather than using the on/off control that is part of the lamp.

Dimmers not working properly

A common issue with dimmers not working properly could be attributed to the level of light the dimmer is set at when last used. Most dimmers have two components: the on/off switch and the slide dimmer (to the right of the on/off switch on the Lutron Diva Dimmers). You can check to make sure the switch portion is in the on position and that the movement of the slide dimmer adjusts the light.

In other situations, if the fixture has recently been replaced or new bulbs were recently installed, specifically if the new bulbs are LED bulbs, it’s possible the new fixture or bulbs might not be compatible with the existing dimmer. If the bulbs are not compatible, the dimmer will still operate the fixture, but it might not dim completely, or it might flicker at brighter levels, or the lights might strobe.

Circuit breaker tripping frequently

In general, tripping circuit breakers are indicative of a problem – an overload or a short – on the circuit that is attached to the breaker. Just like light switches, breakers can get old and wear out. If you have a breaker that frequently trips and needs to be re-set, it is advisable to have one of our licensed Denver residential electricians check to determine whether the issue is with the wiring or if the breaker needs to be replaced.

When using space heaters or portable air conditioners be aware that these units use a substantial amount of power and can frequently be the cause of an overloaded circuit.

If you have recently started using a portable space heater or air conditioner and are having an issue with tripping breakers, this might be the issue. If that is the case, a dedicated circuit can be added to the panel that will be appropriate for the electrical needs of the appliance.

Electrical shocks

Sometimes electrical shocks are the result of strong electromagnetic static, especially if you notice that you’re also getting shocked when you touch something non-electrical such as a doorknob or a metal handrail, etc. If you are getting a shock from an appliance, such as kitchen appliances or those in the laundry room, call us to have one of our Denver residential electricians diagnose and resolve the problem.

Lights that brighten or dim

This could be related to a power quality issue that could originate with the power company or it could be a wiring issue within the house. If the lights dim briefly when the A/C or furnace or an appliance begins its cycle, this is not uncommon, but we recommend that one of our licensed Denver residential electricians look at the electrical panel to determine the issue.

Bulbs burning out too quickly

This can be a frustrating issue, especially if the bulb is in a difficult to reach location. One reason for bulbs burning out too quickly could be from using a bulb with wattage that is too high for the fixture. This will create too much heat for the socket or the internal fixture wiring.
Another issue can be from extensive use. For example, a porch light that uses a halogen flood lamp and is typically on from dusk to dawn will have more usage during the winter than during the summer. If the porch light is operated by a photo-cell, during the winter months the light will be on for nearly 14 hours per day. With that level of usage, the flood lamp will likely burn out in approximately three months.

In general, halogen or incandescent bulbs typically do not last as long as other types of bulbs. For longer lasting bulbs, consider moving to LED bulbs where appropriate.

Other reasons not related to bulbs could be loose connections or other wiring problems that should be checked by one of our licensed Denver residential electricians.

Sags and dips in power

Everyone is familiar with the occasional sag or dip in power. If your power issues occur more than occasionally, your best bet is to have the issue checked out either by the power company or by one of our qualified electricians. In these instances, there are simply too many variables for the handy homeowner to troubleshoot. Hiring a qualified electrician or having the issue checked by the power company is your best bet.

High electric bills

High electric bills could be another instance of understanding the usage of the lights in your home. Do you have a busy household? What kind of heating or cooling is used in your home? These variables can contribute to a higher electric bill.

Xcel Energy offers a home energy audit. Learn more about scheduling an energy audit with Xcel Energy. https://www.xcelenergy.com/programs_and_rebates/residential_programs_and_rebates

Chirping smoke detectors

If your smoke detectors are battery-operated, the chirping sound generally signals that it’s time to change the battery. If that doesn’t stop the chirping, we have found that the best solution is to replace the detector.

Smoke detectors, like light switches, are not manufactured in a way that they can be opened and repaired. Whether your smoke detector is battery operated or hard-wired, you should be able to look at the label on the detector to determine when the device was manufactured as well as when the manufacturer recommends replacing the detector.

Recessed light goes out and comes back on

If you have a recessed light that shuts off and then comes back on after a few minutes, this is because the thermal overload unit has been triggered to turn off the light because too much heat is building up. This could happen because the bulb wattage is too high.

Another common reason is that the fixture is in direct contact with insulation, which will cause it to become too hot. If the lights in a bank of recessed lights go off, then it is likely an issue with the wiring, and you will want one of our qualified Denver residential electricians to determine the issue and solve the problem.

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