Troubleshooting Home Electrical Problems – Part Two
Albuquerque homeowners can benefit from learning how to troubleshoot electricity problems. This is part two of a two-part article on the subject. Listed here are a handful of problems and how to check for them.
Is the power out in part or all your house? This expert advice shows you how to diagnose the cause of a power outage and how to turn the power back on.
When the electrical power goes out in all or part of your house, the first thing to do is determine the extent and source of the problem.
First question: Is the problem in your home’s electrical system or with the utility company’s electrical supply to your home?
Neighbors don’t have power. If the electrical power is out throughout your entire house and your neighbors appear to have lost power too, use a cell phone to call the utility company.
Neighbors do have power. If your neighbors have power and/or any part of your home’s electrical power works, the problem is with your home’s system.
This means you need to check the other rooms if the lights or outlets are out in one room.
How to Check for An Overloaded Electrical Circuit
If your neighbors do have electrical power—or if some of your home’s electricity works—the problem is generally caused by an overloaded circuit, a short circuit, or loose wiring.
You can usually figure that the problem is an overloaded circuit if it occurred when someone was using a hair dryer, electric heater, air conditioner, or some other electrical appliance that draws a lot of electrical current.
Checking the Main Panel
As discussed in The Main Electrical Panel & Subpanels, circuit breakers (or fuses in older electrical panels) automatically shut down an electrical circuit if too much current flows through wires or if the electrical system has a failure. If the circuit is overloaded, a circuit breaker should trip or a fuse should blow, shutting off the entire circuit.
Some circuits are protected by GFCI electrical receptacles (outlets) or circuit breakers. These circuits, typically outlets in a kitchen, bath, or outdoors, are particularly sensitive to shorts and overloads. If the GFCI receptacle of breaker has tripped, it may also shut off all of the receptacles connected to it. You can often solve the problem by simply pushing the reset button on the GFCI devices
If the circuit that isn’t working doesn’t include a GFCI device, check the electrical subpanel or main panel that serves the circuit. Look to see whether one of the circuit breakers has flipped off. This may not be as obvious as it sounds. A tripped circuit breaker won’t necessarily be in the “Off” position—it may be halfway between “Off” and “O
Turn off or unplug everything from the troubled circuit. Then reset the breaker. Turn it all the way to “Off” and then to “On.”
If your system is protected by a fuse box instead of an electrical panel with circuit breakers, replace the fuse that is “blown.” Look for aa broken element beneath the fuse’s glass surface. It’s best to use a tool called a fuse puller to remove and replace the faulty fuse. Do not touch the metal parts with your fingers!
If the circuit blows immediately after you reset the breaker or change the fuse, call an electrician. A charred wire or defective device in the circuit will probably need replacement.
If the circuit doesn’t blow, turn the lights back on and plug in appliances one by one to check for the overload or short circuit.