If your home is like most, you probably have numerous electrical outlets. Although most times you can simply use these outlets without giving them a second thought, sometimes problems do occur. If you are noticing any problems with one or more outlets in your home, you should immediately evaluate and remedy the problem. If left unattended to, an annoyingly problematic electrical outlet could quickly turn into a serious safety hazard. To avoid personal injuries or fires, calling an electrician at the first sign of outlet problems is usually the best course of action. Here are some common electrical outlet problems that you might be experiencing.
Overloaded Circuits and Outlets
Overloading is often the culprit behind many electrical outlet problems. Although it can be tempting to plug too many appliances or electronic devices into one outlet, it is a practice that should definitely be avoided. If you are using a power strip or an extension box to increase the number of items you can plug into a single outlet, you might be unintentionally setting yourself up for problems. By utilizing power strips and extension boxes, it often becomes possible to plug six or more devices into an outlet that was only designed for two. In some cases, you might simply blow a fuse or trip a breaker switch as a result of overloading the outlet. However, in other cases an electrical fire could be the end result.
Just because your outlet generally works does not mean there are not problems with faulty wiring or a faulty electrical outlet installation. In some cases, even if the wiring has been improperly installed, the outlet will still function acceptably most of the time. If you are experiencing sporadic problems with equipment and appliances plugged into a specific outlet, it might be a symptom of crisscrossed wiring. Sometimes when outlets are installed, mistakes are made. In the case of crisscrossed wiring, the outlet may have been installed with the “hot” and “neutral” wires reversed on the terminal screws. Although appliances and equipment often still work when this situation exists, it can be quite dangerous. Crisscrossed wiring could cause damage to your electrical equipment, due to the reversed polarity. This wiring problem will also generally interfere with the grounding of an outlet, which can also cause damage. If this issue is discovered, the wiring should be fixed immediately to avoid potential problems.
Improper Outdoor Electrical Outlets
Improper outdoor electrical outlets are actually quite common, especially in older homes. Although modern electrical codes require the use of Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt receptacles, often referred to as simply GFCIs, it was common in the past to install standard outlets outdoors. This can cause a very dangerous situation, since moisture is quite common in most outdoor environments. If you accidentally touch an outdoor outlet when it is wet, the fact that it is a GFCI could just save your life. Have all outdoor electrical outlets inspected periodically as a safety precaution, even if they are GFCI outlets, to ensure that water or moisture is not leaking into them.