There are some common electrical hazards in the home that experienced electricians see in the course of their work. Many of these electrical hazards can be prevented with a bit of knowledge and small safety measures. The most important thing to do when you suspect you have an electrical hazard in the home is to act. Call an experienced electrician immediately and ask them to investigate for you.
Here are seven common electrical hazards in the home and what you can do to reduce the risk.
1. Experiencing a tingling sensation when you touch a tap or appliance
Sometimes the first warning sign of a serious electrical hazard in your home is a tingling sensation when you touch a tap or appliance. If this ever happens, don’t touch anything else and call your electrician immediately to investigate it for you.
This scenario is one that happens from time to time and is very dangerous. It can be due to factors outside of the homeowners’ knowledge or control, such as fatigued electrical cabling from the street or changes to plumbing piping. An experienced electrician will know how to rectify this fault and what safety measures are needed.
2. Noticing a ‘burning smell’ in your home
If you detect a burning smell somewhere in your house, do not ignore it! It may indicate you have an electrical fault somewhere in the house and this obviously poses a fire risk.
Take a note of where you think the smell is coming from – is it coming from near a power point, or from a particular appliance? Then call an experienced electrician and ask them to investigate.
The cause of a burning smell can be a number of things including exposed or damaged wiring, wiring that was not installed properly, an overload on your circuit breaker switch board, or a faulty appliance.
3. Seeing smoke from a ceiling light
Old style halogen downlights are very common in older homes and can be a fire hazard as they generate a significant amount of heat.
We’ve been to houses where nesting possums in the roof have dragged leaves onto the top of halogen light fittings for warmth, causing everything to melt. If it gets hot enough, it can generate smoke and eventually fire in the roof space.
Modern-style LED light fittings generate significantly less heat and are the safest option in your roof space. LEDs also cost significantly less to run. Swapping over all your halogen lights for LEDS is usually a quick and simple job for an electrician to perform.
4. Tripping appliances due to an overloading of circuits
In busy homes with lots of electrical equipment operating, it is possible to unknowingly overload the home’s electrical circuits. Existing circuits and cabling can only handle a certain amount of load, so think about how many items you have running at once.
If you are adding large appliances to your home, such as an air-conditioner, ensure the installer checks the capacity of your existing switchboard. Big air-conditioning units typically need their own circuit. Limiting breakers can also be installed on your switchboard by a licensed electrician to monitor the electrical load in your house.
5. Faulty smoke alarms
What state are your smoke alarms in? Ensuring you have effectively operating smoke alarms in your home (and enough of them) is the best way to protect your family should a fire suddenly break out.
The Queensland Government has introduced new legislation which requires all households to upgrade to photoelectric, interconnected smoke alarms. You can read more about the requirements and the timeline to comply here.
6. A ‘tripping’ safety switch
If all the lights or power points in one section of your house suddenly go out, go to your switchboard and check your safety switches. Safety switches are fantastic safety devices that cut the power to a circuit if something on that circuit has become an electrical hazard.
If a safety switch is down, see what circuit it relates it (it should be written on the safety switch) and then go into your home and switch off and pull out every appliance and electrical device on that circuit (dishwashers, fridges, toasters, kettles, computers, in-sinkerators).
Once you have unplugged them all, turn the safety switch back on and by a process of elimination, one-by-one plug them back in until you can identify which appliance is tripping the switch and therefore needs to be investigated.
A problem with cabling behind the walls can also cause safety switches to trip, so if you are in any doubt about what is the cause or you don’t feel confident in carrying out the appliance troubleshooting, call a licensed electrician immediately and get them to investigate it for you.
7. Sticking power point switches
Switches on power points that are hard to turn on and off or suddenly seem to become “sticky’’ can be an indication that the fixture or the cabling behind it has become compromised and needs investigation.
We’ve been called to clients homes for this reason and on many occasions when we’ve pulled the powerpoint plate off, the device and the cabling behind it has smouldered due to overheating. This is a serious fire risk and needs to be rectified immediately by an experienced electrician.