When To Call An Electrician

Is there a circuit breaker that keeps shutting things off or overloading?

A tripped circuit breaker is caused when there is an electrical short in the circuit or there is too much current flowing in the circuit.  Likely there is too many things plugged in at once.  Is there multiple power bars plugged into that circuit?  If not, then there may be a short circuit condition in the wires or outlets.  A licensed electrician should be called to troubleshoot a short circuit condition.  Make sure to reset the breaker fully by switching it all the way to the off position and then back on.  Two Pole breakers have a bar across the and only one may be tripped.  Be sure to switch both off all the way and then back on.  If this doesn't solve the problem, call your electrician.

Do you have any of the plugs with the RESET button on them in the bathrooms or near other water sources?

Canadian Electrical codes require GFCI receptacles in the bathroom and near the sink in the kitchen.  Also, any outdoor outlets require GFCI protection.  These outlets should be tested regularly to make sure they will work to protect you from electrical shock.  If the plug isn't working, try resetting the GFCI first before calling an electrician. I recently came across a GFCI in a bathroom that was faulty and tripped the breaker when I tried to reset it.  In this case, you should call an electrician to replace the device and inspect the circuit.

Older homes have too few outlets and not enough light.

Homes built in the 1900's were built with less outlets and light fixtures than homes built in this century.  As a society we require more power to supply the appliances, computers and other items in our homes.  If you are running extension cords or using power bars to plug numerous things into them, it would be a good idea to have a licensed electrician add more outlets and possibly more circuits.  

Adding more light to your living room or kitchen can really spruce up your home and make it more functional.  Using LED fixtures and light bulbs will save you money on your power bill.

Is the main electrical service panel old, rusty, or inaccessible?

Even permanent fixtures wear out or suffer the ravages of time.  Older circuit breakers are made with plastic and will deteriorate over time.  This causes the plastic to become brittle and the mechanisms inside the device may not work properly in an emergency.  There are some brands of circuit breakers that have been known to start fires in homes due to a faulty design.

When rust appears on the metal service panel it often indicates a moisture problem or that deterioration has reached an advanced stage.  Excess moisture in a home’s utility room can cause rust to form inside a panel and old metal circuit breakers. 

Canadian Electrical Code requires a minimum of 1 metre clearance in front of an electrical panel.  Placing large appliances or storing personal items in front of an electrical panel is a safety hazard and can prevent you from shutting off a breaker in an emergency.

Do the lights dim when appliances turn on?

High-demand appliances such as air conditioners, clothes dryers, refrigerators and furnaces need extra power when they start up. This temporary current draw can be more than just a nuisance; it can damage sensitive equipment. 

Do electrical switches or outlets feel warm or tingly?

Loose or deteriorating electrical connections, such as the wiring junctions in switches and outlets, impede current flow and create resistance. This may create a dangerous condition that can result in shock or fire.  A sure sign of a problem is flickering lights.

Do your electrical outlets need accessory plug-strips?

Too many things plugged in at one location can create more current demand than a single outlet or electrical line can safely handle. Adding multiple plug-in strips won't solve the problem. What you need are additional outlets, and possibly new wiring runs to service them.

Do your outlets not accept three-prong plugs?

The third, or grounding, prong on a typical appliance plug provides an extra measure of safety against electrical shock. Older two-prong receptacle outlets, installed in homes before this innovation, may not be adequately grounded and should be upgraded.

Is the wiring in your outlet boxes old and crumbling?

If you look at the wiring to your home's light switches or outlets, do you find wires wrapped in cloth sheathing or bits of black rubber in the electrical box? Very old homes often have antiquated wiring that should be upgraded to ensure your safety.

Have you never upgraded your electrical service?

If your home is over 30 years old, you could have an inadequate and possibly hazardous electrical system-and not even know it. To be safe, call in an electrician for a thorough inspection, and if necessary, bring your home up to today's electrical code standards.