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3 Signs Your House Has Bad Wiring

Household electrical fires kill about 485 Americans every single year, says the United States Fire Association, and another 2,305 are injured. There are many signs that you have bad wiring in your house, and if you know what to look for, you can get the problem fixed before a fire develops. Here are three signs that you could have a serious wiring problem in your house.

Your lights are flickering

Flickering lights may be a sign that your light bulbs are old and need to be changed, but if new bulbs don't solve the problem, you could have a serious problem with your electrical wiring. There are a couple different electrical problems that can make your lights flicker.

Some of the wires that connect to your electrical panel could be loose. Loose wires can lead to electrical arcs. Electrical arcs mean that sparks need to jump through the air to make their connections, instead of safely traveling through the wires. This is a major fire hazard.

Flickering lights can also be caused by an overloaded circuit. If you live in an older home, your electrical system may not be able to handle all of the newer appliances that come with modern life, like computers, microwaves, and dishwashers. An overloaded circuit is also a fire hazard, so if you notice flickering lights, you need to call an electrician right away.

Your outlets are hot

Outlets that are hot to the touch or charred are a major warning sign of electrical problems. It's normal for outlets to a bit warmer than room temperature if they have something plugged into them, but outlets should never be too hot to touch, and they should never be warm if nothing is plugged into them.

Hot or charred outlets can be a clue that you are overloading your circuits. Electrical circuits are usually wired in a loop that travels from the electrical box to various outlets and then back to the box. If the circuit is overloaded, the excessive current may pass through an unused outlet, which makes it feel hot.

Excess heat in the outlets can also be caused by loose or damaged wires. Wires can become loose over time or may have been installed improperly. Wires can become damaged by pest activity (like squirrels or rats) or by do-it-yourself electrical repairs gone wrong.

You smell something burning

If you smell plastic or vinyl burning, but can't identify the source of the smell, the odor may be coming from inside your walls. This odor can be a sign of an electrical fire. Electrical fires can be caused by overloaded circuits that are putting too much stress on your electrical system, loose wires, or damaged wires. Fires that start in the wiring can smolder for some time before you see flames, so the burning smell may be the only clue that you have a serious problem.

If you notice a burning smell inside your house and think it's coming from your wiring, you need to turn off the power to your house immediately and contact an electrician. Finding the overheated, smoldering wire can be difficult. An electrician will need to search your home for circuits that are warmer than others, and may need to use a thermal imager to find parts of the home that are warmer than they should be. Once the faulty wire is located, it can be repaired before the fire spreads.

Electrical fires are a serious problem, but your house often gives you clues that this emergency is about to happen. Stay alert for flickering lights, hot outlets, or strange burning smells, and if you notice these problems, call an electrician right away. 

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