Basic Electrical Troubleshooting Tips For Your Home

Basic Electrical Troubleshooting Tips For Your Home

Got flickering lights or a wonky outlet at home and scratching your head on what to do? You’ve hit the jackpot! Dive into some easy-peasy tricks for zapping those electrical gremlins right out of your house. Before you know it, you’ll be basking in the glow of a safe and solid electrical system.

Check Circuit Breakers or Fuses

If your electrical devices are not working, one of the first troubleshooting steps you should take is to check your circuit breaker or fuse box. A circuit breaker is a switch-like device that automatically shuts off power to the entire house when it detects a large surge in current. Fuses are devices that will block the flow of electricity if they detect too much current in an electrical system. Depending on the age and make of your home, one or both may be installed.

Checking circuit breakers and fuses is easy and can save you a lot of time if it turns out your electricity problem was caused by nothing more than a faulty breaker or blown fuse. To check circuit breakers and fuses, locate your main service panel—it will most likely be located in the garage, basement, or utility room—and open the metal panel door. Inside you should see several labeled switches, which are individual circuits controlled by the main switch (the large switch at the top).

If any of these individual circuits have tripped (moved to an OFF position) you will need to reset them by flipping them back into an ON position. Additionally, use caution when resetting them so as not to overload the panel with too much electricity at once—only reset one circuit at a time so that you may quickly identify which switch stops its flow again after being flipped back into an ON position.

If this does not solve your problems then you may need to investigate further as there could be other root causes for why your appliances/devices do not work properly. However, if all appears in order within the service panel it is likely another issue exists elsewhere such as wiring issues with older appliances/devices or faulty outlets/switches within different areas of your home.

Check Outlets and Switches

Checking outlets and light switches should be a part of your regular home maintenance routine. While some electrical problems are more complex and require professional assessment, basic outlets and switches can often be fixed quickly.

Start by removing the faceplate from any outlets or light switches that are not working correctly. Inspect for signs of wear or damage on both the inside part of the wall and on the outlet itself. Check for loose wires or wiring that has become frayed over time. Tighten any screws that may have come loose and replace any wires if necessary.

If your outlet is controlled by a switch, make sure that it is in the proper position to receive power. If the switch is not functioning properly, check to see if any small pieces have come loose inside the switch casing. If so, they may need to be replaced before it will work properly again.

Look around your home for other signs of electrical issues such as flickering lights or appliances that run slowly when plugged in (this could be an indicator of an overloaded circuit). If you notice anything out of the ordinary with your electrical systems, consider consulting with a professional electrician for further help in troubleshooting any problems you may encounter around your home.

Inspect the Cords and Plugs

Before doing any electrical troubleshooting, you should ensure that the safety of both yourself and your home is top priority. Make sure that all power sources are disconnected, and inspect the cords and plugs for any signs of damage or wear.

Check for:

  • frayed or bent wires
  • cracked insulation
  • loose-fitting plugs
  • any other materials which may be obstructing the connection between plug and socket.

If the cord and plug appears to be in good condition, gently press it into its receptacle in order to secure a stronger connection. If there is still no power in the system, continue with your inspection of possible causes.

Test the Gfci Outlets

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets are installed in homes with electrical circuits containing water. These special outlets provide added protection from electric shock in areas near water sources such as the bathroom, laundry room, kitchen, and basement.

To make sure your GFCI is working properly, you should test it every month. Start by pressing the “test” button which will reset your GFCI outlet’s circuitry by simultaneously opening a slider that disconnects the electricity and activating a trip mechanism designed to detect faults or overloads. If any part of your outlet malfunctions or trips during this simulation, you should replace the entire unit immediately to avoid potential electric shock risks. If not, press the “reset” button to return power to the outlet.

If no problems are found with your GFCI after this test, you may need to check for loose wire connections as well using a voltage tester. Plug it into one of your outlets and make sure that all three lights turn on – if they don’t, it could be an indication of faulty circuitry due to loose connections or other issues requiring professional attention from an electrician.

Know What Appliances Need Special Care

When it comes to electrical repairs around the house, it’s important to know what appliances need special attention. Appliances that are classified as “high-risk” require added safety measures, such as using a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) or double insulating cords on a portable appliance.

Below are some common categories of appliances and electronic devices that should never be serviced by an untrained person:

  • High-Risk Appliances:
    • Gas furnaces
    • Wood stoves
    • Gas grills
    • Hot water tanks
    • Major electric motors
  • Specialty Appliances:
    • Televisions and other Electronic Devices such as computers, VCRs, and DVD players. These items may contain high voltage components that must be handled by qualified personnel only.
    • Microwave ovens – these use high power microwave radiation for cooking, so repair or service must be done with special care.
  • Electrical Components Requiring Special Attention:
    • Circuit breakers/fuses – technical knowledge is needed to understand how these components affect the flow of electricity in your home.
    • Emergency lighting systems – while this isn’t necessarily an appliance per se, emergency lighting is essential in modern buildings and must be serviced by qualified electricians only.

Install Smoke Detectors Properly

Smoke detectors are extremely important devices to have in any home, yet they are easily overlooked or improperly installed. When installing a smoke detector in your home, the most important factor is to make sure it is correctly positioned. It should be placed high on the ceiling, away from air vents and drafts.

The smoke detector should also be situated within 10 feet of the bedrooms in your house and at least 15 feet away from any areas where cooking is typically done. You should also make sure to check the battery backup at least twice a year or as recommended by your manufacturer. Additionally, you will want to test them monthly to ensure that they are working properly.

Finally, it’s a good idea to install multiple smoke detectors for added protection and safety in your home.

Replace Faulty Electrical Wiring

If electrical troubleshooting indicates faulty wiring, it should be replaced in order to ensure a safe and functioning electrical system. Electrical wiring can become damaged over time due to contact with moisture, heat or pests. When you are replacing your wiring, use high-grade wires that are correctly rated for your home’s energy demands. In addition, be sure to contact an electrician or other qualified professional if you are uncertain of the task.

Once your new wiring is installed, keep an eye out for any signs that it might be malfunctioning including sparks and ungrounded outlets. Additionally, test all GFCI and AFCI outlets regularly to make sure they are functioning properly as these devices protect against electrical shock hazards caused by both overloading and short circuit conditions. If any issues arise, contact a certified electrician as soon as possible for help.

Utilize Surge Protectors for Extra Protection

Surge protectors are an essential component of protecting electronic devices from power surges. In the event that your electrical system experiences a power surge, it can cause serious damage to your electronics with no warning and oftentimes without any visible signs. Surge protectors should be utilized for all expensive electronic devices, as well as any connected peripherals such as routers, modems, and printers.

Additionally, it’s important to note that some power strips act like surge protectors, but are not certified for protection against power surges. Make sure you read the product packaging carefully before purchasing any item to ensure it will offer adequate shield against electrical issues.

Finally, ensure that you replace your surge protector every two or three years to guarantee quality performance and a secure energy source for your home.

Look for Signs of Overheating or Burning Odors

Overheating and burning odors are two of the major signs that there is a problem with your electrical system. If any of your outlets, switches or wires feel hot to the touch or emit a burning smell, then it is important to take action immediately. Discontinue using that outlet, switch or wire and contact a qualified electrician to inspect the system for potential problems.

Overheating may be caused by an overloaded circuit, age-related damage, or other issues that can be hazardous if not handled properly. An electrician will be able to accurately diagnose the root of the problem and provide an effective solution.

Know When to Call a Professional Electrician

If you find yourself in a situation where your electrical problems become too complex and difficult to troubleshoot yourself, it is important to consider hiring a professional electrician. Electrical issues can seldom be solved by following simple instruction and may require more extensive knowledge of residential wiring codes, regulations and safety standards.

It is recommended that you hire a licensed electrician with plenty of experience if:

  • Your wiring or circuits are not up to code.
  • You are adding more circuits or outlets in your home.
  • Your home needs rewiring due to aging of the wiring or damage from a storm event.
  • You are replacing an existing switch or electrical outlet in order to install something new (like an A/C unit).
  • You have flickering lights or sparks when flipping on a switch or plugging in an appliance.
  • You need to move any existing wires or install new ones.

Remember, electricity can present deadly risks so it is always best practice to make sure you are relying on the expertise of an experienced professional when dealing with any type of home electrical issue.


In general, when it comes to home electrical troubleshooting, following safety protocols is critical. Be sure to shut off the power before attempting any work and test wires or other components for voltage before touching them. You should also be aware of your local codes and regulations as well as take advantage of any approved classes or informational resources available in your area.

If you’re dealing with a complicated issue that requires repairs from a qualified electrician, it’s always best to contact a professional who understands both local laws and specialized electrical servicing techniques. By taking the time to troubleshoot your home electrical issues appropriately and carefully, you can minimize risks including shock and fire hazards while protecting yours and others’ safety.

Frequently Asked Questions

What tools do I need to troubleshoot electrical issues in my home?

At a minimum, you will need a non-contact voltage tester and a multimeter to safely diagnose the electrical issues in your home.

How can I tell if an electrical outlet is working?

Using a non-contact voltage tester, you can determine if an electrical outlet is working. If the light on the tester turns on, then the outlet is working correctly. If the light does not turn on, then the outlet is not working.

What can I do if a circuit breaker is tripping?

If a circuit breaker is tripping, you can try resetting the circuit breaker by turning off the breaker switch and then turning it back on. If the breaker continues to trip, then you should call a licensed electrician to further diagnose the issue.