Electricity enables you to enjoy lights, use your coffee maker, heat your home, and more. But while it is a nice convenience, it also comes with a few risks — that of fire and shock — particularly when your wiring is old or poorly maintained. You can prevent fires and shocks by remaining on the lookout for signs of electrical problems before they get too serious. Here are four such warning signs that your electrical wiring may be unsafe.
If one or your lights flicker when you turn it on, you might just have a dying light bulb, so replace the bulb before you get too worried. If the problem persists with even a new bulb, you could have a short in the wiring that is causing the flickering, which is a hazard. Don't use that light until an electrician comes over to check it out.
Never ignore a burning odor coming from an outlet or from an electrical appliance. Even if you do not see smoke, this signals that something behind the wall is getting too warm — either the wires themselves or the materials around them. Turn off the circuit associated with the burning odor immediately, and make sure you keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case of any issues.
It's pretty normal for an outlet to spark if you pull a plug out of it suddenly. But if you see sparking at any other time and for any other reason, that's a giant red flag. Sparking indicates that either the wiring in the wall or the item you are plugging into the wall is damaged. You are best off letting the electrician determine whether the wiring or the appliance is to blame, rather than doing this yourself and risking a fire.
Every once in a while, put your hand over a switch plate cover or outlet cover when the light is turned on or something is plugged in. The cover should not be warm to the touch, even the slightest bit. If you do notice warmth coming from a certain outlet, unplug the appliance ASAP. If a switchplate cover feels warm, turn that light off.
Electrical wiring can present some hazards as it ages. So especially if you live in an older home with older wiring, keep an eye out for these signs that you may need to call an electrician for upgrades.