How's Your Wiring? 7 Signs of Faulty Home Wiring

You rely on your electrical system to light your home, power your appliances, and maintain a comfortable indoor climate. One of the most important components of a safe and efficient electrical system is intact and properly installed wiring.

Most of this wiring is situated out of sight in your walls, so how do you know if your wiring is faulty or not?

In our previous blog, “Is Your Home Electrically Safe? 8 Questions to Ask Yourself,” we discussed how aging wiring, especially wiring that’s over 40 years old, can affect your home. In this blog, we list seven additional signs of faulty wiring.

1. Buzzing Sounds

In a closed electrical system, electrical impulses travel seamlessly from their source to a specific fixture or outlet. When a gap develops between wires, the electricity has to jump these gaps, which causes a buzzing sound.

You may notice that the sounds appear when you flip a particular switch, in which case you should stop using that fixture until you have an electrician evaluate the wiring.

2. Dimming and Flickering Lights

A healthy electrical system supplies a constant amount of electricity to each fixture. When the system doesn’t have the capacity to power all fixtures or the wiring wears out, you might notice that your lights dim and brighten unexpectedly.

Flickering lights can also occur when the wiring connection to a light fixture becomes loose.

3. Discolored Switches and Outlets

Sometimes when a switch or outlet shorts, the issue is severe enough to char or burn the outlet. If you notice a discolored outlet cover, especially accompanied by a burning smell, visible sparks, or an electrical sound, turn off power to that area immediately.

An electrician may need to reconnect loose wires and replace the switch or outlet to resolve the issue.

4. Electrical Odors

When your electrical system components all connect correctly, the entire system operates in a soundless and odorless manner. Misplaced electricity often causes excess heat, so faulty wiring often comes with a burning smell.

Burning odors from electrical components may also smell acrid. These odors indicate a serious electrical problem that could potentially cause a fire if unaddressed.

5. Electrical Shock From Switches and Outlets

Electrical shock occurs when a component shorts out. The short may occur in the wiring, switch or outlet itself, or in the device plugged into an outlet.

If the shock happened when the appliance was plugged in, inspect the cord for any exposed wires. If the cord is intact, have the outlet itself inspected.

6. Frequent Tripped Breakers

Not all faulty wiring has gaps. Some wiring simply doesn’t have the capacity to power your whole home, or the electrical system itself is poorly designed. In these situations, the system can frequently become overloaded.

When the system overloads, the breakers trip or the fuses blow. If this happens often, an electrician may need to create dedicated lines for your most important appliances.

7. Nonfunctional Switches and Outlets

Perhaps the most obvious sign of a wiring problem is a switch or outlet that simply stops working. If it takes a while for a fixture to respond when you flip the switch, or if an outlet doesn’t provide power at all, the issue likely stems from a faulty connection.

Pay attention to how the switch or outlet functions. For example, take note if the outlet seems to provide patchy power or no power at all. Give your electrician this information when he or she inspects the wiring.

If you notice any combination of these signs, have an electrical contractor assess your home as soon as possible. Electrical problems can be inconvenient as well as dangerous. Many types of wiring issues increase the risk of electrical fires.