We've all been there - a light starts flickering, an outlet stops working properly, or some appliance makes an odd noise. While electrical issues can seem daunting, many common problems are easy fixes. This guide will walk you through step-by-step how to troubleshoot and repair the most common electrical nuisances around your home. With a little DIY knowledge, you can quickly get things working properly again.

Strange Noises from switches, outlets, or appliances

Sometimes an electrical issue makes its presence known through strange noises. Buzzing, humming, sizzling, or crackling sounds can indicate a problem. Here are some likely causes and solutions:

Loose wire connections

Over time, vibrations can cause electrical connections to come loose. This allows electricity to arc across small gaps, creating buzzing or crackling.

Solution: Turn off power at the breaker. Remove the cover plate and inspect connections. Tighten any loose wires securely under the screws.

Faulty switch or outlet

If a switch or outlet is making sizzling or buzzing noises, the internal components may be failing. This can present a fire hazard.

Solution: Replace the faulty switch or outlet. Turn off power at the breaker, carefully remove the old device, install a new one, and restore power. Test to confirm problem is fixed.

Faulty transformer in appliance

Some appliances like microwaves use transformers to convert between AC and DC electricity. A failing transformer can produce a buzzing or humming noise.

Solution: If the noise persists from only one appliance, it likely indicates a problem with that device. Try repairing or replacing the appliance.

Loose breakers

Breakers connect to bus bars inside your home's electrical panel to distribute power. If these connections become loose, arcing can occur producing buzzing.

Solution: Turn off the main breaker then tighten all circuit breaker connections. Restore power - noise should be fixed.

Dimming lights

Lights that pulse or dim periodically often stem from a loose connection. Here's how to tackle dimming lights:

Loose lightbulb

If screwing a lightbulb in tighter stops the flickering, the bulb likely wasn't making good contact with the socket.

Solution: Ensure lightbulbs are fully seated in their sockets so electrical connections are solid.

Loose wire connections

Like with strange noises, loose wires in switches, outlets, or junction boxes can cause poor contact and dimming.

Solution: Inspect connections along the circuit and tighten any loose wires.

Overloaded circuit

Too many devices on one circuit can cause voltage drops that dim lights. Surges when motors or appliances turn on indicate overloading.

Solution: Redistribute devices over multiple circuits. An electrician can add circuits if needed.

Failing light fixture

If bulbs are tight and wires are secure, the light fixture itself - socket, wiring, or ballast - may be failing.

Solution: Replace the light fixture if found to be defective. Match wattage to original.

Odd outlet behavior

From not working at all to shocking users, outlet problems are common but usually easy to fix.

Partial power loss

If an outlet stops working entirely it may be a GFCI or AFCI outlet that tripped. Other times only top or bottom outlet loses power.

Solution: Reset any tripped GFCI/AFCI outlets. For top/bottom outages, inspect wiring for a loose connection.

Unstable power

If devices turn off unexpectedly or won't stay powered, the outlet's contacts may be worn or corroded.

Solution: Replace the faulty outlet. Match amperage and number of ports.

Tingling or shock

A tingling feeling when touching devices plugged into the outlet points to faulty grounding.

Solution: Ensure a 3-prong outlet is properly grounded. If so, verify grounding continuity downstream. Rewire ground connections as needed.


Extreme heat from an outlet indicates high resistance leading to excess current flow.

Solution: Immediately stop using the overheating outlet! Inspect connections - loose wires can cause overheating. Replace outlet if connections are sound.


With this troubleshooting guide, you can tackle that annoying electrical issue yourself. Always exercise caution when working with electricity though. Turn off power at the breaker, verify it's off with a tester, and disconnect wires carefully. If problems persist or you don't feel comfortable doing electrical repairs, don't hesitate to call a licensed electrician for assistance. But for many common issues, a DIY approach can get you back to normal quickly.