Having electrical issues in your home can be frustrating and even dangerous if not addressed properly. As your helpful neighborhood electrician, I want to share the three most common electrical problems I come across, along with quick fixes you can implement right away before calling in a professional.

Frequent Breaker Trips

Nothing is more annoying than having your power go out time and time again. If a circuit breaker keeps tripping, there are a few likely culprits:

Overloaded Circuits

The most common cause of frequent breaker trips is having too many appliances or devices drawing power on one circuit. If you plug a high-wattage appliance like a vacuum into an outlet that already has multiple things connected, it can overload the circuit.

The fix: Take inventory of what's running on troublesome circuits and rebalance the load by moving devices to other outlets. For example, put your computer setup on one circuit and kitchen appliances on another. You may also need to upgrade your electrical panel if circuits are maxed out.

Faulty Breaker

Another possibility is the circuit breaker itself is faulty and trips more easily than it should. Breakers can wear out over time.

The fix: Have an electrician test and replace any faulty or old breakers. Installing arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) breakers can also help prevent nuisance tripping.

Loose Wire Connection

If a wire connection is loose inside an outlet, switch, or appliance, it can short and lead to repeated breaker trips.

The fix: Check for any loose outlets or wall switches and make sure wires are securely connected. I use a non-contact voltage tester to identify problem spots.

Dimming Lights

Lights that dim periodically or flicker are not only annoying, but usually signal an underlying electrical issue. Possible causes include:

Failing Light Bulb

As LED and CFL bulbs age, they can begin to dim or flicker. Incandescent bulbs can lose brightness towards the end of their lifespan as well.

The fix: Try replacing bulbs first to see if it solves the problem. Know the lifespan of your light bulbs and replace them proactively.

Wiring Problems

Faulty wiring like loose connections, overloaded circuits and damaged wires can all cause lights to dim or flicker. Shorts and surges on the electrical system can also contribute.

The fix: I troubleshoot wiring issues by checking connections, splices and outlets involved. Voltage tests help pinpoint problem areas. I may need to replace old, damaged wiring if that is the root cause.

Failing Dimmer Switch

If the lights only dim in one room, the dimmer switch itself may be faulty or wearing out.

The fix: Swap out the dimmer switch for a new one. Make sure it's compatible with your bulbs.

No Power to One Outlet

When one outlet goes dead, it’s usually an issue specific to that outlet, not your whole electrical system. Potential fixes include:

Tripped GFCI Outlet

Check for a tripped GFCI outlet, either in the room or upstream on the circuit. These outlets have a "Test" and "Reset" button.

The fix: Reset the GFCI. If it immediately trips again, there may be a ground fault or short circuit.

Wiring Problems

Bad connections, damaged wires or loose wires can cut power downstream to one outlet or room.

The fix: Troubleshoot wiring using a multimeter and check connections. Replace bad wire and secure loose connections.

Burned-Out Outlet

Over time, outlets can literally burn out and need replacement. Warning signs are discolored, melted plastic or scorched terminals.

The fix: Shut off power and replace the burned-out outlet right away.

By understanding the usual culprits behind common electrical issues, you can try some DIY troubleshooting before calling an electrician. But when in doubt, I always advise hiring a professional rather than taking risks with electrical repairs. For emergency electrical problems, be sure to shut off power at the breaker and contact a technician immediately. Let your helpful neighborhood electrician handle the tricky electrical work!