How to Troubleshoot Obscure Electrical Problems in Commercial Buildings

How to Troubleshoot Obscure Electrical Problems in Commercial Buildings


As an electrician working in commercial buildings, I often encounter obscure electrical problems that are challenging to diagnose and repair. With complex electrical systems and outdated documentation, tracking down the root cause of electrical issues can be frustrating. However, through methodical troubleshooting, I can systematically isolate the problem and get the electrical system up and running again. In this article, I will share my tips for troubleshooting even the most obscure electrical problems in commercial buildings.

Start with Visual Inspection of Electrical Equipment

My first step is always a thorough visual inspection of the electrical equipment involved. I check for:

Consult Electrical Drawings and Diagrams

Next, I dig up the electrical drawings for the building to better understand how the equipment is wired together. I look for:

This helps guide my troubleshooting process. I also verify the drawings match the actual installed equipment as discrepancies are common in older buildings.

Use Diagnostic Equipment

With the basics covered, I use diagnostic tools to test the circuit:

Divide and Conquer Complex Circuits

For large multi-branch circuits, I systematically split the circuit into smaller sections to zone in on the malfunctioning portion.

Check Interconnected Systems

Obscure electrical problems can stem from interactions between electrical, HVAC, fire suppression, security, and other systems in a building.

Don't Rule Out Intermittent Problems

The most frustrating electrical issues are intermittent ones that seem to randomly come and go. However, I don't dismiss the report of an obscure problem just because it is not present when I test it. Here are tips for catching elusive intermittent electrical faults:


Obscure electrical issues in complex commercial buildings can be daunting to troubleshoot. However, through systematic visual inspection, thorough equipment testing, strategic circuit isolation, collaboration with other trades, and watching out for tricky intermittent problems, I can get to the bottom of most electrical malfunctions. Patience and persistence is key - I treat every bizarre electrical problem like a puzzling mystery to investigate and solve.