How to Troubleshoot Unusual Electrical Problems in Your Business

How to Troubleshoot Unusual Electrical Problems in Your Business


Running a business comes with many responsibilities, one of which is maintaining the electrical systems. While some electrical issues are routine, like tripped breakers or faulty outlets, unusual electrical problems can occasionally arise that require more in-depth troubleshooting. As a business owner, it's important to have a basic understanding of electrical systems to identify and resolve these types of problems. This guide will provide an overview of how to troubleshoot unusual electrical issues in your business.

Common Causes of Unusual Electrical Problems

Faulty or Damaged Wiring

One of the most common causes of unusual electrical issues is faulty or damaged wiring. Some signs of wiring problems include:

Damaged wiring can occur due to rodents chewing on wires, exposure to moisture, loose connections, or simply aging and deterioration over time. Any disrupted connections in the wiring can cause short circuits, current fluctuations, and other problems.

Grounding Problems

Grounding issues can also lead to abnormal electrical behavior. Appliances and wiring require a proper ground connection to function safely. Grounding problems include:

Ungrounded or poorly grounded systems are vulnerable to power surges and can be hazardous.

Overloaded Circuits

When there is excessive strain on an electrical circuit, overloading can occur. Some signs of an overloaded circuit include:

Adding high-draw appliances like space heaters to a circuit or daisy-chaining power strips can potentially overload a circuit beyond its capacity.

Inspecting Electrical Panels

The electrical panel, or breaker box, is key for diagnosing unusual electrical issues. Here's what to look for:


Inspect all breakers for signs of problems:


With a fuse panel, check for any blown fuses and replace as needed with time-delay fuses of the appropriate amperage. Blown fuses suggest overloads or short circuits.


Labeled breakers make it easier to locate and isolate issues on specific circuits. Verify all breakers are clearly labeled. Add labels if needed.

Signs of Arcing

Look for charred spots or melted plastic on the panel or the smell of burning plastic. This can indicate dangerous electrical arcing.

Checking Connections and Wires

Loose, damaged, or corroded connections are often the root of unusual electrical problems.

Pay particular attention to connections for frequently problematic circuits.

Testing Circuits and Components

For elusive electrical gremlins, more rigorous circuit testing may be needed.

Use a Multimeter

An essential tool is a digital multimeter. It can measure voltage, current, and resistance to evaluate circuits and devices. Know how to safely use a multimeter before testing.

Check Voltage and Amperage

Test outlet voltage to catch wiring faults causing abnormal voltage. Measure load current draw to detect overloads.

Isolate Sections

Narrow down issues by systematically isolating circuit sections. Turn off breakers or unplug devices section-by-section to pinpoint the problem area.

Inspect Devices and Fixtures

Check circuits powering flickering lights or malfunctioning appliances. Inspect devices and fixtures for signs of electrical arcing or heat damage that could indicate a faulty device. Test with a multimeter.

Evaluate Grounding

Use a multimeter to check for proper grounding. There should be continuity between neutral/ground contacts and zero voltage between neutral and ground.

Calling an Electrician

For safety, hire a licensed electrician rather than attempting hazardous DIY repairs if:

Be sure to get all repairs inspected and approved after completion. Though unusual electrical issues can be perplexing, methodically troubleshooting and inspecting the electrical system helps identify and resolve the problem.