As a service to our valued customers in North Texas and the surrounding areas, All-Pro Electric of Texas is happy to provide an FAQ on handling common electrical problems. These don’t necessarily require a service call by an electrician.
1Circuit Breaker Tripping Off
A circuit breaker is designed to trip off when it detects too much power running through the wire’s circuit the fuse. There are three main reasons circuit breakers trip off:
- There is a short circuit.
- There is an overloaded circuit.
- The circuit breaker is broken.
Inside most circuit breakers there are two types of protection: One is thermal. The other is magnetic. The thermal strip measures heat build-up caused by overloading. When it reaches a certain temperature, it will shut off the breaker. The magnetic coil measures sudden increases in current (such as a short). At a predetermined limit it will shut the breaker off. Older breakers sometimes have only one of these features. For maximum protection, a breaker with both types of protection is recommended.
You might notice that sometimes a dimmer seems warm when you touch it. The good news is, THIS IS NORMAL. Dimmers naturally get warm when they are in use, especially if there is more than one dimmer in the same location.
However, if a dimmer is REALLY warm or hot to the touch, this indicates a safety problem, and you should call an electrician who is knowledgeable about lighting issues.
3Garbage Disposal Power
If your garbage disposal power stops working you should:
- First, make sure the power is turned off to the garbage disposal unit by ALWAYS making sure the switch to the garbage disposal is turned to the OFF position.
- Clear out anything inside the garbage disposal that might be jamming up the motor and stopping it from working.
- Briefly flip on the switch to the garbage disposal. Do you hear a humming noise? If you do, then there is power going to the disposal and the problem is that the disposal is broken or there is something stuck in it.
- If you turn on the switch to the garbage disposal and you do not hear any humming noise, locate the small button that is somewhere on the disposal and press it to reset the disposal. Then try turning on the disposal again.
- Finally, try re-setting all the circuit breakers in your electrical panel to see if you can get power back.
If none of this works, it’s time to call a good electrician.
4Ground Fault Interrupters (GFI)
According to the National Electrical Code, in all kitchens, bathrooms, garages, or any area in which water may be present, instead of regular receptacles (outlets), GFI receptacles should be used. These are for your safety.
The idea of a GFI receptacle is that if there is the slightest electrical problem, the (ground fault interrupters) GFI immediately shuts off the power. This is an important safety feature.
When you lose power to a receptacle in a kitchen, bathroom, garage, or outdoor area, check to see if it’s a GFI receptacle. If it is, press the test button, then press the reset button. If the GFI shuts off power repeatedly, plug in a different appliance to test whether the problem is the first appliance or the GFI itself. If the GFI is defective, call a good electrician.
5Lights Not Turning On
Lights don’t turn on for six basic reasons:
- The bulb is bad. This is more common than one might think. Try replacing a questionable light bulb with a new one. If that doesn’t work, before giving up, try using a bulb from another light fixture that you KNOW is working.
- The switch to the light is bad. The switch will need to be replaced.
- The light fixture is broken. Usually it is easiest and least expensive to simply replace the fixture. However, many light fixtures can be repaired if it is desired.
- No power.
- The time clock for the light is not set for the correct time or is broken. Re-set the time or replace the broken time clock.
- If the light fixture is activated by a photo-cell, the photo-cell is out of adjustment or broken. Adjust or replace the photo-cell.
- Fluorescent, Mercury-Vapor, or High-Pressure-Sodium Lights. These kinds of light fixtures all use an electrical ballast to energize their special light bulbs. The ballast may need to be replaced if the light is humming loudly or has an odor or if the light just doesn’t turn on.
Smoke detectors are great safety devices. But occasionally a smoke detector will start chirping or worse, sound a non-stop alarm for no reason. Here’s what you can do if this happens to you:
If it’s a battery-powered smoke detector, take out the battery and replace it with a new one. If there’s still a problem, replace the entire smoke detector.
If it’s a 120 Volt powered smoke detector (hard-wired), turn off your circuit breakers one by one until the noise stops. Then turn on all the circuit breakers again except the one controlling the smoke detector. Replace the faulty smoke detector and turn its circuit breaker back on again.
You will then need to replace the 120 Volt smoke detector or if it is a battery powered smoke detector, replace the battery.