Electrical Troubleshooting in the Home
If you have an electrical problem, the safest way to deal it it is to call an electrician. However, that might be costly, and to save you some money, it is worth considering whether you can troubleshoot the problem yourself so that, when you call that electrician, you are able to clearly identify the cause. Then the electrician can get straight on to fix it, without having to spend too much time in diagnosing the cause himself, thus saving you money.
Electrical troubleshooting involves going through a number of steps in a logical way to test and eliminate possible causes of your problem one at a time, eventually identifying the actual cause. Then you can decide whether you need to call in the services of a professional.
If you have an isolated problem, it is probably going to be easy to identify it. But if you have repeated problems with a circuit breaker tripping, for example, it will require some detailed investigation to see if it is a problem with an appliance or with the wiring and this is where troubleshooting can help.
A simple circuit has four main elements; the wiring, the receptacles and outlets, the circuit breaker, which acts a safety valve, and appliances plugged in to the outlets. If you have a problem on a circuit, the breaker will trip but the cause could be with any of the four elements.
A safe way to establish which element is the problem is set out below.
The first step is to identify which circuit breaker has tripped and you can do this by looking in your circuit breaker box. The tripped breaker will be showing a red mark. A surge in the external power may have tripped it, so try resetting the breaker. If it trips again, then replace the breaker with a new one. If that continues to trip, the problem lies elsewhere.
Receptacles and outlets
First unplug all appliances connected to the relevant circuit. You can test each of the receptacles and outlets with a receptacle tester. These are available from most hardware stores. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe testing. You might think of testing outlets with an appliance that you know is working, but, if there is a fault with the outlet, it might damage your appliance.
Unplug everything and then plug in each appliance in turn and see which one, if any, causes the breaker to trip. If that identifies the problem, it may be occurring because of a faulty appliance or because the circuit does not have enough power for that particular appliance.
If none of the above procedures has been successful in diagnosing your problem, then it must lie in the wiring itself. Working with electrical wiring can be extremely hazardous and should not be undertaken by anybody who has not had sufficient training to be aware of all the potential pitfalls.
If you are not confident about working with electricity, call in a professional. It is better to be safe than sorry where electricity is concerned. You will be able to be clear about what work you need to be done as your electrical troubleshooting will have identified the cause of the failure. This will make the electrician’s job of fixing it much easier, and less costly, as he can get straight to the heart of the problem without any delay.