Not Enough OutletsWhile modern homes feature far more outlets, also known as electrical receptacles, older homes often have only one or two outlets within a room. For a low-cost quick-fix, extension cords and power strips are the obvious choice. Any cords and cables you use should be able to safely handle the electrical loads you place on them. To ensure this, use a lower number gauge (a thicker wire) for your cords and power strips. We recommend at least 14-gauge cable. Unfortunately, extensions and power strips can get unsightly very quickly. For private rooms with low foot traffic this fix is fine; larger rooms with a high number of visitors will want something that’s less likely to become an eyesore. When power strips are an eyesore, adding additional electrical outlet receptacles is ideal. New receptacles should only be installed by licensed electricians to ensure that your wiring remains up to code. Of course, new wiring will need to be run and additional holes will be cut into existing walls to account for the new outlets, which is why you always want a properly trained electrician.
Backstabbed WiringA more minor problem, again with outlets, requires a physical inspection first. Some outlets are installed with wires pushed into simple slots in the back of the receptacle. While there’s nothing wrong with this system, vibration, heat expansion, and aging can cause these connections to slide out over time. It’s a very simple fix to simply pull the wire free of the terminal and use the more traditional screw-terminal for added security.
Plugs Fall Out of Existing OutletsAs electrical sockets age, the metal contacts loosen due to repeated use. It becomes an obvious problem when plugs slide out of sockets simply because of gravity. This often leads to incomplete connections, turning off electronics and leading to failed charge cycles for phones or batteries. Some of these loose connections can lead to excess carbon build-up inside the socket due to arcing between the contacts; a possible safety hazard. For these reasons, a sagging plug is a key signifier that it’s time to replace your outlet. Replacing an outlet is much easier than installing new ones, and can usually be done with a simple technical guide and a few tools. With so many USB-powered devices arriving, it may not be a bad idea to go ahead and upgrade to an outlet which includes a few USB ports already either.
OverlampingWhenever a bulb’s wattage requirement exceeds the maximum rating for a fixture you’re faced with a problem known as overlamping. While your building’s wiring may fully be capable of handling the higher wattage demanded by the bulb, if your fixture or socket is rated for the power drawn by then light bulb, it can overheat leading to burnt insulation or a melted socket. Because of how dangerous overlamping can be it is a code violation and something you should fix immediately. If you’ve noticed that the fixture, socket, or even the light switch you use is getting excessively warm, you should double check the wattage rating for those components. The cheapest way to fix this problem is to replace the bulb in your fixture. If your fixture uses multiple light bulbs, make sure that the total wattage of all the bulbs is lower than the maximum rating for your fixture. Then again, if you like the amount of light offered by higher-wattage bulbs you should consider purchasing a new fixture or socket with a higher wattage rating or switch to more energy-efficient lights such as CFLs or LEDs. So long as the total wattage consumed by the bulb is less than the rating of your fixture, you’ll be fine.
Flickering LightsFlickering lights can be caused by many problems, some of which are easy to fix while others require expensive repairs. Some of the more common faults are as follows:
- Bad or Aging Fluorescent Ballast – A fluorescent ballast regulates the electrical voltage or current travelling to your lights. As the ballast ages, it becomes less efficient at doing this, which can lead to flickering lights and decrease lamp-life.
- Faulty Switches – Loose light switches or dimmers can create incomplete connections or faulty current flow to your lights. If you use incandescent lights, a faulty switch is often the cause.
- Bad Wiring – Flickering lights can also be a sign of faulty wiring or loose terminal connections. If the source of the flickering lights is not readily apparent, it’s best to get an electrician to examine your home’s wiring to make sure there isn’t some other damage or loose electrical connection at fault. Bad wiring is dangerous and should be dealt with as soon as possible.
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