Common Electrical Problems

The Billings electricians at Elk Ridge Electric can handle everything from planned electrical needs for home remodels, business remodels, and new construction, to unplanned electrical problems.

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Here are some tips on addressing common electrical problems:

Tripping breakers

Tripping breakers prevent fires.  That’s their job.  And they can be easily reset, but if it is happening frequently something’s wrong.  Begin with some simple troubleshooting.  Unplug some of the devices on that circuit (prime suspects are vacuums, space heaters, hair dryers).  If that doesn’t keep the breaker from tripping, or you are unable to unplug the devices plugged into that circuit (i.e., a refrigerator), you should consider professional help, because you might be at risk for an electrical fire.

Dead outlets

burned and overloaded outlet.

An outlet that isn’t working (or several) is another common problem.  Troubleshooting begins by checking to see if there’s a GFCI outlet near the dead outlet(s).  If there is, reset it (push the reset button).  If not, because it’s sometimes difficult to know what outlets share a circuit, reset all GFCI outlets you can find.  If that doesn’t work, chances are it could be old or loose wires and a potential fire hazard. If you’re not sure and need help, call the professionals at Elk Ridge Electric.

Flickering and dimming lights

Suspect a ghost?  You wouldn’t be the first but that’s probably not the case.  Start by tightening the bulb.  If that doesn’t work, find out what kind of bulb it is (fluorescents tend to flicker as they warm up).  Still flickering?  Is the light on a dimmer switch?  If so, make sure the light bulb is compliant with a dimmer switch (some bulbs cannot be dimmed).  If it continues to happen after you’ve tried these initial measures, or if it’s happening to several or all of your lights, it could possibly be faulty, worn, or corroded wires or connectors.  If that’s the case, you need the professionals at Elk Ridge Electric to take a look.

Sparking outlets

This is an alarming one, but the reason could result in a relatively easy solution.  It could be moisture is getting into the outlet (from a leak into the wall or a splash if it’s in a kitchen or bathroom).  If that’s the case, that standard outlet needs to be swapped out with a GFCI outlet.  It could be that the outlet is overloaded – the more you have plugged in, the greater the risk of overload.  To prevent overloading an outlet, avoid using power strips and unplug items when they’re not in use.  It’s also important to know that electrical outlets wear out like anything else in the home, causing long sparks or arcs of electricity when you try to use them.  Whatever the cause, the professionals at Elk Ridge Electric can help.

The endlessly beeping smoke detector

Installing battery into smoke detector

The easiest solution is to change the battery.  But if you’ve tried that and it still beeps, possibly the sensing chamber is dirty.  If so, use a vacuum cleaner attachment to remove dust and cobwebs.  And, if possible, vacuum inside the unit as well.  It is also possible it’s sensing heat or humidity.  Is it located near a bathroom door and goes off while someone is taking a hot shower?  If that’s the case, better to have it moved.  Lastly, it’s possible it’s old and worn out.  Smoke detectors should be changed out at least once every ten years. None of that works?  It’s possible it hasn’t been installed properly or something is loose.  If that’s the case, call the professionals at Elk Ridge Electric.

Maintenance is key

Just like your car, your home’s electrical system needs to be maintained to perform at it’s peak efficiency.  To do this, regularly check for overloaded outlets and unload them.  One of the ways they can be overloaded is with extension cords.  Make sure no extension cords are used for appliances.  Extension cords should never be a long term solution.  Also, to prevent overloading, plug only one heat-producing appliance into an outlet at a time.

Coiled Extension Cord

  • If you are using extension cords from time to time, be sure to check for frayed or cracked cords.  If they (or any power cord) is frayed or cracked, don’t use it.
  • If you’re not using an appliance, unplug it and keep all electrical appliances away from water.
  • Clean the exhaust fans in your bathrooms.  They need to be cleaned once or even twice a year to get rid of dust so they last longer and work more efficiently.  The covers can be detached and washed with dish soap and water, but the motor should be cleaned with the brush attachment on your vacuum.  It’s best practice to vacuum under and behind all your appliances regularly.  This will make sure they run efficiently and don’t eat up your electric bill.
  • Always make sure that your light bulbs are the correct wattage for the light fixture or lamp you’re using.  Do yourself a favor and swap out any incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs – your pocketbook will thank you.
  • Finally, change the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors once a year.

If you ever feel uneasy or overwhelmed with common electrical issues in your home or office building, feel free to give us a call and we’ll help you through it. If you need professional electrical service, we’d love to work with you!

Schedule a Bid or Service With Elk Ridge Electric