Small Business Brief


Ghosts in the Wires: 7 Most Common Electrical Problems and How To Deal With Them

7 Most Common Electrical Problems and How To Deal With Them

Do you run a small business out of your home or a building that used to be a home? Old and new houses alike can have electrical problems. You can’t afford to not be connected, every moment you’re not could mean you’re losing money. Find out the most common electrical problems and solutions here.

Your customer service assistant is scowling as he peers behind the printer at the outlet, looking at it like it stole his firstborn child.

It can only mean one thing: the outlet’s not working again.

And that means electrical problems.

The good news is that many electrical challenges are easy to identify and solve, although some may come at a price.

Then again, not having electricity at your place of business comes at a much higher cost than that, so it’s best to start assessing.

Chances are the problem falls in one of these common electrical issues, and we’re here to tell you what to do and how to deal with each.

A Word of Caution

Electricity is no joke. It only takes one wrong move to end up hurt or even dead.

Among America’s workforce, electrocution ranks in the top-ten causes of fatality. Electrical hazards within the workplace cause over 300 deaths and 4,000 injuries each year.

If you do not have education in handling electric wiring or are uncomfortable with it, it’s vital that you contact a licensed electrician to correct any issues. Discover more about professional and dependable electricians here.

Common Electrical Problems

Below are the seven most common electrical problems you may face. We’ve broken down the facts to give you a plan of attack so you can get those ghoulies and ghosties out of your wires and circuits.

For any new entrepreneurs out there, every businessman should have a backup generator handy. Otherwise, the money you’re losing for small issues could seem like pocket change in the event of a blackout.

1. Circuit Breaker Tripping

If you’re making constant treks to your circuit breaker, you’re probably cursing along the way.

Just remember: the fact that it’s tripping means it’s doing its job.

Circuit breakers protect you and your home from possible fires or equipment failures. When it cuts off the power, it’s not entirely a bad thing.

The good news is that this is usually a quick fix.

If the circuit breaker is constantly tripping, review what is being used each time the power cuts off. Usually, this problem stems from too much current flowing through the wiring.

It can be something as simple as an extra computer or even a hairdryer. Find the culprit and limit or lower the usage.

Until then, the switch handle should keep moving between the “on” and the “off” positions each time the power turns off. Simply move the switch to the “off” part, stand to the side (better safe than sorry) and flick it back to the “on” position.

2. Light Switches Not Working Properly

That bruise on your knee happened yesterday, when the blasted light switch wasn’t working again and you ran into the desk.

Let’s put a stop to that.

Before anything, check to make sure the proper wattage is being used in the bulb and that the bulb is working. Next, it’s time to determine if the fault is in the switch itself by replacing it.

If the switch still doesn’t work, it means the issue is in the wiring or fixture itself. That, unfortunately, will mean contacting an electrician.

3. Faulty Outlets

Since we were on a similar page, let’s remove that scowl from your customer service assistant’s face.

First, check for a ground fault circuit interrupter. Sometimes, these breakers will trip and prevent power from making it to the outlet. If this is the case, all it takes is a quick reset, which amounts to nothing more than the push of a button.

Next, turn off all electric devices and unplug anything from the dead outlets. Try resetting the circuit breakers or fuses in the main electrical panel.

Check for burnt out fuses, which will have charred grass or broken filaments. If you find blown ones, replace them.

If the dastardly outlet still is laughing at you, it’s time to inspect it. Turn off all power through the main breaker and unscrew the plug. Check for loose or broken wires and corroded screws.

Replace the outlet, but if you have aluminum wiring call an electrician.

If even this doesn’t work, you guessed it: call a professional.

4. Electrical Surges

Power surges can have many causes, from lightning strikes to large appliances turning on and off.

Because surges are almost always caused by external forces, it’s best to take preventative approaches. Purchase point-of-use surge protection devices to protect your electronic devices and prevent the surges from occurring. Also, obtain service entrance surge protection devices to protect the entire electrical system.

If this doesn’t work, consult with a professional.

5. Voltage Dips

Almost always, this requires pointing the finger at faulty, power-sucking devices.

Whenever these gadgets start up, they suck up all the power like schoolyard bullies bent on revenge. As a result, the power “dips” elsewhere.

To alleviate this, consider purchasing an on-line UPS (uninterruptible power supply). You can also find and eliminating the electricity hijackers.

6. Frequent Electrical Shocks

If the grumblings about work turn into shrieks whenever something’s plugged in or turned on, electrical shocks may be to blame.

If this is a frequent issue, it may have something to do with improper grounding, wiring or an appliance. Check to see if it’s occurring with a single device or throughout the building.

Contact an electrician immediately so the shocks do not worsen.

7. Light Bulb Burnout

Do you happen to find yourself screwing in more light bulbs than you can purchase? If so, you have a classic case of burnout.

Light bulbs can continually burn out for a variety of reasons, most of which are easy to check:

  • High voltage: Use a multimeter or voltage tester to record the voltage in the building. If it’s higher than what’s recommended for the bulb, find one that can withstand the current.
  • Vibration in or around the bulb: Check to see if anything, such as a ceiling fan, could be vibrating the bulb. Try to tighten whatever is causing the movement.
  • Loose wire connections: Turn off the power and check the connection on the fixture. Look for any corrosion and replace it if need be.
  • Close insulation: Some fixtures require insulation to be at least three inches away, otherwise, the bulb will heat rapidly. If the fixture is not rated “IC,” build a box to put around the fixture housing to separate it from the insulation.

Power at Your Fingertips

As you’ve learned from reading this article, power at your fingertips isn’t always a great thing.

Interested in more handy tips and tricks? Check out our small business articles to get the information you need right at your fingertips.

Just try to avoid any burns, please.