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Electricians Tips & Tricks Blog

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Welcome to the Mister Sparky Tips & Tricks Blog! Look around to read our latest posts or delve into our archives for great ideas on maximizing your home’s energy efficiency, upgrading your electrical wiring, selecting new appliances or keeping your home safe. Whether you’re buying or building a new home, preparing for renovations, or just trying to keep on top of your own home maintenance, you’ll find interesting topics and helpful tips right here.


Technological innovations are developing faster all the time, and many of them have implications for the modern home. If you wish you could control all your appliances and electronics from a single smartphone or have a house that learns your behaviors and predicts your needs, it’s not science fiction -- it’s the smart home.


And if you’re looking to learn more about the old-school basics, like bringing your home into compliance with local building codes, replacing broken fixtures or setting up a generator to keep your household humming through a blackout, feel free to start your journey here. You might even find inspiration for a new home project or be reminded of an overdue opportunity for preventative home maintenance!


Check back often and bookmark this page to stay on top of the latest posts.



Home inspector

When Should You Schedule an Electrical Inspection?

  • 09/26/18

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is good advice… sometimes. And when it comes to your home’s electrical system, you can leave well enough alone more often than not. But there are also certain circumstances in which it makes sense to schedule a thorough electrical inspection.

Most homeowners are familiar
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Electrical wiring and diagram

Using a Multimeter at Home

  • 08/29/18

When you have an electrical problem in your home, you can’t go wrong by calling a licensed electrician. But if you’re thinking about taking more of a DIY approach to electrical maintenance, one way to get started is to spend a few dollars on a digital multimeter.

A multimeter doesn’t fix
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LED, incandescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs

Why Are the Lights Flickering?

  • 08/02/18

There are a lot of abnormal electrical issues that can go unnoticed, but a flickering light bulb isn’t one of them. It’s visible, annoying and potentially alarming if you’re not sure what’s causing it. And it shouldn’t be ignored -- while the most likely explanations are harmless and easy to
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outlet2

Bugs in Your Electrical Outlet: It Really Can Happen

  • 05/02/18

It may seem like a scene out of a horror movie, but it’s not an uncommon sight: bugs crawling out of an electrical outlet.

This can happen even in homes that are generally clean and sealed off from the outdoors. Many bugs need only the tiniest of cracks to get in
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appliances

What To Do When You Trip a Circuit Breaker

  • 03/28/18

When the lights or appliances in one area of your home suddenly go out, the first thing to do is check your circuit breaker box. If you see one breaker switch pointing in a different direction from all the others, you’ve tripped your circuit breaker. What now?

Your circuit breakers are
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questions

Finding and Fixing a Low-Frequency Electrical Hum

  • 02/28/18

If you’ve ever experienced an electrical humming noise somewhere in your home, you know how maddening it can be. Sometimes it’s so difficult to track this kind of noise back to its source that you might start thinking your ears are playing tricks on you. But these hums and buzzes
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Power surges damage electronics

Sparking Outlets: Are They Dangerous?

  • 01/31/18

You’ve probably seen it plenty of times -- a small blue spark when you plug in an appliance. Most of the time, this is a normal and harmless event. But it’s worth paying attention to, because some sparks can be early warning signs of dangerous problems.

Why Do Outlets Spark?

Your home’s
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appliances

Malfunctioning Appliances Can Cause Electrical Damage

  • 10/11/17

When one of your appliances starts showing signs of disrepair, you might think the trouble is confined to that appliance only. But that’s not necessarily true -- there are some ways in which a faulty appliance can send surges of electricity into your home’s electrical system, and the resulting damage
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LED, incandescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs

What Does It Mean When Light Bulbs Keep Blowing?

  • 09/27/17

More and more homeowners are making the switch to LED light bulbs as prices continue to drop. These bulbs are extremely long-lasting and energy efficient, and they don’t suffer from some of the same durability problems of their filament predecessors, such as the tendency to blow out under certain conditions. 

If
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House with outdoor lighting

Strengthen Your Home Security With High-Tech Upgrades

  • 09/13/17

Are you worried about potential trespassing or break-ins at your home? It may be cheaper and easier than you think to add layers of protection and deterrence from would-be burglars. The latest smart home technology, along with tried-and-true tech like motion detecting security lights, can make your home an intimidating
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flood

Repairing Your Electrical System After a Flood

  • 09/06/17

The flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana has damaged hundreds of thousands of homes, and the recovery ahead will continue for months. Unfortunately, the hurricane season isn't over, and more storms are on the way. Flood-affected homeowners will be hard at work removing carpeting, drywall and sheetrock
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pets

Make Electricity Pet-Safe on National Dog Day

  • 08/23/17

National Dog Day is almost here -- on August 26, consider doing something extra special for your four-legged friend. And if you don’t have a furry companion, you might make a donation to a humane pet shelter in your community. But one of the most important things you can do
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Girl turning off light

Signs Your Light Switch is Wearing Out

  • 07/19/17

Light switches are easy to take for granted. Most will last for decades, and other than an occasional cleaning, they’re essentially maintenance-free. But time and wear will take their toll, and eventually you might find that a light switch in your home is showing telltale signs of failure.

Trust Your Senses

When
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outlet2

Three Prongs Good, Two Prongs Bad

  • 03/08/17

Among the more obvious pieces of electrical safety advice you may have encountered is to never saw the third prong off of an electrical plug in order to fit it into a two-prong outlet. But just because we can recognize that as a self-evidently bad idea doesn’t mean everyone knows
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Municipal building code

Does Your Home Have Knob and Tube Wiring?

  • 02/08/17

Since electrical work isn’t for amateurs, many homeowners don’t know much about the electrical systems in their homes. With all the wiring hidden behind the walls, it may be that all you know is what you learned in your pre-sale inspection -- if you remember, that is.

When it comes to
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badelectrician

Electrical Work is No Novice Job

  • 02/01/17

Many homeowners know the pride and satisfaction that results from completing DIY repairs and improvements. But when it comes to electrical work, the stakes of making a rookie mistake can be high.

There are several common electrical projects that aren’t complicated or extensive, but even the simplest jobs can result in
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Hire an Electrician for Home Theater Perfection

  • 11/16/16

If you're ready to take the plunge and purchase a state-of-the-art home theater system, you have more to consider than just the equipment you intend to purchase. Even if all of your components are top-of-the-line, you won't get the most bang for your buck without professional design and installation.

To make
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flood

Do You Need to Replace Water-Damaged Wiring?

  • 09/28/16

The recent floods in Louisiana caused 13 deaths and millions of dollars in damage. Some homes were submerged to their roofs, while others received just a few inches of water. Now that cleanup and repairs are underway, homeowners are evaluating
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wiring

Is Your Home Wiring In Need of an Upgrade?

  • 09/21/16

Even if your home was built to last, it could be that the wiring hidden within your walls is in need of an upgrade. This is especially true if you know your home’s wiring to be more than 50 years
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Only You Can Prevent Household Electrical Fires

  • 08/24/16

The technology of household electrical safety has come a long way, but to prevent accidents such as electrical fires, us humans have to do our part. That means making sure the electrical infrastructure in our homes is safe and well
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arc

How to Treat Electrical Shock

  • 08/17/16

Electricity is as dangerous as it is helpful. A well-constructed home designed with an electrician’s expertise poses very little risk of accidental shock, but accidents can happen nonetheless. And there are electrical shock risks outside the home as well, including
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rodent

How to Prevent Rodent Damage to Your Electrical Work

  • 04/13/16

Are you harboring unwanted guests in your home? Rats, mice, squirrels and even raccoons are notorious for taking up residence in people's homes without asking. In addition to being a health hazard to your family, rodents love to chew, and seem to have a particular penchant for the insulation on
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mortgage

Do You Have Money Saved for Emergency Electrical Repairs?

  • 04/06/16

Some electrical repairs just can't wait. If you discover loose wiring, a faulty circuit or other problem in your home electrical system, it is essential to call an electrician immediately. At best, electrical problems can be annoying. At worst, they can damage your appliances or even start a
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bathroom3

Tips for Electrical Safety in the Bathroom

  • 03/02/16

Water and electricity make a dangerous combination. That's especially true in your bathroom, where you use water from the sink and shower to clean yourself, but also rely on electrical devices like shavers and hair dryers. That's why you need to take special care with your devices in the bathroom
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Power surges damage electronics

Low Voltage Direct Current Could Power Homes of the Future

  • 02/02/16

What if everything you knew about your home electrical work got turned on its head in the not-too-distant future? That could be reality, not science fiction, and maybe even sooner than you think. It’s not so far-fetched that in the coming decades, the electrical work in the American
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drill

Tricks for Running Wiring Through Your Walls

  • 01/21/16

When it comes to residential electrical work, most people just call up an electrician without a second thought. And for good reason – working with electricity can be difficult and dangerous if not done properly. However, there are some simple jobs that amateur electricians can perform on their own if
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homeefficiency

Measuring Energy Efficiency Accurately

  • 01/14/16

Energy efficiency is a laudable goal, but many of us don’t always know the best or most cost-effective ways to move forward. It’s important to avoid falling prey to myths or overly-rosy projections about how much
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doorframe

How to Run Wires Around a Doorway

  • 01/12/16

Electrical work can be complicated, but there are some simple tasks that you can complete yourself without having to bring in an electrician. One example is running wires or cables for your devices and appliances around a doorway. Sometimes, you
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Power surges damage electronics

How to Upgrade the Amp Capacity in Your Home

  • 01/07/16

If you live in an older home, you might find that your electrical work can’t deliver all the power you need for your modern equipment and devices. Newer homes have at least 100 amp service, and many are rated at
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electricalfire

How to Identify Electrical Fire Hazards at Home

  • 12/29/15

Electrical fires are something to avoid at all costs. A fire that starts in your electrical work can tear through your home at exponential speed, putting possessions and lives at dire risk. Most home electrical systems are perfectly safe, but
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splice

How to Splice Extensions on Your Electric Wires

  • 12/17/15

It's a problem that many a DIY electrician has run into a time or two: You want to move an outlet, or add a new light to a room, but the wires on your current circuit just aren't long enough.
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lightfixture

Tips for Connecting New Light Fixtures to Old Wiring

  • 12/03/15

There are plenty of reasons to install new indoor light fixtures in your home. Perhaps you want to update your interior aesthetic, or save energy by upgrading to efficient LED bulbs. Maybe you even want to bring your lighting into a smart home control system. Although
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arc

Protect Your Home with Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters

  • 11/24/15

When it comes to your home electrical system, safety should be your number one priority. Electricity can be dangerous when your wiring isn't connected properly, and a house fire can rip through your home and possessions with alarming speed, putting you and your family's very lives at risk.
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appliances

This Device Can Disaggregate Your Energy Usage to Help You Conserve

  • 11/12/15

Do you ever lie awake at night thinking about new ways to cut back on your energy consumption? You'll soon be able to rest soundly, because there's a new piece of technology that can make all your dreams come true. One of the trendiest ways to save energy with your
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220volts

How to Upgrade Your Home to 220 Volt Service

  • 11/05/15

Most homes today have the capacity to handle 220 volts in their electrical systems. Modern dryers, stoves, hot water heaters and other appliances all use the high voltage standard, which can deliver twice as much as the 110 volts used by computers, televisions, smaller appliances and other electronics. Chances are
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outlet2

When is it Time to Upgrade Your Outlets?

  • 10/27/15

Wall outlets are the primary point of interaction most homeowners have with their electrical systems. Those of us who aren't electricians or contractors may never open our circuit boxes or run a wire through the wall, but we plug and unplug things from our outlets every day. Those
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gfci

Learn the Benefits of Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters

  • 09/29/15

One of the biggest hazards of your home electrical system is the possibility of an electric shock. Whether there is an accident during an electrician’s work or there is exposed wiring that could shock someone inadvertently, this is a hazard that can cause serious injury and even death. Fortunately, by
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internetspeed

Use Your Home Electrical Wiring for Internet Connectivity

  • 09/08/15

Tired of a spotty wireless network impeding your home Internet use? Walls, ceilings and distance all conspire to degrade the strength of wireless signals, which can make it difficult to stream movies or even just browse the Web in certain parts of your home. Fortunately, there's a piece of technology
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fusion

Can Fusion Bring Safe, Cheap Energy to the Nation?

  • 09/03/15

The future of electricity production in the United States is very much in flux. When President Obama introduced his Clean Power Plan, it was an indication that the days of fossil fuel dominance could be on the wane. If coal, oil and natural gas are on their way
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engineers

Energy Department to Support Improved Home Generator Production

  • 09/01/15

Looking for new ways to reduce your electricity bills? The Department of Energy is on the job. The agency is sponsoring research that could help decentralize the nation's electrical grid – instead of powering your electrical work from large generating stations, you could create your own electricity on-site by burning
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cords

Charge Your Devices Quickly with Combo Outlets

  • 08/27/15

Is it driving you crazy to charge all of your devices? Smart phones, tablets, digital music players, digital cameras and more have made many facets of life more convenient, but they come with their own complications and annoyances as well. For one thing, all those devices need their batteries charged,
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carcharger

How to Install an Electric Car Charger in Your Home

  • 08/06/15

If you’re considering the purchase of an electric car, good for you! You're doing your part to reduce the nation's reliance on oil and cut down on fossil fuel emissions, and you get to drive around in style to boot. But with many newer models, you’ll need to set up
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damagedwiring

When is it Time to Upgrade Your Electrical Work?

  • 08/04/15

You can't see the electrical wiring in your home, but it’s integral to your day-to-day life. The electrical work behind your walls is responsible for lighting your home, powering your microwave and electric stove, running the air conditioning and so much more. So while your electrical work might be out
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badelectrician

You Can Be Liable for Unlicensed Electrical Work

  • 07/30/15

Revamping your home's electrical work can be a big headache. You need to find a qualified electrician and write what could be a hefty check for work that might require opening holes in your walls and temporarily making a mess of your home. The last thing you want after a
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stove

Soon You Will Get Text Messages from Your Electric Stove

  • 07/21/15

The Internet of Things is arriving in a big way. Smart thermostats, smart refrigerators, smart home security systems and more are all moving toward one integrated home system. One day soon, all your HVAC equipment, electrical work and appliances will be connected and in communication with
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outletfire

How to Prevent Electrical Fires

  • 07/16/15

Nothing is more important than your family's safety. That's why you need to make every effort to identify and eliminate fire risks in and around your home, particularly in your electrical work. Faulty wiring, delayed maintenance or carelessness can lead to a disaster that can cost you your home and
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electricstove

How to Install an Outlet for Your Electric Stove

  • 06/30/15

When it comes to electricity usage, an electric stove is a powerhouse. Consequently, you can't just plug them into the standard 110 volt outlets that are most common in the United States – most stoves require a special 220 volt outlet instead. If you are building or remodeling a kitchen,
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wiring

Outdated Electrical Work Can Drive Up Insurance Bills

  • 06/11/15

Homeowners insurance is an often-overlooked but significant cost in owning a home. Your insurance policy protects you against major losses in the event of a disaster, but you need to invest in premiums each month, which can be tricky for any family on a budget. However, you do have a
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Home inspector

Get the Most from a Home Inspection

  • 04/30/15

When you're in the market for a new house, every little detail counts. If you overlook an important flaw, you could be in for major repair or overhaul bills in your would-be dream home. Fortunately, you can avoid unexpected costs with some savvy when it comes to choosing your home
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Incandescent light bulbs

A brief history of electricity

  • 03/17/15

When it got dark yesterday, you probably flipped a switch and turned on the lights in your home. It’s something we do every day, but most American homes have only enjoyed safe and convenient electricity for little more than 100 years. Read on for a brief tour through the history
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Electrical wiring and diagram

New "open building" construction makes electrical work easy

  • 03/05/15

One of the hardest parts of electrical work is accessibility. In some situations, adding a new outlet or replace old wiring can require nearly tearing your walls apart. There is a solution, however: Open building can make things easier by focusing on flexibility, ease of access and disentanglement of systems.
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Toddler playing with electrical outlet

Electrical safety tips for parents

  • 02/19/15

Do you have a baby or toddler in your home? If so, call a residential electrician, who can prevent a number of electrical problems that could pose a threat to your little one. Here are some additional ways to protect your child from dangerous electrical currents in your home.


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Electrical home maintenance banner

Home maintenance and safety tips

  • 01/19/15

You can help keep your electrical system in safe working order by being mindful and following some simple precautions. Check out Direct Energy's infographic for some basic electrical home maintenance tips that will keep you a step ahead. It's also a good idea to call in a professional electrician once
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Brownout sign

Protect your home from brownouts

  • 12/18/14

Hopefully, you have surge protectors set up in your house to protect your electronics from power surges, or voltage spikes, that can fry your devices. Unfortunately, surge protectors won't save you from the evil cousin of a power surge -- a low voltage event, or brownout. Dimming lights in your
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Christmas tree and dreidel

Holiday safety tips

  • 12/15/14

The Christmas carols are already playing nonstop in shopping malls and on the radio. Before you know it, Christmas day will arrive. Whether that means flying off to visit far-flung friends and relatives, or inviting the extended family into your own home, follow these tips to have a meaningful, and
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Solar panels on roof

Is solar power right for your home?

  • 12/11/14

Solar power isn't just for going off the grid anymore. More and more homeowners are finding solar panels are a great option to supplement their existing power source and lower utility costs.

If you have the cash to make the up-front payment, installing solar panels can be a smart long-term
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Municipal building code

Does your home violate your local building code?

  • 12/04/14

If you are looking to remodel, expand or sell your home, there's a good chance you will have a close encounter with your local building code. These laws can be extensive, confusing and change frequently. The code is there for your safety, but it can still be frustrating to deal
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Woman with circuit breakers

What You Need To Know About Your Circuit Breaker

  • 12/01/14

Perhaps you've always wondered what's in the mysterious metal box on the basement wall. It's a circuit breaker box, and without it your whole home electric system would be unsafe, leaving you in danger.

Circuit box repairs or upgrades require an expert, but you don't need to be a master electrician
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How the power grid works

Understanding the power grid

  • 11/20/14

Electricity gives us light, warmth and many of the conveniences of modern life. It powers industry, our homes, our schools and our offices, yet most of us take it for granted. Do you know where your electricity comes from or how it reaches you to provide the energy you depend
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A space heater may save money

Can you save money with a space heater?

  • 11/17/14

Temperatures are falling rapidly, and some regions of the country have already seen snow. With winter settling in, renters and homeowners are cranking up their thermostats to stay warm and cozy while bracing themselves for a big bump in utility bills due to heating costs. Savvy consumers looking for a
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Power surges damage electronics

Protect your home from power surges

  • 11/13/14

Wondering why that expensive new DVD player mysteriously stopped working? The culprit might be a power surge. A power surge can enter the home, fry the circuit breaker and spread to various outlets in the house. If an appliance is plugged directly into the electrical system, it may not survive
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Sparks from outlets are a sign of electrical trouble

Common symptoms of home electrical problems

  • 10/20/14

There are many electrical problems that can spring up in your home, but it can be tough to recognize them. How do you know when it’s time to call an electrician? Here are some key signs that you may need electrical repairs in your home.


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