Troubleshooting Home Electrical Problems (And When to Call the Professionals)
When the power goes out during a storm in Cincinnati, often several houses are affected. But what if it’s only your house? And what if there’s no unusual weather to blame it on? Perhaps the appliances are not working, but the lights are. What causes these partial blackouts, and how do you fix them?
Why Won’t My Electricity Turn Back On?
Whether the whole house is dark or only a room or two, there are a few potential sources of the partial power outage. These are the most common reasons the electricity is not working in part of the house:
Overloaded circuit. The most common reason for a partial power outage is an overloaded circuit. A surge during a storm, too many appliances, or even faulty appliances can send more electricity through your system than it can safely handle. Your circuit breaker will trip to protect you, but in some cases, the surge happens too quickly for the breaker. A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet can cut the power quickly, preventing possible electrocution. Both tripped circuit breakers and GCFI outlets can cause partial blackouts in your home.
Loose or faulty wiring. High winds can momentarily interrupt the power when your electrical system has poor connections. This interruption causes lights to flicker and may result in the power going on and off in the house. With faulty wiring, you may also experience frequent circuit breaker trips and darkened or charred outlets. A professional inspection can determine if you need your wiring brought up to code.
Termites. In 2022, Cincinnati ranked 21st among the top 50 most termite-infested cities in the United States. Unfortunately, this can mean more than damage to the wood in your home. When termites build their nests, they sometimes pack a mud-like substance into outlets. The moisture can cause short circuits to trip the breaker or deliver electrical shocks to you or your family. Infesting termites will also chew through any wires in their way as they tunnel through your walls. The damaged cables quickly become hazards for electrical arcs and fires.
Damaged circuit breaker. It’s possible that your circuit breaker is damaged and needs repair or replacement. If the switches refuse to reset to the on position, it may indicate a short circuit in the wiring. Your breaker probably needs repair if other problems accompany a switch issue. These include a burning smell, scorch marks on the outlets or the breaker, or visible damage to the breaker. A damaged circuit breaker is an issue best left to a certified electrician.
What to Do When Only My House Has No Power
If yours is the only dark house on the block, it’s likely a problem with your home’s electrical system rather than the community power grid. Try these steps to solve the issue before seeking professional assistance:
Check the breaker. When the power goes out, check your circuit breaker to see if a switch has flipped off. If it is, a significant power draw likely overloaded the circuit. Unplug all appliances and power strips in the affected room before switching the circuit back on. Look closely because sometimes the switch only flips partially. If it is midway, press the switch all the way off before resetting it to the on position.
If the breaker shows signs of damage, turn all the switches to “off” and contact a trusted electrician for assistance.
Reset the GFCI. If an outlet’s not working, but the circuit breaker is on, look for GFCI outlets that may have tripped. These safety features have “test” and “reset” buttons in the center of the outlet. They detect high or inconsistent electricity flows and cut power to fixtures down the line. Because they also affect other outlets and switches, the GFCI interrupting your electricity could also be in another room or even another floor. Press the reset button to reopen the electrical flow safely.
Screw in light bulbs tighter and check plugs. If some lights on a circuit are not working or a few devices in a room don’t function, check that they’re all snug in plugs and sockets. Loose light bulbs may flicker or go out, and a loose plug often causes inconsistent energy flow.
Call an electrician. If checking the circuit breaker and resetting the GFCI doesn’t solve the issue, it’s time to seek professional help. Electrical problems can be dangerous to address on your own. If you don’t have expertise in the field, you should call a professional for more complicated issues.