Electrical issues might feel overwhelming and complicated when they happen in your home—so many wires hidden in walls! The electrical panel has too many choices! Was that a kitchen smell or a burning electrical odor? The simple fact is that electricians tend to see some common electrical problems over and over, regardless of where you live.

The warning signs of an electrical issue can indicate something simple to solve or a bigger problem. When you see flickering lights, smell something burning, or have frequent outages, an electrician is going to be looking for some common culprits.

These are the five most typical causes behind the visible sights and smells of electrical issues in homes:

  1. Faulty wiring. It’s probably not your fault that your wiring is bad and causing lights to flicker or bulbs to burn out quickly. If you experience regular power outages or blown fuses, chances are that an electrician will be looking at the wiring to solve the problem. A wiring issue could be small and easy to fix, or lead to the discovery of larger problems to be addressed. Keep in mind that solving electrical issues is about keeping a home and its occupants safe since a small spark can start a fire. An electrician will be checking to see what your local electrical codes are and if your property—based on age, primarily—is required to meet certain codes and make recommendations on the best choices for you.
  2. A device or appliance could be the problem, not your home’s electrical system. Sometimes you have that microwave or clothes dryer or some other item that requires electricity in the home and it just keeps shorting out. You’ve tried the outlet, but it seems fine. A professional electrician will be able to quickly test all of the possibilities and let you know if you need to instead contact the manufacturer for a replacement. It can be a relief to know that you weren’t imagining the weird symptoms and that your home’s electrical is in good working order.
  3. Are you short a couple of outlets? Having too few outlets in the home can lead to a fire if there is too much demand for power at the site, and when the incorrect type of extension cord is used to add outlets. While some older homes were grandfathered in when codes were updated, there can be a benefit to having an electrician install a few more, for safety’s safe. This is usually a fairly small and affordable job to have done professionally. When there is an electrical overload caused by too much use at one outlet, this can also create a power surge.
  4. There can be many causes for a power surge, which is when there is a spike in voltage after the power comes back on after being interrupted. Typically, lightning and an area blackout or power outage precipitates a power surge, which might seem natural but in fact is causing damage. Whether it is frequent and small power surges or one big surge, there can be damage to all of your devices and some appliances. An electrician can install a surge protector for the whole house, and there are smaller options like an extension cord with surge protection built in.
  5. Circuit breakers can go bad due to excessive use or age, and then it’s time for a replacement. This is usually a problem in older homes as circuit breakers should be able to last about 30 years. An overloaded circuit breaker—which can happen when there is too much demand from the increasing number of devices being used at the same time in a home—can cause a fire. While it can be tempting to DIY, it’s best to get in an electrician who can check for an underlying issue that has caused the circuit breaker to go bad at this time—especially if it’s newer.

Having a professional electrician come in to assess the problem has the potential to save money if a minor issue becomes something major like a fire. In addition, electricity can kill when not handled properly. A trained Mister Sparky electrician has the appropriate safety gear and tools to test your system and fix the problem.