What Are the Signs of Home Electrical Problems?

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Subject: my duplex

my bill is $226 my unit 740 square feet total square footage is 2000sq ft and the three-bedroom bill is $112 had 4 people plus a dryer over there is a 3-bedroom large compared to My two-bedroom small unit both of them have HVAC systems in it and it was just me living alone last month and the power company switched out the meters when my ex tenants for stealing power however they came back out took the meter off and everything on the meter goes to this unit when it shut off is it possible that the billing is messed up and how do I get it fixed if it is. so far this month my in the last two days since the power guy has been out and took off the box I have used 20% more power than the neighbors who has two people full-time there with a dog and it's just me and my dog when I was working on the unit I got a $12 bill and there was a $89 bill for over there and they said it was my power tools that I was using because I was using a hand sander and things like that to get it fixed up.I know something's wrong and I'm frustrated and trying to keep my bills low any advice? if the ex-tenant hooked up another way besides on the power boxes outside itself to still power is there another way they could have done that to hook up to this unit to still a power that I can't find or the billing just switched somehow I don't understand it any advice would be helpful thank you.

Margie Cattouse

Subject: Boiler and lights

My boiler won't work neither will the lights in the back of the house (where boiler is located) and the overhead light in my livingroom. Boiler is relatively new (5yrs old).

Brenda J Atkins

Subject: Electrical problem

As my daughter came out of my bedroom bathroom she smelled something burning, like burning rubber or plastic and noticed that the bedroom light had gone off. I turned off the breaker to my bedroom. Can someone tell me what might have happened? I had a led light bulb in. I haven't taken out the bulb yet to see if it burned out, have never had this problem before. We live 100 miles from an electrician.


Subject: Switches and outlets

If the light switch or the outlet feels overly warm to the touch, that is also a red flag. The connections are likely loose causing resistance or a small short. This can cause a fire at the switch or outlet.


Subject: Wiring from 1975....


We bought a house in 2007 that supposedly checked out on all fronts. However, after moving in we discovered that the tree out front was causing the "front porch" area's concrete base that was also part of the house's foundation was being raised. We took care of the tree, removed it. Fast forward a few years and we started having a few more tripped breakers. Then all of a sudden one bedroom that had a few outages along with the other bedroom (same time outages) was experiencing single outages. Then suddenly NO power to walls or light...and the other bedroom next to it lost power in one wall (wall backing to room with outage).

This is confusing to us as the rooms were supposed to have two one one circuit, as per label and us testing the breakers) and the other room to be on it's own circuit. The room with the outage will sometimes come on and then after a few hours will go off again.

We don't have the funds nor credit to get this fixed. Does anyone have an idea of what is possibly causing the issue?

Tania Beauchamp

Subject: Light Switches

Hi, what can cause light switches to come out of the wall and break in a brand new house? All of them are coming out! Thank you!


Subject: Bathroom lights

My bathroom lights and exhaust fan slowly dimmed out. Now there no power in the bathroom. I changed the power switch (wall switch). That did not work. I switched out the circuit breaker, that did not work either. I'm lost?


Subject: Meter running fast

I think my meter (Visontech) meter running faster, plz suggest me is it wiring problem or other issue? We recently install a new meter which tested by electrical department. thanks


Subject: Power in half house is out

We have no power in half the house, upstairs and down but just the outlets are out, not the overhead lights. It's been the way for a year. Before it went out we would have it go out for a week and then on for a few weeks until the timing got closer and closer together. One day it never came back on. The electrician who rewired the house couldn't find any visible problems with the box in the basement. He didn't explore further. Thoughts?


Subject: Power in half the House

We had the same issue with our power the main box outside has fuses in them that can go bad. That was our issue our one fuse busted which only left us with half use of outlets and lighting! Good luck hope this helps you!

Sharon Tanner

Subject: Powèr is not working

We had a fire on our stove and it burned up the top of the stove and hood above the stove. Now the plug ins and lights will not work.what is the problem.


Subject: Similar Situation

We had a similar situation about ten years ago when I was heating up oil to cook French fries, left the room for a minute, forgot about the oil, came back and there was a fire. Not thinking clearly I grabbed a wet towel from the bathroom and threw it over the pan/fire which resulted in a huge fireball that singed our entire kitchen and killed the overhead light and one of the sockets in the far corner across from the stove/oven. We repainted but have yet to rewire the overhead fixture. We've been getting by bringing a halogen lamp into the kitchen from the living room whenever we're in the kitchen after dark.


Subject: central air / stove stopped working

What can cause stove/oven plus central air and heat to stop working but everything else works fine. Dont understand how both stopped working together. Tried the breaker but didnt help. Any advice? Have not noticed any problems just randomly happened.


Subject: Not an expert, but the thing

Not an expert, but the thing that ties those two things together is they both run on 220v instead of the 110/120v most of your home outlets will supply. Do you have a dryer as well? Does it still work? Sounds like one or all of your 220 has somehow gone out, but beyond that I can't say how or why, but it probably all goes to the same place and that's likely where your problem is - loose wire in the breaker box? Might give you a place to start, though I wouldn't recommend messing with that yourself!

Allen rice

Subject: ceiling lights not working

I put a new exterior porch light and new ceiling fan in the kitchen. Connected everything back one at a time and they worked when power was turned back on. Several hours later had a breaker trip, finding it had gone bad switch wise. Then about 4 hours later the bedroom and laundry ceiling lights stopped working but the outlets still work. The work I did is in different parts of the house and on different breakers. Had wires blow apart inside a junction box a week ago! Anyone have an suggestions!

Connie Webster

Subject: backfeed power to light

I Have a ceiling fan when the ceiling fan power is off The light on the ceiling fan glows when the light is turned off. when ceiling fan power is on and light is off the power does not feed back to the light.


Subject: Burning of switches and glowing orb at box

Hi! I just recently brought in an electrician into my house bc of a kitchen renovation.. Noticed before he came some of the lights were flickering... Didn't think anything of it. I have a 200A panel. The electrician just took off the panel cover to do work. It's been off for about a month. A couple of breakers started tripping often. I noticed that the existing switches in my kitchen are badly burnt at the toggle part they are about 10 years old. I had a fire. It flared up against the wall and almost was touching the ceiling. I noticed other switches on the same circuit are also burnt. Also around the wall looks very Burnt. Noticed things are getting dim. I have 4 hi hats in my dining room. Just replaced the bulbs in each can to a much lower wattage. I noticed that one is super bright, one is really dim and the other two are not that bright but really hot to the touch. Had two clowns come into my house two years ago. A neutral came loose and struck 3 bars where the breakers go that that get their power that aren't in service and seriously chipped and melted the bars. I noticed a glowing orb above the main breaker at the top of the box... Gives off a bluish sometimes reddish glow.. Also I noticed that my boiler sizzles and that switch is also burnt. My wires are 80 years old BX type. Also the boiler is circuit number 1, the circuit where the switches upstairs were melting and where I had the fire is circuit number 3, circuit number 5 keeps tripping and the outlet doesn't work right. Those three circuits are all in a line going straight down on the left side of the panel. Number 1 is a 15 A number 3 is a 15 A and number 5 is a 20 amp.

Barbara Abbott

Subject: outlet in one room.

The 2 outlets in the living room are not working. I replaced the 20 amp breaker ,thinking this would help-------but it didnt. Wondering now do you think it would be the receptors in the outlet ? Should i change the out let in the room. Thank you,


Carolyn Elder


When there is an area power outage due to storm activity, etc.
my nieghbor's electrical service seems to go 'haywire' turning on
the lights and baseboard heaters in her home. Since the house
is unoccupied except during high season(VRBO)
and is a townhome with which I share a party wall,
I am concerned about the possible dangers associated with
this neighbor's electrical service..

such as described.

Should I be concerned for the safety of occupants of this home
and for my home regarding possible fire hazard?

Thanks for your assistance.



Subject: electrical problem

Lights blink stuff plugged in goes on and off had landlord here after plugs shot out of walls he said he fixed it now it's doing it again our family lost a tv and computer already to this burning it out can anyone help with advice thanks so much


Subject: Big flash

I plugged in my vaccum in a basement outlet we don't use I noticed the plug in was hard to use and the outlet came out of the wall a bit. I ignored it and turned on a vacuum started fine but a few seconds later it emitted a huge flash and and all the lights flickered in the house what should I do???


Subject: hi there

ok i had the main power going to a plugin. that powered all my light s and plugs. but i added 3 new plugs and a light switch . so i ran new wires to the new plugs and sperated the lights from the main power. so the main power is going into a junction box and that is tied into the new plugs and tied also into a new light switch. so i turned on the light switch but the power keeps on shutting the breaker off. and i can't figure out why that is doing that.

Max Cady

Subject: Glowing Globe over the panel...

This sounds odd, but I have noted a small globe/orb above the panel, which is in our master bedroom. I thought it was a reflection at first, but it is clearly a 3-D orb, around 5" in diameter. In the dark at night, I see it on the wall above the circuit panel. Has anyone ever heard of this? We are renting this home and there are a lot of bizarre things, but this takes the cake...
Thanks for any thoughts!

Alex c

Subject: Surfing the web and came

Surfing the web and came across this post... the first thing I thought of was ball lightning... you should research it and see if that is what you were s seeing.


Subject: older electric oven

we have an older electric stove /oven, about 25 years old, that has not been used in 3 years. Would there be any increased issues to begin to use the stove again?


Subject: Clicking in Light fixture

I recently installed a ceiling fan/light fixture. The fan works great but every time I turn the light on, the bulb does not light and there is a continuous clicking sound. I've checked the wiring but cannot find the problem. Any ideas?


Subject: I fixed it once

Okay my outlets on one wall quit working no power to them at all it started in the living room on that same wall skipped the kicthen plugs they still worked and the problem started again in my master bedroom the plugs on that same wall lost power , we found a light swith that quit working cause a ground was touching and when we fixed it the rest of the plugs started working again now that light switch still works but more plugs stopped working does anyone know why i would hate to call the electrician back over a simple fix


Subject: lights wont come on in 2 rooms after installing a ceiling fan

i installed a ceiling fan in my home and it worked for 4 days and it stopped working and caused the light to stop working in the bathroom however the power outlets still worked so i checked the light switch and changed it that didnt work and put the old light fixture back up that didnt work so i put the fan back up and still no light in the room or bathroom could it be the breaker but the breaker switches werent jumped can u tell me what to do other than call an electrician cause i dont have the money for it


Subject: Ceiling fan

While I am no trained professional if sounds to me like your new ceiling fan may draw more amperage than the circuit could carry. I would suspect a broken wire somewhere in that circuit. Like it or not you may need an electrician to repair it.

Ashley N

Subject: Outlet causing lights to go out

I have an outlet that I can not use. If I tap the outlet cover or use anything in it, it causes the lights in that room to go out. I have to bang on the outlet to get them to come back on. What can be causing this?


Subject: Light fixture

We have just had a ceiling re plastered however the lights we took down only had 2 wires to it is this normal for a 1960s flat? As a sparkie who came out said we didn't have an earth .

Yvonne gonzalez

Subject: Metor box caught on fire

What can my aunt do when she a renter n the metro box caught on fire n the fire department n city turned off all power to house.mean while sitting in da dark n sleeping out side in this triple digit temperature is not cool for some reason the box did not pass city code.inspection..so since Friday my aunt n two uncles who are all seniors citizens n on medication are in this horrible situation n where can they get help


Subject: New 200A panel. Breaker throws.

Electricians installed a new outdoor weather resistant 200A breaker panel to accommodate a new electric furnace and heat pump. They used the old panel inside the house for a splice point. Now, in the kitchen, the microwave and some other circuits seem to be on the same breaker because if someone plugs in an electric griddle, then uses the microwave, the breaker throws. Every time. We've gotten used to not using both at the same time but this never happened with the old 100A panel. The electrician doesn't seem to think his crew could have caused this to start happening. It took 3 days to fix the 220 circuits after they finished the job. Hottest day of the year the AC didn't work when he left. He came back & rewired it. THEN the hot water heater had the same problem but he came back out & rewired that one too. What do I do about the circuit breakers being thrown each time we use our appliances?

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This can be maddening. Over the past 40+ years, in 4 houses, I have had or have run across this problem from gas meter leakage, water well pump column vibration, doorbell transformer, circulating pump, an extremely small (mist spray) water pipe leak, flourescent and sodium lights, security system horn dead battery, gas meter leaking slightly, bees in wall, bat colony, electric typewriter left on, stereo left on very low, and speaker inductive hum.

This seems to be a popular and recurrent question, so I am going to give the long answer for use by future questioners too.

I am assuming you do not hear this noise away from your house, or that other family members can hear it to. Obviously, if you hear it elsewhere also and other family members cannot hear it, then maybe you have tinninitus or are hearing your own high blood pressure blood flow (seriously). This commonly gets more acute at night when it is quiet, so all you are hearing is your internal ear sounds. I had this happen once because of a middle ear blockage - drove me crazy, getting up in the middle of the night because I thought I heard a water leak through the walls. Try putting on a pair of earmuffs or hearing protectors - if you still hear it or hear it louder, this is probably the case.

One method if hum is on the clearly audible side is make a 2 foot long cone out of paper to hold against your ear - like an antique hearing horn - then in each room face each of 4 directions while listening for where sound is the loudest, and turn your head to pinpoint the exact direction - I would spend 10 minutes doing this before getting into detailed stethoscope listening.

Otherwise, sounds like time for the old stethoscope (about $12 at a drug store - get a metal soundhead one, not cheap plastic, which does not pick up vibration as well). Also, if you are older (say over 35 or so) your hearing might have started to deteriorated with age, so if you have children or grandchildren with sharp hearing, they might be able to help track it down. I am sure a young child or grandchild, if you have one, would love this sort of treasure hunt (with appropriate "treasure" for a reward for tracking it down). 

Being careful not to come in contact with electricity with the stethoscope, check all the likely sources listed below. Start by placing it against pipes and walls and floor in each room of the house - water sourced noise goes a long ways, and tends to reverberate in the walls, so if that is the source likely to hear pretty easy. Hold stethoscope against bare pipes, both hot and cold, and heating system radiators or hot air vents.

If listening to water and hot water heating pipes indicates it is not water sourced, then you could turn off the master (outside) breaker or all the inside breakers and see if it goes away. I would only do this during above-freezing weather and early on a weekday, just in case a breaker fails to turn back on correctly when you switch it. Older master breakers particularly, which typically have never been used, sometimes break or fail to reclose properly after being shut off, so then have to be replaced. You want to be doing this at a time of day when, if necessary, you could get an electrician in the same day to replace it without paying weekend or nighttime emergency call rates.

If turning off the master breaker (or all other breakers) eliminates the hum, then turn them on one at a time until you find the one that turns the hum back on, then track where that circuit likely feeds (hopefully it is labelled) and check every switch, outlet, and light fixture.

Humming sources include (not in any particular order, a + in front means likely or common source of humming, - means rare or not likely):

1) + toilet fill valve - slightly leaking toilet inlet valve (listen where water tubing comes into toilet tank, and look inside tank to see if there is any water flow into or ripppling of the water in the tank or the bowl, or from the bowl filling tube (usually a small black plastic flexible tube which comes out of the fill valve (usually far left side of tank) and is clipped onto and discharges down into a hollow vertical brass or plastic tube or pipe in the toilet tank, which refills the toilet bowl after you flush)

2) + leaking faucet - kitchen, tub, shower, sink, utility tub, etc - it is amazing how just the smallest valve leak can make a hum or hiss that you can hear through the walls (especially at night), but only drips every few seconds.

3) - electric service meter dial motor

4) - electric breaker panel - rarely, a loose main power feed to a panel (especially with aluminum main service wire) will get loose enough that it vibrates back and forth and hums in its connector. A loose bus or snap-in breaker slot cover plate in the panel can also do this rarely

5) - gas meter or overpressure vent (unlikely, as you have had it replaced)

6) + boiling in the bottom of hot water heater or boiler because of buildup of lime, but would usually be intermittent - only when unit is heating

7) + furnace fan or electrostatic filter (forced air heat), or circulating pump (hot water baseboard heating), or steam condensate pump or overpressure venting (steam system).

8) - gas control valve or electric control box on a gas furnace, or its transformer (most have a 120V to 24, 16 or 12V transformer inside the front of the furnace

9) + air filter or electrostatic filter alarm on forced air furnace - some have a passive "whistle" opening that sounds softly when the filter is getting blocked, and if blocked with dust could make a hum rather than a whistle.

10) + Some water softener systems also have an "alarm" device to tell you it is time to service the unit, so check that if you have such a unit.

11) - a slightly leaking overpressure/overtemp valve on hot water heater or furnace (would be dripping)

12) - air venting from the air vents on hot water heating system. These will commonly make a hum or wheeze sound, for only for a few seconds at a time - not continuous unless leaking water

13) - city water system booster pump sound through the water column (if there is one near your home) - listen at the incoming water pipe - if much louder there than at other pipes within the house, that could be a house, though unlikely. If you think this could be it, find your water shutoff valve (typically 10' into your lawn from the street) and listen there. Would also be audible at neighbor's service pipe if that is the source.

14) - gas system compressor sound coming through gas pipe - listen to gas pipe outside the house and inside the house near furnace - if louder outside,, this could be a possible source, but the compressor or pressure reducer would have to be near your house. Would also be audible at neighbor's service pipe if that is the source.

15) + auxiliary booster circulating pump in your hot water or steam heating system (there may be one separate from the furnace, likely in the basement or a utility closet - most commonly found on  multi-unit apartment building with central heating and in 3 story or higher buildings, but you never know)

16) + a water leak, either inside or a leaking hose bib or pipe, or in your service pipe coming to the house

17) - electric on-demand water heater or electric-powered water filtration unit under the kitchen sink or inthe basement

18) + refrigerator compressor or fan hum

19) + doorbell transformer (front or back door - transformer is usually NOT at the doorbell, it is usually mounted in an open space like nailed to a basement joist, in an entry closet, or in the cubby space under the stairs - always physically near to the door, but NOT always on the same floor)

20) - any instant-on device like a TV

21) + any audio device (stereo, iPod, music player dock, computer, etc) that may have been left on at very low volume. Also, VERY rarely, if stereo or external speaker wires are run close to and parallel with an electric wire in the wall, they will acquire an  inductive voltage and hum.

22) + anything with a transformer, including stereo, add-on computer or iPod speakers, battery charger (rechargeable batteries or spare car battery or rider mower or boat battery charger), any portable electriconic device. Also portable device chargers (computer, iPod, cell phone, etc) - even if the device is not plugged into the transformer, as long as the transformer (charger) if plugged into an outlet, it is transforming high to low voltage, and transformers commonly hum

23) - electric typewriter left running

24) - electric ultrasonic cleaner or denture cleaner or electric toothbrush left on 

25) - home hair drying hood left on

26) - a lint buildup-jammed bathroom, kitchen, or attic fan. Many of these have, for safety, so called "self limiting" motors that if they jam just sit there and hum, but do not burn out.

27) - an attic cooling fan whose thermostat has failed, so is on all the time

28) - electronic furnace thermostat

29) + air conditioning unit, or aquxiliary air conditioner evaporator

30) + humidifier / dehumidifier - either permanently installed or portable

31) + portable heater / fan / air purifier

32) - automatic animal feeder waterer - either water supply or electric, as applicable

33) - dishwasher motor runningcontinuously - not shutting down after end of cycle

34) - convective or direct-vent oven or cooktop exhaust fan not shutting off

35) + flourescent (tube or CFL) or sodium or halogen light bulb / ballast hum (either inside, outside front door fixtures, or public street lights). These can hum quite pesistently when the starter circuit sticks on, or the bulb is dying and will not start (light completely), so the started circuit tries continually to start the lamp - can make a hum audible up to a block away on street lights.

36) - a dying electronic photocell designed to turn on your outside lights

37) - home security system, especially its alarm or horn. If the alarm is sounding but for some reason the main power is not getting to it, then as the battery goes dead (or if full voltage is not getting to it) is can give off a squeek, hum, or rasping sound - ditto if insects like wasps or hornets build a nest in it, so it cannot sound correctly.

38) + well pump, pressure tank, or filtration system, if you are on a well

39) + insect or bat nest in the attic or walls or in outside bins or cupboards, electric panel/meter, or outside telephone connection box (bees /wasps / hornets most likely) - though this usually varies by time of day, although it would "pulse" at the time of day when they are waking up or going to sleep.

40) + carpenter ants or termites - their continuous chewing of the wood can sound like a hum till you get right up against the colony, then you can actually hear the chewing

41) - a regional hum, as has been occurring at times in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Arkansas - where micro-seismic activity causes a hum or booming sound. Google or call your local paper and see if anyone has been reporting this in your area.

42) + outdoor power service transformer - either a metal (typically army green or gray) about 1 foot diameter "can" mounted on a power pole if you have overhead service, or a 2-3 foot cubic metal box on the ground or in a manhole pit near the street if you have underground service, which usually serves 4-6 houses (so may be in a neighbor's yard) and will have a voltage rating marked on it, usually in yellow stick-on lettering - like 4160V - 220V. Usually has high voltage - keep away safety markings on it.

43) - you have found where the Caddyshack gopher (who hummed to himself) moved to after Bill Murray blew up his happy home at the golf course.

Hope this list helps you (and future users with the same question).

Unless you feel uncomfortable doing minor repairs or don't understand that you should turn the electicity OFF before doing such installations...you can do the job yourself with a screwdriver and needle nose pliars...within 15 minutes. 5-10 minutes if you've done it before.

The amperage is the rated power it can handle. Modern houses are generally built with 200 amp panels, and a lot of the newer ones are going 300-350 amps as more and more electronic devices and fancy and high-demand kitchen devices and increased lighting are used in homes.

Both are just as safe - the 200 amp one will just have many more breaker slots, allowing way more circuits, and providing more room for expansion in the future, especially for power-hungry things like shop tools. Each uses only as much electricity as is used in the circuits - the panel itself does not consume any electricity, so no long-term impact there. It is just a circuit connection box where the individual circuits are connected, with circuit protectors (breakers) in line before it connects to the main line to your electric usage meter.

Unless you are real tight on money on this job, I would upgrade to 200 amps capacity - the incremental cost is about $100-200 or so over the 100 amp panel. If your incoming power line cannot handle 200 amps, you could install a 100 amp main breaker to keep the power company happy but put in the 200 amp breaker panel, so in the future a main line upgrade could be done with only a main disconnect breaker upgrade of $100 or so, without having to change anything inside the house.

Having the larger panel, especially if 200 amp capacity all the way from the meter, can be a selling point (or rather, lack of a negative point) to a potential buyer with lots of electronics or who is into shop power tools. It would also facilitate conversion to electric heat / water heating if someone wanted to do that.


As I understand it, you are looking at putting in a fan where there is no ceiling electric outlet. Since I am not sure, will try to break out piece by piece, undersanding these wouyld all be lumped into one job (possibly excluding wiring new outlet and switch). I hate to be so general, but access is the key here - if access is easy and there is a suitable light switch in the same room, cost can be at the low end of this range. If assess is poor and you don't want holes knocked in your drywall, then get more expensive real fast.

1) cost of fan typically $125-250 unless high end model

2) remove existing regular 4" box, install supports to joists and new box (ceiling fans need specially supported boxes due to the extra weight and swaying motion of the fans) $50-75

3) tap electric from existing circuit at existing box, upgrade existing light switch box to add one or two more switches (Adjustable for fan speed, 2nd for light, if so equipped), run wiring to ceiling fixture $125-250

4) put up fan, connect, test $75-100

So - total About $250-425 with no box there now, plus cost of fixture. A simple install to replace an existing fan, or install where the ceiling box was wired for a fan, would be only about $75-100.

This all assumes the existing nearby electric circuit can handle the addition of the fan - if not, then wiring cost will go up. It also assumes there is access via open attic or joists to install the wiring. Otherwise, installation cost OK but does NOT include repair to holes in drywall or ceiling to pull wiring.

Note also that an existing ceiling light box would probably NOT fill the bill - code in almost all jurisdictions requires 12 ga wire for fan motors, most household circuits are 14 or 16 gauge, so would need new wire pulled from a circuit with adequate capacity.

Get bids ! I worked on one job where the owner in a high-end house decided to put in fans with fancy candeliers underneath after construction was done - cost almost $3000 to do installation because all the wall and ceilings were finished in a high-end finish, so all wire pulling had to be done remotely - including removing siding to put in pull boxes at changes of direction and fasten conduit to studs. PLAN AHEAD !