5 home electrical issues you should never ignore

From flickering lights to tripping breakers—don’t ignore these crucial electrical issues.

Updated on 5/9/2022

Some of the most beautiful homes in the Portland and Vancouver areas also happen to be some of the oldest houses in the region. However, potentially dangerous electrical problems often plague these structures. This is an issue because many people don’t know the warning signs of electrical problems, so they tend to miss them. In an attempt to address this, our experts have compiled a list of 5 home electrical issues that you should never ignore.

Before we get into some common signs of electrical problems, we must first issue a statement of caution. Addressing an electrical problem in the home before it becomes serious can prevent future electrical fires or accidental electrocution. Keep in mind that many of these issues will require the expertise of a qualified electrician to ensure repairs are completed safely. 

Finally, we will take a look at some common electrical issues.


Faulty circuit breaker

Circuit breakers offer a layer of safety to the home’s electrical wiring as they shut off its electrical system whenever wires are overloaded to avoid a potential fire. Sometimes, breakers can trip due to general wear and tear when they become old.

Maintaining a properly functioning electrical system, especially one’s circuit breaker, is very important to keeping your home and family safe. Even seemingly innocuous problems have the potential to do lots of damage.

While the Pacific Northwest offers some of the most gorgeous homes in the country, electrical problems often plague these older structures, especially when it comes to circuit breakers. A lot of homes may have been constructed with recalled circuit breakers, which could potentially cause a number of electrical problems. 

An estimated 1 in 4 of these recalled breakers are defective and roughly 2,800 fires are caused directly by these Federal Pacific electrical panels each year.   

If your home was built between 1950 and 1990 with a Federal Pacific Electric circuit breaker panel, you’ll need to hire a professional electrician to replace it and avoid the imminent risk of an electrical fire.



Overlamping occurs when a light fixture is fitted with a bulb that has a higher wattage than what the fixture can handle. This is considered to be a code violation and can be very dangerous as the bulb’s extra heat can melt the socket or its wires and cause a fire hazard.  

It’s critical to remember that any damage done to the fixture as a result of overlamping will remain even when the bulb is replaced. To avoid doing permanent damage to your light fixtures, pay close attention to the printed wattage limits on light fixtures. If there is no limit listed on the appliance, use bulbs that are 60 watts or smaller as a good rule of thumb. That way, you are being as safe as possible without completely cutting out lighting.


Burning odor or sparks

A burning odor can be a serious problem because it may be a sign that an electrical fire is sparking and has the potential to spread. If you notice a burning smell from outlets or switches, shut the electrical panel’s power off and call an electrician to take care of repairs as soon as possible. 

Some possible culprits are simply a faulty device, damaged wiring, or an overloaded outlet. However, sitting around and guessing isn’t going to do you any good, so make sure you call an electrician so you know for sure and can address the problem quickly. 

Sparks that occur frequently and are larger than normal may be a sign that a wire is loose or that there’s an issue with the outlet. If there’s a loose wire, it can be very challenging to locate it. 

We recommend that you do not attempt to do this yourself, however, if you feel confident in your abilities, ensure you follow all safety measures when searching for the wire. Or, better yet, call an electrician to remedy the issue safely and properly. Trust us, you do not want to experience electrical shock or incorrectly wire your outlet, appliance, or fixture.


Flickering lights when it’s windy outside

Stormy weather in Portland and Vancouver areas can take a toll on the home’s electrical wiring. When it’s particularly windy or stormy outside, you may have noticed lights in the home flickering. This happens when the overhead cables from power lines that connect to the home have frayed wiring. Essentially, the wind causes a short whenever the cables are jostled around.

This can be highly dangerous as the frayed wiring may start an electrical fire. You should call the electric utility and have them replace the piece that covers the wires.


Overheating lighting fixtures

Light fixtures, especially those placed on the ceiling, can overheat if they are not well insulated. An overabundance of heat can cause fires, thus it is imperative that overheating a light fixture is avoided.

There are a couple of ways to avoid this electrical problem. First off, a simple fix is to switch the light bulbs to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) or LED bulbs because they produce far less heat than incandescents. Secondly, choosing the correct shade or trim—especially with recessed lighting—is another way to avoid overheating lighting fixtures.


Hire an electrician in Portland or Vancouver

Diagnosing electrical problems in your home can be tricky and dangerous. To ensure that you get the job done right the first time, call one of our experienced electricians at Prairie Electric to address any electrical issues you’re facing. Whether your appliance has a ground fault or your light switches don’t work, we will make sure you and your family are comfortable and above all, safe, when using your home’s electricity.

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