Your electrical system is packed with components which you depend on every single day, and often don’t give a second thought to. Electrical outlets are where we plug things in so they can get the power they need to work. Switches allow us to turn certain outlets on, including those which control things like lights or ceiling fans. Both are incredibly simple devices, and likewise both are prone to wear and tear, and will eventually need replacement.
Here’s the thing: most switches and outlets are designed to last, and often do so for years without issue. This can make recognizing when you may need to replace one of these simple components somewhat tricky. After all, we get used to them, and seeing when they need replacement can be tough unless you know what to look for. And that’s not necessarily a good thing—worn out switches and outlets could present a fire hazard or risk of electrical shock, which means you need to replace them as soon as possible!
To make recognizing this problem easier and potentially prevent a catastrophic disaster in your home, here is a simple list of four signs that you may need to replace an outlet or switch.
A light switch works on a simple principle: completing a circuit allows electricity to flow, and thus allows the light to turn on. By flipping the switch off, you interrupt the circuit, and off goes the light. What this means is that voltage and current flows through the switch while it’s in the ‘on’ position. Normally, this is entirely undetectable.
However, if you hear a subtle buzzing or rattling noise coming from your switch when you turn it on, this is a sign that the components responsible for carrying the current and voltage through to your outlet are starting to wear out. When they grow old, they develop resistance, which prevents the electricity from flowing freely. This usually generates heat, which in turn means that the buzzing switch could actually become a fire hazard before long. Have that switch replaced as soon as possible.
When a light switch is turned on, it should be able to stay that way indefinitely without issue. However, if you leave a light on for a few minutes and then notice that for some reason the switch feels warm, then resistance is becoming an issue, and your light switch needs to be replaced. Before long, components inside the switch may melt with the heat, creating a short that can absolutely spark an electrical fire.
The same principle can be applied to outlets—if it feels warm unexpectedly, then shut it off and get it replaced by a professional electrician. You should not feel any heat from outlets, switches, or plugs attached to the outlets while in operation.
Outlets work on a simple principle—metal clamps attached to both hot and neutral wires grab the prongs of your plug in order to pass the power into your device. Over time, these metal prongs bend and flex with every device plugged in and removed. Eventually, these prongs grow old, stiff, and simply don’t bend like they used to. When this is the case, they may become loose, and you may find that plugs in that particular outlet don’t like to stay there—they fall out with even the slightest of contact.
The risk here is that the clamps may still be making contact with your plug, passing the energy, while the prongs themselves may be exposed. This makes for a massive electric shock risk. Make sure every plug firmly and securely holds anything plugged into it without risking exposing the metal wires.
Do you still have outlets in your home which you can only plug two-pronged plugs into? These are outdated technology that no longer adheres to virtually any electrical safety or building code. The third prong, a rounded post, is actually what’s known as a “ground” wire, which is an added safety feature that helps prevent shock injuries in the event of a short circuit. Virtually anything that relies on higher voltage or current in order to operate will use a thicker cord with this third rounded ground prong.If you have any of these issues with your home’s electrical equipment, call Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Solar at 408.868.5500 to request a service appointment as soon as possible!