Most electrical problems around many houses are usually caused by different versions of the same problem: wire connections that haven’t been made properly or those that loosen over time. You may have bought a house with an electrical problem or hired an electrician who did a poor job. Or, you made a mistake while doing the wiring.
In most cases, no one should be blamed for wiring faults since they happen over time. As the popular saying goes, nothing is permanent. Wires heat, cool, expand and contract every time a switch or an appliance is used. And the result of this usage is the loosening of wires.
Your home’s electrical system has lots of safeguards against electrical dangers from wire connections such as the circuit breakers, grounding system, AFCI, and GFCI protection. Sparking and arcing can also lead to a fire and serious accidents due to loose wire connections. Most of these problems can be spotted and repaired by the homeowner while others should be handled by a professional. Understanding these issues will help you come up with effective solutions to eliminate them.
Materials and tools
- Wire strippers
- Eye protection
- Utility knife
- Electrical wire in different gauges
Common locations to find wire connection problems
Check the switches and outlets
The most common wiring problem in most homes is loose terminal connections at switches and outlets. Since these fixtures are used regularly within the electrical system, these are the places that you should look at when you are having wire problems.
You’ll hear a crackling or buzzing sound at a switch or outlet when you have a loose wire connection. To address this issue, you’ll need to turn off the power to the fixture, switch, or outlet. If your wire connections are made through push-in fittings on the back of the outlet or switch you should keep in mind that such connections are notorious for failing. Most professionals avoid using push-in fittings and make wire connections using screw terminals on the side of the outlet or switch. If your device has been made with push-in fittings, you should consider removing all of them and reconnecting the wires to the device’s screw terminals.
If the inside of the box has passed through wire connections that are made using different types of connectors or wire nuts, you should look at them to ensure that the wires have been tightened. A loose connector can create a host of problems that can lead to serious accidents.
Wires with electrical tape
A common wire connection problem occurs when different wires are joined together with tape instead of a sanctioned connector or wire nut. To solve this problem, you need to ensure that a good amount of wire is exposed so that you can join them together with an approved connector. If the ends of the wire are damaged, you’ll need to cut off the ends and strip ¾ inch of the insulation for the wires to connect properly.
Multiple wires under a single screw terminal
Another common wire issue is when there are several wires held under one screw terminal on an outlet or switch. Such connections are usually done by amateurs and they can lead to serious accidents. You can connect a single wire under each of the screw terminals on the side of a switch or outlet. However, it is a violation to have multiple wires connected under one screw. This is usually seen when two grounding wires are found under a grounding screw on an outlet. However, you’ll find neutral or hot wires connected to one screw terminal occasionally.
To solve this problem, you need to shut off the power and remove the offending wires from the screw terminal. Strip ¾ inch of insulation from the wires that you’ve disconnected and join them using a wire connector. Creating a bridge or pathway to connect the wires to the switch or outlet will solve this problem.
One of the signals that your wiring was done by an amateur is when you have a screw with too little or too many copper wires showing. When creating terminal connections, you should strip enough copper wire to wrap entirely around the terminal but not so much that bare wire extends from the screw. Excess wire can short out if it gets in contact with other wires or a metal box. Wires around the terminal should be wrapped clockwise otherwise there’ll be a high likelihood of loosening.
When it comes to wire nut connections, all bare copper wire should be inserted under the plastic cap with no exposed wires showing at the wire nut’s bottom. To solve this problem, turn off the power and disconnect the wires. Strip off insulation or clip off the excess wire to ensure that the appropriate amount of wire is exposed. Reconnect the wires to the wire nut or screw terminal. Lightly tug the wires to ensure that they have been connected securely.
Loose connections on the terminals of circuit breakers
Another common electrical problem occurs when the wires in the main service panel of circuit breakers are not connected to the breaker tightly. When this happens, you’ll notice flickering lights or service issues on the circuit. As you make connections to circuit breakers, you should always strip the right amount of wire insulation from the wire and ensure that only bare wire is tightened under the terminal slot. The connection slot should have no insulation. To solve this problem, you need the help of a professional. If you want to do the repairs yourself, you should be experienced in electrical wiring systems.
As you’ve seen, it’s not that difficult to trace a damaged or malfunctioning wire in your house. You need to hire qualified and experienced professionals to avoid serious accidents associated with electrical wiring. If you like doing repairs around the house, ensure that you understand how the wires have been connected to avoid serious injuries.
Leon Collier is a blogger and academic writer from the UK who has vast experience working with top essay writing service. He loves to take on every challenge thrown at him and can deliver outstanding work regularly. When he’s not busy writing, he loves reading books and playing tabletop games with his friends. Follow him on Twitter @LeonCollier12.