Did you know that in the US alone, around 1,000 deaths each year are due to electrical injuries? To add to that, at least 30,000 electrical shocks are reported annually, and 20% of these electrical-related incidents involve children.
If you understand how dangerous electrical injuries are, you would give importance to how you maintain your electrical system at home. Unfortunately, some homeowners tend to ignore warning signs that are the beginning of a more serious problem. Only when a simple issue turns into an electrical emergency is an expert called in to help. An electrical emergency could mean a power outage, a burnt outlet, a noisy electrical panel, or an electrical fire – all of these we will cover in this article and we’ll also include some tips on what to do in case these issues happen.
When is an electrical problem an emergency?
No matter how big or small an electrical problem is, the bottom line is all electrical issues are hazardous and need to be fixed by a licensed electrician. However, some homeowners allow these electrical malfunctions to go on until the issue will cause more headaches and will turn into a serious safety risk. To help you identify if your electrical problem calls for an emergency electrical service, here are some signs to look out for and what you can do when it happens.
One of the obvious instances that you need the immediate help of an electrician is a power outage. Although some power outages may be scheduled by a utility company (probably due to maintenance or as a result of extreme weather conditions), an isolated power outage indicates that you have a serious problem with your power source.
A damaged circuit breaker is one of the common causes of a power outage in a home. This could be a result of an overloaded electrical circuit or short circuit due to a faulty appliance. If you’re living in an older home, loss of power could also mean that you have frayed wires that are putting a strain on your electrical system.
What to do: In an event of a power outage that only involves your home, the first thing to do is to check the source. Head to your main breaker panel and check if there are circuit breakers that are tripped. All you need to do is to reset the breaker to restore power. You can also check with your utility provider to see if they have an answer to your issue.
If a reset on your breaker won’t work and your electric provider cannot give you an answer, the best solution is to call a 24/7 electrical service to have your electrical system inspected by a qualified electrician.
A power outage is an inconvenience and will surely require the visit of an electrician. But another (and probably more serious and damaging) electrical emergency is an electrical fire. Electrical fires could be caused by outdated or damaged wiring, improper use of extension cords, old appliances, or improper use of light fixtures. The U.S. Fire Administration reports that each year, there are 24,000 electrical fires involving residential buildings.
What to do: Obviously, an electrical fire is extremely dangerous, and may cause panic when this happens. However, the best thing to do when an electrical fire occurs is to keep yourself calm and collected.
Before anything else, the first thing to do is to cut the power source of the electrical system that is causing the problem. If the fire has not yet fully started, head to your breaker box and flip the switch off. This is an important step to prevent the risk of an electric shock when you’re trying to put off the fire. If the electrical fire involves an appliance, do not attempt to unplug it as it is a safety risk especially if the device is overheated or has a frayed wire.
Next, use a fire extinguisher to put out the fire. If you were unable to cut off the power, you should only use a Class-C rated fire extinguisher as these are designed to use with fires that involve electrical equipment. If you were able to cut off the power source, the water-based Class A extinguisher will do the job.
If you don’t have a fire extinguisher, you need to make sure that the power is cut so you can put off the fire using a fire blanket or water. Never use water to extinguish an electrical fire if you are not certain that the power is off. Call the fire department if you can’t control the fire.
However, if you are able to take out the fire, do not turn the power back on. Make sure to call a professional electrician first to inspect your electrical system, identify the problem and make the appropriate repairs.
You can read more about the leading causes of electrical home fires and how to prevent them in our article here.
Another electrical problem that surely demands your attention is a burnt outlet. If you notice that there is discoloration (black or brown) around your outlets this could be a sign that there is a serious electrical problem happening behind the walls. Overloading is one reason why your outlet has burnt marks and it could catch fire anytime.
What to do: Before things get worse, make sure that don’t touch the outlet and don’t plug anything in it. Also, check if other outlets have similar discoloration and avoid using them too. Do not dismiss this problem, make sure to schedule a visit with a local electrician as soon as possible.
Smell of Burning Wires
Are you smelling burning plastic or wires around your electrical system? This is an obvious sign that you have an electrical emergency at hand. This is a indication of overheating, which if not addressed, could lead to a devastating problem such as a full-blown electrical fire.
What to do: The first thing to do when you notice a funny smell coming off an outlet is to trip the circuit breaker that supplies power to the affected outlet. This way, you can safely unplug whatever devices are inserted into the receptacle. If the smell disappears, do not turn on the power yet and contact an electrician to inspect that outlet. However, if the smell continues despite doing this, be sure to vacate your home immediately and call for emergency services.
Strange noise coming from circuit breaker
It isn’t a surprise that homeowners would panic if they hear their electrical panel buzzing. However, it’s not always an electrical emergency when you hear a sound from your panel. Take note, that it is normal to hear a gentle and humming noise from your circuit breaker. But remember that these sounds should only be heard when you’re next to the breaker. These gentle and humming noises are likely because of the vibration of electrical currents, which shouldn’t cause any alarm.
What would indicate an electrical emergency is that the buzzing noise is loud enough that you can hear it even if you’re away from the circuit breaker.
What to do: If you’re hearing loud buzzing sounds from your panel and the breaker doesn’t automatically shut off, this could mean that your breakers have gone bad, which is extremely hazardous. Remember that breaker should trip if there are electrical faults. If it doesn’t, the wires will overheat and will result in an electrical fire.
The best thing to do here is to call an electrician immediately to have your circuit breaker inspected. You may have to be prepared if the electrician recommends that the electrical panel be replaced.
Read our article here for signs telling you that it’s time to replace your old electrical panel.
How much do electricians charge for emergency electrical service?
The average cost to hire an electrician runs from $50 to $100 per hour. This will depend based on the type of work to be done, the distance of your location, and the experience of the electrician you’re hiring. For basic electrical repairs, homeowners would usually spend from $161 to $520.
For emergency repairs, however, do expect that the cost runs higher as this requires you to get an immediate visit from the electrician. The rate for emergency repairs is typically double the usual hourly rate plus a trip charge that starts at $100.
How can you avoid electrical emergencies?
Most electrical issues are minor and could be addressed easily by a professional. However, when these small problems are ignored, they could turn into a more dangerous and expensive problem.
One of the things you can to do prevent a costly electrical emergency repair is to have your electrical system checked and repaired as soon as you identify any issues with it. Again, problems with electricity are something that should be dealt with immediately. Never attempt to fix anything electrical-related, and only trust a licensed electrician to do the repairs. Although you may think that hiring a professional is an unnecessary expense when you can deal with the problem yourself, electrical work is not as easy as you think. Licensed electricians are highly trained and have the experience to carry out the work safely and correctly. You will have peace of mind that you’re loved ones and your property are protected when you have an expert fix the problem you have with your electrical system.
We can help you locate reliable electricians near you.