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Could Your Holiday Lights Be Threatening Your Electrical System?

woman sitting in her home with holiday lights on a tree in the foregroundThe holiday season is well upon us, and if you are like many homeowners in our area, you are likely decorating your home, if you haven’t done so already. Quite often, this means putting up holiday lights in and around your home.

You may be surprised to learn that one of the most frequent calls received by our professional electricians is in regards to outlets and wall switches failing to operate, and tripped circuit breakers. This may include areas such as your bathroom, garage, or even outdoors. And the most common reason for these components not working is due to holiday lights overloading the electrical system. We are, of course, always happy to help you out with professional Coeur d’Alene electrical services should something like this occur in your home, but we’d also like to help you understand what’s going on and what you can do about it.

First, a Look at GFCI Outlets

GFCI is the acronym for ground fault circuit interrupter. It’s the type of outlet installed in areas that may be affected by water, such as your bathrooms, outdoor areas, laundry room, and/or garage space. GFCI outlets are designed to protect your household from serious injury due to electric shock, and will automatically shut off if moisture is detected, or if your electrical system is overloaded. If you have an outlet that’s failing to work, it’s most likely this one.

How Do Outlets Get Overloaded?

It’s not necessarily your outlet that gets overloaded, but rather your electrical system as a whole. The deal is that when more amperage passes through an electrical circuit or wire than the component is meant to handle, it gets overloaded. Essentially, when you try to draw power from too many lights, or appliances from a single outlet, the system can get overloaded.

Even if you are using different outlets, however, you’ll still want to consider the overall electrical capacity of your home. Your electrical wiring and circuit pane both need to be able to handle the total load of all electrical appliances, equipment, and lighting that rely on it.

Is Your System Overloaded?

So, how can you tell if your electrical system is, indeed, overloaded? There are a few things to watch out for, such as:

  • Dimming or flickering of your lights.
  • The sound of sizzling, crackling, or buzzing with no known source.
  • Flying sparks when an outlet is used.
  • Discolored wall plates or electric cords, indicating a small fire.
  • Frequently tripped circuit breakers.
  • Multiple malfunctioning electrical appliances.

If you notice any of these signs, the best thing you can do is to give our pros a call. And remember, this doesn’t mean you need to avoid putting up holiday lights! But, before you put your lights up, give our professional electricians a call so we can perform an electrical inspection. If you’ve already put yours up, don’t worry! We can still conduct an inspection, and we may find that you’d benefit from an electrical panel upgrade.

ACI Northwest is here to help with your home comfort needs or concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact us for helpful advice.

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