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The safety of you and your family comes before everything else and while you might feel as though your home is the safest place to be, that is unfortunately, not always the case. Thousands of homes across the UK have faulty wiring and the owners are blissfully unaware.

You’ll be pleased to know that home wiring should last in excess of 20 years, so having a complete overhaul isn’t necessary very often. That said, some homes have not been updated in much longer than this and it’s important to keep an eye out for signs that your home electrics need checking. In this guide, we will be talking you through some of the most common signs.

Why Is It Important To Check Your Home Electrics?

Outdated Fuse box
Outdated Fuse box

For the most part, your electrical circuits go unnoticed. You happily spend hours using them watching TV, running appliances, charging your phone and much more but it’s rare that any of us actually think about what’s going on behind the scenes (or the walls!)

As wiring gets older, wear and tear cause it to become less safe and effective than it was when it was first installed. It’s the same with anything. But in the case of electrical wiring, the results can be devastating. For example, old, worn wires may increase the risk of things like electric shock and fire so it’s essential to make sure that everything is functioning as it should.

In some houses, particularly those built before the 1930s, it is not uncommon for residents to have messed with their wiring and to have made adjustments. Of course, it’s never a good idea to tamper with these circuits unless you are qualified and the result is a wiring system that may have loose connections or short circuits.

Signs That Your Home Electrics Need Checking

For anyone that is not a fully qualified electrician, the signs that there are problems with the electrical circuits in the home might not be blindingly obvious; until you discover what they are! It’s a good idea to regularly assess the state of your electrics and if you notice anything untoward, get in contact with an electrician who will be able to diagnose and fix the problem.

Hot Power Outlets & Fuse Boards

Burning Fuse Board
Burning Fuse Board

Appliances that are powered by electricity will naturally get warm and that’s ok. However, when the power socket starts to heat up then this is not as normal and should be considered as a serious warning sign. If you notice that a power outlet is getting hot then you should stop using it immediately. Unplug anything from it and switch off the power. You’ll need to have someone take a look at it before you can safely use it again.

There is, however, an exception to this rule and that is the dimmer switch. Unlike other power outlets, these may become warm to the touch when in operation. This is because of how they disperse any excess energy not needed when the light is dimmed. Of course, this should be a gentle warmth and not heat that is too hot to touch. In this case, do not use and call an electrician.

Circuit Breakers Keep Tripping

Your electrical system has circuit breakers as a safety feature and these will trip when there is a power surge or the system is overloaded. This can happen from time to time and is usually nothing to worry about. It’s simply a case of flipping the switch back to its original position and continuing with your day.

That said, if your circuit breakers are tripping more often than not, then this could be a sign that there is a fault with your home electrics. Most commonly, this is because the electrical circuit is being taxed with far too many high-energy appliances and that the system is unable to handle these demands. If your circuit breakers are tripping more than a couple of times a month, it’s time to call for help.

Burning Smells

In any situation, the smell of burning is never a good thing. Your home electrical system is no exception. If you smell burning then this could indicate that the system is heating up so much that the plastic sheaths that surround the wires are melting, and of course, this is not a good sign. If you fail to pay attention to this then you are putting your home at serious risk of fire.

It can be useful to try to identify where the smell is coming from but you should never attempt to rectify the problem yourself.

Loose Power Outlets

Loose fitted light switch
Loose / poorly fitted light switch

Your power outlets provide you with good insight into the inner workings of your electrical system and their condition can be indicative of deeper problems. One of the most common signs that there is an issue is that the power outlets are loose. You will generally notice this when plugging in an appliance. The inside of the outlet may feel as though it is moving around.

If you continue to use the outlet, over time, the wires will become free and this poses a serious fire hazard as well as a risk of electric shock. The good news is that this is not a serious problem when it is addressed early on. Calling a qualified electrician will allow you to use your electrics in safety.

Flickering Lights

Another very common problem that could show you have issues with your electrical system is that the lights will flicker. No, this isn’t something that is reserved for horror movies, although if ignored, the results may be pretty horrific.

Normally, flickering lights come as a result of another appliance that is running on the same circuit. You’ll usually find that the culprit is high energy demanding appliances such as a washing machine or an electric heater. This demands a lot of power which is taken away from the lights on the circuit, causing them to dim or flicker.

It might feel as though this is a big problem but a qualified professional will be able to test the circuit and easily move the lighting onto a new one if that’s what is needed.

Electric Shocks

Electric shocks can be life-threatening and a clear sign that you have faulty electrics

Nobody wants to sustain a potentially life-threatening electric shock but this is a real hazard of faulty electrical systems. Now usually, the shock you will get is relatively mild but still something you will want to get fixed pretty quickly.

The reason that you may get a shock when touching a metal connection is that the electrical circuit has not been properly grounded. More often than not, this will happen with things like ceiling fans and lighting but it isn’t unheard of for people to receive a shock from other components that are merely in the vicinity of the electrics such as water pipes.

Scorched or Discoloured Power Outlets

Signs of scorching around sockets and switches is a clear sign of faulty wiring

We have talked about the condition of your power outlets being a key indicator of deeper problems so it’s also a good idea to make sure that there is no obvious scorching around the socket. Any scorch marks or discolouration are a clear sign that something is wrong. Usually, some sort of damage to the wiring is to blame which in turn, releases heat that causes the scorching. If you fail to address this problem, things could get much worse and the risk of fire becomes very real.

Strange Noises

Sparks and buzzing from fuse board
Sparks and buzzing from fuse board

If you thought flickering lights were scary, then you won’t be pleased to learn that a faulty electrical system might also make some questionable sounds. These sounds usually present as a buzzing and are a good indicator of more serious issues. In fact, this is usually one of the first things you will notice, even before your circuit breakers start playing up so it’s a sign not to ignore.

Signs Of Animal Interference

You may have only recently had your electrics upgraded so are likely reading this thinking that your home isn’t at risk. But there is always a risk and unfortunately, it comes in animal form.

It is not uncommon for pests like rats to cause damage to your electrical system so it’s important to regularly check wiring for chewing or bite marks. This isn’t good for the animal as they’ll likely chew down to the wire and get a fatal shock but it’s also bad news for you. Once the wiring is exposed like this, it will quickly begin to overheat and spark.

Even if there are no obvious signs of chewing, it’s always good practice to keep an eye out for signs of rodent infestation such as droppings. Once you notice anything like this, you can address the problem before the critters begin making a mess of your electrics.


We all rely on our home electrical systems for our modern lifestyles and while these systems are imperative, they can also be dangerous. It is of the utmost importance to pay attention to signs that your home electrics may be damaged or faulty and to take action as soon as you notice anything. You should never attempt to undertake electrical work unless you are a qualified electrician, so always call for professional assistance.

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