1. Flickering lights. If an electrical circuit in your house is overloaded, it could cause the lights to dim or flicker. This usually happens when you have too many energy-intensive appliances or fixtures wired to the same circuit. For example, your lights might flicker when your washing machine is running—if the two are on the same circuit. The solution: Ask a licensed electrician to move the lights to a different circuit or installed a dedicated line for the washing machine.
2. Bad smells. It’s not unusual for a new appliance to smell a little bit bad the first time or two you use it. But if outlets, your breaker box or other appliances emit a foul odor, that could signal a problem with the wiring. Unplug anything that doesn’t smell right, and call an electrician.
3. Sparks. An appliance that sends off a spark could be damaged. Sparks from a breaker panel or fuse box could signal something more serious. Get a qualified electrician to your house as soon as possible.
4. Tripped breakers. More than the occasional tripped breaker isn’t normal, and it’s probably not safe. Circuit breakers that trip signal you that you’ve got a circuit overloaded. If the same appliances—like a hair dryer or a vacuum cleaner—trips the circuit every time, chances are that the appliance is the culprit. But if the same outlet trips the circuit no matter what you plug into it, it’s likely an overload. This is a job for a professional.
5. A buzz. Electric appliances should not buzz. They shouldn’t make any sounds. When they do, you might have a problem with an outlet or some wiring. An electrician can solve the problem.