SJE Electrical

Expert Tips

Don't forget outdoors

We all tend to focus on our indoor lighting but many of us forget about the benefits of outdoor lighting as well. You can bring your outdoor entertaining and garden areas to life by using subtle lighting effects and one of the most effective ways to protecting your property is the installation of outdoor security lighting. It also makes going outside in the dark safer, as you can see where you’re going and are less likely to trip over unseen hazards. Your local electrician will be able to give you advice on the best options to suit your needs and budget.

Faulty wiring

Faulty wiring is one of the five most common causes of electrical fires. Fortunately, there are a few warning signs which include frequently blown circuit breakers or fuses, burning smells and light switches and/or power outlets that emit flashing or a ‘zap’ sound. Quality wiring that conforms to industry standards is vital for the safety of you and your home so if you notice any of these signs, it’s time to call an electrician.

Silent means safe

If you can hear a buzzing sound coming from a power outlet, it’s a sign that something is wrong. It could be dangerous so you should stop using it and call an electrician. When working safely, the electricity in your home shouldn’t make a noise. But loose prongs, outlets or fraying wires can cause the current to jump and produce a buzzing sound.

The right light bulb

It’s important that you always use the correct light bulb for the fixtures in your home. If a fixture is rated for a maximum of 60 watts, anything higher will draw more power through the wires than it can safely handle. When this happens, the fixture may heat up during prolonged use and eventually burn out. If you need brighter lighting, have your light fittings changed to accommodate a higher wattage bulb.

Q: I can sometimes hear a crackling sound when I use my light switches – is this normal?

A: The sound that you're hearing is called arcing and indicates that the contacts within the switch have worn down. This is a problem that will only worsen over time. The contacts continue to get worn down and this results in a build up of resistance and heat. In most instances, arcing is also accompanied by distinct burning smell. When the contact points in the switch get heated up, the plastic parts in it start melting and this is what causes the smell. This indicates a fault in the switch and it’s important you call in an electrician to replace it, as soon as possible.

Q: Why are my power outlets hot when I touch them?

A: Anything that is connected to power and feels hot is a problem. Electricity naturally creates heat, but that heat should not permeate through your fixtures to the point where they are actually hot. Warm is normal. Hot is not. The problem could be anything from the appliances you are plugging in, to the outlet being broken, too much demand on the circuit or damaged wiring. Whatever the cause, it should be checked out by a licensed electrician who will be able diagnose the problem and fix it.

Q: My downlights have started to go out for a while and then come back on again.

A: Recessed lighting (like downlights) are equipped with safety devices that cut out power to the light when it gets too hot. This could be caused by a high wattage on the bulb, insulation in the ceiling which is too close to the bulb or they have been installed incorrectly. First check that you are using the correct wattage of bulb for the light. If you are, then you should call an electrician as any other reason could be dangerous and even cause a fire.

Q: What causes an electrical surge?

A: Electrical surges can be caused by anything from lightning strikes and faulty appliances to poor quality electrical wiring. An electrical surge only lasts a microsecond, but if they happen often, they can cause damage to the electrical components in your home, especially computers, TVs, DVD players and sound systems. If you experience frequent surges, it could be an electrical device causing the problem. Try unplugging any cheaply-made devices or power-boards to see if this helps. Installing a surge protector can also help extend the life of your electrical equipment. A surge protector should not be confused with an electrical safety switch, which has a different purpose. The safest option is to call a licensed electrician to check out the problem and make sure everything is operating safely.

Q: My electricity bill is getting higher and higher. How can I save money?

A: There are some simple ways to save electricity around your home. When you aren’t using electrical equipment and appliances, turn them off at the wall as they still use power when they are on ‘standby’. Use power when it is off-peak - usually later at night and on weekends. You could also switch from halogen lights to LED lights, which are much more energy-efficient and last a lot longer.

Q: Why is my light switch hot?
A: If your light switch is hot to the touch, you have a problem. This is not normal and could mean that there are serious wiring issues hiding behind your walls. Your best course of action is to get a licensed electrician to check the problem. 

Q: My light bulbs don't seem to be lasting very long. What's the problem?
A: There are a number of reasons that light bulbs are not lasting as long as they should. These include the wattage of the bulb being too high for its purpose, insulation being too close (for example in downlights), bad wiring on the circuit or in the mains, too much total wattage on one dimmer switch or a poor connection on the circuit. As with anything electrical, it's best to consult a licensed electrician who will find and solve the problem.

Q: Our circuit breaker keeps tripping and we can’t figure out the problem.
A: One of the most common causes is overloaded power points. Try removing devices such as phone chargers when they’re not in use, as they continue to draw power. Spread your appliances around the power points in your home, rather than having them all connected in one place and never daisy chain power boards. You could also ask a qualified electrician to install more power points to spread the load.

Q: We live in an old house. How long does wiring last and how do you know if it needs to be replaced?
A: Wiring doesn’t last forever and can degrade over time. The best thing to do is have your wiring inspected by a registered electrician, and they will be able to give you an electrical installation report and advice on the best course of action.

Q: Now and again my overhead lights flicker. What's causing this and how do I fix it?
A: Flickering lights can be caused by a number of things. These include a dimmer switch that isn't compatible, a loose connection somewhere in the electrical circuit or a faulty light switch. Problems such as these should always be inspected by an electrician as what's causing the lights to flicker could pose a fire risk.

Q: What’s the difference between a circuit breaker switch and a safety switch?
A: Circuit breakers (MCBs) and fuses are there to protect electrical cables and fittings from overloading and short circuits, preventing electrical fires. Safety switches (RCDs) can prevent electrocution by switching off the power in the event of an earth leakage. A licensed electrician can carry out a safety check in your home to make sure your safety switches are working correctly, and you are fully protected.

Q: What's the difference between LED and halogen downlights?
A: Halogen bulbs are extremely compact and emit a great deal of light, but they also create lots of heat. This poses a fire risk and also makes them very energy inefficient. LED lights stay cool and are much more energy-efficient, saving up to 90% of your downlight energy consumption. They will also last about 10 times longer than a halogen bulb.