How To Check For Loose Wiring In Your Home

Posted on: 9 May 2017

Electric wiring may come loose from terminals over time if they weren't tightened securely at the time of installation. A loose wire end can short a circuit if it touches another bare wire.

If a circuit breaker starts to trip repeatedly without any additional components being powered by the circuit, it is likely that there is either loose or damaged wiring somewhere along the circuit line.

Wiring may also be damaged in various ways, but a common source of damage is rodents inside the walls of a home. They must chew constantly to keep the teeth from growing to an unmanageable level and are tempted by the insulation that covers and protects electrical wiring.

When the insulation and protective plastic covering of a sheath of wiring is damaged, bare wires come into contact with each other, causing the circuit breaker to shut off the power to avoid a fire.

Checking for loose wires

The first place to look for loose wires is in the outlets that are powered by the circuit. When a circuit breaker trips, it disrupts the flow of power to every electrical component in the circuit. This may involve a single outlet or a series of outlets and overhead lights in one section of the home.

With the circuit breaker off, you must first check each outlet affected by the tripped breaker. If you're not sure which outlets are affected, plug a working appliance into each outlet in the room or extended area to see if they are powered.

You will need a flat-head screwdriver to remove the cover plates that hide and protect standard outlets. After loosening the center screw and removing a cover plate, you must examine each of the screw terminals on the sides of the outlet.

Tug on each wire to determine if it is adequately secured under the terminal screw that connects it to the outlet.

Connecting a loose wire

If you find that one of the wires is either loose or completely disconnected, you must loosen the upper and lower securing screws of the outlet to pull the outlet from the gang box inside the wall.

If a black wire is loose, you must connect it to an available brass colored screw terminal by looping the wire end in a clockwise direction under the terminal screw and tightening the screw securely.

A white wire must be connected to a silver-colored screw terminal in the same manner, while a green- or copper-colored ground wire must be connected to the single green terminal at the top of the outlet. If the outlet is in the middle of the circuit line, the green grounding outlet may already be occupied by another wire. You can twist both wire ends together and secure them to share the green grounding terminal.

What can you do if no loose wires were found?

If a circuit breaker keeps shutting off the power after you have unplugged some electrical components and all wiring looks secured, it is time to call an electrician. This is especially true if you hear a popping or crackling sound when the breaker is turned on and power is temporarily restored.

You may need to have some wiring replaced, which is very difficult when the wiring must be run through finished walls and ceilings. Keep the breaker off and tape it in the "off" position so no other occupant of the home turns it on until repairs can be performed. 

For more information, talk to companies like Chadwick Electric Services.

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