Diagnosing Home Electrical Problems

Electrical problems in the home can be a hassle, and often require the work of a qualified electrician. However, with the right know-how, it's possible to repair electrical problems on your own. It all begins with diagnosing the problem.


Diagnosing electrical problems is the first step to repairing them.

When diagnosing the problem, it's important to first note what the problem is. Home electrical problems can fall into the following categories: The electricity doesn't work at all, an outlet will cause flickering, something runs dim or burns out, it won't turn off or an outlet shocks a user. Understanding these symptoms gives important clues to the source of the problem.

Helpful Tools

A number of testing devices can be used to diagnose electrical problems. A wattmeter, for example, tests electrical resistance at a certain point as well as the voltage level. A clamping ammeter can be used to check for overloaded circuits or shorts in a system. An electromagnetic circuit finder can be used to locate a circuit and which breaker controls it.


A problem's symptoms can lead to its diagnosis. If an outlet doesn't work, for example, that means there is a short in the system, a poor circuit connection or bad wiring. A socket that runs a dim or extra-bright bulb means that there is a poor circuit connection. Receiving shocks from a circuit likely means bad wiring. Using a tester can help pinpoint exactly what is wrong and where that problem is occurring.