If anything out of the ordinary happens with any part of your electrical system, it is some seriously scary business. And if you're wondering what to do when your electrical breaker panel pops and sizzles, you definitely need to get down to the business of addressing this issue right away.
Don't know what to do when your electric breaker panel pops and sizzles? It's perfectly normal for any everyday homeowner or DIYer to not know exactly how to fix this problem, which is could happen to anyone at any time, but there are ways you can and should address this issue immediately to keep your home safe.
Why Your Electric Breaker Panel Might Pop and Sizzle
If you see any kind of sparks or hear a popping noise in your electric breaker panel, or if you see both things happening at the same time, you have every right to be scared. No one would blame you if you went running out of the house.
However, this is a manageable problem and you should manage it rather than attempt to run away from it or ignore it. First, find out why this might be happening and once you have an idea of what could be causing this issue, it becomes a little less scary.
Loose or Damaged Wire
Sparking and popping coming from the electrical breaker panel could be caused by a wire that has become loose or damaged. Over time, degradation of electrical wiring and panels is to be expected, as all things wear out and weaken as they get older.
Wires can become loose or damaged due to normal wear and tear, which causes the popping and sparking you're hearing and seeing as the electricity leaks out of the damaged area.
This is a dangerous situation, as it can create an arc. An arc is a discharge of current, which is what is happening when you see one of those random sparks.
Arcs happen when electricity jumps from one wire to another. When a wire is exposed through damage or becomes loose, the electricity "jumps" from this damaged wire to other places.
That's incredibly dangerous, because you don't want that electricity jumping to a person or to another part of the grid that causes instability in your electrical system. The sparks are also a fire hazard, as is any faulty wiring issue you might be having.
The wires themselves may be just fine but it’s the insulation that has worn out. Worn insulation can cause sparks and a popping sound because the exposed wires can still create electrical arcs that result in these issues.
Uninsulated wires are extremely dangerous because these sparks and issues created by the exposed wiring can be a fire hazard. All it takes to begin a fire is a single spark that lands on anything flammable, which can be a rug or a curtain or just about anything you have in your home.
Sometimes, the sparking and popping that is happening in a breaker panel indicates that there's some problem along the home's electrical grid somewhere. This might mean that the breaker isn't getting enough electricity, which suggests there's a much bigger problem in your home's electrical system overall.
This may indicate that the entire panel needs to be replaced or that there is an issue along the power supply wiring in your home. Both problems must be addressed and resolved by an electrician.
Worn Out Panel
Sometimes, the contacts inside the breaker itself have worn down and the contact between the breaker and the panel is poor as a result. This can create the sparking and popping that you're experiencing.
If left unchecked, this can cause the breakers or parts of the panel to overheat and melt. This can, in turn, cause the entire panel to catch on fire and lead to severe damage to your home and to yourself.
What Can You Do About It?
So, what should you do when you notice a popping or sparking or both? You should absolutely take immediate action, as this very problem is responsible for tens of thousands of house fires every single year.
There are a few things you can and should do if you start experiencing this problem. But as you do see sparks or hear a popping or both, you need to take action at once.
Do not attempt to open or inspect the electric breaker panel in any way whatsoever, not even to turn off the power. A sparking and a popping indicate that electricity is leaking out of the breaker panel through a faulty wire of some kind.
This means that the electricity is attempting to complete a circuit. It will latch onto whatever it can to complete that circuit...including you.
Call an electrician immediately and let them know you are seeing sparks and hearing a popping in the electric breaker panel. They will understand that you are in an emergency situation.
In the meantime, there are some things you can do to give the electrician more information about the problem and to keep yourself safe.
Try to notice when you're hearing the opposing noise. Often, this will happen when a certain appliance is plugged in or turned on, or perhaps when a particular outlet or switch is used.
Pay attention to when this is happening and d avoid using anything that might be causing the problem until the problem is fixed. if you notice a certain item or outlet is causing the issue, alert the electrician to this when they arrive.
Use the least amount of electricity that you can. Less activity in the breaker panel means there is a little less risk and when you are seeing sparks and hearing pops, lessening risk as much as you can is essential.
It cannot be overstated that this is a hugely dangerous problem that can cause a fire, an extremely destructive force that can damage your entire home or even take your life.
There are certain things you can observe without getting too close to the panel. Visually observe and inspect the panel but get no closer than five feet.
Under no circumstances should you attempt to use any sort of tool or device to open or manipulate the panel in any way, thinking that standing back and using an implement will keep you safe. Allow the professionals to handle this and remember that you are here to observe but not to touch.
Look carefully at the panel, but not closely, and all around the panel.
Do you see any signs of insects? These little buggers can do a great deal of damage to your home's infrastructure.
If insects have gotten into or around the panel, they could absolutely cause enough damage to create loose wire connections and other issues that can lead to popping and sparking. This is something you will certainly want to call to your electrician's attention.
Do you see any signs of moisture? Any type of moisture or leaking is an enemy to electricity and it can do extreme amounts of damage.
Look for any signs of water damage or leaking near the electric panel box. If you see an issue, you might need to call a plumber as well as an electrician.
Be alert and aware of what is happening around your electric breaker panel while it is popping and sparking. If a fire starts, you want to know right away so that you can address the issue immediately.
You also want to tell the electrician anything you notice about the breaker, how it is behaving and the noises you are hearing. Be especially aware of the panel so you can provide as many details as possible and so that ou are prepared if the situation suddenly becomes more dangerous.
What to Do When Your Electric Breaker Panel Pops and Sizzles
When your electric breaker panel pops and sizzles, it is an indication of a very serious and yes, potentially fatal problem. Do not put this off at all.
Call an electrician immediately and make sure they understand the situation you are seeing so they will understand the seriousness of what you are experiencing. Find out how soon an electrician can get to you and stress that time is a factor because you are in a hazardous situation.
There are many things you can DIY and learn how to do on your own, even issues involving your electricity. However, this problem is not one of them.
Call an electrician immediately to get assistance and get this problem fixed right away. Otherwise, you are absolutely running the risk of a house fire that can lead to a great deal of loss, including loss of life.
Don't hesitate if you see any sparks or hear any loud noises of any kind around your electric breaker panel. Call a professional at once and get this fixed before the problem becomes much more serious.
Electric Breaker Panel FAQs
Can you replace a breaker?
Yes, entire breakers can be replaced so if this is the source of your problem it can be fixed. You should not attempt this as a DIY repair, however.
Only professional electricians who have the proper tools, equipment, and knowledge should replace a breaker because this is a job that requires the electricity to be turned off and it is dangerous. Also, this is a task that usually requires a permit and often, must be performed by a licensed electrician by law.
Some electrical tasks can be completed on your own as a do it yourself repair, such as adding a new light switch or switching out your switches with smart switches instead. Replacing a breaker is not one of these tasks.
Can you turn the power off to a breaker panel?
The safest and best way to turn off the electricity to your breaker panel is to turn off the electricity to the entire home at the electrical service panel. This actually allows you to turn off all the circuits in your home at the same time, which means it is safe to work on the electric breaker panel or any of the electricity in your home.
This is also a task best performed by an electrician, as opening and even locating the service panel can be difficult. There are a lot of fuses and a lot of wires in this panel and unless you understand what everything does, you may not even be able to figure out how to turn off the electricity here because it's a complicated and confusing configuration.
Unless instructed by the electrician to do so because of a clear and present danger, you should not even attempt to turn the electricity to your home off at the service panel.
What if the breaker panel hums or buzzes?
Sometimes, your breaker panel may not be making popping noises but it is making another noise instead. If you hear a rather quiet, low-key sort of humming noise, there is no need to panic.
Often, electrical panels make a small humming noise that is merely the sound of an electrical current flowing. If this noise is loud or gets noticeably louder, however, you should consult with an electrician.
A buzzing sort of sound that is louder than a quiet hum can indicate that there is too much electricity. This means that a circuit is potentially overloaded, which can lead to more serious electrical problems.
If you hear a buzzing noise, don't go hit the electric panel or attempt to start turning off breakers to isolate the noise. Call an electrician and try to get the problem fixed.
Turning off breakers can be a quick fix to make the noise stop, but this is not a real solution so you will still need the expertise of an electrician.
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