Updated May 2023
Demand for skilled tradespeople has risen sharply in Canada due to baby boomers retiring and economic growth in most construction sectors. Trades training is definitely a smart career path for students who want marketable skills and job opportunities after completing an apprenticeship.
But which trade should you pursue? If you're considering electrician training but aren't quite sure what this job entails (or if it's right for you), we've put together a short list of common troubleshooting issues electricians face on house calls.
These challenges range from simple to complex and offer a window into the important work electricians do to keep our lives running smoothly—and protect us from harm.
1. Flickering Home Lights—Even After a Bulb Change
It can be normal for home lights to flicker or dim slightly right after an appliance is turned on or during stormy weather. It's also possible that your client is using an energy-efficient light bulb, such as a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), controlled by a dimmer switch. Dimmers are incompatible with most energy-savers and will cause them to flicker.
On the other hand, flickering lights can signal a poor wiring connection or a faulty fixture. Electricians will check a number of issues to track down the source of the problem. Here are some of the most common culprits you'll investigate:
- Whether lights flicker when a large appliance is in use (which means there is too much sensory overload on the same circuit)
- Loose service conductors in the main electrical panel
- An outdated breaker box with worn connectors
- A switch failure
2. Wires Left Exposed after a DIY Renovation
Dangling, exposed wires typically happen after a homeowner decides to tackle their own renovation (usually a basement reno) and doesn't quite finish the job. Unfortunately, exposed wires aren't just unsightly—they pose a serious threat to safety. Hanging or tangled wiring could trip up children and pets and can be a fire hazard.
Pre-apprenticeship students taking electrician training learn how to safely tidy up exposed wires, including splicing, covering, strapping, or stapling them to the structural framing members.
3. A Strange Smell Coming from an Electrical Outlet or Switch
Electricians are often called in to diagnose a faint burning smell that emanates from outlets or switches. The smell may be accompanied by discoloured outlet covers, tingling when devices are plugged in, or an outlet that feels warm to the touch.
Experts carefully rule out a number of factors when identifying the source of the problem, namely:
- Circuit overload
- Exposed wire
- Damaged or improperly wiring
- Something caught in the box
Arcing in the device or fixture may be causing the smell, which could quickly lead to a fire. As an electrician, you will ensure any fire hazard is completely neutralized after diagnosing and repairing the problem.
4. Out-of-date Electrical System
Many people are attracted to historic homes that are 50 to 100 years old, or will look to save costs by buying a house that hasn't been upgraded in many years. Whether it's for a love of mid-century or Victorian design or simply savvy cost-cutting, homeowners often find themselves needing upgrades behind those old walls.
Electricians are often called in to bring older dwellings up to code or simply to improve their energy efficiency. Common tasks you'll perform include:
- Installing CFGI outlets on all receptacles within 15 metres of a sink, tub, or shower
- Updating antiquated cloth covered wires
- Assessing energy drains, such as an old furnace, poor insulation, or energy waste (and devising solutions)
- Installing more outlets
- Inspecting old breaker panels for deteriorating mechanical and electrical components, arcing, or burn marks
5. "Octopus" Outlets
Once you've finished your pre-apprenticeship electrician program and begin working in the field, you can expect to encounter the "octopus" problem fairly often while on house calls.
While modern homes have multiple outlet locations, people living in older structures have to make do with fewer places to plug in devices and appliances. This leads to overloaded power bars, numerous extension cords, and wires running every which way under furniture and carpets.
Clusters of wires and plugs (octopuses), or using extension cords as permanent wiring, can pose serious safety hazards. But this situation is easily fixed by adding new outlets in high-use areas.
And there you have it! Some of the top challenges electricians face while on house calls, and a little taste of what to expect after you've finished your training and head out into the field.
Looking for a reputable electrician pre-apprenticeship program?
Consider the 24-week pre-apprenticeship electrical training at Herzing College. An admissions advisor can assess your goals, answer your questions, and help you determine if the program is a good fit for you.
Chat live with an advisor now. Or click below to explore the program in more detail. We're here to help!