If you notice an unpleasant odour coming from your electrical panel, never ignore it. Not just an aesthetic problem, a bad-smelling electrical box is frequently a red flag signalling something seriously wrong.
Investigate as quickly as possible to avoid an electrical fire in your home.
And even if you don’t smell anything unusual right now, it’s crucial to inform yourself so you’re prepared to head off a future emergency. Here we describe two common electrical panel smells and what action you should take to resolve them.
1. Fishy Smell
A fishy scent in the air can be very puzzling and easy to dismiss. It’s not the type of thing you’d ordinarily associate with your home electrical system. Do pay attention, though — 90% of the time, the smell of fish from an unidentified source means trouble.
Your residential electrical wiring is treated with chemicals and coated with plastic insulation. If it happens to overheat, voila … a smell of fish will fill the air. There are several possible underlying causes:
- Circuit overload
- Loose electrical connections
- Wire insulation which is breaking down
- Frayed appliance cords
- Power surges
- Inadequate electrical panel that is not up to the heavy demands of a modern household
- An outdated electrical system that fails to meet current code
2. Burning Smell
A burning smell (sometimes described as “hot” or “melting”) is a more obvious sign of trouble, even to a layperson. Often accompanied by a buzzing sound from the electrical panel, it usually signifies either:
- a loose wire to a circuit breaker, causing the wiring’s insulation to burn OR
- failure of the circuit breaker itself, causing it to overheat and melt
Your electrical breakers are a vital protective system for your home, shutting off the electrical current if it becomes too high. When a breaker is non-functional, there is nothing to stop your wiring from bursting into flames. And the fire will spread quickly to nearby flammable components — like insulation, drywall, wallpaper, most types of flooring, etc. The list goes on and on.
What To Do
- Keep in mind: With either type of smell, you are at risk of a devastating house fire. Fast action is vital. Never attempt DIY solutions; you risk electric shock or fatal electrocution in addition to a house fire.
- Contact a qualified electrician for an emergency service call. You must have a professional inspection of your electrical panel ASAP. In addition, you’ll likely need electrical repair, such as the replacement of your circuit breaker and/or wiring and possibly an upgrade of your electrical panel.
- If the odour is strong or if there’s visible smoke, evacuate your house and phone 911.
- Turn off and unplug all electrical appliances.
- Switch off the main power supply using the service disconnect switch.
Trust Sun Electrical To Keep Your Home Safe
Call Sun if you’re worried about electrical safety in your home. Our team of qualified electricians will inspect your electrical system and troubleshoot all potential hazards. We’ll discuss possible solutions and get your approval before going ahead with expert repair work or electrical service upgrades.
We hope you will be as satisfied as this customer is (from an actual Google review):
“Absolute GEM in the contracting world. I had Sun come in to do some basic electrical work AND a major panel replacement. They were courteous and kind and had exceptional customer service. The work was done perfectly, no mess leftover and extremely professional staff. I highly recommend them and would use them again in a heartbeat.”