How to Check For an Electricity Leak at Your Home

You may be used to watching for leaky faucets, but did you know that your electricity can leak too?

There are several reasons you might have an electricity leak. You could have faulty wiring or broken appliances that are causing an issue with the power flow. Installing new appliances in an older home can cause issues as well, especially if you haven’t updated the electrical system to work with current technology.

When you have a power leak, your home is pulling in energy that it is not using. Somewhere in your house, an electrical current is escaping your wiring system. This can create an expensive and potentially dangerous situation.

If you see any of these signs, call an electrician immediately to protect your family and bank account.

How to check for an electricity leak at your home

1. Know the signs

There are several ways to spot an electrical leak, including:

  • Unusually high power bills – A sudden spike in your energy costs, without an increase in usage, can indicate an electricity leak. If you think your power bill is too high or your meter readings are wrong, contact your provider. It may be a leak, or could be a problem with your meter. Either way, you’ll need their help to correct the problem quickly.
  • Electric shocks – Your electrical system is designed to contain electricity for your protection. If you are getting shocked when you touch an outlet or appliance, there is a serious problem. Occasionally, you might get a shock from the ground around an outside leak, especially if it’s wet. These are serious signs that require immediate attention.
  • Warm or hot areas – Electricity generates heat. When it leaks into your walls, floors, or appliances, those areas will feel warm or hot to the touch. 
  • Power outages – Leaks may cause frequent circuit breaker trips. Depending on the type of electrical leak, it can affect specific rooms, individual appliances, or the entire house.

Like all electrical problems, there could be several explanations for each of these signs. Follow the steps below to see if an electrical leak is the issue you’re dealing with.

2. Turn off the main breaker

When you have an electrical leak, something is pulling power into your home when it’s not supposed to. 

Start by shutting the main breaker off. At this point, your meter should not be running. If it is, there’s a good chance that you are experiencing a leak.

3. Identify the location of the leak

Now, shut all of the breakers in the panel off and turn the main breaker back on. 

Go into the house and turn off anything that may draw power. This includes light switches, appliances, and devices. Make sure you unplug anything in your outlets, even if you’ve already turned the device or appliance off. If you have any appliances that lack an off switch and a plug, put them on their lowest setting. 

Your meter should again be motionless. Take another pass through the house to make sure you didn’t miss anything if it’s not.

One at a time, turn each breaker back on. If the meter doesn’t move while that breaker is powered, it isn’t the source of the leak. Turn that breaker back off and move to the next one. Continue this process until you find the right breaker.

What if none of the breakers showed a leak?

If you couldn’t find the leak by checking each breaker, the source might be one of the devices or appliances you unplugged or turned off.

To check these items, turn all of the breakers back on and double-check the meter to make sure it isn’t running. You can then check your devices. Leaving the lights off, plug one of your appliances back in. The device should still be off. 

With that one appliance plugged in, check the meter to see if it’s moving. Continue plugging in your powered-down devices until you find the appliance that is drawing power when it shouldn’t. You will need to either repair or replace this device to prevent further leaks.

4. Find the source of the leak

Once you’ve narrowed down the general location, you can see what is causing the leak. Examine the circuit to see what it powers inside your home. The label on the panel should tell you which plugs, appliances, and lights you need to check.

If everything that runs on that breaker is completely off, you likely have wiring problems. Somewhere along the circuit, electricity is leaking into your home. This situation requires quick action to save your home and family. You should call your power company immediately.

You might, however, have a hardwired appliance without an off switch on that circuit. If it’s actively running, that may be the reason your meter is moving. You can compare the number on the meter with the appliance’s minimum power consumption, a number you can find online. A meter reading that is higher than that number could indicate a leak.

If the device isn’t actively running, however, it shouldn’t be drawing power. You may need to repair or replace the appliance to stop the electrical leak.

5. Contact a professional

Depending on your preference, this can be either your first or last step. You can hire an electrician to inspect your electrical system or request a service call from your power company. They will determine the source of the leak and repair the problem.

Even if you want to find the leak yourself, you should always leave the repair work to a professional. An electrical leak means that electricity isn’t confined to your home’s wiring. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you may put yourself in danger by attempting to repair it yourself.

To maintain your safety and ensure the repair is done correctly, get in touch with your electricity provider or a local electrician.

Looking for more ways to minimize your energy costs? Visit our blog for tips and information about residential energy in Texas.