In household wiring, the light and receptacle circuits are wired in a configuration called branch circuits. The receptacle that is the closest to the main panel gets electricity directly from the panel. The next receptacle gets electricity from a wire branched off of the first receptacle, then the next receptacle branched is from the second receptacle, and so on.
For example, if you only have something plugged into the fourth receptacle away from the main panel, you are still pulling electricity through all of the other outlets in between that one and the main panel. As a result, it is important to replace any of the old receptacles, and not just the one you use a lot.
Receptacles go bad from age and use. The contacts inside get weak and no longer provide a tight connection. The resulting loose connection can cause fires.
Receptacles that may need replacing are:
¸ Two-prong versions.
¸ Those that hum or buzz.
¸ Any that have dark stains on the face.
¸ Those that will not hold a plug tight.
¸ Any that are cracked or broken.
Light switches go bad from age and use. They need to be replaced. The telltale signs of bad switches are:
¸ Lights that blink.
¸ A looseness to the touch.
¸ Dark or scorch marks on the face.
When you replace switches, you may want to upgrade them with dimmers, or sliders, or even remote switches.
Check your outside lights for:
¸ Poor attachments.
¸ Bare bulbs; no globes.
¸ Bird nests (this can cause fires).
¸ Exposed wires.
¸ Dark or burnt spots on them.
Remember – never work on any electrical device until you are certain the power is shut off from that device. It is important to know your skill level; do not attempt any work that could cause you or your family harm.