North Dakota Homeowners, Take Notice: The Fishy Smell Could Be a Warning Sign
This time of year, you might find yourself plugging in extra lights and using more extension chords. It's not a big deal. But what do you think if you walked into a bedroom or your basement and smelled something fishy? It might not be a big deal in a kitchen, but it could be.
My Tristed Expert points out it could be an electrical issue. Unknown fishy scents in your house may usually be attributed to one of two things: either you have electrical issues or someone put a fish outside and you were unaware of it.
What Is Causing the Fishy Odor?
Is it urgent?
- If you don't have raw fish on the side, this is an emergency. Despite chemicals and insulation designed to defend against heat and electricity, they shouldn't be forced to work. Intended to be there if needed, but not needed.
Your electrical wiring may have a significant problem if it burns sufficiently to create that stench.
- The best-case scenario is that the insulation burns until it's gone, exposing your home's electrical wire. This is unlikely. More likely is that something will catch fire, and since the wires are mostly buried behind walls and beneath flooring, it might spread quickly without your knowledge.
Electrical Wires Overheat—Why?
- Electrical lines shouldn't overheat. Wires overheating or warming up indicate a problem. Heating occurs when electricity flows through a medium and encounters resistance. The appropriate operation of electrical systems never forces electricity to move through a medium that causes greater resistance than necessary. Heat from a lightbulb, which forces electricity through an electrically resistive filament, is intentionally generated and kept in an airless bulb to prevent damage or fire. Regular wires should never carry more electricity than they can properly carry without overheating.
- The filament melts and breaks the circuit when a lightbulb takes more electricity than it can handle, either due to a power surge or the filament's slow deterioration. The lack of air and flammable materials prevents anything more serious than replacing the bulb. This isn't protected with electrical wiring because it's not designed to happen. If that happens, the wire will heat up until it melts or reaches a stable state. Unfortunately, anything combustible may catch fire before the wire melts.
Most Likely Problem Areas
- A bad socket, switch, or junction box connection is the most likely cause of overheating wire unless your wiring is very old, installed to a low specification, or you have severely overloaded your electrical circuits by connecting too many high-powered gadgets. Basically anywhere a wire connects. This stench is more likely to come from terminals that have been recently altered, such as a light switch or outlet. Poor wire connection diminishes contact between the wire and the termination, reducing electricity carrying capability and increasing resistance.
- Fatigue from excessive movement and critter damage can also harm wires. The former will likely be outside since the wire only gets this tiredness if moved constantly. If mice or rats have been chewing at it, it could be somewhere they can get to.
- If you smell this, turn off the power. If you don't know where the problem is and which breaker controls it, turn off the electricity. If caught early, the condition should not cause damage. Except for the defective wire.
- Call an electrician after your power goes off. Switching the power back on could ignite a fire unless you know where the problem is and what to do.
- After calling an electrician, make sure you shut off the electrical in time to avoid a fire. It can be hard to find the source of a pervasive stench like this, but try to approach close and check for fire. If the stench comes from a plug, light switch, or wall vent, damage or fires may be beyond the wall. Check for fire hotspots on the wall. You should call the fire service immediately if you find any since the sooner you do, the less damage your property will suffer.
None of this information is meant to scare anyone. It's just something to be aware of.