How to fix common electrical problems

Before you begin any kind of electrical work, you will need to know how to isolate a circuit and double-check that it is dead.

Safety first

For your safety, electrical products must be installed in accordance with local Building Regulations. If in any doubt, or where required by the law, consult a competent person who is registered with an electrical self-certification scheme. Further information is available online or you can contact us.

Never take risks with electrical safety. Before you start any type of electrical work, you must follow these following safety precautions

  • Switch off the main power at the consumer unit/fuse box. Isolate the circuit you plan to work on by removing the circuit fuse. Put this in your pocket to avoid accidental replacement
  • Or switch off the breaker and lock it if you can
  • Attach a note to the unit to advise you are working on the circuit
  • Check the circuit is dead with a socket tester or voltage tester/meter for lighting circuits

We also have more information on the Do's and don'ts for Electrical Safety

Plug-in appliance doesn’t work

Step 1: If a plug-in light doesn't work, try changing the bulb. For any other kind of appliance, first try plugging it into another socket. If it works, the original socket could be faulty and need replacing. If it doesn't, try again on a different power circuit (probably on another floor). If it works there, you might have a dead circuit.

Step 2: If the appliance doesn't work in a socket you know is functioning, check the flex connections in the plug and replace the fuse - making sure it has the correct rating.

Step 3: Still not working? The appliance may have an internal fault which needs some professional attention. If it’s something we maintain, report this repair to us.

Wall or ceiling light doesn’t work

Step 1: First, check if the other lights on the circuit are working. If not, follow the steps for a dead circuit below.

Step 2: If the other lights on the circuit are working, turn off the light at the switch and replace the bulb.

Step 3: If that doesn't help, turn off the power and check the cable/flex connections at the light.

Step 4: Still not working? Report this repair to us.

There’s no power or a circuit is dead

If one room doesn’t have power or a circuit is dead

Step 1: Turn off all the lights or unplug all the appliances on the affected circuit. Turn off the main isolating switch at the consumer unit/fuse box, and repair the circuit fuse or reset the circuit breaker or RCD. Then turn the main switch back on.

Step 2: Switch on each light or plug in each appliance in turn to find out which item on the circuit is causing the fuse to blow or the circuit breaker to trip. When you find it, isolate the circuit again and check the fuse, the connections and the flex.

Step 3: If the fuse blows or the circuit breaker trips again, the fault may lie in the fixed wiring and you will need to report this repair to us.

If your whole property doesn’t have power or all circuits are dead

  1. If the circuits in your home are protected by an RCD (residual current device), check to see if this has tripped. If so, reset it. If it trips again, carry out the checks for faulty lights, appliances and a dead circuit.

  2. Check with neighbours or Southern Electric to find out if the power to the area has been cut. If this isn’t the case and you still have no power, report this repair to us.

How to change a cartridge fuse

These days, all appliance plugs contain cartridge fuses that are normally rated at 3, 5 or 13 amp, depending on the wattage of the appliance concerned. Always check the appliance manufacturer's instructions first. Never fit a fuse with the wrong rating.

Step 1: Unplug your appliance first, then unscrew the cover of the plug and lift it off.

Step 2: Prise the fuse from its clips, insert a new one of the correct amperage and refit the cover. Bear in mind that some plugs are moulded in one piece, with the fuse in a lever-out holder in the base. If this is the case, make sure you've pushed this holder fully back into the plug after you've changed the fuse.

Watch a step-by-step video showing how to change a fuse, with expert advice and top tips to help you complete the job with confidence.

How to fit a new plug

Fitting new plugs is one of the most straightforward electrical jobs, but it's important to make sure you insert the correct fuse for each appliance.

Watch a step-by-step video showing how to change a plug, with expert advice and top tips to help you complete the job with confidence.

How to maintain your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Although the smoke alarms are relatively maintenance-free, it’s still important to follow a few simple steps to ensure they are working properly

  • Test your alarm weekly by pressing the test button that is visible on the unit

  • Change the batteries yearly - and test the alarm after fitting these

  • Replace the batteries immediately if you hear the low battery warning - a low, beeping tone

  • Always change all the batteries in the alarm - when you update them annually, or if the low battery warning sounds

Clean your smoke alarm every few months, using a slightly damp cloth or the brush attachment of a vacuum cleaner. This will help to keep vents and sensors clear

Do not open the case/unit as this may damage the parts inside

Important: The alarm may sound as you are cleaning it as you could knock the sensor. To be sure, check for smoke or fire, then silence when you’re sure it was accidental.

Do not use solvents or cleaners on your alarms as they may cause damage to the sensor or circuitry. Equally do not paint the alarm as this may block the openings and prevent smoke or carbon monoxide from entering the sensor.

If you have exposed wires or a broken/sounding smoke alarms, please call us.

Some repairs such as cracked/damaged sockets or fittings may be charged because they are not caused by general wear and tear. Once you have reported the repair, an advisor will confirm if this is the case. If the damage was called by criminal damage and you have a crime reference number, you can provide this for the charge to be waived. Find out more on charges for repairs.

Some are repairs, such as changing a light bulb or a broken TV set, are your responsibility to fix. Find out more about your responsibilities as a tenant.

If you would still like to report a repair to us, the easiest and quickest way is to do this online.

Copyright © B&Q plc.

B&Q has kindly given Southampton City Council permission to use these DIY tutorial videos to provide advice and guidance for council tenants. In using these videos, Southampton City Council is neither endorsing nor recommending B&Q products or methods. Other DIY self-help tutorials are available online. Simple repairs of this nature should only be undertaken if you are fit and healthy to do so and have the necessary tools and safety equipment. These repairs are undertaken at your risk and Southampton City Council accepts no responsibility for any damage or injury as a result of DIY repairs relating to these videos