For the most part myths have some truth to them but are pretty much false, not complete, or misleading. When it comes to electrical myths, there are untruths that encourage homeowners to try and figure things out on their own or believe that everything is fine when it might not be.
Home Electrical Myths
1. It’s important to be aware of overloading circuits. This myth is associated with overloading extension cords, but even these will get too hot from damage or poor connections than from watt-ratings being exceeded. If you want to avoid tripping a breaker, you can try and reduce your usage, but tripping breakers is not a no-no. The reason breakers trip is to keep everyone form truly overloading any circuits. You never need to worry about overloading circuits, so relax.
2. Flipping a breaker off and on will reset it if it was tripped. Not always. It will not reset it if there is a short circuit going on. If the trip was a one-time event, flipping it may not work. Flipping a switch isn’t as simple as it seems. It needs to be firm where the circuit breaker is pressed firmly to OFF first and then strongly to ON.
3. A breaker that won’t reset is a bad breaker. Resetting a flipped breaker isn’t just pushing the handle ON. If a breaker trips within five seconds of being properly reset, it will almost always respond, as it should. It almost never trips from a mechanical defect.
4. A ground-fault interrupter (GFCI) will only trip when a person is getting shocked. GFCIs are designed to prevent or stop electrocutions. They can’t tell the difference between someone who is getting shocked or dirt getting “shocked.” They are only designed to tell them to trip for ground-faults of any kind.
5. A GFCI receptacle will only trip if you run too many watts. It is not true that a GFCI receptacle will trip when it is overloaded. Only the circuit breaker in the electrical panel has anything to do with the amount of load items are using. GFCIs are not sensitive in that way but are sensitive to leaks of electricity away from the path that is running an item.
6. Old wires can become bad. Even new wires can become bad if they are damaged. Wires within walls don’t deteriorate much over time but can occur when rodents gnaw on them, but it’s rare. It can however happen quite easily when damage happens at the boxes that hold the receptacles, switches, lights and connections.
7. A wirenut twisted onto wires need to be wrapped with electrical tape. This was true back when connections were soldered and then required insulation. Tape will help when the wirenut wasn’t put on right. Some people think that vibrations from the house can cause a wirenut to become loose but there’s no evidence that slamming a door, for example, will cause this to happen. If a wirenut fails, it’s almost always because it wasn’t done right from the start.