P. U. - What’s that Smell? 

Real Estate Agent with Associate Broker at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Georgia Properties 256152
Original content by Debe Maxwell, CRS 228209

P. U. - What’s that Smell? 


When a circuit breaker overheats, the plastics and heat-resistant chemicals used to make the breakers, as well as outlets or wiring insulation, may emit a fishy or urine-like odor. You can often smell the odor throughout the house, but it is more intense near the breaker box or in the room of the faulty outlet or wiring. The odor may intensify or diminish with changing temperatures and circuit usage. Because it is often a circuit breaker of a high-demand appliance (HVAC, dishwasher, etc.), it can be difficult to identify the origin as those appliances are not always running. 



The odor can be caused by any number of electrical problems, including but not limited to:

  • Overloaded circuits
  • Short circuits
  • Undersized wiring
  • Undersized circuit breakers
  • Loose plugs in outlets
  • Improperly inserted circuit breakers
  • Damaged outlets
  • Damaged electrical insulation



Typically, the fishy smell is an early indicator of a serious electrical problem that could lead to a fire. So, the first call to make when you when you notice a pungent fishy, urine-like, or burnt plastic smell near your breaker box, any outlets or electrical devices? Your electrician! He/She has the equipment to do a thorough inspection to find the scary culprit.


Melted breakers


NOTE: I am not a licensed electrician, nor do I pretend to be one! I learned the above, first-hand. The photo of the burned breakers (yes, we had TWO of them) are of our breakers. 


Our first clue was the fishy odor. Then our HVAC breaker tripped 3 days in a row. We made the call and what we found out was that the 60 amp HVAC breaker contacts were not making the proper connections. Because of the poor connection, the breaker overheated and melted and then started burning the breaker across from it in the panel box. 

Stay safe! 

© Debe Maxwell | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | CharlotteBroker@icloud.com | P. U. - What’s that Smell? 

The Maxwell House Group Charlotte NC


  Charlotte NC Homes for Sale

 (THE best Charlotte home search available - no kidding!)

Charlotte NC Real Estate Agents 


Charlotte CRS Agent

Debe Maxwell, Realtor®/Broker/CRS

RE/MAX Executive

Direct:  (704) 491-3310


               Search Charlotte Neighborhoods      Search Charlotte Homes for Sale       Relocate to Charlotte NC

                               Things to do in Charlotte NC     Charlotte Real Estate Information


Charlotte Real Estate on Pinterest  FacebookFollow me on TwitterYou Tube  Connect with me on LinkedInSubscribe to my RSS feedCharlotte Real Estate on Pinterest

subscribe to my Active Rain BlogEmail meSearch Charlotte NC MLS

Disclosure of material contained within

Get Charlotte's Best Home Search App
Download Charlotte's hottest new app for up-to-the-minute listings and the most accurate neighborhood information available on the web!



Comments (1)

Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®
RE/MAX Platinum - Waukesha, WI
Giving Back With Each Home Sold!

Great information.  Thanks for sharing and enjoy your weekend!

Feb 14, 2021 07:31 AM