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Electrical FAQ

How do I choose a good residential electrical contractor?

Choosing an electrical contractor can be a little difficult. All electrical contractors are not created equal. Some have stronger strengths than others. What we have found, an electrician that primarily performs commercial wiring typically is not a good fit to perform work in your home vice versa. Finding good quality electricians is not as easy as some may say. Some of the things you can look for or ask is: 

 

  1. The most important thing you can do is check reviews online for their reputation. This will give you a good idea of what kind of service they provide. It's impossible to completely please everyone, so if you encounter a bad review take it with a grain of salt. That being said we do our best to solve any unforeseen issues that may arise and will work with our customers. 
  2. Do they have dedicated residential service trucks with prescreened electricians that have respected experience?
  3. Do they offer specialized tracing and underground tracking tools to locate your wires efficiently?
  4. What percentage of residential work do they perform?
  5. Do they guarantee all of their work?

 

When do I replace my service panel box in my home or business?

There's been a few major fire hazards associated with a couple known panel manufactures. They have since lost their UL listing and insurance companies will not insure your home if you have one installed. Some of these panels are the Zinsco and Federal Pacific brand panel. We have a direct link under “Is my panel safe” on pinellascountyelectric.com that you can check to see if your panel is on there. The issues with the 2 fuse panels was that the fuses were so sensitive that they would trip under the slightest arc in circuit, so they replaced this with these panels. Now, they all have trip set ratings. In this case, these 2 panels have such a high trip set rating that when there are any issues, the breaker will allow a lot more current through before it trips causing in many cases wires to burn and catch fire. Consult your local electrical contractor if you have a panel that needs replacing. Panel replacements normally run from $900 - $1200. 

 

I bought a home and the inspection report stated I had aluminum wiring, what can I do?

Aluminum wiring was big in the 1960s -1980s. This came after the cloth wrapped wire and then the cloth wrapped wire with a fire retardant on it. Aluminum wire expands and contracts during temperature fluctuations causing the final termination to come loose on your wire or outlet. There are currently two methods of repair: The first is to obviously replace the wiring throughout which is the best but most expensive. The other approved method is one where you perform an aluminum conversion. This is done by going to every outlet and switch and installing an alumiconn device. This device is a special splice point where the aluminum wires would come in and copper pigtails would come out of center of tap going to the device. This makes the temperature controlled spliced to be in an approved method where fault is limited. This is still a pricey project because there is only one manufacturer who is making them. A company based in China is making a like model that is not UL approved. Buying these items online is not a good idea. To perform this method it normally cost in the range of $59 - $69 per device. Many other factors can come into play as well, this is just a general idea on what we would charge to do so. 

 

When is it time to call an electrician?

When you are having loss of power issues, losing power can be a serious issue. There are many different items that could cause you to lose power including a bad splice, bad breaker, broken wire, or power company a issue. You should always call Duke Energy first before you call an electrician. If you do have to call us we use the latest testing instruments to locate and identify your electrical fault. 

 

What size service do I install in my home?

The NEC requires a minimum of 100 amps. However, with all the new appliances we have typically requiring a 200-amp service. We can perform a load calculation for you to see if this is needed. We have specials going on for new 200-amp service upgrades. 

 

I want to upgrade my kitchen?

If you are thinking of remodeling your kitchen, keep this one thing in mind. We come across situations where clients want to do new cabinets, new tile backsplash, appliances etc., but do not want to change out the wiring because they feel it is not necessary. This is a common mistake because typically when it is time to remodel your kitchen, sometime has passed leaving wires either old or not enough branch circuits to countertops and appliances, and or proper spacing on countertop. The code requires a minimum of (2) dedicated 20 amp lines for your countertop, and dedicated circuits to your microwave, dishwasher, garbage disposal, fridge, trash compactor, and a separate 15-amp line for your lighting. Most electrical kitchen upgrades start around $1500 depending on what all you do. It is always wise to use a licensed electrician for your kitchen remodel as it uses nearly 70% of all your power consumption. 

 

Why do my lights dim in my house?

This is usually caused by several factors.

  1. Loose connection in meter or panel
  2. Improper grounding and or no grounding
  3. Power company surges and bad underground wire

 

How much should I attempt on my own?

Now, Florida allows home owners that own a separate dwelling unit to pull their own permit. At the time they do this, they must sign an affidavit stating they will only use licensed contractors to complete the work. This may seem like a redundant process but it is to prevent the neighbor or the guy at the bar that states “I used to be an electrician, it’s no big deal” from coming into your house making short cuts behind the eyes of the inspector. There is a reason why electricians must go to school for nearly 5 years to get a Journeyman's card. Completing some work, yourself can save you money, but the drawback can be serious if not done properly. Why take a chance when you can have peace of mind knowing that it can be done by a Licensed and Insured by your friendly electrician!

"The most dangerous time is when you think that it is simple to change one or two wires.  Suddenly you are surrounded by a tangle of loose ends and cannot recall where they all go.  Then you need a professional to come and sort it all out for you.  This could end up costing you more than you thought you were saving when you began the project"

 

What is an AFCI?

Starting January 1, 2002, The National Electrical Code, Section 210-12, requires that all branch circuits supplying 125V, single phase, 15 and 20 ampere outlets installed in dwelling unit bedrooms, living rooms, den, hallways, or like areas to be protected by an arc-fault Circuit interrupter. The NEC selected to require them first because of a CPSC study which showed many home fire deaths were related to bedroom circuits. They do help but can also become an annoyance. Some electricians fix is to remove the breaker, but it is not removing the problem. 

"The AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) breaker, will shut off a circuit in a fraction of a second if arcing develops. The current inside of an arc is not always high enough to trip a regular breaker.” Also, in other words, GFCI will trip if a fault is detected between the ground and the hot whereas the AFCI will detect if there is continuity between the ground and the neutral. The ground path should never carry current under normal cases except in fault.

 

If I have surge/lightning protection on my main service should I use point-of-use surge plugins at my TV, stereo, computer, etc.?

Yes, absolutely! A surge is an increase of voltage outside of the normal 120/240Volt. Having a surge on your main service is not only code, but it gives you general protection on your main circuits. Surges can happen in many ways. The power company’s voltage naturally goes up and down by 20% meaning when going up, this is considered a surge.  Also, another way you can experience a surge is from a lighting strike up to a mile away causing a dissipation of voltage to travel through your grounded 120/240-volt service. A surge normally travels from the outside of structure going in. This is different from getting a direct lighting strike, in this event there is nothing that can prevent a direct mother nature strike. The more surge protection you have closer to the equipment, the better off you are. Without surge protection, the mini surges your service experiences would shorten the life span of all your electronics, appliances, TV, stereo etc. It is also a good idea to have surge protection installed on all your coax lines, phone lines, camera lines etc. You can also have surge protection devices ran in series with other surge protection devices. Call us today for a free evaluation. 

 

When my air conditioner cycles on, I notice my lights blink. Is this normal?

Yes. This is a common occurrence when large motor/compressor loads being to start up, it pulls the voltage down from the rest of the service. A/C units all have a capacitor inside to help boost that voltage so that it doesn’t pull from the service causing your lights to flicker. By replacing this, it will normally fix the issues if that is all it is. Other factors may be a cause as well, as noted in previous questions that can result in more serious outcome.

 

When I turn on my microwave, it trips the breaker? 

I like to explain this issue like this. Imagine a spider and its legs. The body representing your panel and the legs representing your dedicated 15/20 amp lines from your panel. What typically occurs in older homes is that they were not wired to sustain all our new appliance load demands. We have come into a time were now we have the most powerful microwaves, toaster ovens, garbage disposals, dishwashers, trash compactors, etc. There are not enough legs going to the kitchen causing a lot of these appliances to be grouped together and when you try to run more than one, it overloads that circuit causing it to trip. I have come across issues were the idea of fix was to just install a larger breaker. This is the biggest mistake you can make. All wire is measured by its gauge, and its gauge has a amperage rating in which it can hold. For example, it you have a 12 awg. wire, that is only good for a max of 20 amps. Putting it on a 30-amp breaker tells the body of spider, “hey this wire is good for 30 amps” and the wire is only good for 20. What this will do is overheat the wire causing it to eventually melt and cause fire. Please hire only licensed and insured contractors with a good reputation to perform your electrical services. 

 

I have a new home. Why does my refrigerator or freezer, located in my garage, keep going off?

Unless you made provisions with the builder for a dedicated circuit, many home owners do not realize that just because your contract says, “Wire to Code” does not mean it’s going to function as efficient as you would like.

 

Can I dim fluorescent lights?

Yes. Dimming fluorescent requires not only a special dimmer, but also special fixtures. You cannot place a typical incandescent dimmer on existing fluorescent.

 

Can I hang a ceiling fan where a light is?

Yes, but just because there is a fan in place currently, does not mean it is the proper box and bracket. Many times, we see a standard box or not box at all and when we go to do a simple fan replacement, we mention the issue with the owner. Now, we would have to present the associated cost to make it safe. In the event this fix is not desired, we are not authorized to hand the original fan back up. We will not charge for the work because we were not able to complete. We have not had this happen yet, but I am sure it will at some point. The electrical wires sometimes will come to the ceiling first then down to the switch which is referred to as a back-feed switch. You would have to be familiar with this method to have it work properly. 

 

What does it mean when my fluorescent lights are flickering or cycling on and off?

When your fluorescent lights being to flicker, delay when you turn on normally is a result of a bad ballast. Normally you want to replace with a new T8 style ballast and lamps when replacing to ensure energy savings. 

 

How do I reset my breaker when it has tripped off?

When your breaker trips its normally because of two things:

 

  1. There is a short in the line and its doing what its designed to do. 
  2. The breaker could be weak
  3. The circuit could be over loaded

The first thing you can do is un do the last thing you either plugged in or turned on and remove that. Try to turn the breaker completely off and then back on. If it trips again consult your local electrician for further assistance 

 

 

What should I do if my lights, switches and receptacles don't work?

Sometimes there is a GFCI device located either in your garage or near your panel protected the kitchen, bathrooms, outside receptacle. Try to reset that and see if problem is resolved. Another issue we found is that a “backstab” method in receptacles can cause a loss in power because the terminations on the device itself wears down causing a burn mark thus loosing connection for power. If this is the issue, you need a good experienced electrician to locate the issue as efficient as possible. By checking their reviews, you can judge whether they are the right ones to do the repair of not.  

 

What is a GFCI device or breaker?

"GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. In layman's terms this device protects you from electrical shock. When it senses the slightest increase in resistance resulting from ground fault, (i.e., the use of electrical devices in or near water), it turns off to protect you". GFCI devices are required in all outlets in kitchens, bathrooms, and outside. In commercial buildings, anything within 6’ from a water source requires a GFCI device.  The new code now is that a tamper proof and weather resistant GFCI be used outside with a bubble cover.