Frequently Asked Questions
We know you have a lot of questions about electrical systems and about electric wiring problems. We answer many of them here!
Why are half of my lights out and my large appliances not working?
First, check for tripped breakers and reset your main breaker. If the main breaker is warm to the touch, call our qualified, licensed electrician immediately. If resetting the breaker does not fix the problem, it is possible you have lost one phase (or leg) of your main power supply. Contact your utility company and have the company inspect its service line for problems.
Do Christmas light problems indicate electrical wiring problems?
At Christmas time, we receive numerous calls regarding electrical problems with the bathroom, garage or outdoor outlets not working. The usual cause for this problem is that the outdoor Christmas lights tripped a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlet or a circuit breaker in your home.
A standard circuit breaker will trip if you overload the electric wiring with too many lights on one breaker. GFCI circuits are a little bit different. Morning dew, rain or a sprinkler may introduce a bit of moisture into the Christmas electrical plugs, and this could result in a ground fault. Weatherproofing or covering of the electrical outlet and plug connections should reduce nuisance tripping of the GFCI protection device and electric wiring problems.
To check it out, first, unplug the outdoor lighting. Second, go to the electrical panel, check the circuit breaker and reset it if needed. Now test the outlet for power. If it’s working, allow time for the wiring to dry out and then reconnect your lights. If the breaker trips again, call an electrician to fix the problem.
GFCI outlets are outlets with the little test and reset buttons in them. Many times, the GFCI outlet in a bathroom or garage that feeds power to the outdoor outlet trips because of a wet plug on the holiday lights.
First, unplug the outdoor lighting. Second, check all the GFCI outlets by pushing the test and then the reset buttons. Check for GFCI outlets in the bathrooms, basement, garage and on the outdoor outlets themselves. Now test the outlet for power. If it’s working, allow time for the wiring to dry out and then reconnect your lights. If the GFCI outlet trips again, call an electrician to fix the problem.
What is a GFCI?
A GFCI is an electronic device system included in some outlets that protects people from serious injury due to electric shock.
Why is my smoke detector chirping intermittently?
Usually when a smoke detector is chirping intermittently, it is signaling the need to replace the backup battery. If replacing the battery in your smoke detector does not eliminate the chirping, call a qualified, licensed electrician.
What can I do to protect electrical equipment from lightning damage?
Surge suppression devices can be installed in the main service and sub-panels by a qualified electrician. These devices, in addition to point-of-use surge suppression, offer the best protection from power surges associated with lightning, preventing electric wiring problems. These devices are typically sacrificial and may require replacement if they experience a lightning strike.
I replaced the lamp in my recessed light and it’s blinking. What’s wrong?
Most recessed light fixtures contain a thermal cutoff device that de-energizes the lamp if temperatures exceed the rating of the housing. This commonly occurs when you replace a lamp with one of a higher wattage. When the temperature within the fixture cools, the thermal will reset and the lamp will come back on. Installing the correct wattage lamp for the fixture will cure this.
Are Federal Pacific panels really that unsafe?
The big problem with these panels is the breakers can fail to trip in response to overcurrent, leading to electrical fires. The breakers may also fail to shut off internally, even if you turn off the toggle switch.
Why did my clothes dryer stop producing heat?
This usually involves a defective 240-volt circuit breaker. Probably, one side of the breaker has gone bad. Replacing the breaker will fix this problem, provided that no damage has occurred on the breaker panel contact, also known as the bus bar, due to a loose connection and electric wiring problems on the circuit breaker.
Does my whole house need rewiring if I have aluminum wiring?
No. Our licensed electrician can fix all the connections where the aluminum wiring connects to receptacles, switches, light fixtures, et cetera, and this will prevent most electric wiring problems.
When is it time to call an electrician?
Anytime you need indoor or outdoor electrical work done, that’s the time to call on our professional, licensed electrician. What might seem like a simple situation to you might actually be a potential danger. Most electrical fires occur because a homeowner didn’t think there was a serious problem. Here are some situations where it would be wise to call an electrician.
- You need to upgrade your service.
- Your lights are dimming and flickering.
- You need to add some outlets.
- You have power surges when the refrigerator kicks on in your home.
- You keep tripping a circuit breaker or blowing a fuse.
- Any time something unusual is happening with your electrical system.
A receptacle in my bathroom, kitchen or elsewhere has stopped working. Why?
Check the receptacle; if it is a GFCI, it may be tripped. These are the receptacles with a reset button on them. The receptacle may need to be reset. It is possible in an older home to find that the GFCI receptacle in the garage is also protecting a second floor bath, so check carefully.
My house has aluminum wiring. Is it dangerous?
Aluminum wiring (instead of copper) became quite popular during the 1970s and was extensively used. Since that time, aluminum wiring has been implicated in a number of house fires, and most jurisdictions no longer permit it in new installations because of aluminum’s potential for electric wiring problems.
We recommend, even if you’re allowed to, that you do not use it for new wiring. But don’t panic if your house has aluminum wiring. Aluminum wiring, when properly installed, can be just as safe as copper. Aluminum wiring is very unforgiving of improper installation, though.
I plug in my hair dryer in the bathroom, but when the air conditioner is on in the bedroom, the breaker trips. Why?
This type of problem, common in older homes, is due to overloaded circuits more often than to electric wiring problems. The best solution is to run new circuits to the appliances that require more current. In this example, a new 20-amp circuit for the bathroom and a new circuit for the air conditioner would be a good solution.
A light fixture in my house is flickering. What should I do?
A flickering light could be the symptom of several problems. It could be a loose connection in the circuit. It could also be a problem outside your house, especially if all the lights in the house seem to be flickering. In any case like this, it’s best to not use the lights. Call us to check this potential electric wiring problem.
Why do I need so many receptacles on my kitchen counter backsplash?
In a kitchen, the code requires that no point along the counter top be more than 24 inches from an outlet. Also, any counter of 12 inches or more requires a receptacle. These receptacles must all be GFCI protected.