Q. How do I know I’m getting a good price?
A. It’s always a good idea to check online reviews. If you’ve already received a quote or are thinking of getting one, we suggest checking the Home Advisor pricing guide here.
They track contractors, trade professionals and rates which will give you the knowledge needed to know you’ve been given a fair price.
Q. Is there a difference between a circuit breaker, GFCI protection and arc fault protection?
A. Yes there is. These are all safety devices and all have very different purposes.
A circuit breaker’s primary job is to protect electrical wiring and equipment from burning up or catching fire. When more electricity flows through a circuit breaker than the wire can handle it turns the power off before it causes serious problems. This is why it’s very important to have circuit breakers properly sized based on the wire.
A GFCI device can be either a GFCI outlet or a combination GFCI circuit breaker. Its primary purpose is personal protection. Where a circuit breaker protects wiring and equipment a GFCI device protects people. Specifically they are designed to protect you where you are most likely to be shocked which are in wet locations like the kitchen, bathroom, garage and outdoors.
An Arc fault breaker is a much more sensitive type of circuit breaker that protects against fires by shutting down a circuit where electricity is essentially jumping from one point to another. It’s not enough electrical current to trip a standard but it is enough to cause a fire.
Here is a great demonstration on how these circuit breakers work. The demonstration starts around 4:15.
Q. Do I need surge protection?
A. Yes you do. Regardless of who you are and where you live you should absolutely have surge protection on your whole house. We hear all the time, “I already have surge protection on my TV and on my computer.” That used to be good enough but now almost everything you buy that plugs in has a circuit board in it. Think about your stove, microwave, air conditioner, furnace, electric water heater, dimmer switches, GFCI outlets, ceiling fans, garage door opener and when you are charging devices like cell phones and tablets. I’d be willing to bet those things don’t have any protection at all unless you have a whole house surge protector in your electrical panel. This is probably the most basic and important thing you can do to keep your electronics working and your safety equipment in working order.
Q. What is covered by the power company and does the homeowner cover?
A. Anything that is permanently attached to your house is the responsibility of the homeowner.
Q. Is it normal for dimmers to be hot?
A. It’s normal for them to be warm but they should not be too hot to touch. If they are then the dimmer you have installed is probably too small.
Q. How long do smoke detectors last?
A. According to the national fire code and the national electric code, smoke detectors are required to be changed every ten years.
Q. When should I consider upgrading my service?
A. If you have a main breaker that’s been tripping off or you’re planning on adding a large electrical load to your home or business. Most of the time you don’t need an upgrade in amperage but a panel that’s big enough to physically accommodate the circuits you’re adding.
Q. Why does smoke alarm keep chirping?
A. There are three reasons smoke alarms usually begin chirping.
1. The batteries need replaced
2. One of them has gone bad and it’s alerting you
3. There is a problem with the communication line connecting the smoke alarms
Q. Why do the bulbs in my outside lights burn out so often?
A. Outside lights will burn out more often in general simply because they’re outside and are affected by temperature changes. One thing that can help a lot is if you buy bulbs rated for 130V instead of 120V. The power companies are now allowed to provide voltage anywhere between 110V and 130V where it used to only go to 120V. This means bulbs rated for 120V may now burn out much faster because they get too hot.
Q. When my air conditioner comes on the lights dim. Is that normal?
A. Yes this is normal. The lights should dim a little bit when it kicks on and there’s not much we can do to stop that. When this happens it does cause a surge that travels back through the electrical panel. This is another reason why it’s very important to have a main surge protector installed in you electrical panel.
Q. Can I use a dimmer on CFL light bulbs?
A. Yes, with some of them. The standard CFL bulbs will not work with a dimmer. If you try you’ll notice the will flash and blink. You can buy CFL bulbs capable of dimming but you should know that they typically don’t last very long. Sometimes they only last a few months, which can be very annoying. Your best bet it to get traditional incandescent bulbs or LEDs.
Q. Are LED bulbs worth the extra money?
A. That depends on your perspective. LED bulbs will absolutely save you money in the long run but it’s going to cost you more up front. The good news is that the price of LED bulbs constantly going down. You can now buy them online for about $10 each. Soon they may be about the same price as CFL bulbs.
Q. Can I hang a ceiling fan where a light is?
A. Yes. Many times the box that the light is hung from has to be changed to support the weight of the ceiling fan but after that you should be good to go.
Q. Can I put a light or fan in a room where there isn’t one?
A. Yes. Lighting can be added to any room in your home even if there isn’t any existing wiring.