Common Electrical Questions

Is there a difference between a circuit breaker, GFCI protection and arc fault protection?

Yes there is.  These are all safety devices and all have very different purposes. 

  • Circuit Breaker - 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.

  • GFCI (Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter) - 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.

  • Arc-Fault Breaker - 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. 

When should I consider upgrading my panel or service?

If you have a main breaker that has been tripping off or you are planning on adding a large electrical load to your home or business. 

Most of the time you do not need an upgrade in amperage but a panel that is big enough to physically accommodate the circuits you are adding.

Check out the link below to find more information about your panel and if it might need replaced for safety reasons:

https://www.ismypanelsafe.com/

Do I need surge protection?

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.  We would be willing to bet those things do not have any protection at all unless you have a whole house surge protector in your electrical panel.  This is probably the important thing you can do to keep your electronics working and your safety equipment in working order.

How long do smoke detectors last?

According to the National Fire Code and the National Electric Code, smoke detectors are required to be changed every ten years.

Check out the link below for more facts on replacing smoke detectors:

https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/smoke_alarms.html

When my air conditioner comes on the lights dim. Is that normal?

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.

How do I know I’m getting a good price?

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.

http://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/electrical/

They track contractors, trade professionals and rates which will give you the knowledge needed to know you’ve been given a fair price.

What is covered by the power company and does the homeowner cover?

Anything that is permanently attached to your house is the responsibility of the homeowner.

Is it normal for dimmers to be hot?

It is normal for them to be warm but they should not be too hot to touch. If it is too hot to touch, then the dimmer you have installed is probably not the right size or fit.

Why do my smoke detectors keep chirping?

There are three reasons smoke alarms usually begin chirping.

  • The batteries need replaced.

  • One of the smoke detectors has gone bad and it’s alerting you.

  • There is a problem with the communication line connecting the smoke alarms.