Other Frequently Asked Questions from Homeowners
1. Why do circuit breakers trip?
Answer: Overload is the most common reason for tripping. Too many things are plugged in or turned on in the circuit. Short circuit is another reason; this may be caused by faulty wiring, appliances or fixtures.
2. What is a GFCI?
Answer: A GFCI or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter is a special breaker or receptacle providing extraordinary protection from shock. The GFCI can tell if current as low as 5 milliamps is “leaking” out of a circuit to ground. If the GFCI senses this leakage it will de-energize the circuit. If this current is “leaking” through your body to ground because you have touched an energized piece of equipment you may feel a shock but it will be a very short duration before the circuit is turned off by the GFCI. These are the receptacles with the “test” and “reset” buttons found in many bathrooms and kitchens.
3. What is an AFCI?
Answer: An AFCI is a special breaker intended to provide fire protection caused by arcing faults (small sparks) by recognizing characteristics unique to arcing and by functioning to de-energize the circuit when an arc fault is detected. An AFCI recognizes the “signature waveform” of an arcing fault and shuts the power off to the circuit to protect against fire. AFCIs have been required in all new homes’ bedrooms effective January 1, 2002. However if you have an old house you can still benefit greatly with AFCI protection. Powell Electric can install this fantastic safety technology today so your family will be protected by the best technology available.
4. Why do my light bulbs burn out so quickly?
Answer: You may be exceeding the maximum lamp wattage of the fixture. There should be a label inside the fixture. If the label is not there consider replacing the fixture. Do not exceed 60 watts for most ceiling fixtures. Many times vibration is the culprit in short bulb life. There are vibration resistant bulbs for ceiling fans and garage door openers and there are rough service bulbs for portable lights. Sometimes a porch light can have a shortened life due to a slamming door. A rough service bulb would do well in such a location. Sometimes there is more than 120 volts being brought into the light socket. You can purchase a 130 volt light bulb to take care of this problem.
5. Why are my battery powered smoke detectors not good enough?
Answer: The National Electrical Code, which sets the minimum safety standards for the electrical system in your home, requires that each smoke detector in your home be hard-wired into your electrical system, battery back-up, in case your power goes out, and interconnected with your other smoke detectors. So, if one goes off, they all go off. A smoke detector is required in each bedroom and one is required within six feet of your bedroom door. A C.O. detector is also required to be installed within 15 feet of your bedroom door if you have natural gas, propane or an attached garage.
6. What is a surge arrestor?
Answer: A surge arrestor protects against surges, spikes, lightning etc. These surges may come down the utility line or they may come from within your home or nearby. This device will sacrifice itself to protect your electrical system and electronic equipment from surges. Many surge protectors simply plug into the wall and your equipment plugs into it. Using this kind of surge protection is less than optimum protection for the attached equipment. Powell Electric can install a whole house surge protector to protect everything in your house including phone and cable equipment. This is the best surge protection you can get, and it protects everything in the house.
7. Why do dimmers get warm, and is this safe?
Answer: During normal operation, solid-state dimmers generate heat. A solid-state dimmer is roughly 98% efficient-2% of the power is dissipated as heat, causing the dimmer to feel warm to the touch. The closer a dimmer is run to full output and the higher the load (watts) on the dimmer, the warmer it will feel. This is perfectly normal and safe. Dimmers are designed to the strictest UL safety standard and can handle their full rated load without overheating.
8. What is Trouble Shooting?
Answer: Trouble Shooting is the “detective work” involved in any electrical repair. We need every clue we can get to troubleshoot quickly and accurately. You can help us tremendously by giving us an accurate description of what the problem was, and also how and when the problem occurred. We test and examine your wiring of course, but first we listen to you, to find out exactly what you have experienced and why you have called us.
9. How long does Trouble Shooting generally take?
Answer: Trouble Shooting a problem usually does not take very long. The average time is about an hour. In many cases the solution to the problem is even easier than finding the problem. If we discover that the trouble shooting process will take additional time, we tell you before continuing.
10. How many technicians do you send on a service call?
Answer: Most of the time we send one technician. In some cases, two technicians are necessary or more economical than one. In these cases, of course, we send two.
11. Can you fix the problem the same day?
Answer: We will make every effort to do so. More often than not we can fix the problem very quickly the same day. Some problems require a county or city permit, an inspection, or the power company to do work and we have to work with these entity’s schedules.
12. How can I know how much this will cost?
Answer: Ask Us! We don’t want to surprise you with a higher bill than you expect, any more than you want to be surprised. Once we have diagnosed your electrical problem we will give you an upfront price to fix it.
Remember, electrical wiring is not a hobby! Many of the serious problems we see are code violations in wiring installed by a “do-it-yourself-er” or homeowner with some advice from “the guy at the hardware store.” These problems often come to light when a property is being sold and a real estate inspector requires expensive repairs. They can also be a fire, safety, or electrocution hazard.