Electrical Frequently Asked Questions
Concerned that your electrical system might be in need of repair or replacement? Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about home wiring and your electrical system to help you better understand what is or is not “normal” operational factors about your electrical system:
What is a GFCI and how does it work?
A ground fault circuit interrupter or GFCI, is an electronic device for protecting people from serious injury due to electric shock.
GFCI's constantly monitor electricity flowing in a circuit. If the electricity flowing into the circuit differs by even a slight amount from that returning, the GFCI will quickly shut off the current flowing through that circuit. The advantage of using GFCI's is that they can detect even small variations in the amount of leakage current, even amounts too small to activate a fuse or circuit breaker. GFCI's work quickly, so they can help protect consumers from severe electric shocks and electrocution. They do not last indefinitely and do need to be replaced if they won’t reset or test properly.
If an appliance continues to blow a fuse or trip a circuit breaker, what should I do?
Appliances that repeatedly blow fuses or trip circuit breakers should be unplugged and repaired or replaced. In addition, appliances that shock you should also be unplugged and repaired or replaced. Circuit breakers also wear and may need replacement. TLeave the breaker off. This is an indicative of a problem. Call Home Service Corp. to have a technician inspect the system to determine the cause of the problem.
What is the purpose of the Electrical Safety Code?
The purpose of an electrical code is the practical safeguarding of persons during the installation, operation, or maintenance of electric supply and communication lines and associated equipment. The code contains the basic provisions that are considered necessary for the safety of employees and the public under the specified conditions. The electrical code is not intended as a design specification or as an instruction manual.
What does an electrical service look like?
It consists of four wires involved with supplying the main panel with power. Three of them will come from the utility pole or in new subdivisions they may come up to the house underground. A fourth (bare) wire comes from elsewhere. The bare wire is connected to one or more long metal bars pounded into the ground, or to a wire buried in the foundation, or sometimes to the water supply pipe (usually in older homes) This wire is the grounding wire.
What's the difference between "grounding" and "grounded" and "neutral"?
According to the terminology in the National Electrical Code, the "grounding" conductor is for the safety ground, i.e., the green or bare or green with a yellow stripe wire. The word "neutral" is reserved for the white when you have a circuit with more than one "hot" wire. Since the white wire is connected to neutral and the grounding conductor inside the panel, the proper term is "grounded conductor". However, the potential confusion between "grounded conductor" and "grounding conductor" can lead to potentially lethal mistakes - you should never use the bare wire as a "grounded conductor" or white wire as the "grounding conductor", even though they are connected together in the panel Note: do not tape, color or substitute other color wires for the safety grounding conductor. In the trade, and in common usage, the word "neutral" is used for "grounded conductor". This FAQ uses "neutral" simply to avoid potential confusion. We recommend that you use "neutral" too. Thus the white wire is always (except in some light switch applications) neutral, not ground.
What size wire should be used?
For a 20 amp circuit, use 12 gauge wiring. For a 15 amp circuit, you can use 14 gauge wiring (in most locales). For a long run, though, you should use the next larger size wire, to avoid voltage drops. 12 gauge wire is only slightly more expensive than 14 gauge wire, though it's stiffer and harder to work with.
Can I install a replacement light fixture?
In general, one can replace fixtures freely, subject to a few caveats. First, of course, one should check the amperage rating of the circuit. If your heart is set on installing half a dozen 500 watt floodlights, you may need to run a new wire back to the panel box. But there are some more subtle constraints as well. For example, older house wiring doesn't have high-temperature insulation. The excess heat generated by a ceiling-mounted lamp can and will cause the insulation to deteriorate and crack, with obvious bad results.
My house has aluminum wiring, is it dangerous?
Aluminum wiring was used during the 1970's, aluminum (instead of copper) wiring became quite popular 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. 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, however, very unforgiving of improper installation.
When should I call an electrician?
There are several signs that appear and are indications that a professional is needed. These include:
1. Lights that are flickering.
2. Circuit breakers that will not reset or keep shutting down.
3. A GFCI that will not reset or test properly.
4. An odor from a wire, plug, switch, or your panel.
5. When you do not have the time or talent to make a repair, replace a light fixture, replace an outlet, or add a circuit.
Do you have more questions? Contact us