FAQ Overview

What is a GFCI?

A ground fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, is a electronic devices for protecting people from serious injury due to electric shock.

What should I do if the GFCI device trips?

There are two buttons on GFCI devices. You can test the device by pressing the black button. That should cause the circuit to trip, indicated by the red button popping out. When this happens, the outlet will be disabled and all other outlets and electrical connections on that circuit will be disabled. You reset the device by pressing the red button until it latches in place. If the device tripped by itself, check for causes that might have made it trip before trying to reset it. If it continues to trip for no apparent reason, contact a licensed electrician to have it checked out.

Why do I need so many receptacles on my kitchen counter back splash?

In a kitchen, the code requires that no point along the counter top be more than 24" from an outlet. Also, any counter of 12" or more requires a receptacle. These receptacles must all be GFI protected.

Why does the breaker trip when I plug in my hair dryer while the AC is on?

This type of problem, common in older homes, is due to overloaded circuits. 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 new circuit for the air conditioner would be a good solution.

A receptacle in my bathroom, kitchen or elsewhere stopped working. Why?

Check the receptacle; if it is a GFI, 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 GFI 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. 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.

Does my whole house need to be rewired if I have aluminum wiring?

No. A Licensed Electrician can fix all the connections where aluminum wiring connects to receptacles, switches, light fixtures, etc., and this will prevent any problems.

A light fixture in my house is flickering. What should I do?

A flickering light could be the symptom of several problems. This should be checked. 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 and call a licensed electrician to check it out.

When is it time to call an electrician?

Any time you need indoor or outdoor electrical work done, that's the time to call on a 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 additional outlets.
  • You have power surges when the refrigerators kicks in.
  • You keep tripping a circuit breaker or blowing a fuse.
  • Any time something unusual is happening with your electrical system.

My clothes dryer stopped producing heat.

This is usually caused by 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 buss bar, due to a loose connection on the circuit breaker.

I replaced the lamp in my recessed light and it blinks on and off. 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 a lamp is replaced 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.

Why is my smoke detector chirping intermittently?

Usually when a smoke detector is chirping intermittently, it is signaling the need to replace the back-up 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 for lighting 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. These devices are typically sacrificial and may require replacement if they experience a lightning strike.

Why are half of my lights out and large appliances not working?

Check for tripped breakers and reset your main breaker. If the main breaker is warm to the touch, call a qualified, licensed electrician immediately. If resetting the breaker does not fix the problem, it is possible you have lost one phase (leg) of your main power supply. Contact your utility company and have them inspect their service line for problems.

What is the difference between a circuit breaker and a fuse?

A circuit breaker and a fuse both perform the same function, interrupting the flow of electricity when a fault is sensed in an electric circuit. Fuses are cheaper to install, but not as efficient in the long run. Circuit breakers can be reset without having to replace anything, but fuses must be replaced when they trip. Today circuit breakers are economical and are used in most modern applications due to their ease of use.

Can I do my own electrical work?

You need to check with your local community to determine their regulations when it comes to doing your own work. Most local governments will require you to have a permit to do any electrical work. Although it is not recommended, if your local government allows it and if you are qualified and know the proper safety precautions, you can perform your own electrical work. Anyone performing the work must do it in compliance with the National Electric Code. When you sell the building most municipalities will require an inspection letter from a licensed electrical contractor. If you do the work without meeting the local requirements, you could be taking on the electrical no permit liability. Before you attempt any electrical work, remember to exercise safe techniques; 1000 people die every year from electrocution.