Saturday, February 28, 2009

Over loaded panel

Here is a panel that is just too small for the job. You can see it is just jammed into this closet and has been added to several times over the past thirty years, since it has been installed. It was our recommendation that this electrical service be upgraded before it fails and puts the home owner in an emergency situation.

Subject: bad electrical wire underground

Name: anthony

Question: I recently lost electric to my detached garage. after a little investigating i found the wire that runs under ground is old and the coating on the wires are falling apart. can i run the electric above ground to garage? the garage is about 15 feet from house. if so what will i need to do so... thanks anthony

Answer: Hi Anthony,Yes you can do this as an aerial but you should contract a licensed electrician to do this for you. It is too easy to do this job in an unsafe manor and I don't think I could explain it in away that would keep you from installing it incorrectly.

Subject: code reference

Name: Jason

Question: Hooking up a wall mounted oven, is it required to have a cover plate over the j-box with the cable/cord connected to the cover? Or can the joints be made up and simply hang from the box? It will be unaccessable. If you know a code reference I would like to know it as well. Thanks

Answer: Hi Jason,It is always a code requirement to cover your junction boxes. Article 314.28 (c) Boxes shall provide a complete enclosure for the contained conductors or cables.

Subject: Dimmer switch on ceiling fan

Name: Tony Davis

Question: I would like to install a dimmer switch in a room with a ceiling fan and light, but there is only one switch on the wall. Can this be done without me having to add another switch?

Answer: Hi Tony,You can not add a traditional dimmer switch if the switch you currently have controls the fan too. What you can do is find a remote control switch and an in the fan receiver to make it work.

Light in a condo

Here is a fun lighting design for a down town Philadelphia condo that I hope to be working in soon. With any luck I will post the finished product for everyone to view.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Electrical Safety and GFCI Protection - tips from ESFI

How to replace GFI, GFCI outlet

Subject: connecting ground to cold water pipe

Question: I put in a new service panel at my house and had an electrician do the hook up. The electrician hooked the ground to the cold water pipe about 3-4 ft. from the panel in the back yard . The hose bib is about 1 foot from the back door. The inspector said it needs to be run to the front of the house within 5 feet of the entrance. Is there a difference if its the backyard or the front yard hose bib. Isn't it all the same. electrician says inspector is up set about something and taking it out on us. does this sound right, thankyou gary

Answer: Hi Gary,I don't know about your inspector being mad. We are always nice to inspector. There is never any reason to make an inspector mad. This is a great example of that. Smile and do what he is asking you with out question is what I tell all my men.Treating inspectors this way makes sense in this situation because the inspector is correct. Your water service can only come into the house from one location. It has nothing to do with hose bibs. The ground wire needs to be as close to where the the underground copper water pipe enters house. This is how your home picks up it's earth ground.
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Subject: Switch

Name: Jaye

Question: I want to replace an older light switch with a newer one. The old switch has two wires coming in to the top. One is white and the other is red. On the side is another red wire. What kind of switch do I need to buy and how would I connect the wires? Thank you very much for you help!

Answer: Hi Jay,Take the switch out and mark all the wire. If it has two wires connection points it is a single pole switch. If it has three wire connection points it is a three way switch. If it has four wire connection points it is a four way switch. It goes back in the same way it came out so mark your wires.

Subject: Light Fixture

Name: Matt

Question: Hi, I took down a ceiling fan in my boys bedroom and wanted to replace it with a regular dome light fixture. Now when I took out the ceiling fan, I noticed that there was 3 white wires and 3 black wires. Do I connect them all to the new light fixture or how do I figure out which one is the right one.Thanks

Answer: Hi Matt,The new light goes back up with the same wire configuration as the old light. If you did not keep track of what wire your old light used you should call an electrician. Safety first especially in a child's room.

Subject: Wiring a wall mounted hair dryer

Name: Robert
Subject: Wiring a wall mounted hair dryer
Question: I have a 1600 watt wall mount hair dryer. Can I use it on a 15 amp circuit or should I put it on a 20 amp circuit? Thank you for your help!

Answer: Hi RobLets do the math.120 Volts x 15 Amps = 1800 Watts1800 watts @ 80% = 1,440 watts max load.15 amps in no good you need to move up to 20 amps.

Subject: Identifying the nuetral wire

Question: I have an old outdoor ac unit that had 220 VAC. I need only 110 VAC on the new unit. I found the two black wires and measured voltage to ground. I am using only one of them. There are about 6 wires left. I am guessing the neutral wire is the light grey one but how do I measure this with a DMM to be sure?

Answer: Hi Bruce,This is dangerous stuff. I'm sure you are a smart man but I can't safely tell you how to find the neutral over the Internet. It really come down to a matter of testing you wires. Then testing them a second time. You should have 120 between the hot and neutral. You should also be able to trace the neutral's pathway back to the neutral bar. Never trust color. They are a good guide but you can't expect that person before you knew what they were doing.

Fuse box

This is a fuse box. It is the first safety device that was installed when electricity was first brought into homes. In many houses it has been converted into a junction box. If you think you home has knob and tube wiring here is the first place you would look because this is the fuse box it would have ran to.

Hallway switches

The switch at the top of this stair way is called a there way switch. It controlls all the light in this hall way from the top and bottom of this stair way. If you looked closely at the switch you will notice that it is not marked on or off like a signal pole switch. The three way changes the direction of the electricity so sometimes up is on and sometimes it is off.

Extention cord outlet

Here is a common problem in may older homes. Not enough outlet for modern electrical needs. This is also the cause of many electrical problem. The worst is a house fire but normally a home owner will experience tripping circuits first. If this is the case in your home you should know that it is inexpensive to add outlet to a home and it will make your home much safer.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

DIY Home Repairs : How to Run Electrical Wires Through a Wall

How to get a wire down a wall

Subject: Adding a GFCI to an existing switch

Name: Brian

Question: I'm remodeling my half bath. I have a light switch but no outlet. I would like to add a GFCI next to the switch. What I have in the switch box is 3 sets of wires. I'm assuming 1 line is hot, 1 line is a continuation to another outlet and the 3rd line is to the light fixture. How do I tie all this together to give me a box that would hold a new GFCI and the existing switch.Thank you for your time and helpBrian

Answer: Hi Brian,With an electrical tester and the switch off, you need to find the black and white wire that give you 120 volts. That is 120 volts between the black and white. You then simply use jumper wires to you new GFCI outlet. Remember it is OK to hire an electrician for this type of job. This is not the easiest thing to do well.

Subject: outlet gone dead

Name: doyle

Question: so the cable company phoned me and said i should pwer down my moden so it could reboot and receive some new thing from them.i went ahead and clicked the switch on the power bar to off..when i went to click it back power..switched power power..checked fuses..all good.went into the bathroom, and one of the two switches for lights in there, no power.checked the bulb, was good.opened up the lightswitch, and recepticle, cleaned out dust, tightened power.not sure what to do next ?

Answer: Hi Doyle,I'm sorry to say this to you but you should call an electrician. You have tested all the thing that a home owner can be expected to check. You might want to double check to see if any GFCI outlets tripped. You could turn every circuit breaker off wait 5 minutes then turn them back on and repeat. II think you may have sent a power surge through your system turning on the power strip. You could of had a week connection that went bad.

Subject: Laser printer and Arc Fault breaker

Name: Matt

Question: Greetings,We have a new house (modular) we built in 2007/2008. One of the bedrooms was supposed to be an office, but for some reason, the factory installed a 15 amp arc fault breaker in that room and not one on the actual 2nd bedroom. Now, if we plug in and turn on a brand new Laser printer (small one), the arc fault breaker keeps tripping. I'm thinking this is due to the printer powering up. This room also has the wired-in smoke alarm. Since we do not use this as a bedroom, can I swap the arc fault for a regular breaker, and if I do, will it cause problems with the smoke alarm?

Answer: Hi Matt,Yes, you can switch the breakers. The laser printer use a little arch of electricity in it's printing process which tricks the breaker into thinking there is a problem. This will happen with some devices when plugged into a arch-fault breaker.Smoke detectors are designed to be on bedroom circuits so they should all work with arch-fault breakers.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Electrical Panel or Circuit Breaker Home Inspection

How to fish a wire down a wall.

Can an electrician add a little insulation for me? Lot of cold coming in through these.

Question: What can be done to insulate electrical wall and light switch outlets?
Can an electrician add a little insulation for me? Lot of cold coming in through these.

Answer:1. You can use expanding foam insulation around the outside of the box. You must be careful that it does not push its way into the back of the box through any of the wire knock outs.

2. You can also buy foam backing that goes between the cover plate and the outlet box. These cover can be found at you local home centers.

3. The wire knock outs in the back of the electrical boxes can also be sealed with silicon caulk to stop the air from entering the electrical box.

All of the suggestions also make you home safer because air moving through an electrical box can turn a spark into a flam. What you do have to be careful is is getting any of this material in the electric box it's self.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Subject: Outlet Question

Name: Shawn

Question: I replaced an old broken outlet with a different one and used a receptacle tester to test it. When I first plugged it in, it seemed like all 3 lights on the tester came on. The one on the left came on slightly, the middle one came on fully, and the right one was flickering. On other receptacles, it was lighting up properly.I rechecked everything and decided to use a different receptacle. It was pretty much the same story, except the light on the left didn't come on this time. Before I did all this, I used a small circuit tester and thought the light on the tester lit up when I touched the neutral and ground. I did this again after the outlet was installed and got nothing so maybe I didn't test them before.The receptacle tester works fine on other outlets. The microwave comes on okay on the new receptacle, but that might not really mean anything. I'm not sure what is going on. Any help would be great. Thanks

Hi Shawn,Your circuit tester is telling you something is wrong.My guess is that you have a bad connection some where in the wires that feed those outlets. This could be a dangerous situation. You should call in an electrician just to be safe.
Hi Shawn,Your circuit tester is telling you something is wrong.My guess is that you have a bad connection some where in the wires that feed those outlets. This could be a dangerous situation. You should call in an electrician just to be safe.

Subject: GFCI outlets in the whole house

Name: Phil

Knob and tubeImage by Generation 3 Electric, Inc via Flickr
Knob and tube wiring as recreated at the Manit...Image via WikipediaQuestion: I have a house (built 1956/2 wire copper system) i would like to add GFCI outlets to. I have mapped and triple checked the mapping (circuit directory at the breaker panel) and several ciruits have outlets they control in different rooms. I realize a GFCI can be wired accordingly so the first outlet in the circuit can protect the other outlets downstream in that circuit.However,takeing into account there are outlets on some circuits in several rooms. Would it be a wise/code ok to install GFCI'S throughout the house? Would this eliminate "playing finding the tripped outlet and other similar problems with oulets that are on one circuit in multiple rooms. Thank youI can get these GFCI'S (a well known brand name) for right at &7. each for a lot of 15. But you can't put a price on the safety they provide.

Answer: Hi Phil,I don't know if I would spent the time or energy installing GFCI outlets on every circuit in the house in the name of safety. If you only have a hot and neutral but no ground I don't believe that adding the GFCIs will really make your safety problem go away. You real problem is your whole electrical system is 50 years old and plans need to be put into place for its replacement. I know this is expensive but you don't have to do it all at one time. I would first start by running a new circuit to each room of the house. Install it where it can be used for modern appliances such as electronic or window AC. They are the devices that will cause problems if they are not grounded. After that was done you can go room by room and replace the wires. This can be done over the course of the next 10 years. With a plan like this you can update all your wires and not break the bank.
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Subject: Circuit Breaker

Name: Jack

Question: While changing a light fixture I shorted the fixture out. Upon resetting the breaker I get no electricity on the line. Another line on the same circuit breaker is fine, but this one is dead. Why would the line be dead when a line on the same breaker is OK? I used a meter to check these. I also reset all the other breakers just to make sure.

Answer: Hi Jack,When you shorted the line you must have also damaged the wiring. Somewhere in the circuit there was a week link. By shorting the circuit you cause a power surge to go through the line before the breaker had a chance to trip. This surge could of cause a bad connection to fail. I think it is time to call in a pro and have you wires checked out for safety.

Friday, February 20, 2009

How to refeeding Outlets by Chiselling

Michael show how to feed two bad outlets.

Subject: new dryer 3 prong to 4

Name: Robert

Question: I need to understand if the whites and the green / bare wires are put on the same bar in my breaker box I do not have any other 4 wire conectors in my breaker box I think. This new dryer is the first. I have the box wired and the wire run to the breaker box but I dont want to screw this up. I can put red w/ red and black w/ black on the breaker and the green/bare with the rest of the ground wires but what do I do with the white? any help?

Answer: Hi Robert,The Green and White wire go on to the same bur bar in your panel box. The reason for the two wire is that your white wire, the neutral is the return path for your electricity. The green wire, your ground wire is there for your safety.It is similar to the hole at the top of a sink bowl. That hole goes to the same drain but it is run to the top of the sink instead of the bottom. It protects your house by keeping your sink from over flowing. The ground wire has a similar pupose.

Subject: Three wire, two circuits??

Name: Matt

Question: I am looking to add outlets to a basement and have run into a problem. My panel has two 15amp circuits for the basement. One runs the lights that are there and one does nothing. We tracked the wires and found that both 15amp circuits are running in the same 3 wire line, black, red, white, ground. The existing lights are run on the black and neutral, that is on one 15amp line. The red, on its own 15amp line, is just capped off in the line. I checked with a meter and found that the this red is indeed the line to the other 15amp breaker in the panel. Can I run outlets off of this red line taping into the common neutral to complete the loop, or will I over load the neutral? Keeping in mind that the 15amp black already uses this neutral.

Answer: Hi Matt,You have found a spare circuit that was probably intended for the addition of outlets in your basement. In this type of circuit you have two hot wires. One hot Red wire and one hot black wire. They should be at different phases. That means if you testes between the two wires you will have 220 volts. If you test from either wire to the white neutral you will have 110 volts. These two wires can share one neutral because they are waves going in opposite directions and cancel each other out when they reach the neural wire.In general I do not like to run circuits this way because it is possible to spike the voltage going to your outlets and light if your neutral goes bad. A 220 volt spike will destroy anything plugged into that circuit so I don't think it is worth the risk. Since it is pre-wired it is ok to use it but if I was able to get an new circuit to the panel I would just take that red wire off the breaker and forget about it.

Orientation Of A Switch

Subject: 4 lamp ballasts

Name: David

Question: I am swithing out ballast. the one i am taking is a GE and has 4 wires. The one i am putting in is a advance with ten wires. what is the proper wiring diagram?

Answer: Hi David,I don't think you have the correct parts. You see ballast are made to work with certain light bulbs and sockets. You should not have extra wires. In some cases you could be switching from older chemical ballast to newer electronic ballast. The sockets will have wire that double up on the ballast but not the other way around.

Subject: installing electric range

Name: james

Subject: installing electric range

Question: Just bought house with aluminum wiring and need to install an electric range to direct wiring. Was going to purchase the range off craiglist and am wondering can we purchase any electric range of which newer ones I am thinking are plugged into an outlet? How will we install it to direct wired?

Answer: Hi James,First thing I have to tell you is you should seriously think about replacing you aluminum wiring. Aluminum is fine for large gauge wires such as your range but the problem occur in you smaller circuits. Aluminum is brittle when it is made into the wire was used to power outlets and lights.Now for you range problem. 95% of all ranges are a standard 50amp design. Newer one use 4 wires and older one work on 3 wires. The difference between the two is weather the ground and neutral were shared. I would call in an electrician to add a socket to your direct feed wire and a plug to your range. This should not cost you too much and it will keep you safe.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wire colors

This blog is about three wires: 10-2, 12-2 and 14-2 Romex wires. The 10-2 is Orange, the 12-2 is yellow and the 14-2 is white. The first number, i.e. 10, describes the guage of the wire. The second number describes the number of conductors each wire holds. Each wire is 600 volts. The amps differ from wire to wire. The 10-2 wire is 30 amps, the 12-2 is 20 and the 14 is 15 amps.