Monday, March 30, 2009

Subject: ungrounded outlets

Name: Joshua Sturms

Question: I want to get rid of the 2 prong ungrounded outlets in my house. To rewire the house would probably be pretty expensive(not sure how expensive though). Someone mentioned to me that I could have GFCIs installed to replace them. When I asked about how safe it would be he mentioned that a whole house surge protector could be installed. Is this a reasonable fix? Is there any risk to devices with sensitive electronics such as computers and video game consoles? Are there any alternatives?

Answer: Hi Joshua,

It is a legal to uses GFCI protection and change out ungrounded two prong to three prong outlets. Also adding whole house surge protection will help your home and it's appliances. Here is a link to the brand we use for surge protection. You need to start getting quotes to rewire you house. Your home has ungrounded circuits. That is telling me that your electric is outdated and in not equipped for today's modern electrical needs. GFCI protection is good to keep you safe but it is not a solution for your electronics. There in no substation for grounding when it comes to electronics. You may want to run new electric to protect you sensitive electronics. We just install several point of use surge protector in a house just off of South street is the Gray's Ferry section of Philadelphia.

Subject: 20 amp versus 15 amp plu

Question: Hi,

My mother has a manufactured home and was having some issues with her electrical outlets. With the intent of replacing the bad ones, I purchased a number of standard 15 amp plugs. The first outlet was an easy switch. Everything matched up perfectly, installed the new one and the plug functioned perfectly. The second one however was a bit more challenging and confusing. It was located in the kitchen, on the backsplash, behind the sink. When I pulled the old one out, I found the wire gage to be thicker - suppose 12? In addition, there two lines hooked into this 8 hole, rear entry, 15 amp plug. I disconnected the plug to find my standard 15 amp replacement plugs not to work. The wire gage was too thick to fit in the holes. So, I went to Home Depot to look for a similar plug as the old. I searched only to find a 20 amp plug that would work with this wire gage and with the right hole configuration. Actually, the holes themselves were slightly larger than that of the old plug so I was certain the wire would fit at least. The gentleman working the electrical dept. assured this would be fine despite the rating being 20 amp with th eobjective of replacing a 15 amp plug. I then returned home and installed the plug and it worked but my concern is the fact that it is 20 amp versus the 15 amp original and from what I recall, the plug breaker was also rated at 15 amp.

My mom uses this plug for a toaster and coffee maker.

Is there a potential issue with this change? I get concerned with the potential for a fire where if the plug did get hot, the breaker would not kick off because the plug is rated higher. In addition, having a 20 amp plug on a 15 amp line, does this present an issue?

My mom will not use this plug often and only for a short time at each use but don't want the set up to be unsafe.


Answer: Hi Steve,

You should not have any problem with the 20 amp plug in the kitchen. Kitchen outlets are by code suppose to be 20 amp circuits wired with 12 gauge wire. The original 15 amp outlet was technically not the correct outlet. This is a common situation. i see it all the time here in Philadelphia. Most contractors use 15 amp outlet in the kitchen on 20 amp circuits. There is not real problem since the outlet will only allow 15 amp plug to be inserted into them. A 20 amp plug has an extra "T" on one of it's prongs that keep it from being plugged into a 15 amp circuit. You will not find plug like this in residential appliances but you may find them in commercial applications. We just ran into this problem at Benna's coffee shop in the Passyunk Square section of Philadelphia just south of the Italian Market. The appliances in there could only work in 20 amp outlet but there were on 15 amp outlets installed. It was a quick fix.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Subject: hidden light switch

Name: Le Clere

Question: I'm upgrading my kitchen and installing a backsplash. I want to move the outlets for a cleaner look. Looking to alternate slate and glass tiles. I'm wondering if it is possible to wire one of the glass tiles to be a light switch. Have seen some sensor plates on line and am wondering if this could be used for this application.

Answer: Hi Le Clere, Yes this can be done. I have use metal touch plate sensor for touch control lamps in kitchens before. For the switch I tied the the control wire from the sensor to metal door handle to control the lights. If I remember correctly this was in a the Roxbrough or Manyunk section of Philadelphia (19128-19127).

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Subject: Pool table light wiring

Name: Dave

Question: I want to install a pool table light in my basement. The cieling is finished (sheetrock) and there is an existing canister light about a foot off center from where the light will hang. Is there a way that I can wire into the canister light and make it look good without having to rip out the can and repair the sheetrock? Someone mentioned a possible cover that can be put over the hole but I have never seen such a thing.

Answer: Hi Dave,You can drop the can out of the ceiling to access it's junction box. After you tap into the lights power supply and fish a wire over to your new light you could get an in the ceiling speaker cover to hide the hole and have a finish look for your ceiling.

Subject: 200a and 100a Panels

Name: James

Question: I'm currently designing our house and been looking into a few things. I have a small web hosting service running out of our garage (we're renting right now) and I'd like to stick it in our future basement.Most of the servers, routers, and switches are running at 240v and I'd like to put them on a completely separate load center.Is it possible to do a 100-150a service for the house and a 150-200a service for the data center?

Answer: Hi James,This is a good question. Typically you utility will only allow one main tap onto their utility line. You can run up 300 amp feeder to the utility and then add two metered services off of that main feeder. That would allow to have two separate bill. What I think you really need to think about is surge protection. You should contact the people at sycom. They will be able to help you get the right power filter for your severs.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Nice clean workers

Here is Tony driving through center city Philadelphia. As you can see we believe that our technician should be clean, neat and processional.
Servicing [19102, 19107, 19106 19147, 19146 19103, 19104, 19130, 19123, 19125, 19122, 19121, 19139,19143,19127,19129, 19128, 19118, 19119, 19144,19134, 19148,19145,19135,19124,19149, 19136, 19135, 19146, 19152,}

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Subject: Outside frayed wire

Name: Jim

Question: I have a house with a frayed outer wrap on the electrical line running between the outside connection to the house and the meter. A housing inspector wants this line replaced. I believe that the line is 20 years old.Q- Is it necessary to replace this line or is there another approved solution?

Answer: Hi Jim,Yes it is necessary to replace that cable. The sun damages it's protective cove.After it starts to crack open it is time to replace. There is no way to repair it.

Pendent lighting

Here is a look at the inside of some nice pendent light that are being used in an office for general lighting. This picture was taken in the easily morning in an office in West Philadelphia (19104, 19139 0r 19143 not sure). You can see how this type of lighting softens up the room and makes for a comfortable work environment. You should also notice how well the the fluorescent light matches the general feel of the entire room.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Subject: switch to 4 lights

Name: gary

Question: Attic space above garage, I have installed four light fixtures. cannot get switch to operate all just one closest. The power source is from junction box, I ran two l.ights to the left & two to the right. 3 have constant power, unless I use pull chains I cannot shut off. From the junction to the left I have wired one light then to the switch. how do I connect the rest to the switch. I have a basic understanding but please keep answer as black & white as possible. Thank You

Answer: Hi Gary,I will make this answer really black and white as requested. All you need to do is match the black and white wires from the one light that works the to the black and white wires of the other three lights.

Subject: line load

Name: Ralph A. D'Alelio

Question: How many outlets can you have on a single 15A circuit. Also, I installed an over the counter microwave on an existing 15A circuit that was used for an overhead venting fan. The microwave keeps tripping the breaker at various times. Sometimes it works fine. The only things on this line is lighting. Even when the microwave is the only thing running the breaker trips.

Answer: Hi Ralph.There is no limit to how many outlets can be on a 15 amp residential circuit. The is a total amount of circuit need based on square footage. As a rule of thumb I like to place every room on it's own breaker.

Your microwave really is not designed to work on a 15 amp circuit. You need to run a direct 20 amp line to power this appliance. We see this all the time here in Philadelphia. People replace the stove vents with out up dating the wiring. The over the stove microwave draws much more power then the counter top microwave.

Description of a Sub-panel

Here is John showing the inside of a sub-panel. This type of panel is addded on to a main panel. Sub panels treated differently from a main panel. The main differance is found in where the grounds and neutral are attached to the panel.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Subject: Current through ground

Name: KShaw

Question: I used a circuit tester to test the ground and neutral together. The light on the tester lit up, but barely. Since it wasn't lighting up brightly, like when testing the hot wire, should I be concerned?Thanks

Answer: Hi KShaw,There is no reason to be concerned by this. It can happen for a whole host of reasons. To be honest it take most electricians years to understand how to read all the different types of testers. I can only guess what kind of of tester you are using and what you are using this reading for. In general that is a normal reading.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Subject: Electrical wiring in a condo


Question: I just moved into a condo a few weeks ago, and I use my hairdryer and straightener almost every day. Everything worked fine until just a few days ago, when I was using my hairdryer on high and it suddenly turned to low and wouldn't work on high anymore. I then unplugged it and plugged in my straightener in the same outlet, which worked briefly but started to lose heat quickly. I have tested both on outlets outside my condo, and they are broken - the hairdryer only works on low and the straightener doesn't heat up at all. I know that both of these things use a lot of power, is it normal in a condo to have problems with enough power for these types of items? Is this something that can be fixed so if I get a new dryer/straightener this doesn't happen again?

Answer: Hi Shelley,Unless you have a brand new condo it is normal to have problem running a hair dryer and straightener at the same time on the same circuit. Even in a new condo I would not be surprised to here you had that problem. The trick is to have a circuit for each of these appliances or to have you vanity circuit to be by the only outlet on the circuit. We just redid a condo bathroom in the Spring Gardern [19123] section of Philly for a hair dresser who wanted 3 direct line to her make up bar.

Subject: Outdoor wiring

Name: Anthony

Question: Hello, I’d like to hang a ceiling fan from the underside of the roof covering my outside deck. There is already a 20 amp circuit with a GFI receptacle installed. I plan on connecting to the load side of it, feed it into a fan/light control switch with weather proof cover and run 12/3 to a ceiling fan. The existing circuit is in conduit, which I plan to extend up to the rafters, but then run the 12/3 along the underside of the roof to the fan. I was told I need to install UF cable since it is outside. The only way the cable could get wet is if the roof leaked. Is it OK to use NM-B for this application?

Answer: Anthony,No you really should use UF even if it is outside under a roof. You still can have driving rain in a wind storm the can get to the underside of that roof. There is also fog and mist that can also get to that wire as well. UF is designed for the elements NM is not.

Subject: Old House Electrical Upgrade

Name: John Weaver

Question: My wife and I just bought an older (est 1951) home. It appears to have a 60 amp service. I've gotten quotes for upgrading to both 100 & 200 amps. The question is, will 100 suffice? There is a whopping $1,000 difference between the two upgrades! Here's what we're running:Electric range, dishwasher and dryer. Heat & Water are both oil. 2 computers. And there's a small workbench downstairs that I probably won't use on a regular basis. 4 bedrooms but only 2 will be used right now. Budget is big consideration, so if we can survive on 100 amps for the next 5 years I'd be happy. What do you think?Thanks,John

Answer: Hi John,A 100 amps should be fine. the 200 amp service just give you extra space and is built a little bit stronger. I don't think you as a home owner will notice any difference between the two. It will not hurt you to go with the 200 amp service either. I believe that a 200 amp service add that $1000 difference into the value of your home.

Subject: Excessive wattage or some othe r problem

Name: Yelena

Question: Last night we turned the ceiling light on in the bedroom, and after couple of minutes the bulbs (about 5 of 5) went out. Strange smell/odor came out shortly after this. The ceiling light fixture we have is the standard ceiling light with fan. The fan wasn't used at the time and have not been used in a while. My husband removed the fixture and checked all the wiring which seemed to be normal, except that he couldn't check out the fan motor. However, we noticed that a few of the bulbs were 100 watts. Do you think that the wattage caused this or should we have the ceiling wiring checked out by electrician? The fixture is more than 10 years old.

Answer: Hi Yelena,If it is the first time you used the ceiling fan in awhile I would just replace the bulb and see if it happens again. Sometimes air can get into the bulbs. If air gets to the filament it will burn bright for a short time then go out. If the problem happens a second time you need to turn that circuit off and have an electrician look at that circuit. There could be something really wrong.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Happy Birthday,

Everyone at Generation 3 Electric want to wish Megan and Ryan a happy Birthday. Here they are at Grandma's house in Mayfair with two birthday cakes. Four years old all ready. Only a few more year until I will be able to put them to work.
A decorated birthday cakeImage via Wikipedia
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Subject: Getting 220 from a 110 source

Name: Wesley

Question: I have heard that it is possible to hook 2 110 breakers together and get 220 power. I have a welder that requires 208/230 volts, 50/45 amp, cycle 60, single phase primary. I'm trying to figure out how i can get fixed up to where I can use it without hiring someone and having a lot of money involved. don't have much o that to throw around at this point!:) Is this possible? and if so how? Thanks in advance for your time.

Answer: Hi Wesley,Penny wise but dollar foolish. This is not the type of job you should be doing yourself to save a buck. It is true that a 220 volt breaker uses the same space as two 110 volt breakers. You can't just double up two breakers to make it work. You need to purchase a special double pole 220 volt breaker to do this job correctly. You can not use two 110 volt breakers. A welder uses a lot of power. This can be a dangerous device if the power is not properly installed.

Subject: low voltage

Name: chuck

Question: Hello. I am having a problem with low voltage reading from every outles connected to the CFI circuit in my breaker. everywhere else in the house im reading 120 but when the power is on from the CFI circuits im reading around 92-96v. I have reset and tested the CFI switch at the box but im still getting the same readings. also, when the breaker is off i'm still getting a very small reading from those outlets (.01-.05v). since i unplugged everything connected in the series i was wondering what could be causing the low voltage readings. does this sound like an easy fix?

Answer: Hi Chuck,This sound like an easy problem to correct for an electrician with some experience. The 92-96v reading is normally caused by a bad return. I think you best course of action would be to call someone in and not disturb the wiring yourself. If you try to fix this one yourself you could be making the problem harder to find. your readings of .01-.05v are normal with the breaker off. It is easy for a wire to pock up a small static charge through induction.

Subject: Crazy Electrical Problem

Name: Denise

Question: Hi, I'm not doing this myself so don't worry, but even my electrician is baffled.

1. When we turn off the main breaker, we still have electricity throughout the whole apartment. 2. When he tested the outlets and the indoor panel, he could not get 220 anywhere. Everything was 110 even though it should be 220, he said.

3. When we turn on the dryer, the bathroom lights dim to almost darkness.

4. When we turn on the oven, same thing happens.

5. We had the elec. co. come over to check the main panel but we didn't see them come and they reported that everything was ok on their end. We're not sure what they looked at but it seems as if it would be hard to miss a breaker that was OFF but still sending electricity to the apartment.

6. Even with the main breaker off, AND ALL of the panel breakers off some things the kitchen light stays on.

7. We called the elec. co. back and told them the problem AGAIN, and they said they would send their "special guy" back here to check it out but he was out of town until next week. My electrician is going insane. Have any suggestions in the meantime?


Answer: Hi Denise,I hate to say this but you might want to try another electrician. This could be a crazy problem but I doubt it is. If one of my electricians came to me with this story I would send a different guy out because I would be thinking the first guy had a mental block and could not see what should be an obvious problem. Not being there my guess is that you have a bad neutral in your service equipment. You electric company normally only test the lines coming into you home and it is the job of your electrician to test the breakers. Second guess is your apartment is not broken up properly from your neighbors' apartment. Here in Philadelphia this happens all the time. We do at least three or four job in the University City [19104, 19139] section of town where big home were made into apartment for Penn students but the power was never split correctly.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

3-Way Light Switch Wiring Video

Here is a good video that shows how to wire a three way switch. Wow this guy does make it look easy. This is one of the rarest three way configurations. It is good to know this works but I don't think many home in Philadelphia are wired this way.

Subject: more power Scottie

Name: Jeffrey

Question: Bought and installed this small ceiling fan with light for the kitchen (Hampton Bay). My wife calls it "so cute". The light says 60 watt bulb only. That is very dim. We changed the white globe to a clear globe in hopes of getting better light. Only slight improvement.I understand from reading other answered questions of yours that we can use higher wattages but that will eventually heat up too much and burn out the wiring and our townhouse. Would one of those new energy efficient bulbs increase the light? Can we re-wire it so higher wattage bulbs could be put in ? What do you say ? Thank you.

Answer: Hi Jeffrey,Your really should not use bulb that have a higher wattage then the manufacture recommends. You could try install florescent lamp. They have a higher light out put per watt. Your real problem is your fan is not designed to put out the type of light that is needed in a kitchen. You should think about adding more lights. Maybe recessed light or under cabinet lights. You will never get good light out of a ceiling fan.

Subject: dimmer switch install

Name: Mary

Question: Hi Bill. Thought I could surprise the spouse and install dimmer switches on the hall pendant light (2 switches) and the dining room chandelier (1 switch). Then I read the instructions. Found out you can only have one dimmer switch, not one on each switch for the hall kind of set-up. Had to go back to the store and buy a big new blue box. Was able to grab the box before it fell into the wall, got that installed and only had to spackle & paint where I broke the sheetrock.(R U laughing yet?) It works fine. The DR was an easier install but it buzzed when on dimmer. I called the manufacturer and was told to change the energy curly bulb thingies as they said you can't use them in a dimmer set-up. The buzzing lessened. But it was still buzzing softly. They said all dimmers buzz. My husband can't hear it. I hear it. Do all dimmers buzz or can it be silenced? I thought I did well for a first attempt. Thanks for your advice.

Answer: Hi Mary,I'm not laughing. That is because I have been there too many times. All dimmers do buzz. Some more than others. The quickest way to correct this is by replacing you light bulbs with a different brand, different wattage or different type. What is happening is a harmonic vibration is making the filament vibrate. You could also make sure that you light fixture is secures. I correct this problem in a condo in Philadelphia by tightening the light fixture so that they did not magnify the buzzing by being loose.

Subject: remotes for fans

Name: Scott

Question: Bought Lutron add-on remote controls for the ceiling fans with lights. Live in a 1 story townhouse. This seems like it will require re-wiring in the attic and wall as the fans are old. I want to be able to have the light on and not the fan and vice-versa. My wife wants dimmer capability too. I am pretty handy and have installed fans and switches and lights and such. Is this where we concede to the pro? Thanks for your opinion.

Answer: Hi Scott,You should not need to rewire anything to add remote control units to your ceiling fan. All you do is install the receiver in between the feed coming out of the ceiling and the wires going to the fan. After you add the receiver your remote will be able dim the lights. Now since you live in a town house you have to watch the code you set your remote on. If you have a neighbor with the same remote and the same code they could control your light by accident. I received a call from a client in University city Philadelphia (19104) where a ceiling fan we installed was dimming for no reason. It turned out students move in next door and installed the same fan. We went back and put the fan onto a different code.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Subject: dimmer not dimming

Name: Amber

Question: I replaced a regular switch with a dimmer switch in our baby's room. I discovered that I had wiring for a 3 way switch, not a single pole, even though the room only has one light switch. I wired the new switch according to the directions provided with it. The light works, but it does not dim. For reference: there were 3 wires connected to old switch as well as a ground wire. I made sure to tag the common wire before disconnecting from original switch, although 3 wires were the same color. I assumed the bottom wire attached to the bottom screw was the common wire.

Answer: Hi Amber,If your light switch can turn the light on and off the problem you have is with the switch itself. Did you turn the power off when you changed the switch. Changing the dimmer with the power on can cause the dimming function of the switch to stop working. The on off function of the switch will still work normally.

Subject: adding light to end 3-way switch

Name: Tom

Question: Bill, Thanks for helping out! Currently, I have two 3-way switches that operate a light at the bottom of the stairs. We wanted to add a light at the top of the stairs to help with the darkness when going up the stairs. One of the 3-way switches is at the bottom of the stairs and one at the top (pretty standard set-up I figure).The current set-up, as best as I can tell, is as follows: power source, light, 3-way at bottom of stairs, 3-way at top of stairs.With the addition of the light at the top of the stairs I was hoping this configuration would work: power source, light, 3-way bottom, 3-way top, light.Not having any experience with 3-way switches I figure that I could just wire in the new light to the top of the stairs 3-way switch with no problem. I installed the light, was able to drop the wire through the wall to existing 3-way switch box and then I hit a roadblock. As you could probably guess, one of the two lights is always on: flipping the switches just changes which light is on (top or bottom). Needless to say, my wife didn’t like this option.After some searching on the internet I think I now understand why this is happening, but I'm not at the level where I can proceed and finish my project. I prefer not to run anymore wire if possible (it was a bear to get this far), but I’m afraid that may be my only option. I’ve seen other diagrams that would work for me (and I saw that you recommended this to another person): power source, light, light, switch, switch… BUT, this would require sending wire from the attic to the basement, and I don’t know if I can swing that.Is there any way that I can use what I have now to achieve the desired result?Thanks again for your help!Tom

Answer: Hi Tom,It is not likely that there is anything that you can do to make this work with out getting a wire to your switch or light on your first floor. The switch up stairs was not wire to support an additional light,If you want to go with some fancy digital switches you maybe able to do some remote control. You could check out If you switches could talk to each other they could work. It is not the cheapest option but it is a cool way to cheat.

Subject: twist lock

Name: Pam

Question: hi I'm not sure if thats what it is called but an electrician said if we buy a generator for our home to make sure it has a twist lock so the cord doesn't fall out I didn't get a chance to ask him if thats a code requirement or not, he is on vacation for 4 more days hopefully you can answer this for me we are in Wisconsin if that makes a difference, thanks so much! Pam

Answer: Hi Pam,It does make a difference but luckily for you most generators that offer a 220 volt power supply normally come with a twist lock standard. You want to use a twist lock receptacle in order to keep from having a loose connection at the plug connection. We a transfer switch for a portable generator in a house in the Wissahickon(19118) section of Philadelphia last year. The home owner lost power once and had to replace everything in his freezer. On with the generator install that will never happen again.

Subject: Proper wire connections ?

Name: Kenneth

Question: I am installing a ceiling fan. upon removing the old ceiling light I noted that there were four electrical cables coming into the box. Each one had a white/black/bare ground wire. Two of the black wires have been painted white just above where the bare wire shows. One black and one white wire were left to dangle as connectors for the new fixture. Upon being told that the two black wires with the white markings were hot, I am now confused as to the proper reconnection. I hope this makes sense.

Answer: Hi Kenneth,I have seen many an electrical box and what you described really makes no sense. It sounds like someone before you did not know what they were doing and really messed thing up for you. I think you should have this one checked out by a pro with an electrical tester to see where the wiring went wrong. The black wires should not need to be marked white.

Subject: Pore outlet malfunction

Name: Frank

Question: Hi,I have four poweroutlets in my living room. One outlet has some issues that I am unable to resolve. I have to have some thing pluged-in in one of the outlets at all times in order for other three outlets to work. If I take out the plug from the outlet which is malfunctioning, the rest of the three loses power and every thing pluged-in in these three outlets stops. Soem times I have to insert the plug in and out several times in the malfunctioning powerout let to get the power back int he rest of the three outlets.Please let me know what needs to be fixed."

Answer: Hi Frank,This is not a problem to answer on-line. I'm afraid what you have occurring could be a sign of a serious safety problem. You need to turn off the breaker to those three outlet until you can have an electrician come out and find the cause of the problem.I work in the

Philadelphia area which has many houses that still have Knob and Tube wiring. I was in a home in the Manayunk section (19127) that had the same problem and found a broken return in the neutral. I also found signs of arching in the box that could have started a fire. It was an easy fix but not one to be taken lightly.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Subject: Light switch to outlets

Name: Kimberly Hornbacher

Question: Our bedroom was set up that a single light switch turned off/on the upper plug of several dual plug outlets. The bottom plug was always "on".We replaced several outlets (but not all) and the light switch. Now both plugs are always on all the outletssThe light switch has only 1 wire coming in (or out). The black, red, and ground are connected but the white wire wasn't (and was cut way too short to be connected).As far as we can tell all the connections are identical and the light switch and outlets are identical to the ones replaced

.Answer: Hi Kimberly,This should be an easy fix. All you need to do is remove the gold tab between the two gold screws and you top and bottom outlet will work individually

Subject: chandelier move

Name: Kent

Question: I moved the chandelier in our dining room. It is connected to two (three-way?)switches. The house is 23 years old. There are two cables that come into the ceiling box. One is a piece of romex with a black, a white, and a ground. The other cable from the other switch has a red, a black, a white and a ground. How do I attach them properly to hang the new chandelier? Thanks for your anticipated help.Kent

Answer: Hi Kent,Without a tester I can't be 100% sure this will work. It sounds like the Black and White coming into the box is your feed and the Black, White and Red wire is you switch leg. If I'm correct you will match all like colors in the box. You light will attach to with White to White and Black(from light) to Red (from box).

Subject: outlet boxes

Name: Phil

Question: Hi thank you for taking my question. All outlets in my home are being upgraded to have a ground. Is it necessary to change out the outlet boxes during this process?All existing boxes are in great shape,(maybe a splash of hard coat or plaster here and there) The boxes are of the metal/aluminum type 2"Wx3"Hx2-1/4"D. The boxes will only have household duplex receptacles in them as they did for the last 52 years,but now with the addition of a ground wire via #12/2. Thank you

Answer: Hi Phil,in most situations I would up date the boxes as well. The reason I do this is two fold. I fell plastic boxes being non-conductive are less likely to short and since 12-2 insulation is plastic there is less of a chance that the wire can be damaged as it enters the box.

That being said there is no real reason to change the boxes if they are in good condition and not corroded. I recently rewired a home in Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia (19119) where it would have caused more damage to remove the original metal boxes out of the plaster then if I were to leave them in. For that reason the original boxes, which were still in good shape were reused.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Subject: sub panel feeder

Name: John

Question: I would like to add a 100 amp, 240 volt subpanel to my new garage. I have buried a 2 inch plastic conduit, schedule 40, between the house and the garage. What type of wire should I use for this application? The run is about 100 feet. Thank you, John

Answer: Hi John,Go to your local supply house or home center and ask for 100 amp SER. That is a special wire made to feed subpanels. It has in it 2 hots, 1 neutral and 1 ground wire all size for a 100 amp sub-panel. Please when your done with this work have an electrician inspect you installation. This is not they type of a project a home owner should be doing on their own.

Subject: electrical wiring

Name: chris

Question: Im remodeling a bathroom.Theres a switch and a line that use to be for one of the lights. Can I use this switch for the pump and the heater on the new jacuzzi? As long as I install a GFCI?

Answer: Hi Chris,I'm sorry but the answer to the question is no. You are supposed to put a hot tub on a dedicated circuit. If you share the hot tub circuit you could cause problem with the other electrical devices on that circuit. It is not worth the risk so I would a new circuit directly to you electrical service. We just finished doing this for a client in the East Fall section of Philly. Here our electrical panels are located in our basements. We found the plumbing vent stack and used that space to fish our wire down to the basement. There is always a chase way from the basement to the roof to vent the plumbing so look for it as a possible pathway.

Subject: meter and shower

Name: Barry

Question: I just installed a brand new Cutler-Hammer 32 breaker panel in a new house. A few slots in the panel don't work. I tried different breakers but I can't get anything out of those slots. Is there something I should have done to prep the panel. I really need some help please. I also have to wire a computer controlled steam shower. It has ground wires coming from the main control box and the steamer. What should I ground those to. Thanks for your time and help

Answer: Hi Barry,There is no safe way that I can answer these questions over the Internet. If you were in Philadelphia I could send someone out to inspect and work with you but doing it on your own is not a good idea.

1. An electrical service panel installation is a job for a licensed electrical contractor. The buss bar in all residential electrical service panels is fed from the main breaker. Every other breaker is is on a different leg of your electrical service. Some where you must have a bad connection to the electric company or a bad main. To fix this you need to have training because on that side of the main breaker there are no safety devices built in to protect your life. Please hire an electrician. This is not a job for someone who is handy and thinks they can figure it out on their own.

2. The grounding of a steam shower is also something you should have a pro set up. It this is done wrong you could be placing someone in great danger. Water and electricity do not mix and grounding this type of electrical system is extremely important. You must also have it protected with a GFCI circuit. The short answer is ground everything. Your electrical panels has a ground bar that attaches to the cold water pipe. All motors and control boards need to be tied back into this circuit. You can't over ground you system so if in doubt ground it again.

I really hope you call in an electrician for this work. Electrical safety is not something you should learn on the job.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Subject: adding outlets to old knob/tube circuits

Questioner: Bill Haley

Question: I just want to know how to add a new outlet to an existing circuit involving old knob and tube wiring. I can do it with new wiring, no problem. But, I've never worked with knob and tube. Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Answer: Hi BillI don't mean to be rude but the short answer is you don't. That wire type is so old that you are better off not touching it. It can cause you more problem then it is worth if you disturb it. What you need to do is put in a plan to replace it. You should not be adding to the knob and tube. You should be removing it. Here in Philadelphia we still have a ton of home that have knob and tube. They need to be up dated. One of my technicians was telling me about a beautifully home in Chestnut Hill that had it on the second floor. He did not know how to tell the home owner that we had to cut into the walls if we were to replace it. Another technician of mine just worked out a plan to up date the knob and tube some ones West Philly home in stages. Knob and tube has out lived it's usefulness. It is time to up date

Chestnut Hill [19118]

West Philly [19104]


One of four positions for a two-location setup...Image via Wikipedia

Name: RICK

Question: I am hooking up a 3way /single switch. I have the red on the off color screw and the b&w wires on the other side. The switch works fine until I hook up the wires for the single pole switch. When I hook up the two remaining black wires to the single pole, the 3 way only works when the single pole switch is off. i tried to switch the two blacks on the single pole and the 3 way didn't work at all. Sooooo, now I’m totally confused. Thanks!
One of four positions for a two-location setup...Image via Wikipedia

Answer: Hi Rick. That will never work. A 3 way switch can only work with another 3 way switch. They always come in pairs. A 3 way and a single pole is an electrical no-no.
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