Thursday, April 30, 2009

Subject: panelboard

Name: Brian

Question: I have a single phase 120/240 100amp service. I want to run another circuit to a shed. I'm looking to see if I have space in my panel board for this. Since there are 2 phases coming in can I put 100 amps on each side of the panel? Is that how that works? And a double pole 40A breaker only counts as 40A correct? Not 80? So minus the dryer and range (2P 30A & 40A) I can add 130A worth of circuits in my panel board and still be ok with my service correct? And if I run a 30A 240V service to the shed and put a sub panel out there I can add 4 120V circuits correct?

Answer: Hi Brian,

I understand the logic you are using to total up your total load on the panel. It make tons of sense but the total load is not just the sum of all the breakers in the panel. I think you should hire someone to do this work for you for safety reason. You should have plenty of power to a shed onto main panel. That is if you will only be using basic electrical devices. You putting together a machine shop are you? What you have to remember is you are not using everything at one time. If you are in the shed you are not using electric some where else. There are many thing in your home that just do not go on at the same time. That is why you can't just add breakers.

Do you have extra slot or open slot in your panel. That is what I look for first. Some time I will make a test with an amp probe. I was just in a house in the Fairmount(19130) section of Philadelphia that had the entire panel filled with twins size or half size breakers. That panel was over loaded. Electricians must have added on to that panel for years without up grading it. You said you have open space so it sounds like you are in better shape then that Fairmount home

Subject: motion detector trouble

You just answered the following question:

Name: scott

Question: I had 3 motion detector lights on the same circuit outside of my home when I moved in and only one worked. I replaced one of the non working ones last weekend successfully and then replaced the other two this past weekend and now two aren't working properly. I wired everything EXACTLY the way the old ones were wired. What's happening is that two of them are coming on and off almost in sync with each other (one on, other on, one off, other off). They are on different sides of the house and should not have any way to trigger each other. They are staying on for about five seconds then off for about 10-15 seconds then back on and it's constant. The third one is working fine. The one I installed first that worked properly is one that is now not working properly. I got up on a ladder last night and unwired and rewired the two that aren't working right just to make sure everything was tight and proper and I moved the ground wires from the screw on the junction box (I think that's what the base is called) to the screw inside the actual metal case of the new units just in case that had something to do with it and then tested all of the lights (successfully) in daylight. I left them on and once it got dark I had the two on the rear of the house (one of the affected ones and the good one) staying on becuase it was windy so I shut them all off until tonight. Tonight I've turned them back on and I'm now having the same issue I had on the weekend even after going through rewiring and after having them test and work properly last night. The outside of my house is light a light show. I emailed customer support for the manufacturer Sunday night and of course I've gotten no response. Please let me know if this is something that you can advise me on I don't know who to ask and I don't want to pay someone hundreds of dollars to come fix it if it's something simple. Thanks.

Answer: Scott,

Stories like this make me wonder why people don't just hire electricians to start. I'm sorry to hear you are having so much trouble.I train my guy here in Philadelphia to make this type of job look easy. We just changed out three light like this in under 30 minutes in what I think was the Chestnut hill 19118 or Roxborough 19128 section of the city. It sounds like you have spent hours. Let me see if I can help.

I would remove all three motion lights. Test voltage tester to see that there was 120 volt at each location. Then I would reinstall the three motion lights. I'm not sure what kind you have but they should have a black wire and a white that go to your 120 volts. Then the same white wire and a red wire go to your light.

I would set them to the highest level in both light sensitivity and time on. Then I would never turn them of or on at the switch. Some light take a day or so before they start to work correctly. After a week I may go back and adjust the settings.

Subject: chasing wire

Name: alan

Question: I am helping a friend on a home he just purchased. The
electrical has all been replaced{roughed in} by someone
else. I am trying to find the easiest and safest way to
chase the wires from inside to outside breaker box. The
house has been sheet rocked and wires ran to breaker box
are just coiled up in box, no power yet. just wondering
about olm meters or other resources, don't know? Any help
or pointers would be appreciated.

Answer: Hi Alan,

I don't 100% understand what you are doing. I can tell you that most electrician don't even own a true ohm meter. I don't think an ohm meter is what you want. A volt meter is much more useful.

I would trace a circuit out starting from the electrical panel. Hook up one circuit at a time. Use a voltage tester to follow the path the electricity.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Any Questions

Here is a group of guys in our business networking group form Rosenthal Plumbing (Santa Cruz, Calif.). They are preforming a rap song about how costumer should be treated.

Subject: Plugs

Name: John

Question: Exterior plugs one in front of house and one at rear of house do not work(power washed prior to them quitting) No breakers are kicked. Any suggestions?

Answer: Hi John,

The outside plug are probably GFCI protected. A GFCI is one of those outlet that have the "TEST and RESET" button on them. My guess is one of them got wet when you power washed them. You may have to wait for them to dry out and then reset them or the GFCI could have gone bad and will need to be replaced.

Subject: What am I looking at?

Name: Chris

Question: Bill,

Hello and thank you for your time. I am converting a garage into a living area. There are windows and 2 doors in there.

I would like to know what I am looking at when I go to the box. There is a refrig. in there that is running.

Ideally I would like to run (obviously) a lot more things.

Can you help me? I can go out and get you any info out of the box that is needed.

Thanks again,


Answer: Hi Chris,

I'm sorry but I think the best thing I can tell you is that electricity is dangerous if you don't know what you are doing. You really should call in a professional electrician to run over some new circuits if you need them. I would not want you to get hurt or burn your property down. This really should not be too expensive of a job. The cost to having it done by someone else will not out weight the risk of doing it yourself.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Subject: GFCI

Name: Don

Question: Bill, I have completely gutted and remodeled one of my bathrooms. The bathroom is now on a separate load center (sub panel)fed from the house main breaker panel. All of my electrical wiring is in PVC conduit. All boxes are metal and with ground attached to each box. I checked the light circuit and the receptacle circuit with a drop cord from another house circuit prior to installing any drywall. All lights and receptacles worked fine. The drywall is complete and painted. I installed 15A GFCI breakers for my receptacles and my light circuits. There are five receptacles on the circuit and five lights on the lighting circuit. The LED checker indicates proper polarity on the receptacles. However, when anything is plugged in to any receptacle, as soon as it is switched on, the GFCI breaker trips. Same thing with the lighting circuits. I took out the GFCI and temporarily replaced them with a regular 15A breaker. Lights and receptacles work fine. I reinstalled GFCIs and began trouble shooting; I found nothing. Next, I disconnected all of my wires from the neutral bar and disconnected all hot wires from the breakers, except the neutral on one of the GFCIs. To this breaker I ran a temporary hot wire (black)to the GFCI breaker and a neutral (white) to the neutral bar and attached a porcelain socket (with pull switch) and bulb. As soon as I pulled the switch the breaker tripped. I have continuity between earth ground and neutral in my load center. I also, have continuity between ground and neutral in my main breaker panel. I should have continuity between these two? What am I doing wrong? Sorry if this is a little wordy; I just wanted to be concise. Thanks for any advice.

Answer: Hi Don,

It sounds like you have the line/load of the neutral path messed up. Your breaker should have a white pig tail going to your neutral bus bar.(line) Then there should be a spot on the breaker where you install your circuit's neutral under a set screw.(load) If your neutral from the bathroom goes strait to the bus bar you will have a problem just like you described.

Subject: Arc Fault Wiring

Doing some electrical workImage by slworking2 via FlickrName: Caleb

Question: I have a pushmatic breaker box in my house and need to put in an arc fault breaker for a new bedroom addition. Since they don't seem to make an arc fault pushmatic, my inspector told me that I can run a seperate six panel box next to my old one for the arc fault breaker. This is how I understand they procedure and want to make sure this is correct. I need to put a 2 pole pushmatic in my main box and then run the wiring from that to my new box. I need to have 2 hots to the subpannel, a neutral to the neutral bar and the ground on a seperate bar. Does this sound like the correct way to do this? I really need to get moved into the room asap and want to do it right the first time. Thank You.

Answer: Hi Caleb,

This is a funny and scary question. Your inspector should know better but he could be just a general inspector. The bigger safety hazard is the pushmatic breaker box. You need to replace that. Do some google searches on pushmatic and safety and you will see that this breaker have issues.( The Arc Fault breaker are new and a more advanced safety device. You really should have an electrician replace the whole electrical service. Other wise you will just be wasting your time.
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Subject: home electrical

Name: dave

Question: "I am changing a light fixture
when switch is flipped up and down, light goes on and off
irregardless of switch posistion still have 126 volts at the fixture
could wires be crossed at the switch?"

Answer: Hi Dave,

That is normal. You are probably close to you power company's transformer and getting their higher end of their power range. Do to voltage drop someone at the end of the line could be getting 105 volts. I would not worry about it too much. There is nothing you can or could have done to get that reading.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New home owner with some questions

[quote=bjeebers]Hi there, I obviously found you on PhillyBlog and you seem to have quite the fan base. Congratulations for your solid work! I am buying a house and am in the final stages of the process. The inspection brought up quite a few electrical concerns, which I had already surmised. I would be appreciative if you could furnish me with a "ballpark" price estimate for repairs just to see if I am truly out in left field for how much all of this is going to cost me.

From the inspection report, I can share that the electric service cable from the meter boxes to the main panel needs to be replaced. The exposed wiring for the deck lights outside is not rated for exterior use. The electrical panel (fuses) is also obsolete.

The report also shows temporary extension cord wiring, improperly terminated wires, exposed wire junctions, inoperable switches and fixtures, older 2-prong outlets that appear damaged, 3-prong ungrounded outlets, and active knob and tube wiring.

In essence, I want the whole house redone from an electrical standpoint. Just rip the bloody old wires everywhere out of the walls and start new with circuit breakers, dedicated lines, grounded outlets, wires circa 2009, an overhead light in the rooms, a ceiling fan, planned electrical outlets that make sense, etc. The house is 2 floors (and a basement), 1200 square feet, plaster walls, and has 6 rooms (living, dining, 2 beds, bath, kitchen).

I know it's hard without seeing the house. I do have some pictures from the inspection report if that helps. I really am looking for just a ballpark figure. I'm just afraid I may be way off from the number I have in my head.

Thanks for reading all of this!

Hi Bjeebers,

Congratulations on the new house. It is really hard to give you any kind of price estimate for you home with out meeting with you and seeing your home. Evey house is different and every client has different needs and expectations. All of these things change the scope of work and the price.

The way we work is to meet with a client. Go over their wants and ask some questions about their life style and come up with some options that best suite each clients individual needs. I hope it is this level of care that is giving us a good reputation on Philly blog and other places.

Foe a wild ball park I can tell you we just rewire 80% of a 5 bedroom Germantown Home for $10,000. Your home sounds smaller so that would definitely effect the price. You could also look at this as an opportunity ti install some better lighting. Recessed light washing the walls with light can make a smaller home look bigger. Again that will effect the the price.

Someone Stole a House?

In November of last year, I read a story in the newspaper about a woman who had her house stolen. That's right, stolen. A woman named Doris from Port Richmond left her house vacant for five years and moved to Florida. When she returned, she found that someone had pretended to be her and sold her house! Someone was living in her house, had paid all of her back taxes and utility bills and was claiming ownership. To make matters worse, vandals and thieves had stripped her house bare, down to the wires in the walls. The court told Doris that she had to restore the house in order to reclaim the deed. She had little or no resources to complete this tremendous project. Her lawyer teamed up with the city council and went out to search for volunteers. This is where I (Generation 3 Electric) come in. I got a call one day from a member of the city council asking if I would like to help. I jumped at the chance to help a fellow Philadelphian in need. I sent some electricians over to Doris' house, and they completely rewired the house (a job that usually costs thousands of dollars) for free. Then I got this certificate.
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Monday, April 20, 2009

Subject: 220 to 110 outlet

Name: James
Question: I earlier asked about changing a 220 outlet to a 110 outlet. I neglected to mention that I have fuse box instead of breaker box. The professional who answered my previous question said to put the white wire on the "bar" when unhooking it at the fuse box. Is there a center bar on a fuse box? This is a two wire (white and black) 220 outlet. Thanks

Answer: Hi James,

You need an electrician to up grade your electrical service. I would not touch that on a fuse box personally. If you are still running off of a fuse box that is telling me you electrical service is at least 50 -60 years old. Mose electrical equipment is designed to function properly for about 30 to 40 years. You fuse box has out lived it's designed life and should be up graded.

Subject: wiring ceiling fan with remote

Name: Rene

Question: We just replaced our old ceiling fan with a new ceiling fan with a remote control. There are 4 wires coming out of the ceiling(black, red, white and green). The old fan has also these 4 wires. The new fan has only black, white and green. There is only one wall switch being used. It has a black and red wire connected to it. We connected the new ceiling fan black to black, white to white and green to green and we put a cap on the red wire on the ceiling. Both the lights and fan are working. I'm just not sure if we actualy did it right and it would not cause wire later for something we did or didn't do. Do we disconnect the red wire on the wall switch or do we just leave it as is? We haven't tried using the remote control yet as we still need to buy a 9-volt battery. Thank you in advance for your expert advice. Have a nice day!



Answer: Hi Rene,

It sounds like you did everything right. The remote controlled ceiling fan doesn't need to us as many physical control wire as a ceiling fan with no remote. The old fan had a hot(black) Neutral(White) Switched hot (red) and a Ground(green). You new fan doesn't need the switched hot (red or black). It just needs power and the remote acts as the switch.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Subject: 120/240 breaker switch

Name: John

Question: I have a 100 amp service and am short on breakers. However I have a paired 30+30 amp breaker switch that is not being used. Can I use those switches for two 120 volt breaker switches?

Answer: Hi John,

You can remove the 220 Volt double break and in stall two 110 volt single breaker. I do think that at this point you would be better served in most cases if you would up-grade to a new service. I have found that panel that become 100% full start to have little cheats that can add up to a dangerous situation.

We just saw a panel in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia (19130) that has be over loaded for years. To get a little more out of it every contract or the home owner would double up a circuit or add a half size breaker. This went on until the bus bar in the panel burnt up. This could have set the whole house on fire. They were lucky this did not happen.

My opinion is you should face the fact that you are in need of an up graded electrical service. You would be better off biting the bullet and bget a bigger panel.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

42 Tips to Save on Your Electricity Bill — David Makes Cents .com (A Personal Finance Blog)

42 Tips to Save on Your Electricity Bill — David Makes Cents .com (A Personal Finance Blog)

Subject: 120VAC/12VAC Wiring Question

Name: Chris

Question: I live in Washington state and am installing and AMBIANCE 60 to 150 watt magnetic transformer. Input is 120VAC, out put is 12VAC. It will be used to power 70 watts of linear xenon festoon bulbs for cabinet lighting. The 120VAC input is switched. The 14/2 romex with ground is grounded at the switch end. However, the transformer has no provisions for grounding, and the installation directions tell me that "grounding not required". QUESTION: What do I do with the ground wire at the transformer end -- should I dead end it, or install a screw on the mounting bracket and attach it any way... or? Your advice will be greatly appreciated.

Answer: Hi Chris,

It really doesn't matter what you do with the ground in this situation. If the transformer is in a metal box you should attach it to the metal of the box. The ground in this situation is only make any metal electrically neutral. If no metal parts are present then you just need to tuck the unused ground wire into the back of the junction box.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Subject: Carlon Conduit Repair

Name: Zac

Question: Good Evening Bill,

Blue Carlon Conduit was used in the wiring of my home. I recently noticed that some of the conduit has cracked in spots and has exposed wiring. I would like to repair it without having to splice the wiring if that is avoidable. What would you recommend using to make this repair. Thank you for your time.

Answer: Hi Zac,

I don't think that is legal.We don't use that here in Philadelphia for electric but it could be different in other areas of the country. I think this may be in heave use in the Chicago area. You can use Blue Carlon Conduit to cover MN type wire but not to run THHN. It is mainly use for low voltage lines like Phone and Data here. If it is just a covering you can fix it any way you like. It is just foe appearances.I think you may want to call in a local electrician. Some thing about your set up sounds funny to me.

Dmegs Web Directory

Subject: 110 vs 220 wiring

Name: Rick

Question: We are moving to a home that is wired for only 110. I had to have a 220 breaker installed in my current home. We have a washer, a dryer and a mini freezer. How do I know what is required?

Answer: Hi Rick,

99.9% of the home in the U.S. are wired for 220 Volts at their main service. Most of the circuits in the home only use 110 Volt. Some major appliance such as dryer, ranges and heater will require a 220 volt line. To do this an electrician needs to run a new line from a 220 volt breaker in the panel directly to an appliance outlet by what ever you are hooking up.

I have replace a bout 10 to 15 110 volt electrical services in Philadelphia over the past 20 years. Most of these 110 volt services are long gone. Typically I find them in older people's home who have had the same home in the family for multiple generations. I have seen this in areas of Philadelphia such as Fishtowm (19125) Richmond (19134 and Bridesbird (19134) the most. These area have older housing stocks and tight communities.

If you do have a 110 volt service. You will need to contact an electrician and have your electrical service upgraded. The good thing is your power company should have 220 volts easily available for you.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Subject: Breakers

Name: Salista

Question: There are 2 breakers in my well house that run my well, One of the breakers keep popping I have tried everything that I know to do as far as getting new breakers and cleaning the points on the thing that all the wires run to sorry I cant think of what that is called at the moment..But I called a friend of mine and asked him what it could be and he told me that the heating element in my hot water tank is causing that is that true??? And what would you recommend at this point?

Answer: Hi Salista,

It sounds like you did a through job looking for the common causes of a tripping breaker. I'm afraid to to say that I think it is time to get professional help. The circuit breaker if tripping because it is sensing a safety problem in your electrical wiring. If for some reason the breaker jams and does not trip you could start a house fire. Breaker do become less reliable the more the trip. Also the cause of the tripping can become more dangerous the more times a circuit trips. I have see many close calls where clients did not know how dangerous there electric was here in Philadelphia. I had a client call the other day from the mount Airy section of the city (19119) where they had the same problem. When we found to be a loose connection in the wall that was heating up just like the coil in your hot water tank. I think it is time you through in the towel and called in a pro. It is just not worth the safety risk.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Subject: wiring in the home

Name: david valley

Question: i put up a van in my kids bed room and it was all good for a day the lights work the fan work and all the plugs worked but the next day my wife was a vacuuming the room and the vacuum died so i thought a breaker pop so i checked it but nothing so i checked it with my GFCI tester and it said i have a hot and ground contacts interchanged but one plug in my kids bed room works but the other three plugs and the fan don't and when i went into my bed room three plugs didn't work but one did and my fan worked and in my bathroom the lights didn't work but my plug did my house was built in 1977 i did see your comment on the aluminum wires

Answer: Hi David,

I would bet that the problem is up in that box under your fan. You must have loosened a connection while you were installing the fan. The vacuum cleaner causes a big load when the motor kicks on. Thia demand can make loose connections fail. I would start and look at the junction box that was disturbed. I'm sorry to say that box is where you installed that ceiling fan.

You have to also remember that ceiling Fans vibrate. If your connections are not done right the vibration of the ceiling fan will cause them to come loose. I had that problem last year in a house in Philadelphia. I think it was in the Chestnut Hill or Mount airy section. A client of mine install his own ceiling fans and then two weeks later he had power problems. He swore that the ceiling boxes were fine because he only looked at them a few weeks ago. Problem often occur at the last disturbed place. That is where his problem was too.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Subject: no lights in 3 bedrooms

Name: Rosario

Question: Please help us with this problem. All of a sudden, the lights in the 3 bedrooms of the house do not work. Checked the fuses in the circuit breaker panels - nothing is broken. Checked the circuit switches - turned them off and on. Made sure there is current coming in using a voltmeter. This is an old house .... the circuit breaker consists of an old one with fuse delays (circular orange fuses) and a newer one with switches.

Answer: HI Rosario,

I don't know if you are going to like this advice but the best way I can help you is to tell you you need to contact an electrician. You are in need of some updating if you are still running a fuse box in your home. In the mean time I would try to turn each circuit breaker off for 30 seconds and then turn it back on. Do this one at a time. Make sure all your light switches are in the off position and everything is unplugged. The you can try replacing every fuse.

Philadelphia is an old city. I still find some fuse boxes in some sections of this town. Mostly the The Germantown, Mount Airy, Chestnut hill sections. They are filled with older homes that have not been update in the same way the center city Philadelphia has. I really think your best option is to get some estimates for an new 100 or 200 amp electric service.

Zip codes of area mentioned in answer. (19118, 19119, 19144, 19129, 19102, 10130, 19107)

inside of a standard residential meter socke

Here in the inside of a standard residential meter socket. The electric from the power company come in through the top and attach to three lugs. From right to left the are. Hot (A), Neutral and Hot(B). The meter gets plugged into the socket and completes the connection between the electric company and your home. The bottom three lugs go to you home's electric panel and match the configuration of the lugs above.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Subject: converting plug-in undercabinet lighting to direct wire

Undercabinet LightImage by Daniel Ashton via Flickr
Name: joyce

Question: I would like to convert plug-in under-cabinet lighting and wire it directly to existing outlet box located right under my cabinet. Can I just cut off the plug and connect the hot and neutral wire from the cord to existing outlet box? If so, how do I do this? I just want to connect one 24" undercabinet GE fluorescent fixture. The fixture is a plug-in linkable fixture that says up to 10 of these fixtures can be linked together. I only want to use one fixture directly wired. I will not be linking any other fixtures to this one. Thanks.

Answer: Hi Joyce,

This is not as easy as it sounds. I think I can help you. You can't run that cord in the wall to the outlet. You need to fish 12-2 from the outlet, splice with a special box as it come out of the wall to the cut off cord of your light. Here is a link to the part you need.
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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Subject: adding light fixture to a closet

Name: Linda

Question: I am planning on adding a closet and need to add a light and switch off an existing outlet. Can you offer me the basics on how to do the wiring to add this? I've got a pretty good idea, but want to confirm my thoughts are accurate.


Answer: Hi Linda.

You run a wire from the out let to the switch. The wire needs to be the same size as in the outlet. It should be either a 14-2 or 12-2. 14-2 would be the most common. In the outlet you match all like colors.

From the switch you run a wire to the light. Same size wire as you ran to the switch. In the light you natch all like colors.

In the switch. You put the two whites together. The black go one on either side of the switch. It is the black that get opened or broken by the switch to turn the light on or off. All the grounds get tied together and go to the green screws or wires if available.

Subject: no power in two rooms

Name: tom

Question: I have two rooms that the power went out yesterday. The circuit breaker is not tripped. Do you think I should check all the outlets with a circuit analyzer? How do I go about doing this?

Answer: Hi Tom,

First you should turn all the circuit breakers all the way off. Wait 30 seconds then turn them all the way back on. Go and see if this corrects your problem. Then you need to test all the GFCI outlet to see that they work when you test and reset them. If your power is still not on I would advice you to call an electrician. There is a chance that your problem could start a fire if not corrected. Until you have an electrician repair your circuit turn all your lights off and unplug everything in the affected circuit. This extra load of stuff plugged into a bad circuit could cause a spark that could start a fire. We see close calls all the time here in Philadelphia. Loose connections in old Knob and tube go bad and the electricity jump a cross making for a dangerous condition. I was just in a home in the Fairmount section of Philly that basement junction box that had actually scorched the floor joist. Very close to starting a fire.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Subject: Melted insulation bus bar

Name: bill h

Question: Hi Bill,

I started having problems with my garage door opener a week ago. Long story short after thinking my problem was in the opener itself I ran an extension cord inside the house to the opener and to my surprise, purfect operation.

So then i started looking elsewhere. Put a voltmeter in the outlet (overhead in the garage and the only thing on that circuit) and got a sporadic reading. Numbers all over the place. I took the receptacle out and touch just the wires and got a full 120. So I replace the receptacale and to my dismay problem still persisted.

Opened the circuit breaker paner and noticed melted insulation of about 1 inch on a white wire attached to the bus bar. It looks like it is still connected and I assume this is my problem and why i am getting a sporadic reading.

Now, I am an novice when it comes to electricity, but with this issue i might be an old pro. Two years ago the lights (power) in my bedroom/bathroom just all of a sudden went out After a couple days of troubleshooting I finally and terrifyingly opened the panel. Found a completely melted white wire on the bus that had melted through and lost contact. An electrician freined of mine walked me through the problem and I just cut behind the melted insulation stripped the insulation and inserted the wire to a new location on the bus bar. All was well. I also tightened some other screws i thougth were loose along the bus bar. Six months in I checked my work and everything was fine.

Fast forwrd to today and to my surprise the same problem on a different circuit only not melted all the way through to lose contact. I think I know how to fix the problem, but my concern is do I have another major issue behind the scenes? Two melted white wires on the same bus bar in two years? Also, another screw on a different wire was loose and needed tightened. I know that two years ago I tightened all of them. What would cause them to loosen over time? I have never heard of this happening and it seems rare. Do I have a bad bus bar or something? Should I be concerend of a larger problem than just simply fixing my current issue?

Like I said I am no electrician. But I am concerened that my novice eyes is missing something major. Any thoughts or concerens you can give me would be appreciated. I have pictures of the wire if you have an e-mail address i could send them to it might help with the understanding of my issue.

Thanks in advance and sorry for the long winded e-mail

Bill H.

Answer: Hi Bill,

We recommend that everyone have their electric box serviced once a year. I is not uncommon for screws to loosen up in an electrical box. Once this occurs you can cause damage to the buss bar. The heat the the loose connection had could distort the metal making future problem more likely. Also the heat can cause circuit breaker to go bad. We call this service a panel tune up. I would recommend that you call an electrician to do a safety check on your electrical box. You could be over looking something.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Subject: Swinging from the chandelier

Name: Betty Le

Question: HI,
Ok, I fell in love w/ this crystal chandelier, so I splurged and bought it, madly
awaiting its arrival. Now here it is in a box, and no instructions other than
where the crystals go. WTF???!!!

I would like help on how to get it up on the ceiling, but first I need to put the
dang thing together. How do the arms connect to the base? It looks like
there's one wire part on the bottom of the base, but 6 arms with a wire part
each. This is such a bummer that I can't figure this out on my own!

Answer: Hi Betty,

I sorry to say this but it is stupid things like that that keep me in business. You should not mess with this or the packing too much. They can be a real jigsaw puzzle. If you get the pieces to mixed up it will even become hard for a pro to do it. I think you should call someone in.

Subject: Question about upgrading my circuit box or service

Name: John Klimek

Question: I live in Pennsylvania and have 100 amp service with a 20 circuit box.

The box is completely filled with breakers and a couple of breakers are doubled or even tripled up. (eg. two bedrooms connected to one circuit, etc)

However, I have gas heat for the entire house except for one recently finished room in the basement (which uses electric baseboard heat).

I've had electricians come to the house but I'm getting two different stories:

1) Some say they can install 30 circuit box and I can keep my 100 amp service which is completely big for me.

2) Others say you must upgrade to 200 amp service if I want a bigger box.

Can you tell me which one of these is a true statement or what is recommended?

Answer: Hi John,

They are both probably right. It is just their professional opinion that is different. I would go with the 200 amp service in most cases but not always. Most house here in Philadelphia will never draw more then a 100 amps. House in the neighborhoods of say Fishtown (19125), fairmount(19130) South Philadelphia(19147) or Northern Liberties(19123) are just too small. The 200 amp panel will last longer but if money is an issue the 100 amp will do. Also sometime we do the 100 amp on city house because of the extra space the 200 amp would take up. If I were you I would research the two electrician to see who had the best reputation and go with their advice.

Subject: how to tell whether wiring is hot or turned off.

Name: Shay

Question: I have a light box in the ceiling with wires(not capped) hanging out. A friend of mine took the ceiling fan down a while ago and now I do not know if the switch is off at the breaker or not. How can I tell without hurting myself? I am a female with no experience except for hanging a few ceiling fans and replacing a few outlets.

Answer: Hi Shay,

You can go to your main panel and turn the main breaker off. That will power down everything in your home. The main breaker in normally marked. It is typically at the top of the panel. It will be the biggest breaker in the panel. Normally it is a 100 amp or 200 amp breaker. Don't worry about touching it. It will not hurt you.

Subject: laundry dryer only running 110

Name: James

Question: Hello,
We recently moved into a home where there was no 220 outlet for my electric dryer. I went down to my local hardware store and they assisted me in getting the necessary supplies to run the outlet. I was given a 3 plug outlet because unfortunately my dryer is older than the new 4 wire code. I did not want to change the specs of my dryer so I went with the old connector way. I purchased a dual pole 30 amp breaker, 40 feet of 10/2 wiring with black, white and ground and the three prong outlet that matches my dryer. I ran the wire, installed the floor mounted outlet, connected the wire and then connected the open end wire to the breaker. Not being an electrician, I was told black and white go into the breaker and the ground goes into the ground pole with the others in my breaker box. My dryer runs however does not heat. My local hardware store informed me that the breaker was bad and to come and replace which I did. I reconnected the breaker and I am only still getting 110 to run the dryer but no heat. I purchased a 2 light meter that reads 110 or 220. The 220 does not light up? Did I mis-wire or is the breaker bad or is there a possibility that the dryer went out on me? These questions I do not know however the dryer was working 1 week prior to our move from a manufactured home and in that location, we had the same 3 prong dryer plug that was installed by me. The only difference is that those wires had red, black and white. The red and black were on top and the white went to the funny "L" shape prong and the bare ground wire was capped with a wire nut. The dryer worked fine with that setup. I am not sure where I am going wrong only that maybe the black / white / ground are not wired right into the outlet? Please help, my last choice would be to purchase a new dryer and have an electrician come out. Thanks San Antonio, TX

Answer: Hi James,

Turn your breaker off now!!! What I think you did is very dangerous. the funny "L" shaped prong is the ground. In your last home they probably use the white wire as the the ground. You are using the white wire as a hot. That means the other 120 volt you are missing is in the metal case of you dryer. If you touch it and your sink!@#$%&. Don't do that. The black and white wire go where your black and red wire were in your old plug.

Subject: Service Upgrade

Name: Jeff

Question: I am installing a new 150Amp overhead service to an older home. There are 3 wires going into the house with the main being in the panel. When I put the new meterbase in it will have a 150 Amp main and 4 spaces for breakers, I will feed the existing panel from a 100 Amp breaker out of the new box. My questions are, 1. How many conductors will the power company run to the meter socket? 2. The existing panel has a main and is fed with 3 conductors, however, the new meter socket will contain a main so how and where should I bond/ground the ungrounded conductor? I have to install 2 ground rods at the new service so the meter socket will be grounded but I am not sure how to accommodate the existing panel/main. Thank you.

Answer: Hi Jeff,

i don't think this is not a job you should be taking on your own. There is a lot of knowledge necessary to do this installation correctly and safely. Please look at my how to blog below and search for "sub-panel". I know that you can find some pictures and videos that could help you.

I will answer two questions below but if you are asking those two question then I'm sure there are 100 more you don't even know to ask. Please hire a pro for this job or have your work inspected.

1. The utility will bring you 2 hot wires out of phase with 120volts on each leg to ground and 240 volts across the pair. They will also bring you a grounded conductor. that is a total of three wire in a single phase service.

2. After you electricity passes the main breaker the grounded conductor needs to be split into a ground conductor and a neutral wire. All metal part associated with the service need to be bonded to the ground wire. The entire system needs to be grounder to a ground rod with an ohm reading of less then 25 ohms and to the water main.

Subject: Aluminum house wiring replacement switches and outlets

Name: Bill

Question: I have a house that is wired with Aluminum wiring. I am concern about not having switches and outlets not compatible with AL. I have heard of some houses burning down. Should I change out all of them? Where do I find AL compatible switches and outlets? I have been able to find some outlets but not switches.

Answer: Hi Bill,

Don't waste your time. Aluminum wiring should not be touched by DYIers. It should only be handled by professionals. If there is no immedate problem with the aluminum it should be left alone. The more Aluminum is moved the more brittle the metal becomes. You will probalally increass the risks you have by replacing your devices.

If you want to do any updating to your devices you should just bite the bullet and replace the wire too. Aluminum wire were installed about 40 years age and they are not designed to last much longer. The first home I owned in Northeast Philadelphia (19154)had aluminum wire. It was built in the early 70's by Toll Brothers in Morrell Park. I replaced that wire right away and after it was done I slept better.

Subject: Wiring High-Hats

Name: Mike

Question: I have a 14-2 gauge wire on a 15amp breaker going to a dimmer switch. I want replace track lighting on this dimmer with 4 low-voltage high-hats. Can I use 14-2 gauge to do this or do I need to use 12-2?

Answer: Hi Mike,

14-2 is good for 15 amp of power at 80 planed compactly or 12 amps.
A 65 watt light bulb divided by 120 volts is only drawing .54 amps. That is well below what can be places on a 14-2 wire. you should be good to go.

Subject: can lights

Question: Hi Bill,
The situation is there are 3 rooms, in feet
13 x 7
10 x 12
8 x 10
Installing 6-inch can (or recessed) lights and the ceilings are 7ft 3in high.

How many lights do I need and where should they be placed. The client’s concern is that these rooms are dark and they want to go with can lights.
I was also thinking of going with 90w dimmable CFL light bulbs with 1400 candle power. What do you think?

Thank you,

Answer: Hi Randy,

There are many ways you can do this. It is really more about knowing your client then some general lighting rules. That being said I would push for 4 inch can. They look more contempary and clients tend to like them better. I like the 50 Watt GU10 bulb.

Dimmable CFL really have some limitations. They don't dim 100%. They don't give off good quality light while dimmed. They flicker and don't cast a nice beam. They are bigger and don't fit in the trims well. They tend to disappoint most client.

I have a LED replacement trim in stalled in my Philadelphia office (19147) for testing. It is made by CREE lighting. This is a very nice light. The L.E.D. is still an expensive option but in a few years I think they will replace CFL for energy savings.