Thursday - March 21, 2019 -

Frequently Asked Questions

General

What are the latest statistics on residential electrical deaths and injuries?

The latest figures from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) indicate that there were 440 total accidental electrocutions in the United States in 1999, 170 related to consumer products. Twenty-nine of those related to household wiring, 29 to small appliances, 22 to large appliances, 15 to power tools, 13 related to ladders, 12 to garden/farm equipment, and 9 to lighting equipment.

But that is only part of the story. According to the latest statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there is an annual average of 111,400 home fires caused by faulty electrical distribution systems, electrical appliances and equipment, or heating and air conditioning systems, taking an average of 860 lives, injuring 3,785 and causing nearly $1.3 billion in property damage.

What exactly is a “Free Estimate”?

Based from experience and our proprietary project tracking and management systems, we are able to provide you fast phone quotes for almost every routine electrical project you wish to budget for. The price we give you for the specific task(s) you need completed is guaranteed to be the price you pay when we complete the work.

For larger projects like whole house wiring, basement finishing, remodels and additions you may have us come to your property to survey the area and provide you a total cost (rough-in and finish) price. We will not charge to do this either. Another option to you is faxing us your floor plan for an estimate. We will use the floor plan and your individual lighting, phone, data, TV and home theater specifications to provide a project cost.

There are times when we can not give you an exact cost and will tell you this up front. What we will do is provide an estimate on the time it will take to solve your specific needs and inform you how much we charge per hour to offer the solution. Troubleshooting your electrical system is one of these instances. Without knowing what the root cause of the electrical problem may be, we use our professional judgment to estimate the time it will take to fix the issue.

There are other circumstances where we may request a home inspection report or need to reference the local building department’s notes prior to providing a firm quote on the total cost to complete the electrical repair.

Some outlets/lights are working in a room and some are not… Why is that?

There are many things that can cause this to happen. Possible causes of this are the outlets/lights that work are on a separate circuit than those that do not work. It is also possible an outlet is bad. Some outlets and light switches wear out and simple replacement fixes the problem. You will want to check your electrical panel’s breakers to ensure there are no tripped breakers. If all the breakers are reset and on and you still can not get power to the outlet and/or light, call a licensed electrician to help you further diagnose the problem.

My lights dim every time an appliance or other things are turned on, what is going on?

This condition is more common in older electrical systems. This is normally caused when an air conditioning unit, refrigerator, freezer, furnace or other high energy consuming appliance starts. The instantaneous need for motor speed is what causes a momentary dimming of your lights. A lot of power taken to get theses motors at full speed quickly and this is a normal condition. Near capacity or overloaded circuits can also affect lights on the loaded circuit. There is little need to worry if this only happens when a motor driven device/appliance cause a momentary fluctuation. Over time, motor controlled device/appliance electrical components can wear down causing your breaker to trip frequently. If you suspect this is the case, call a licensed HVAC contractor for air conditioning and furnace motor inspections or call an appliance repair company if you feel other appliances are the culprit. Balancing the electrical load, upgrading your wiring or upgrading your electrical service panel to handle more capacity are also possible fixes to this problem. It is suggested you call a licensed electrical contractor and have an assessment completed.

The outlets in all of my bathrooms are not working, what is the problem?

The major cause of this is the GFCI outlet on the circuit has tripped. To remedy this problem, locate the GFCI outlet that controls the circuit and press the “Reset” button. Keep in mind the GFCI outlet that is tied into your bathroom outlets may be located in your garage. If every bathroom has a GFCI outlet, reset all of them. In addition, ensure you check the breaker in the service panel to ensure it is not tripped.

GFCI

What is a GFCI?

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

Do all GFCIs work in the same manner?

All GFCIs work in the same manner to protect people against ground faults. However, unlike the receptacle GFCI, the circuit breaker type GFCI also provides overload protection for the electrical branch circuit.

Can consumers install GFCIs?

Consumers are encouraged to use a qualified and certified electrician to install circuit breaker-type GFCIs. Individuals with strong knowledge of electrical wiring practices, who can follow the instructions accompanying the device, may be able to install receptacle-type GFCIs. The portable GFCI requires no special knowledge or equipment to install.

If the appliance has a built-in shock protector, is an additional GFCI necessary?

Appliances that have built-in shock protectors, as now required for hair dryers, may not need additional GFCI protection. However, other unprotected appliances still need GFCI protection.

If the product has a three-prong grounding type plug, is a GFCI still necessary?

GFCIs are necessary even if the product has a third wire to ground it. GFCIs provide very sensitive protection to consumers against electric shock hazards. Under some conditions, a shock hazard could still exist even if a product has a grounding wire.

What is the big plug now found on such appliances as hair dryers?

The large box-like device found on the ends of some appliance cords can be either an appliance leakage circuit interrupter (ALCI), an immersion detection circuit interrupter (IDCI) or a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). They work in different ways, but they are all intended to shut off the power to an appliance under an abnormal condition such as immersion of the appliance in liquid. Just because you have an appliance with one of these devices doesn’t mean that it is okay to drop the appliance in water and retrieve it while it’s plugged in. If you should happen to drop an electrical appliance in water, shut off power to the circuit into which the appliance is plugged, unplug the appliance, drain the water and retrieve the appliance. The rule that “electricity and water don’t mix” still applies.

Cords

How do I know if I’m using the right extension cord?

The size of wire in an extension cord must be compatible with the amount of current the cord will be expected to carry. The amount of current depends on the equipment plugged into the extension cord. Current ratings (how much current a device needs to operate) are often printed on the nameplate. If a power rating is given, it is necessary to divide the power rating in watts by the voltage to find the cur-rent rating. For example, a 1,000-watt heater plugged into a 120-volt circuit will need almost 10 amps of current. Let’s look at another example: A 1-horsepower electric motor uses electrical energy at the rate of almost 750 watts, so it will need a minimum of about 7 amps of current on a 120-volt circuit. But, electric motors need additional current as they startup or if they stall, requiring up to 200% of the nameplate current rating. Therefore, the motor would need 14 amps.

Add to find the total current needed to operate all the appliances supplied by the cord. Choose a wire size that can handle the total current.

Circuit Breakers

I have a breaker that keeps tripping, can I replace it with a bigger breaker?

Do not do this! The reason your breaker is tripping is exactly what it was designed for. A tripping breaker ids telling you to the circuit is overloaded or the breaker is worn out and needs replaced with the same size and type of as the original. Besides dedicated circuits, your multi-wire branch circuit is designed to power multiple devices, lights and fans. If you turn all of your items on and the breaker trips, you probably overloaded the circuit.

Replacing the existing breaker with a higher capacity/size simply exposes your circuit to a heat/fire hazard. The best fix is to limit the number of electric devices you use on a given circuit to avoid tripping the breaker or have an additional circuit installed by a licensed electrical contractor to provide you the proper power requirement for your needs. If a breaker continuously trips and you feel you are not overloading the circuit, contact a licensed electrical contractor to assess the condition of the breaker and circuit.

The US Consumer Products Safety Commission issued the following recommendation: “Investigate to determine why a fuse blows or circuit breaker trips. Do not simply replace the fuse or reset the breaker. If a fuse blows or breaker trips, it is often a warning that the circuit is overloaded. Check the circuit for causes of overloading (for example, too many appliances plugged in, a malfunctioning product, a short circuit). When in doubt, consult a licensed electrician.”

I have reset the breaker but my power is still out, what do I do?

This is the most frequently ask question. In order to reset a breaker in your electrical panel, you must move (push) the breaker firmly to the off position (this resets it) and then push it back to the on position. Most people fail to push the breaker firmly past the off (tripped) position and assume it is reset. If you perform the correct reset procedure and still have no power, call a licensed electrical contractor. Breakers can wear out over time if they are tripped too frequently.

Plugs

How does a three-prong plug work? What’s the benefit of using it?

The third prong on a three-prong cord set provides a path to ground for electricity that is straying or leaking from a product. This helps protect the equipment and can help prevent electric shock.

How does a polarized plug work? What’s the benefit of using it?

A polarized plug is a plug with one large or wide prong and one narrow one. It ensures that the plug is inserted correctly in a socket and reduces the risk of electrical shock.

Terms

Where can I find definitions to electrical terms?

Electrical Definitions

The definitions provided below are in alphabetic order. If you do not see a definition you need, please call SCC Electrical at 719-219-0960. We will be happy to help you with any questions or concerns you have.

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI)
AFCIs are electrical devices designed to protect against fires caused by arcing faults in residential electrical wiring. The AFCI resembles a normal breaker that is placed in the electrical panel except it contains a reset button in the event a trip occurs and the arc problem is fixed.

Amp (Ampere)
Unit that measures the strength or rate of the flow of an electrical current. An ampere is the unit of measurement of electric current produced in a circuit by 1 volt acting through a resistance of 1 ohm.

AWG
American Wire Gauge, typical house lighting and receptacle circuits are either 14 AWG or 12 AWG. The smaller the AWG number, the larger diameter the wire will be.

Ballast
A transformer that increases the voltage to operate a florescent lamp or other non-incandescent light fixture.

Branch Circuit (See "Circuit")

Breaker
See Circuit Breaker- Safety devices found in the main electrical panel and are used to protect life and property from electrical short circuits and overloads. If the “live wire” (black or red) comes in contact with anything connected to the “neutral wire” (white) or “ground” (bare copper or green) the breaker cuts power to that circuit.

Breaker Panel - (Electrical Panel)
An electrical box that houses breakers and connects branch circuits to the rest of the house. A typical residential breaker panel is 100 to 200 Amps, 120/240 Volts.

Conductor
Any material (wire, water, etc.) that allows electrons to be transferred. Local and NEC codes require the use of copper conductors for all new electrical circuit installations, the use of aluminum wiring for the main service conductor and #8 AWG or larger is permitted.

Conduit
A protective metal or PVC tube that electrical wires run in and through.

Connector
A small insulating plastic or metal piece that attaches to an electrical box that holds the wire or conduit entering it securely.

Circuit
The path of electrical flow from a power source through an outlet and back to ground. All the wiring controlled by a breaker is considered a circuit.

Circuit Breaker
See Breaker - A device that looks like a switch and is usually found inside the breaker panel. It is designed to shut of the power to portions or the entire house and limits the amount of power allowed to flow through a circuit as measured in amperes. They are safety devices used to protect life and property from electrical short circuits and overloads.

Dedicated circuit
An electrical circuit that serves only one appliance, such as a stove, drier, hot water tank, or dishwasher. "Clean power" is served to sensitive equipment like computers and home theater systems using dedicated circuits.

Dehumidistat
A control mechanism used in a home, to operate an exhaust fan based upon the relative humidity.

Disconnect
A large electrical ON/OFF switch. Typically 20 to 200 Amps. Normally found on main electrical panel, in sub-panels and inside air conditioning/hot tub breaker panel boxes.

Duplex Receptacle
A normal electrical outlet, called "duplex" because it has two plug-ins.

Electrical permit
A building permit required for electrical work, can be issued to home/ property owners and licensed electrical contractors for residential applications. Can only be issued to licensed electrical contractors for commercial, industrial and residential rental projects.

Electric Meter
Device that measures the amount of electricity that flows through it (or how much electricity a customer uses).

Electrical Finish - (Trim)
The final work performed by an electrician when the electrical project is nearing completion. The electrician installs all plugs, GFCI outlets, switches, light fixtures, switch and outlet covers, smoke detectors, bathroom ventilation fans, electric furnace hook-up, electric baseboard heaters, ceiling fans, track lights, recessed light trim, hot tub and/or air conditioning wiring and all associated wires in the main electrical panel with all the regular and AFCI breakers. The electrician finishes all work necessary to complete the work for the customer and if necessary, pass the final PPRBD electrical inspection.

Electrical Metal Tubing (or EMT)
Metal tubing that electrical wires are routed in and through to protect the wire from exposure to the elements of weather, inadvertent damage and other exposures that could render the circuit unsafe.

Electrical Rough-In
Electrical work done by an electrician to prepare for the open walls to be insulated and covered. Usually all electrical wires and/or circuits are installed along with all the electrical boxes for all the lights, switches and outlets.

Fish tape
A long strip of thin spring steel or composite material used for fishing cables behind existing walls and for pulling wires through conduit.

Fixture
All permanently connected lights, fans or other electrical devices that consume electrical power other than equipment such as air conditioners, garbage disposals, furnaces, etc.

Fluorescent lighting
A fluorescent lamp is a gas filled tube with a chemical coating on the inside. Gas inside the glass tube is ionized by electricity which causes the chemical coating to light up.

Forced air heating
A common form of heating using natural gas, propane, oil or electricity as a fuel source. Air is heated in the furnace and blown via an electrical motor through metal ducting to various areas of the home.

Fuse
A device often found in older electrical panels. Fuses are designed to prevent electrical overloads. Fuses can still be found in some electrical appliances, like ranges. However breakers have now replaced fuses in the electrical panels that distribute the branch circuits throughout the house.

Fuse Box
A box to hold fuses and often confused with electrical panels.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)

An ultra sensitive outlet or breaker designed to shut off all electric current. Typically used in bathrooms, exterior outlets, and wet areas like hot tubs, saunas and whirlpool tubs. GFCI breaker outlets have a small reset and test button on the plug or breaker. Testing a GFCI outlet monthly is recommended to ensure its proper operation.

Ground
A conducting connection, whether intentional or accidental, between an electrical circuit or equipment and the earth or to some conducting body that serves in place of the earth.

Hot wire (or "Live wire")
Typically a black or red wire that carries electricity to a receptacle or device.

Incandescent lamp
A lamp using an electrically charged metal filament that lights up. A typical light bulb is considered an Incandescent lamp.

Junction Box (or "J-box")
A plastic, composite or metal box that is securely mounted and contains the wires that are connected to light fixtures, switches, receptacles and devices. A junction box is sometimes installed with the electrical wires capped and the box covered for future use. In remodeling and finishing the wires are left in the open box until all other wall work and painting is complete.

Keyless Lamp Holder
A plastic or porcelain light fixture. Typically found in unfinished basements, crawl spaces, utility rooms and attic areas.

Knockout
A removable piece of an electrical box or panel that's "knocked out" to allow a wire or conduit to enter the box through a connector.

Lumen
The unit of measure for total light output. A standard 100 watt incandescent light bulb emits approximately 1700 lumens when powered by 110 volts.

NEC (National Electrical Code)
The set of rules issued by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) governing safe electrical wiring practices.

Neutral wire
Typically a white wire that carries electricity from an outlet, light or other device back to the main electrical service panel.

Outlet
(See Duplex Receptacle) – also called a receptacle, or plug.

Pigtail
An added piece of wire connected by a wire connector. Normally used to extend or connect wires in an electrical box.

Radiant heating
A type of heating that consists of a hot water system with pipes installed in the floor, wall, or ceiling. You can also use electrically heated panels or mats that are installed under tile. The electrically heated panels are normally used for a small floor area like bathrooms but are also designed for snow melting systems on roofing eaves and under driveways.

Receptacle (See also Outlet and Duplex Receptacle)
An electrical outlet. A typical household will have many 120 volt receptacles for plugging in lamps and appliances and 240 volt receptacles for the range, and laundry dryer.

Romex
Trade name of sheathed electrical cable.

Service equipment
Main control gear at the service entrance, such as circuit breakers, switches, and the service panel box itself.

Switch
A device that connects or disconnects an electrical circuit. Also called a single pole switch.

3 way switch
Switch used when a light is controlled from two different places, like outside and inside a room, both ends of a hallway, the top and bottom of stairs.

4 way switch
A special switch used when more than two switch locations is desired.

Thermostat
A device which relegates the temperature of a room or building by switching heating or cooling equipment on or off as the temperature rises and lowers.

Travelers
Wires that carry current between three way and/or four way switches.

UL (Underwriter’s Laboratories)
An independent testing agency that checks electrical devices and other components for possible safety hazards. UL is not a government agency.

Volt
Unit that measures the degree of electrical pressure.

Voltage
A measure of electrical potential. Most homes are wired with 120 and 240 volt lines. The 120 volt power is used for lighting and most of the other circuits. The 240 volt power is usually used for the kitchen stove, hot water tank, drier, and electric baseboard heating.

Watt
The unit of measure for the amount of electrical power.

Wire nut
A wire connector used to fasten bare wires together. "Wire-Nut" is a trade name for a wire connector.


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BES Electric
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BES Pools
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