Nationwide Electrician Directory
31 Oct 2016

6 Electrical Repairs You Should Never Do Yourself

Electrical shock is very serious. It can make your entire skeleton glow in a brilliant flash of light, after which you slump to the floor with your hair smoking. Or maybe that’s just in the cartoons. In the real world, a good zap is a lot less cool, although it is theoretically possible for your hair to smoke. So what’s the best way to prevent a life-threatening jolt? Calling an electrician, of course. If you don’t like that plan, at least do whatever you can to avoid the following no-nos, and understand that this is NOT a complete list.

1. Mess with the service lugs in a breaker box

First of all, if you don’t know what service lugs are, you shouldn’t be doing anything in your breaker box (service panel) except resetting tripped breakers, if that. If you happen to know that the lugs are the big screw terminals or posts securing the service cables, you should also know that they’re always hot (energized), even after you shut off the main breakers. Obviously, you should stay well away from the cigar-size cables connected to the lugs, too. Definitely not a good smoke.

2. Work on the weatherhead

This is another one for the “don’t even think of it” category. The weatherhead, also called the service mast or periscope, is the metal pole or other structure that connects the electrical service lines leading from the utility power pole to your house. Since this is part of your house, you might be tempted to upright the pole if it’s leaning or tighten a bolt here and there. Can the thought of 200 amps coursing through your body convince you otherwise?

3. Do any wiring with the power on

If you’re a reader of builders’ magazines, you’ve certainly seen photos of someone doing something dangerous without the recommended protective gear, along with the caption: “Don’t do what this guy’s doing.” (And more often than not, the “guy” happens to be the author.) The point is, just because electricians sometimes work with hot wires doesn’t mean it’s safe for you to do it. It’s not safe for them, either.

4. Repair appliances

Appliances are safe as long as you turn off the power or pull the plug, right? Ever heard of a capacitor? It’s a device that stores electricity to help boost the startup (and other functions) on some appliances, especially big ones like air conditioning units. Cutting the power to the appliance doesn’t discharge the capacitors, but a metal tool touching the contacts surely will. Yow.

5. Tinker with electric (or hybrid) cars

On the heels of this year’s auto show—and the many new electric vehicles—keep in mind that the electrical systems in both plug-in and hybrid cars aren’t just complicated beyond your wildest nightmares, they’re also extremely dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.



23 Oct 2016

Generator Repair

Just like anything else, a generator can malfunction or fall into disrepair. However, because they are the item you count on in an emergency, generator repair is extremely important if you want something dependable powering your home when disaster strikes. Keeping your generator in good working order is a dual process of regular maintenance and prompt repair when a problem is noticed. Knowing more about generator repair can give you the performance you need when the chips are down, and peace of mind when they’re not.

Generator Repair: Maintenance and Prevention

Similar to other large devices like air conditioners and furnaces, one of the most important aspects of generator repair is not calling someone when a problem occurs, but before anything goes wrong. By getting your generator inspected annually, you’ll be able to diagnose any problems that might arise in the near future and identify any existing problems before they get bigger. Having you generator inspected is inexpensive, and could save you a lot of money in the long run (and a lot of worry when the lights go out).

If you live in a place where power outages are frequent or harsh weather is an annual inevitability (coincidentally, these are often the same areas), you may use your generator far more frequently than residents in milder environments. Your yearly generator inspection, therefore, might be slightly more expensive because the likelihood of finding a malfunctioning part or component is greatly increased. It is a good idea to call your generator repair person before harsh weather is expected; waiting until the inclement weather season begins will most likely mean a longer wait for service (or a sticky situation if your generator is needed, but can’t perform).

Major Generator Repair and Generator Replacement

Homeowners with a relatively new generator will probably not need to worry about any serious repairs for several years. However, if your generator is more than a decade old and you are regularly spending hundreds of dollars each year on repairs, it might be time for a replacement generator. There are several things to consider about your home, and even your lifestyle, when looking for the perfect generator.

If you’re thinking of upgrading your generated power, remember that anything that makes heat with electricity (electric heat, water heaters, dryers, etc.) uses relatively huge amounts of power compared to other loads. If your house heats with electricity, consider another heat source or be prepared to buy a large generator.

Motors that start under light load (well and septic pumps, many fans) require two to three times the starting power than they do to run while those starting under heavy loads (refrigerators, compressors) may take as much as five times to start. A “rule of thumb”: Allow 2 to 3 KW of generator power per horsepower of electric motor.

Tech-heavy homes should be aware that electronic loads (particularly newer computers) take relatively little power, but that power must be clean and stable (well-regulated voltage and frequency with low harmonics). But computer electronics have properties that produce difficulties for the power source. If you are planning backup power for computer networks the “rule of thumb” is the total electronic load should not exceed 50 percent of the generator’s capacity.



13 Oct 2016

Electrical Panels 101

In your home—in everyone’s homes, in fact—the seat of electrical power takes an unassuming form. Concealed by a nondescript metal door, the breaker box doesn’t look very impressive, but it’s the reason you can turn on the lights, the blender, the air conditioning, and the TV. The breaker box, or service panel, operates as a central relay point: It takes power from the street, then feeds that power to the different electrical outlets and hard-wired appliances throughout your residence.

Most people open the breaker box only when there’s a problem—for example, when a circuit needs to be restored after tripping. And that’s the way it should be. Homeowners are wise to be hands-off with electrical elements, especially those they don’t understand. Make no mistake: The breaker box is dangerous. Hire a licensed electrician if you think the panel needs attention. The goal of this article is merely to explain a bit more about all of those mysterious wires and switches.

Double Pole Service Disconnect
At the top of the breaker box, the switch that’s bigger than the others is commonly referred to as the “main.” (Technically, it’s called the double pole service disconnect.) This is where, after passing through your electricity meter, two hot wires from the utility company hook up to your house. Each wire carries 120 volts. If you were to put this switch into the off position, the electrical current to your house would be broken and your dishwasher would suddenly stop running. Turn the switch back the other way, and your dishwasher—not to mention your refrigerator, home office computer, and bedroom alarm clocks—would come back to life.

Hot Bus Bars
From the main breaker, each one of the two hot lines from the utility company passes into its own bus. To the eye, a bus looks like a regular metal bar. One bus runs vertically along the left side of the panel. The second bus runs vertically along the right side.

Neutral Bus
A third metal bar, the neutral bus, receives the electrical current back again after it has exited the breaker box and flowed throughout your home doing its work.

Circuit Breakers
The circuit breakers straddle the hot bus bars, and if there’s an overload—say, from too many appliances running simultaneously—the affected circuit trips and automatically suspends the electrical current. In addition, circuit breakers serve as the origin points for the wiring that runs to different parts of your home. That’s why there are labels (with the names of rooms or major appliances) next to the individual switches. Each circuit has two hot wires feeding into the breaker, as well as a neutral wire that connects to the neutral bus. Together, these three wires exit the breaker box and go on to provide the juice for their designated circuit.

There are two main types of breakers:

• Single Pole: These consist of one switch, handle 120 volts, and can be either 15 or 20 amps.

• Double Pole: Handling 240 volts with amperage ratings from 15 to 70, these look like two switches joined together.

Hardwired lighting, electrical outlets, and baseboard heaters typically require 15- or 20-amp breakers. Water heaters and dryers are best served with 30 amps. Meanwhile, electric ranges take 40- to 50-amp breakers, and such things as the air conditioning system may be served by an even larger breaker or a subpanel.

The wiring into a breaker must correspond to its amperage. Twelve-gauge wire suits 15- to 20-amp breakers; 8-gauge wire goes with 40- or 60-amp two-pole breakers.

In the maze of wires that inhabits your breaker box, there’s one more to be aware of: the grounding wire. Typically a bare copper wire, it connects the neutral bus to a metal water pipe (or to a metal rod buried in the earth). Grounding prevents currents traveling through frayed wires from carrying on to metal surfaces they weren’t intended to reach.



03 Oct 2016

5 Things You Should Know about Electrical Wiring

The electrical wiring system within any building can look incredibly complex to anyone not well-versed in the way such systems work. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a residential area or in a commercial complex – people are dependent upon power yet know very little about it. Here are some things we thought you should know about electrical wiring in general.

Wiring Codes

Electrical codes seem like a pain, but they were created to help protect both you and your home. The codes, first established in 1891 in New York state, were put in place to ensure that the right type of wiring is used in each area. This reduces the risk of a malfunction or surge in your electrical system – one that could cause damage like electrocution or fire.

Electrical Wiring Color Codes

Electrical wiring comes in different colors for a reason. Each color tells us something specific about the wire and what it is used for. The most common colors are black, red, blue, yellow, green, and bare copper.

  • Black wires indicate that a wire is hot. They usually lead to outlets and switches.
  • Red wires also indicate a hot connection. They’re commonly used with appliances that require a 220 volt connection. They can often be found connected to ceiling fans or hardwired alarms like smoke detectors.
  • Yellow wires and blue wires are also used for hot connections, but they are used in switches that have three or four-way connections. You’ll often see these connected to lights and fans.
  • Bare copper and green wires are usually used to create safe connections during grounding.

There are a few exceptions to the wire color rules. White wires, for example, often indicate something is neutral, but they can also be used as hot wires where an additional is needed. If you use a wire for something other than it’s normal, color-coded purpose you should mark it with a piece of colored electrical tape so that it matches the normal coding.

Aluminum Wiring is Outdated

Older homes were wired with aluminum wiring but today’s codes call for copper wiring. Sadly, many homes built during the Vietnam War timeframe used aluminum because copper was being used by the military. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates, on average, that a home with aluminum wiring has a 50x higher risk of developing a fire hazard issue. If that’s not a reason for an electrical upgrade, we don’t know what is.

Downed Wires are Still Energized

Do not assume that a power line is de-engergized simply because it is down or because the power in your house has gone out. They might be without energy, but they may still be holding a low level of energy. There is also no way of knowing if the power will suddenly kick back on. Your best bet is to stay away from downed wires until the pros arrive on the scene.

Rewiring a Home is a Huge Project

We’re often asked why rewiring the entire electrical system in a home is so expensive. Sadly, if you need your entire house rewired your electrical contractor will have to open up all of your walls in order to get to the old wires, replace them, and reconnect them to your outlets and switches. They they, of course, have to put your home back together again. You can save yourself some cash if you rewire your home during a remodeling project, but if you don’t have one planned and don’t have the budget for a total re-wire, you can help yourself out by making upgrades here and there so that you don’t end up subjecting yourself to a fire hazard.

Wiring can be tricky and messy, but with a talented residential or commercial contractor or electrician on your side you can’t go wrong. Never make an assumption when it comes to your household wiring. Call a pro and get the right answers the first time.