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General questions that we hear about electricity in the home or office.

Q.1 When is it time to call an electrician?

When you are resetting circuit breakers or changing fuses too often. When you turn on your air conditioner and the lights dim in the room. When your lights flicker or go on and off. When you can smell wiring burning. When you have six electronic devices going into one outlet in back of your electronics center. When you have receptacle outlets overburdened by multi-plug strips. When a three-prong plug needs a two-prong adapter. If you have to run extention cords to plug in electrical devices.

Q.2 What size service do I install in my home?

Most states call for 100 amps minimum, but with all the new electronic devices, air conditioning and electric heat, I would suggest 200 amps especially in new homes. This also gives you some space for future additions. This is not a job for an unlicensed person to attempt. In most cases it involves replacing everything from the service loop (this is the wire that extends from the top of your meter to the utility tie in ) up to and including the main panel.

Q.3 Where do you put a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter

Any bathroom or garage outlet within 6' of a sink must be Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter protected. The code also requires all kitchen outlets for countertop use to be Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter protected. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlets must be installed in any area where electricity and water may come into contact, including basements, pools, spas, utility rooms, attached garages and outdoors. At least one Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlet is required in an unfinished basement and for most outdoor outlets.

The are two types of Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters in homes, the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlet and the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter circuit breaker. Both do the same job, but each has different applications and limitations.

The Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlet is actually a replacement for a standard electrical outlet. A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter is not dependent of a ground to function. It does not measure shorts to the ground, it measures the current difference between the hot and neutral wires. A sudden difference of 5 ma. or more, indicating that there is another path for the electricity to flow through will trip this device. The only downside to this is there may be some nuisance tripping in highly inductive loads like large motors or even fluorescent lamps or fixtures on the same circuit. But the newer models seemed to have corrected this somewhat.

It protects any appliance plugged into it, and can also be wired to protect other outlets that are connected to it. The Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter circuit breaker controls an entire circuit, and is installed as a replacement for a circuit breaker on your home's main circuit board. Rather than install multiple Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlets, one Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter circuit breaker can protect the entire circuit. There is a test button and a reset button on these units. If you press the test button the reset should pop out. To reset just push the reset button in.

Not a good idea to put lights on Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter protected circuits so you aren't left in the dark if the circuit trips. Generally, equipment such as refrigerators, freezers and sump pumps that cannot go without electrical power for an extended period of time without causing costly losses or property damage should not be placed on a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter protected circuit. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters are very sensitive and are subject to nuisance tripping. Outdoor rated Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters are built to withstand the weather and have a good service life.

Q.4 How much should I attempt on my own?

At the present time most states allow you to do whatever you want in your own home. But doing electrical work yourself is a gamble. How much are you willing to risk to save money. There is a reason why it takes so much training to become an electrician. Do not make a mistake by taking electricity lightly, even the smallest job is a safety hazard. Why take a chance. Get a professional to do this work.

Although in some states the homeowner can pull his own Electrical permit for work in his single family home, what the homeowner does not know is that in case of damage or fire caused by his work, his homeowners insurance will not pay. They will only pay if the work is done by a licensed Electrical Contractor. You should check with your homeowners Insurance Co., and they should sign a document or something to this effect to acknowledge this when they pull a permit.

The most dangerous time is when you think that it is simple to change one or two wires. Suddenly you are surrounded by a tangle of loose ends and cannot recall where they all go. Then you need a professional to come and sort it all out for you. This could end up costing you more than you thought you were saving when you began the project.

Q.5 How many convenience outlets in each room?

In every kitchen, family room, dining room, living room, parlor, library, den, bedroom, or similar room or area of dwelling units, receptacle outlets shall be installed so that no point along the floor line in any wall space there is more than six feet, from an outlet in that space. This is to prevent the use of extension cords. Outlets are usually placed about 18 inches above floor level. Switches usually go about 48 inches from floor level. Air conditioners should be on a single dedicated circuit.

Q.6 How should outlets be installed in a kitchen area?

All counter-top receptacles should have G.F.C.I. protection. Receptacles in a kitchen used to serve counter tops should be supplied with at least two 20 amp branch circuits, for small appliances. Each fixed appliance (refrigerator, stove, dish washer) shall have its own dedicated circuit. On counter tops 12 inches or wider a receptacle shall be installed so that there is no more than 24 inches between outlets. Receptacles outlets installed to serve island counter tops shall be installed above, or within 12 inches below the counter top. There shall be no more than 24 inches from center line of counter top. No receptacle shall be installed face up on a sink counter top.


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