What is a GFCI device or breaker?
GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. In layman’s terms, this device protects you from electrical shock. When it senses the slightest increase in resistance resulting from ground fault, (i.e., the use of electrical devices in or near water), it trips off to protect you.
What are the red and black buttons on my GFCI outlet?
The black button is a test button and when pressed, should deactivate the outlet and any other outlet fed from it – indicating a properly functioning device. The red button is the reset button that you depress to reactivate the outlet or outlets in the event of deactivation resulting from a fault.
What should I do if my lights, switches and receptacles don’t work?
- Check to see if the outlet is on a switch.
- Check and reset your GFCI outlets and circuit breaker.
- Check your light bulbs and replace if necessary.
- If none of these are the problem, contact us in Charlottesville or contact a licensed electrician in your area.
Why do I blow fuses or why does my circuit breaker trip?
Except in the case of ground fault interrupters, which are susceptible to moisture and/or weather conditions, fuses and circuit breakers should not trip. Check to see if some type of plugged in appliance is causing the problem. If an appliance is not causing the problem, contact us.
What causes the lights in my house to flicker?
Central air conditioning and heat pump condensers may cause a noticeable slight dimming on start up. Lights may flicker or dim due to startup of some appliances or motor driven equipment.
- Check with your local electric company for possible defects in supply source or for the utility switching to other utilities for supply.
- Also check to see if some type of plugged in appliance is causing the problem.
- If neither the utility company nor the heating/cooling equipment is the problem, contact us to check for proper operation of the heating and cooling equipment.
What is the difference between a breaker panel and my old fuse panel?
Both devices, either breaker or fuse, are designed to trip (turn off) in the event of an electrical overload, i.e. 20 Amps of electrical load on a 15 Amp circuit would cause a trip. The only difference is that a breaker is mechanical and may be reset. Whereas, a fuse is one time only and must be replaced.
Please Note: Modern breakers are much more efficient and offer greater levels of protection.
How do I reset my breaker when it has tripped off?
First, disconnect any additional devices that may have caused the breaker to overload and trip. Breakers are mechanical devices and must be turned all the way off before turning back on. Remember this is a mechanical device, so this may require several attempts. If this fails to reset the breaker, there may be a more serious problem. In the Charlottesville area, contact our licensed electricians.
What does it mean when my fluorescent lights are flickering or cycling on and off?
Flickering may indicate impending bulb failure, minor power fluctuation, and/or improperly installed bulbs. Cycling on and off is usually a clear indication of ballast and/or bulb failure. When replacing a ballast, we recommend replacing light bulbs as well.
Can I hang a paddle fan where a light is?
Yes, but first you must make sure the electrical box is properly braced and rated for the weight and torque of the paddle fan you are installing.
Can I dim fluorescent lights?
Yes. Dimming fluorescent requires a special dimmer and special fixtures. You cannot place a typical incandescent dimmer on existing fluorescent.
I have a new home. Why does my refrigerator or freezer, located in my garage, keep going off?
Unless you made provisions with the builder for a dedicated circuit, the outlets in your garage are GFCI Protected per National Electrical Code. This device will not tolerate the additional resistance load created by refrigeration equipment. The GFCI senses there is a fault, and therefore trips off. The only cure to this problem is to install a dedicated, non GFCI circuit allowable by code.
Can I plug my coffee pot and toaster oven into the same kitchen counter outlet?
Yes. Though, if the two loads exceed 20 amps, your breaker will sense overload, do its job, and trip off. Under this condition, plug one of the appliances into a different kitchen outlet on a different circuit, in order to balance the load.
Can I plug any 110 volt device I wish into my regular 110 volt outlets throughout my house?
Yes. Though, if the device exceeds the capacity of the circuit, the breaker will trip off.
When my air conditioner cycles on, I notice my lights blink. Is this normal?
Yes. This is a common occurrence when large motor/compressor loads start. These devices cause a minor momentary voltage drop, demonstrating itself as the blinking in your lights. This has no negative effect on the electrical equipment within your house.
I have surge/lightning protection in my home. Am I totally safe from lightning strikes?
No. Surge/Lightning Protection offers additional levels of protection, but nothing can guarantee 100% protection against mother nature.
If I have surge/lightning protection on my main service should I use point-of-use surge plugins at my TV, stereo, computer, etc.?
Yes. Main line surge is no absolute guarantee. Any additional surge protection down stream in the system can provide additional protection; though, nothing is 100% safe when it comes to the power of Mother Nature.
I have an 110-volt outlet on the exterior of my home. Can I plug my Christmas lights into it?
Yes; within reason. Keep in mind that if the quantity of lights creates a load greater than the capacity of the circuit breaker, the breaker will trip off. In this event, additional circuits may be required to accommodate your holiday display.
Why does the light on my “recess can” cycle on and off after installing a larger wattage bulb?
Modern Recess Cans are rated for a maximum wattage bulb and are equipped with a thermal device that does not allow a bulb larger than that rating. When a larger wattage bulb heats up, the thermal device will shut the can off until it cools. This is a safety device to protect your home against fire.
I have a new home. If I have a problem with TV or telephone wiring within the house, who should I call?
With deregulation of the utility companies in most areas of the country, the cable or telephone companies are no longer responsible for the equipment or wiring in your home. This responsibility has fallen to you and your electrical contractor. Therefore, when a problem arises, we recommend you contact us. Most TV and telephone utilities will still service within your home for a substantial fee. This service is no longer free.
I have two telephone lines in my home. Why when I’m on the phone and the other phone line is in use, do I hear the other conversation in the background?
This is commonly called Bleedover and usually results from one of three conditions.
- Excessively long runs of wire within the home of non-twisted pairs .
- Loop wiring from phone station to phone station.
- A nick in the phone wire somewhere within your residence causing a weak interconnect between phone lines.
Why do the bulbs in my exterior fixture burn out so often?
This is usually caused by several factors.
- Use of non brand named bulbs
- Larger wattage bulbs which cause excessive heat build-up shorting the life of the bulb
- Power Surges
My smoke detector keeps chirping. What does this mean?
This could mean one of two things.
- An intermittent chirp usually indicates a defective smoke detector.
- A consistent chirp often indicates a low battery condition. Your smoke detector requires a new battery.