Over the years, we’ve put together a great list of recommended contractors and share them with you on our Gotta Guy list. In fact, it’s one thing that many of our clients and customers have said they love about us in our testimonials! One of those guys is our Electrician, Hugh Orr. He’s a great guy and owns his own company. I’ve used him personally a number of times and am always happy with his service, prices, and good work. He gave me an article he wrote intended for us and our customers. So here it is! I thought I’d share it with you and perhaps it’ll help someone out there 🙂
Need an electrician in Murphy NC? Call Hugh Orr! He can be reached at 828-835-8430
If your power loss is complete, then call the power company. If it is a loss of lights or power to outlets affected by more than 1 breaker, then call the power company. While it could be an internal problem which would need to be addressed by an electrician, I find it is better to call the power company first for these kinds (I call system as opposed to circuit) of outages to save a service call cost. If the power loss is affected by only one tripped breaker then try to re set the breaker. PUSH THE BREAKER TO THE OFF POSITION FIRST AND THEN TO THE ON POSITION. BREAKERS CAN’T BE RE SET TO THE ON POSITION FROM A TRIPPED POSITION WITHOUT CUTTING THEM OFF FIRST.
If you followed the proper procedure for re setting the breaker and it still trips, unplug everything plugged into that circuit. After doing that and it still trips, it could be a problem in the wiring or a bad breaker. I recommend calling an electrician at this point. DO NOT CONTINUE TO TRY RESETTING THE BREAKER. A breaker that may reset at a later date does not mean that the problem is resolved. It usually means that maybe you unplugged a problem appliance or heater, or it may mean that the problem connection in your electrical system just cooled down and it will heat up (sometimes gradually) again and either trip or worse case melt something or cause a fire.
If you have a breaker that trips occasionally, it could be a marginal breaker, an overload situation (like space heaters), or a problem in the wiring. Circuits DO NOT fix themselves. While it could be that it just needs a new breaker or you need to manage how much you are plugging into the circuit, problems in the wiring circuit can be dangerous and have the potential to cause a fire.
Bad connections are, in my opinion, the most dangerous electrical issue in home wiring. If a receptacle feels pretty warm to the touch without anything plugged into it, I would have it looked at. If a cord plug does not plug snuggly into the receptacle where it feels loose or like it will fall out, it needs to be replaced. It is not legal to replace the old “2 prong” outlets with the newer 3 prong outlets. This gives the impression that a the newer grounding conductor is in the outlet box. The use of the 3 prong outlet without other measures provides a false sense of protection and serves no function. There are ways of doing this but I recommend calling an electrician at this point.
Lights flickering or dimming
If you have significant flickering or dimming on a single circuit (meaning controlled by a single breaker), it could be a bad breaker, a bad switch, or problem in the circuit. I recommend calling an electrician at this point.
If the flickering or dimming is momentary and not significant and related to a large power user like a space heater or a air conditioning or heating appliance, a power saw or large motor like a well pump this may be normal. All these devices use a good amount of power when they first cut on. You can think of it like a car starting off in first gear.
If the dimming is significant and is affecting more than one circuit (more than one breaker) then it is what I call a system problem and not a circuit issue. This usually means you need to call the power company. Many times I find it to be neutral connections at their connections. These can be at the meter base or top of the service mast or house service drop attachment, at their transformer location or even sometimes an UG service that is nicked or corroded.
These are relatively new devices that are currently breaker only devices. While there are some products in the works that would function much as the GFCI receptacles, ARC fault breakers are the only real option at this time for the typical home electrical system. These devices provide another layer of protection. They function similar to GFCI’s, in that, they provide protection “downstream” to other receptacles and/or lights and if they trip the devices they protect “downstream” lose power. Power can be restored (unless there is a problem in the circuit) by pushing the resetting the ARCfault breaker (or ARCfault receptacle when they are available) These are designed to sense arcing which can reach over 1800 degrees and cause fires.
When they first came out they where just for any 120 volt device in a bedroom. Currently newer code requirements dictate that they are used extensively in new homes and new installations/additions.
These breakers and the circuits do protect against fire but they can be very finicky. Their are cases where vacuum cleaners and other devices cause nuisance tripping. They can be very difficult and time consuming to troubleshoot. If one of these devices is tripping I recommend calling an electrician at this point.
I see people using space heaters quite often. Many times they are 1000. 1200, 1500 watts ratings. A 1200 watt heater pulls 10 amps. A typical home lighting circuit is 14 gauge wire with a 15 amp breaker. If the total (add the amps or wattage) of electrical items on one circuit (meaning everything on a circuit controlled by a single breaker) like a space heater totals more than 15 amps it will trip your breaker. If a receptacle is loose (meaning when you push in the plug it is loose and may actually fall out sometimes) it should be replaced as a loose connection can heat up and cause problems. It can get hot enough to melt the plastic. I mention the lose connection (plugs) with the use of space heaters because the problem can be much more pronounced when combined with heavier demands (higher amp) of a space heater.
One way to minimize the nuisance breaker tripping related to the use of space heaters, is to find out which outlets are on which breakers. By “managing” the load through not plugging multiple space heaters on the same circuit (breaker) you can minimize nuisance tripping and the possible creation of more serious and costly electrical problems.
I find many times in older homes that a combination of spaced heaters and “back stabbed” receptacles may cause circuit problems (heating, partial loss of circuit, or tripped breakers). It has been an option for years for electrical installers to connect receptacles and switches either by bending a loop in the stripped (insulation removed) wire and securing it under the appropriate screws or by stripping the wire and sticking it in the designated holes (back stabbing) in the back of the devices. I never use the back stab method and feel it is an inferior connection that can be a problem over time.
This is not an imminent fire danger or anything (although I can show you some examples I saved from troubleshooting many homes), I just like to make people aware of this issue, particularly in older homes.
Many of us can use more or better lights here or there. It is important to remember that our light fixtures are usually rated at 60 watts or less. Most every light fixture comes with stickers that identify the maximum wattage for that fixture. Exceeding this rating can cause the plastic portion of the bulb base to become brittle and crumble over a period of time. It can cause a marginal connections to become a problem connection do to excess heat. It can bake the insulation to the point that it cracks, can short out and potentially cause a fire in the fixture box and canopy. Depending on the fixture it can actually over a period of time cause the Sheetrock under the light canopy to breakdown to point where you can stick your finger through it as it crumbles (I have personally see this).
By using the new compact fluorescent bulbs we can go to higher equivalent wattage because they don’t have nearly the heat factor of incandescent bulbs. Recessed can lights are a good place for using these. If you use a higher wattage bulb that exceeds the recommended wattage in recessed can lights, a special heat sensor in them may cut off the light. Once it cools it would then work again but would eventually wear out this sensor cutting off and on and the light would stop working completely.
While common sense should prevail, I would ask you remember that much of the construction trade work can be troublesome and/or expensive, improper electrical work can result in loss of life and/or property and is best left to trained trades people. Just because something works does not make it safe. I find improper (and many times dangerous) work completed by either homeowners, unskilled, or unscrupulous individuals very often when I am called for my electrical services. I am not trying to drum up business or needlessly alarm people, I am just trying to make people understand that even seemingly simple electrical work done poorly or improperly can be dangerous.