Electrical Problem: How Do I Choose A Load Center?

The first step in choosing a load center for your property is to perform a load calculation on your electrical system. The average handyman will not know how to perform this load calculation. You could purchase a National Electrical Code handbook and do it yourself. If you have no experience in calculations for a system this size, I recommend you hire a professional electrician to perform this vital step. They should be able to perform this should only take two to three hours. Be forewarned, this step is a necessity to cover insurance and code requirements.

Next, I would have you check the size of your feeder wire. This is usually the aluminum wire that travels from your meter base to your current box. The most common way to figure this out is to remove the cover to the existing load center. Generally, a home will have a 150 amp panel, a 200 amp panel, or a combination of 2 or 3 of these panels depending on the size of your electrical service. A 150 amp panel requires a four wire cable consisting of three (2/0) wires and one (1/0) wire. These would be aluminum conductors. The 200 amp panel would require a four wire cable consisting of three (4/0) wires and one (2/0) wire. The existing wire should have a label somewhere on the cable.

Now you need to count the number of circuits that you want to power with your new load center. Sometimes, you will be able to acquire panels with approximately 32 slots for your circuit breakers. Generally I would suggest a 42 slot load center. This will allow for any additions that you may want to include in your residential electrical remodel. Be sure that your master electrician includes any planned circuits in his load calculation. Failure to include the added circuits could eventually cause a circuit overload. Circuit overloads can be a fire hazard. Ultimately this miscalculation will cause overheating in the electrical panel.

Generally, I never buy anything without considering the quality of the product that I intend to purchase. Most of the load centers, that are for sale currently, are equal. You may be able to find value packs. This purchase includes some random circuit breakers with your load center. Also the price of the remaining needed breakers can be a determining factor. The width and the length may weigh on your decision. Most of these load centers are 14 1/2 inches wide. This enables the installer to screw the load center directly to the interior walls. You should not have to modify the supporting lumber. I installed over 100 of these in the past few years. I only had to modify the structural lumber once. This installation was in an apartment complex.

Look for more directional items on electrical installations if you are unsure about moving forward. Don’t forget to acquire your load calculation. When removing the existing electric panel, don’t contact the live busses that are existing there.

George Argo

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Electrical Problem: How Do I Remove A Load Center?

I have replaced over 100 electrical panels in the past 5 years. You must locate your meter base. The meter base is the source of power for the existing load center. The National Electrical Code requires a main breaker in one of these. Saving money leads many electrical contractors to using cheaper meter bases. The more expensive meter bases have a main breaker within the box. If one is located inside the junction area, I flip that breaker off. The cycling of the breaker eliminates the energized service feeders from shocking the technician. A multi-meter will verify that there is no voltage in your load center. If there is no main breaker in the service entrance, you will have to contact the electric utility. It is illegal to remove the actual meter yourself.

Most counties and municipalities require a permit and inspection. As the contractor, I must coordinate the utility provider’s presence and an inspection after completion. The utility will refuse to reconnect your power until the inspection has been approved. Usually, we pull the permit.The work needs to be scheduled with the power company. The inspection will need to be scheduled for the same day. Failure to satisfy the inspectors requirements will delay reconnection of the electricity.

I always provide a load center with a main breaker. If the service entrance contains a main breaker, one is not required in the electrical panel. The main breaker in both locations may appear to be overkill. Dual overcurrent protection is a positive reinforcement of electrical safety. Be sure to review your load calculation before removing your existing box. A remodeling upgrade of this sort isn’t for the faint of heart. I usually perform the removal of these accompanied by an electrical apprentice or another journeyman electrician.

The process needs to be thought through. You must consider the degree of difficulty. The reconnection of electricity is the largest motivating factor. An advantages of permitting this process are many. Insurance companies will usually provide consumer discounts for electrical upgrades. There is a flip side to that album. If there is a fire issue in the future, the insurance company will deny coverage when there is no permitted inspection before reconnection. The local utilities would reconnect without an inspection. Generally due to local laws and regulations restrict their ability to reconnect without the inspector’s go ahead. Think twice before doing this. The local electrical contractor could have you over a huge barrel. The time to ask for help is before trouble is spotted.

George Argo

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Electrical Problem: Yes, You Can Replace the Receptacles in Your Residence!

The novice handyman may not have many electrical tools. You will need a pair of side cutters. Electricians call these linesman pliers. You will need to have a multiple tipped screwdriver. A pair of wire strippers will need to be procured. I also prefer to have a battery drill with a variety of tips. Also you should have a non-contact pen voltage tester. This tester is very handy however, this method of voltage testing is not always reliable. I use a commercial grade LED multi-meter. These meters can be a little pricey. You can get a cheaper one that will test voltage for around thirty dollars. Always remember when working on electrical circuits, de-energize the circuit. Electrocution is a reality. You can do this by manipulating the breaker. Cycle the breaker into the off position. If the breaker is on the left side of your panel, you would flip it to the left. If the breaker is on the right, click it to the right side of the box. Then test the voltage at the perspective receptacle.

Receptacles for residential settings come in three forms. You will need to check the UL listing on your new receptacles. The packaging should read fifteen amps, twenty amps, or even thirty amperage ratings. Your existing devices may not even have a grounding screw. If this is the case you will need to seek out matching devices. Otherwise, during inspection in the case of sales of the home, a test will reveal a lack of grounding. You will also need wire nuts and some scrap wire. Red wire nuts should work for three twelve gauge wire connections. A yellow wire nut will suffice for three fourteen gauge wires. If you are unsure of the size of the wire, utilize your wire strippers to check the size. I always bring some extra eight thirty-two screws. You will need matching plates. I utilize the large plates. This will ensure that any unpainted areas revealed during disassembly will be covered. Jumbo and regular sizes should also be available.

You may be asking yourself if it is difficult to install these receptacles. The first few may be a little tough. Your wire strippers have a hole on the side of them. You can use this to twist the stripped part of the wire so that it will lay around the screws on your receptacles. Stripping the end of your existing wire is easy. Find the correct size on your strip gauge. You will need to remove approximately a half of an inch. You will also need to include a third wire for the hot set and the neutral set. I twist all three of these solid wires together. They should be twisted well enough to stand all alone. Your third wire is known as a pig’s tail. The pig’s tail should be approximately six inches long. This will be the wire to connect to the device. I do not use the stabs in the rear of the device. Residential electricians use the stabs in the back, however over time the spring that connects to the stripped copper will release. Commercial electricians wrap the copper around the screw. The colored wire goes around the brass screw. Usually these colors will be black. Sometimes the wire may be colored red. The white wire will wrap around the silver screw. It is the neutral wire. The green wire or bare copper wire is the ground. You will need a copper sleeve to crimp over this set. This crimp will satisfy the code requirements for grounding.

The only safety concerns you should have is the presence of voltage during disassembly of the original items. Always check the electrical connections. Twisted connections that are landed under the wire nuts should be very tight. The tightness of the connection will ensure insulation of live circuits. After you finish your installation, cycle your circuit breakers into the on position. Always check the voltage with your multi-meter after completion. You can replace receptacles too!

George Argo

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Electrical Problem (Yes, You Can Replace Your Light Switches)

First, you will need several tools. I have listed some items to add to your arsenal.Replacing these devices is relatively easy. First you need a multiple tip screwdriver. The driver should have a rubber insulated handle. The insulation will prevent any shock hazard while disconnecting the toggles. Next, I would recommend a voltage tester. I utilize a stick tester. You must be warned, sometimes, stick testers show stray voltage. This method is not always foolproof. The only way to be sure there is no current present is to test the circuit with a voltmeter. Always test this unit somewhere else. This will ensure no mistakes. A pair of insulated linesman pliers along with a pair of insulated wire strippers will be needed. Also it may be handy to keep a pair of needle nose pliers. Always turn the feeder breaker off to these circuits. Do not risk electrocution! The most common current source of electrical shock deaths are in homes. These deaths stem from direct contact with single phase electricity.

Next we will address the replacement switches and miscellaneous parts you will need. The replacement of these parts will require UL rated items. They will have to match the wire size currently installed in your house. If you have twelve gauge wire currently, the code requires a twenty amp device to serve the system. If you are not sure of the wire size, check it with the marked slots on your insulated wire strippers. In newer homes the non-metallic sheathed electrical cable will be either white colored. This represents fourteen gauge wire. This would need a fifteen amp switch. It may be colored yellow. This represents twelve gauge wire. Sometimes, you may uncover an orange wire. This is a ten gauge wire. It is very stiff. The ten gauge would be very difficult to use. It is good for a thirty amp circuit. You will also need wire nuts, new screws, and possibly a wire clip to attach the ground wire to the box. If you have metal boxes always use a green screw to land your grounding electrode.

Replacement of your items isn’t too terribly difficult. The main concern is to complete on junction box at a time. The problem with the connections in the older homes falls back on the quality of the switches used originally. Also, a large majority of the Electricians installing the parts utilize the hole’s on the rear of the piece. Over the years, the use of the components cause the spring to release. So when I install these. I strip the wires to the desired length. Accompany the existing circuit with a third wire. This is called a pig’s tail. It allows the original wire to remain the current length. Then wrap the pig’s tail around the perspective screw. A single-pole has three screws. Two are brass. The third is green. The brass screws connect to the hot wire and the switch leg. It doesn’t matter which you use. Just make sure your on position is directed at the ceiling. You will find one that has four screws. This is a three-way switch. It should correspond with another device. This one will be located at the other end of the hall or room. This switch will have two brass screws. The traveler wires will connect to these two. The Black screw will connect to the hot wire. The ground should be either green or bare copper. Connect this one to the green screw on the switch. Three way switches are famous for confusing the installer. Sometimes, one might have to switch the travelers on one switch to return it to proper service.

Safety concerns in the replacement are simple. Do not work on live circuits. Always, twist your wires together in a sufficient manner. The connection should stand by itself. After you inspect this aspect, completely twist down you insulated wire cap. It should take some effort to tighten towards the end. Always keep the ground bare copper wire away from the brass or black screws. This will cause a dead short. If the breaker trips immediately after energizing, this could be the cause. Also, be careful not to connect a neutral wire to the switch. Otherwise this is an easy project.

Extreme Weather Causes Extreme Results

Extreme Electrical Storm

Extreme Lightning Storm

I live in The Metro Atlanta Area. This week we experienced the Second snow in Less than three weeks. Now this is the South, Usually in the foothills of the Appalachin Mountains, on a couple of light snow falls even reach the main roads every year. A large number of outdoor transformers, especially in rural areas, are on power lines. After large amounts of snow falling, freezing, melting, and re-freezing, these transformers are under a large strain. People from the northern United States, that have migrated to the South, view southerners as un-prepared. These extreme conditions do however, provide a great strain on Electrical Loads. With all the Rural Residents being confined in their homes for long periods of time, the Watts usage increases dramatically, ultimately raising the Amperage on not only individual Step Down Transformers, but even put a strain on the Electrical Sub-Stations throughout the Area.
As the Moisture reaches insulators, that have began to break down, through heating and cooling, these protective components no longer are able to consistently protect the integrity of the Electrical Circuits. At this point, the Electrical Consumer is many times rendered helpless. When the Power Source fails, these individuals are forced to revert to primitive existence. The more treacherous the conditions remain can continue to deter the Power Provider from restoring power to their Customers.
I am the owner of a Commercial Electrical Service Company. Even as this last storm was beginning to hit, the phone began to ring from people who had electrical issues on their properties. The Time to maintain the integrity of electrical systems is before times of extreme conditions. Electrical Fires Contribute to over Fifty Thousand home fires every year in the United States.

10 Advantages to Hiring Local Contractors

Commercial Electrical Construction has become a multi-billion dollar industry in the last couple of decades. It has become common practice by large property owners to get bids for their projected work. They make the amounts of the low bidders known, then attempt to pressure the prospective contractors into cutting the price of turn key completion. Ultimately, the contractors that are awarded the electrical project have to complete the job with in-experienced labor and sub-par parts. There must at least 10 reasons to hire locally instead.
~ Local Electricians are aware of, and accustomed to completing projects adhering to local codes.
~ Local Contractors aren’t as quick to leave the project without completing the project.
~ These Electricians are less likely to squander their earnings on travel,lodging, and living expenses.
~ Local Contractors know where to find the best prices on material, central to the project.
~ These Electrical Contractors have dealt with the local inspectors before, therefore negotiating inspection is always easier.
~ Local Electricians are more willing to perform overtime duties.
~ These employee’s also stand a good chance of landing maintenance job’s at the new business.
~ Contractors that do not require long periods of travel generally will accept lower wages to perform the electrical procedures.
~ Electricians that are local hires perform work that is of a higher quality. After all, this establishment is located in their community.
~ The greatest advantage to hiring local contractors is the availability to furnish warranty work.

Hopefully,in the next two decades, property developers will consider advantages to buy here, live here, and ultimately spend here.
The 10 advantages to Hiring Local Electrical Contractors far outweigh the negative consequences. In Gainesville GA, and Dawsonville GA, the local developers could use a lesson in prudent planning!

Electrical Upgrades to your house!

Electrical Maintenance

LED Lighting

LED Lighting

A home that is thirty five years old, or older, needs electrical maintenance! Many homes that I service, on a daily basis, do not comply with The National Electrical Code. You should ask some questions, about your Electrical System. Are Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters located, within three linear feet of water sources? How often does your fuse’s blow? Do the circuitry breakers trip in your current Electrical Supply Box? Is the Electrical Service installed on your property original? Does the existing Electrical Panel-board require an upgrade? Maybe the most important question is the grounding. Is the grounding for the panel-board and the service grounding good enough? Can the grounding protect the integrity of the circuitry? This covers a large scope. Just because your property has not had a letdown does not mean the system will not fail.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters

Ground Fault Circuit Interupters

Ground Fault Plug

Older homes did not have Ground Fault receptacles. If the receptacle is within three feet of the sink, it must be protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter receptacles or ground fault breaker. Some houses have all the receptacles that are considered to be in wet locations, fed from the same receptacle. Your electrician can figure this out. You can test the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter  system by manually tripping the breaker and inspect the affected areas.
Another sign of stressed electrical systems are blowing fuses and tripping circuit breakers. One in ten is actually old breakers. More times than not, the panel or fuse box is worn out. This condition will not improve without positive attention.
At one point I had an electronics engineer argue this point. These parts break down under heat stress and time. Failure to maintain these parts could result in catastrophic damage. Is the panel or fuse box installed on the property original? Panels over thirty years old should be replaced. This is not an attempt to make unnecessary repairs. It is preventive maintenance.

 Electricians and your Home

Residential Load Calculation

Electrical Load Calculation

If you have installed circuits yourself, you may have added breakers. Your electricians should perform a load calculation on your system and appliances. The calculation will determine if your system is under strain. It will also tell your electricians if you can add circuits.
Maybe the most important question concerns grounding. Is the grounding for the panel and the service providing sufficient impedance for the system? The circuitry’s integrity is jeopardized by to small of a ground wire during power surges or lightning strikes. The system will be unable to protect the appliances or the circuitry. Don’t take the importance of this evaluation. These steps may determine your electricians ability to save you thousands of dollars. It also could prevent fire damage and total loss.

5 Indicators for Residential Electrical Upgrades

Several indicators I look for, grounding slots on the receptacle, consistency of the insulation on the secondary wiring, and are there any unusually high temperatures on the switches and receptacles. I also inquire if the homeowner have adequate circuitry to feed power meeting today’s increasing needs for receptacles, and also do the lights dim when major appliances come on.
Many times, I am called to a customers house to troubleshoot receptacles and switch’s. Even though I contract service work and installations, I am also responsible to make intelligent suggestions for upgrades. Many times, customers believe the technician is trying to increase the total of the bill.If a property has been in constant use for over twenty years, it will save the customer money and provide peace of mind.
First,outlets not having grounding slots on them aren’t safe. The extra slot increase’s the protection of the grounding system. It protects the property and it increases the chance of the circuit breaker doing it’s job. The ground is for our safety. It also helps the neutral do its job.
Second, I inspect the insulation of the wiring in the house. If the insulation is crumbling or dissipation is under process, it is time for the homeowner to consider a total rewire of the house. This may be the most important step of our technician’s assessment.
Next, I use a digital thermometer to inspect the temperature of the devices in the house. Many times, a receptacle may be shorting inside the device. A simple once over with the thermometer will indicate faulty connections. This will also expose potential fire damage in faulty switches.
Fourth,we inspector provide a load calculation. This allows us to calculate the strain on the electrical system. Excessive strain causes potential for fire. Indicators for this will be multiple power strips throughout the house. Extension cords all through the hose is also a indication.
Another warning would be dimming lights as appliances come on. In the sixties,seventies,and eighties we only had a common and a ground. Today, Electricians use wire that has a common,neutral, and a bare ground.The better grounding enables the neutral to carry the unbalanced load. This contributes to the elimination of dimming lights.
All of these improvements significantly increase the fire protection of the property. It also makes the system more efficient! Maintenance is the key to fire prevention. These steps are essential to the homeowner’s prudent savings and protective measures. Today, I suggest to my customers the installation of whole house surge protection.We also advise the implementation of grounding upgrades. This can be accomplished in a simple fashion at minimal cost to the homeowner.

Canton Electrical Grounding Commercial

Electrician In Gainesville GA explains Grounding Upgrade on Meter Base

The electrical grounding in homes are not nearly as effective as grounding on commercial or industrial electrical systems. The grounding performed by most residential electricians was not completely present throughout the electrical circuits. Recently I spent 5 hours troubleshooting a home that was in sales limbo. The property showed open grounds when the Home Inspector plugged in his receptacle tester.
~Another reason to upgrade or improve grounding in your home is the presence of shared neutrals. For years Commercial Electricians shared one neutral for up to three circuits. The grounded circuit, known in laymans terms as, the neutral, carries the unbalanced load in a Alternating Current system. Many residential electricians still perform residential electrical installations utilizing outdated practices
merely impeding the upgrades in the newer equipment produced by the electrical manufacturers today.
~Ultimately, the most important reason for upgrades are the protection of human lives. Catastrophe’s ruin lives, destroy property, and create damage that no longer is acceptable. The advances in electrical science has provided safety upgrades that must be followed. Education of the electricians in the field, the inspector’s, and the home owners will continue to improve our lives as we experience electrical upgrades in the 21st century.

3 Reasons that totally rewiring properties provide security

I have been rewiring properties for over 25 years now. Some of the properties were over 75 years old. The techniques used at the turn of the century did in no way shape or form conform to the practices that Electricians use today. Over time the insulation of the wiring becomes brittle and tends to crumble, breaking away. Eventually, these exposed circuits are a fire hazard and could potentially become fatal. When small children,pets, and even adults come in contact with live wires, unknowingly they are in grave danger. The wire itself lasts’ for many years. Potential renters, homeowners,Electrical contractors, Inspectors, or even employee’s cannot see damage incurred during installation. When the wire is damaged it may take years for the break to actually separate  causing dead short possibilities. I always recommend that my customers replace any parts that may be old, outdated, or installed in a fashion that do not meet the standards of the National Electrical Code.

Over the years ,I can’t tell you how many times I have been under a house, in a attic, or in a crawl space to find animals shocked to death by live circuits.  Electricians  have been electrocuted by live circuits that just looked like out of date wiring. Ultimately, the major source of fires in homes and commercial properties come from faulty electrical wiring and/or devices. Saving money may seem important when the entire remodeling process is in motion. The price of human life,property lost, and down time is tremendously more than the cost suffered during a full scale remodel. The process is well worth the price when the construction process is not compromised.

At the turn of the century, we used insulators on knobs connected by bare wires. This was the path that provided the new invention. In these days there was no such thing as a neutral wire. The process worked much like a car battery and it’s components.  Today, we utilize extra grounding to protect our flat screen televisions and computers. The neutral wire is provided for every 120 volt circuit. In the last 30 years, Electricians used shared neutrals for multiple circuits. When this is not upgraded during the remodel process, the chance over destruction by fire is greatly increased. Today most county inspector’s require a new house to have 2 ground rods for every service. This practice helps to reduce brown outs,surges from the utility provider, and protection from lightning strikes.

The receptacles and the switches wear out after years of service. Once again, I must warn that saving money in this process is very dangerous. These devices should be replaced every 12 years. This protects the integrity of the insulation and decreases the chances of fires. The devices that are being used are better than the switches and receptacles produced 20 years ago. As technology progresses we learn more and more about the advantages of safe electrical practices.

When danger is reduced by maintenance and installation of new technology, the owners ability to get affordable insurance is increased. Ultimately peace of mind is priceless.