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10 Common Electrical FAQs

electric FAQ

At Oliver, we specialize in HVAC and plumbing services, but we also provide virtually any home electrical service as well. Whether it’s a specialty lighting project, television wiring issue, landscape lighting project, a need for surge protection, or some other type of electrical situation, we can have it done for you quickly and sufficiently.

The electrical world is full of questions; here are some common ones we’ve encountered:

Q: What’s the difference between a three-pronged plug and a two-pronged plug?

A: The third prong on a plug is a grounding prong. Two-prong receptacles do not have the same level of grounding as a three-prong device. The third grounding prong provides additional protection to the electrical system, the item plugged in, and you from electrical shock.

Q: What should I do if an appliance continuously blows a fuse?

A: First, make sure there are not too many appliances plugged into one circuit, as this can overload it. If it’s just one appliance, unplug it and either replace it or call us to repair it. You could also try connecting another appliance to the problematic receptacle. If it still shows signs of trouble, have the receptacle and or the circuit checked by our home electrical service experts.

Q: What’s the benefit of whole-house surge protection?

A: When you protect your whole house from power surges, you’ll protect all of the equipment in it instead of just one piece that’s plugged into a surge protector. This can come in especially handy if you use a lot of electronics or appliances.

 

Q: What’s the difference between a blown fuse and a blown circuit breaker?

A: When the electrical current that passes through a fuse exceeds the limit, it burns a hole in the thin strip of metal. This stops the flow of current and it means you have a blown a fuse. Fuses need to be replaced (not reset).

When the electrical current exceeds the limit through a circuit breaker, however, the breaker trip setting opens to stop the flow of current. Breakers are re-settable by flipping the handle on the face of the breaker.

 

Q: Are LED lights better than incandescent?

A: LED lights are more expensive to purchase than incandescent lights, but they’re more efficient (they’ll last 50,000 hours instead of 1,200 hours). They also have a lower annual operating cost, which is great for people trying to “go green.”

Q: Do I need a special electrical box to install a ceiling fan?

A: Yes. Because a ceiling fan is an active load that is heavier than most light fixtures, you need a special mounting box designed for this application. Saddle boxes are usually good for fans up to 35 pounds.

Q: What are low-voltage fixtures?

A: Low-voltage fixtures include a transformer to reduce voltage (say from 120 volts to 12 volts). The downside to low-voltage fixtures, however, can be higher installation costs. Also, transformers tend to create heat and mounting locations can be tricky.

 

Q: What does “grounding” mean?

A: When you use an electrical appliance, the current flows from your service panel to the device. A grounded wire gives the unused electrical current a safe way back to the service panel so there’s no danger in the event of a short circuit.

Q: What is a GFCI?

A: You may have seen an electrical outlet with a “test” and “reset” button in the middle – this is a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter). It automatically shuts off an electrical circuit when it detects that the current isn’t flowing correctly. It’s also used to reduce the risk of electrical shock from a receptacle located in damp locations and/or counter top areas.

Q: What does a fishy smell coming from my outlet mean?

A: If you notice a smell coming from your outlet or switch, there’s a good chance your receptacle could be damaged. Turn off the power immediately and call our home electrical service experts.

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