Electrical FAQ

These are the most common electrical questions asked by our clients in the Chester County and Suburban Philadelphia areas. Contact us today at (610) 363-2006 so that we can discuss your electrical needs, since each electrical configuration and design is different, we will evalute your case and provide a list of options from which you may choose.

What should I do when my lights go out?

Patience is a virtue – utility companies generally know when outages occur and promptly begin the restoration process. However, if you notice that you are the only house on the block without power, please call our emergency electrical repair line @ 610-500-4378 immediately. In either case, safety is first and foremost. Only use a flashlight for emergency lighting, never use candles. You should always keep fresh batteries in a battery-operated radio for use in extreme weather. Turning off any electrical equipment you were using when the power went out will minimize surges in your lines. Avoid opening your refrigerator or freezer. Leaving one light on will help you know when power has been restored. If you are using a generator, never operate it inside the home or garage.

How can I save money on my electric bill?

Most of the electricity in your home is used by the heating, cooling and water heating systems. Make sure your heating and cooling systems are running efficiently and central systems are checked twice a year. By installing the most energy-efficient rated equipment, you will save money over the lifetime of the equipment. You could also install a programmable thermostat that will operate your systems more effectively, thus saving run times of your system and ultimately saving you money. You know those long showers you love so much? Well, they cost you dearly when it comes to heating the water. Cutting back on your shower duration can affect your bill. Another thing that could cause increases in your electric consumption would be a bad breaker or loose connections at the breaker box. Having a trained professional evaluate your electrical equipment could minimize some costs. To keep your equipment running efficiently, keep heating and cooling air ducts clean and outdoor equipment free from dirt and other debris. Energy conservation not only saves our resources, but saves you money.

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 electricity burning
  • When you have six electronic devices going into one outlet behind your entertainment 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 extension cords to plug in electrical devices

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, we suggest a 200 amp service, 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.

Where do you put G.F.I.’s?

Any bathroom or garage outlet within 6′ of a sink must be GFCI protected. The code also requires all kitchen outlets for countertop use to be GFCI protected. GFCI 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 GFCI outlet is required in an unfinished basement and for most outdoor outlets.

There are two types of GFCIs in homes, the GFCI outlet and the GFCI circuit breaker. Both do the same job, but each has different applications and limitations.

The GFCI outlet is actually a replacement for a standard electrical outlet. A GFCI 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 GFCI 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 GFCI outlets, one GFCI 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.

It is not a good idea to put lights on GFCI protected circuit. You don’t want to be 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 GFCI protected circuit. GFCIs are very sensitive and are subject to nuisance tripping. GFCI receptacles don’t last outdoors even under the best of conditions. Be sure to test the device using the “test” button before you use one.

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 could become a safety hazard. Why take a chance? Call CTS Electric do this work.

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 should be installed so that in any wall space there is no more than six feet, from an outlet in that space. 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.

What is an AFCI?

Starting January 1, 2002, The National Electrical Code, Section 210-12, requires that all branch circuits supplying 125V, single phase, 15 and 20 ampere outlets installed in dwelling unit bedrooms be protected by an arc-fault Circuit interrupter. Eventually they will be in more areas but the NEC selected to require them on bedroom circuits first because a Consumer Product Safety Commission study showed many home fire deaths were related to bedroom circuits.

The AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) breaker will shut off a circuit in a fraction of a second if arcing develops.

There is a difference between AFCIs and GFCIs. AFCIs are intended to reduce the likelihood of fire caused by electrical arcing faults; whereas, GFCI’s offer personnel protection intended to reduce the likelihood of electric shock hazard. Don’t misunderstand, GFCIs are still needed and save a lot of lives.

Combination devices that include both AFCI and GFCI protection in one unit will become available soon. AFCIs can be installed in most branch circuits of homes today and are currently available as circuit breakers with built-in AFCI features. In the near future, other types of devices with AFCI protection will be available.