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How to Avoid Common Household Electrical Issues: An Interview with John Crandell of Electrician Express

By John Crandell

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

Crandell's Electrician Express is an Electrical service company which specializes in troubleshooting, repair and addition to our clients home or business. Unlike Electrical installers or construction electricians this requires a different skill set to work on existing buildings. It sometimes takes some consultation time and a little creativity to get the end result that the customer is looking for.

What are some of the services your company provides?

We provide any type of Electrical work in the home or business. We sometimes get called in to troubleshoot a small problem and offer a couple of different options to the client. We price out the options and allow the customer to make an informed decision.

Please list at least 8-10 common household electrical issues your company sees daily and explain the ways they can either be prevented, or fixed.

There are many issues that we see on a daily basis which are sometimes relatively easy to avoid:

Water in the Electrical Panel: Just about any day that we get a long steady rain, I can count on getting a call describing a partial power outage or worse yet surging power to the point that electronics are damaged. When outdoor conduits or cables are not properly sealed it can let water into the electrical panel. Water does great damage over time and often makes it necessary for the panel or meter base to be replaced. This problem is usually avoidable simply by sealing around all entry's of the cable and conduit.

Loose receptacles: As most homes age, they may get remodeled, painted and otherwise spruced up, but the receptacles and switches usually get ignored. The receptacle becomes an important electrical connection when an appliance is plugged into it. When the receptacle gets old this connection gets weak and loose. This condition creates a bad connection for the electrical circuit, this poor connection can create electrical arcing and heat. This quickly becomes a fire hazard under the right conditions. It should take some force to plug a device in and to unplug it. My general rule of thumb is that if a cord sags out of the receptacle or you can pull it out with 2 fingers, it is probably due to be replaced. If you go to unplug a device and it is warm or hot, this is a sign of electrical arcing and the receptacle needs to be replaced.

Use of extension cords: Extension cords should not be a permanent thing. Sometimes it is easier than adding an electrical outlet but using an extension cord for long term also adds a fire hazard and sometimes a tripping hazard also. This practice becomes especially dangerous when using an extension cord for a larger electrical load such as electrical heaters. Extension cords should never be run under a rug or carpet.

Over Sized Circuit Breakers or Fuses: I am amazed at how often I find the circuit breaker over-sized for the wire in the circuit. The circuit breakers job is to limit the amount of current flowing in the circuit to an amount that the wire can handle without over heating. Uninformed or uncaring handy type people often think the way to fix a breaker which is tripping often is to replace it with a larger size. While this may stop it from tripping , it also puts everyone in danger since the wire in the circuit is subject or overloading and overheating. The real solution is usually to install an additional circuit, or sometimes just to inform the customer that perhaps an appliance can be moved to a different location to avoid overloading the circuit.

Open and Buried Splices: Any place a wire is spliced is a point for potential arcing. The National Fire Protection Association is in charge of the Electrical codes. It is a requirement to have any splice in a circuit enclosed in an electrical box and to be accessible. Many times I will find open splices which is a fire hazard and many times I find splices buried in a wall which may be the easiest thing to do at the time but creates a fire hazard and causes walls to be cut open for repairs.

Circuit Breakers Tripping: Probably two of my classic complaints of circuit breakers tripping in the home are in the kitchen and in the bathroom. These are two areas where electrical usage has increased over the last several years. It is often that a home owner has just had a kitchen remodeled , only to find that there microwave is tripping the circuit breaker. It seems that people are often just simply adding the microwave to the circuit that used to run the range hood fan. The microwave is a much larger electrical load than the hood fan and needs a circuit of its own. Many times a job that could have been much easier during the remodel project is now much more difficult and costly.

Incorrectly Installed Standby Generators: We also get a lot of questions and problems with standby generators which were not installed correctly. These problems often don't show up until the generator is needed the most. Often times the size of the electrical load being connected is not fully considered. The proper way for a generator installation is to do the electrical load calculations and also calculate the gas load that the generator will be adding to the home's gas supply system. This past winter many customers were frustrated when their generator let them down because of improper installation or lack of maintenance.

Testing the Safety of a Home: When we do a job for a client I often am asked "is my house safe". We do safety inspections and use a tester to check the integrity of the wire insulation but I always strongly recommend having smoke detectors as well as carbon monoxide detectors and regularly checking their operation. This, in my opinion is the single most important step to save lives. Many fires are caused from faulty wiring but there are many other causes also, Homes that are built today require smoke detectors in each bedroom and a smoke/co2 detector just outside the bedroom area. There also needs to be a least one on each floor. These detectors need to be interconnected so that when one detects a problem they all go into alarm. This gives the homeowner the best warning and chance to get out safely.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters: There are other safety devices available today which were not available when many homes were built. Ground Fault Circuit interrupter help protect from electrocution deaths and Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters help to turn the circuit off when arcing occurs. This greatly reduces the chance of fire if arcing occurs in the homes circuitry or even within a device which is plugged into the outlet.

What is the best way for people to reach you and or your company?

At Crandell's Electrician Express we answer the phone 24 hours each day. We are available for emergency service and schedule appointments during normal business hours. We also have Saturday appointments available for a small additional fee to accommodate our clients who have full weekday schedules. We also have more information at electrician-express.com. We also answer questions that are emailed to info@electrician-express.com.

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