Here are some Frequently Asked Questions that may help in determining if an electrician is needed to come to your home or business.
Do you give free estimates?
Yes. If you have new construction or a remodel of some type we will give a free estimate. However, sometimes people call that have electrical problems and want an estimate to repair the problem. In this case they would need a licensed electrician or master electrician to come out, diagnose the problem and come up with a solution. In that situation, this would be a service call and not a free estimate.
Why is the power out in part or all of my house or building?
If the whole building is out of power, the problem is either in the main distribution panel or there is no utility power coming to the building. First check the main circuit breaker and make sure it is in the "On" position. If it is in the "tripped" position, it is usually midway between "On" and "Off". In that case, push the circuit breaker handle firmly to the "Off" position and then back to "On". If it trips again, you need a service call. If the lights come back on, you are okay for now but you should schedule a service call to determine why that circuit breaker tripped. There may be a fire hazard that needs to be corrected. If the circuit breaker was in the "On" position when you first checked it, call the Utility and make sure you are still getting power from the street. If there is still power to the building, you need to call and schedule a service call.
What should I do if my lights are out, my lights are too bright or my lights are too dim?
If the lights are out, check the circuit breakers in the panel. If you see a circuit breaker that is tripped, reset it. (See previous question.) If lights are too bright or too dim, turn off the circuit breaker(s) controlling those circuits and unplug any appliances or other equipment plugged into the affected circuits. Call for a service call because you have a dangerous over voltage condition.
What is a "short"?
A short is "shorthand" for short circuit. This is simply a condition where electricity no longer flows through its normal path. It's as if the electricity was taking a shortcut. This often produces spectacular results and causes fuses to blow and circuit breakers to trip. Often when someone speaks of a "short" they are talking about something electricians call an "open" which is a case in which electricity can no longer flow to its intended load. Whatever an abnormal condition is named, it needs to be repaired.
Why don't my bathroom outlets work?
The problem could be a tripped Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI). In most homes these are special receptacles that have a test and reset button built into them. Their function is to remove power to the outlet in the case of ground fault conditions, thereby increasing safety to homeowners. In many homes, the bathroom closest to the electrical panel contains the GFCI and the rest of the bathroom receptacles are "downstream" from the first GFCI. Some homes built in the early 1980's, have the first GFCI in the garage. Sometimes it's behind the freezer or a cabinet! So check all this out first before you call us, you might be able to save a service call. It can be reset, simply by pushing the red reset button. If the button keeps popping out or won't stay in, then there is a problem that needs correction.
I'm getting ready to have some electric work done; should I get an electrical permit?
No. Washington State law requires electrical contractors to work under their own permits. But don't worry if you have already bought a permit. We can have them transferred to us. Depending on the jurisdiction, this is done at no charge or for a nominal fee.
What is three-phase power?
This is power usually available in commercial areas but not in residential neighborhoods. Most large pieces of electrical equipment require this type of power. If you have a piece of three-phase equipment that you need to run on single-phase power, there are several solutions available that we can help you with. If you have a piece of single-phase equipment that you need to run on a three-phase power system, this is easily accomplished.
What is a service upgrade?
A service upgrade is usually done either to bring additional power to a building or home, or to replace an outmoded or unsafe electrical system. As an example, electrical systems in older buildings, before 1950, commonly used fuses to protect the electrical circuits. Today, modern circuit breaker panels replace outdated fuse panels. Another example is when a home or business is adding a large electrical load to their existing system and the electrical service is inadequate to handle the increased load.
What is a panel upgrade?
When the electrical service ahead of the electrical panel is in good shape, but the panel itself is outmoded or too small, just the panel can be replaced. In this case the incoming power to the building consisting of the metering, the service mast to the roof, or the underground service lateral must be in good condition. Normally the grounding system is upgraded also at this time.
How do I safely connect my portable generator to the house wiring?
There are several products available that will take care of this. They all work on the general principle of the "transfer switch". The most common employ a row of switches that control selected circuits in the home. Each switch can be placed in either the "normal" or "generator" position. When there is a power outage the generator is plugged in with a special cord to the transfer switch and circuits in the home are switched on merely by changing the position of the switches.
What about automatic generator systems?
There are some great automatic systems available. These are permanently installed generators in soundproofed outdoor enclosures similar to an outdoor air conditioning unit. They are fueled by either natural gas or propane and are connected to the home or business by an Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS). The ATS senses utility loss of power, starts the generator and transfers the electrical load to the generator. When utility power is restored, after a short time delay, the ATS switches back over to utility power and shuts down the generator. The ATS also has an "exerciser" which starts the generator once a week and allows it to run for twenty minutes so that in the event of an emergency it won't fail to start.
What size generator do I need?
Generators are rated in watts. When sizing a generator, you need to add together the wattages of everything that will be connected to that generator. Wattages of appliances can often be found on web sites or furnished by generator manufacturers. In addition, refrigerator, furnace and washing machine motors generally need two to three times their wattage to start successfully. A simplified formula for determining the wattage of an appliance when the voltage and amperage are known is to multiply the two together to obtain wattage.
Do I need a licensed electrician to install my hot tub?
Yes. The electrical code has quite a few very specific rules regarding hot tubs. This is because there are additional electrical hazards related to hot tubs that make more restrictive rules important.
Do I need a larger service to run my hot tub?
Generally most homes that have a 200 or 400 amp service can handle the addition of a hot tub. If you have a home that has a 100 or 125 amp service, we can do a load calculation to determine whether you need to upgrade your service.
Is it safe to use an adapter to plug a three-prong cord into two-prong outlet?
While these adapters are sometimes used to make this type of connection, there is no longer a safety ground connection to the electrical system. Ideally appliances and equipment with three-prong cords should only be plugged into grounded outlets. In some cases, where grounded metal boxes were used for the original installation, these boxes are grounded and a three-prong receptacle when properly installed provides the necessary ground connection. The electrician can determine this with a simple meter test. In cases where the box is not grounded and only a two-wire circuit has been installed, the correct solution would be to install a new cable back to the main electrical panel.