Sep 01 2010

One Circuit Breaker, 2 Wires

Posted by admin in Electric Tips

Code Violation - circuit breakers with 2 wires per screw

Code Violation: per NEC code, every circuit breaker can only have one wire per terminal screw.

If you have any circuit breakers with more than one wire under each terminal screw, you have a code violation. The NEC (National Electric Code) allows for only one wire per screw. The NEC Code is a subset of the National Fire Prevention Code, a set of guidelines to minimize fire hazards. If you have wires that look like this, you may have a hazardous situation lurking in your breaker box.

As a Scranton electrician, we run across this type of situation on a regular basis. The solution can be very inexpensive and quick (taking under an hour), if there are no additional problems present and the wiring was done well.

I HAVE IT – WHAT DO I DO NOW?
If you have one or more circuit breakers with more than one wire going to them, the simple solution is to call Wattage Electric and we will give you options to correct the code violation. Many times, the solution can be as simple as adding in an additional terminal and a wire nut, however every installation is different, and seeing it is the only accurate way we can give you possible solutions.

The simplest solution, assuming that the wires are of the proper rating and the installation has no other problems, would be to use an approved connector and turn the two wires into one wire, that would then go to the screw on the breaker. Sometimes, however, there are additional factors to consider. Other possible solutions would include adding in an additional circuit breaker. If, however, there are no additional spaces available in your breaker box, adding either a sub panel (mini breaker box that is tied to your main breaker box), or replacing your current breaker box for a larger unit can be required.

If you live in the Scranton, Wilkes-barre, Pittston or surrounding area, call your Wattage Electric, your Scranton electrician at (570) 309-3600.

Aug 25 2010

Hiring a Scranton Electrician

Posted by admin in Electric Tips

Hiring a Scranton Electrician

Scranton / Wilkes-Barre Electrician at work.

The electrical system of your home is an important and complicated system that should only be repaired and modified by licensed, experienced professionals. While it can provide many conveniences and comforts, it has the ability to be hazardous and extremely dangerous if work is done improperly. Here are some tips when choosing a professional electrician to safely alter your electrical system.

  • Make sure that your electrician is licensed in your city. Besides having a state issued “HIC” or Home Improvement Contractor license, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Philadelphia, and other cities require specific licenses to work legally. Some unethical people try to perform electric work under another company’s license. This is illegal in most cities.
  • Is your electrician insured? Pennsylvania law requires that all electricians are insured.
  • Is there a charge for estimates? Wattage Electric, for instance, does not charge for estimates on electric work being considered.
  • What version of electric code is being complied with? Over the years, there have been several revisions of the NEC or National Electric Code. Make sure your electrician will be complying with the current version of the code (currently 2008 NEC).
  • Define exactly what additions, changes, or repairs are to be performed, and make sure they are in writing. This ensures that both the electrician and you understand exactly what will be done.
  • Ask about adding additional outlets, devices, and even hard wired Ethernet jacks and telephone jacks before major changes are started. Often, they can be added in the same area the work is to be performed at little additional cost while work is being performed.
  • Finally, for everyone’s protection, sign a contract. This ensures that your work will get done at the price that was agreed upon.
Aug 23 2010

How much does a whole house rewire cost in Scranton?

Posted by admin in Electric Tips
Scranton electric rewire

Scranton whole house re-wire

Whole house rewires are often the safe and smart way to handle old wiring.  Even a single old wire in a building can cause a fire, severe electrical shock, or cause of intermittent electrical problems that are virtually impossible to track down.

Costs

There are a number of variables to consider, including if copper or aluminium wire is going to be used, how far the wire must be run from the breaker box, and how easy it is to get the wire through the walls and floors.  Typically, a new electric panel 100 to 200 amps can cost between $800 to $3,000 depending on how your house is set up and what is required.  Each device (outlet, switch, lighting fixture) can cost between $35 to $125 depending on how hard it is to get the wire to that location and how much wire is needed.

Once an estimate as to the number of circuits needed is determined, a plan to get the wiring through the walls and ceiling is made, so as to minimize damage to walls and plaster (as this can account for as much as 30% of the cost).

What is involved?

Usually the breaker box must be replaced.  Then the required number of outlets, switches, and devices are determined, and where they will be placed.  The wiring plan is made as to where and how the wires will get from the breaker box to the devices they must power.  Then the wire is pulled through the house from the breaker box.  All devices are installed, and the breaker box is wired in to the service feeds.

How long does it take?

Typically, a full house re-wire can take between 3 to 14 days.  The average older home in Scranton or Wilkes-barre takes about a week from start to finish.

Additional costs:

Holes and openings are often needed to run the wire in the walls.  These openings in the drywall or plaster my be repaired and can account for as must as 25-30 percent of the total cost of the project.

If you are occupying the house, a self storage unit may be the smart place to put your personal items so they don’t get damaged.  These can cost between $40 to 250 a month to house furniture, books, decorations, and appliances.

Wiring used to consist of single, exposed wires individually run on the ceilings with thin cloth coverings (knob and tube).  By today’s standards, they are considered so dangerous that some insurance companies wont even insure a building that uses this wiring method.  Eventually, wires were placed in metal flexible housings and covered with paper as an insulator (BX cable).  This was considerable safer, however, if and when the paper got wet, it would conduct electric and get hot.  This is why leaks and water damage in any building with BX cable warrants immediate removal and replacement of the wire.

Call Wattage Electric in Scranton and Wilkes-barre today for a free estimate.  There are many options that are available to wire your house affordable and safely.

Aug 20 2010

Fuses to Breakers – safer, cheaper

Posted by admin in Electric Tips

Converting old Fuse Boxes into clean, safe, cheaper circuit breakers

If your home is older than 15 years, you may have fuses in your house or apartment building. This means that in the event of a short circuit or someone plugged too many devices into outlets on the same circuit, a little piece of metal inside the fuse burns up and (hopefully) protects your building from having a fire. The only way to get your power back on is to buy a new glass fuse and screw it into the fuse box. Fuse boxes were also usually limited in the number of circuits they could support, often leaving no room for expansion or electrical changes.

What’s the alternative? An electrician can install a modern, safer, re-settable circuit breaker panel. Circuit breaker panels offer the ability to spread your loads out over more circuits, have room for expansion, install specialty type breakers that have circuitry inside them to protect your home or building from ground faults that can cause shocks and even arcs that can lead to destructive fire.

How must will it cost? This depends on several factors, including the age and size of the existing feed wires, the number of circuits, and the changes that may have to be made to bring your system up to a safe, code compliant level. Wattage Electric has charged as little as $500 for upgrading a fuse box to a circuit breaker system, however typically, the cost is between $800 to $2,500.

Is it really worth it? Do I need to upgrade my electrical system in my home? This comes down to if you want an added level of convenience and safety associated with circuit breakers over their older counterpart, the fuse. Upgrading your electrical system definitely will bring added value to your home and be a valuable investment in your property. It also allows for adding in additional circuits at a future time and being able to meet other new building code requirements that you may not have the capacity in your existing fuse box to meet, such as adding in the required number of outlets in a kitchen or bathroom remodel.

Call Wattage Electric today, and have one of our licensed electricians give you a free safety evaluation and upgrade estimate. We are here to work with you.

Aug 18 2010

Fire Hazard for Federal Pacific Breakers

Posted by admin in Electric Tips


Federal Pacific electric panels and circuit breakers were very popular about 25 years ago. These were installed by electricians throughout the United States, including Scranton, Wilkes-barre, Dunmore, Clarks Summit, and Pittston Pennsylvania.

Then, about 25 years ago, Underwriters Labratories (UL) identified that some of the breakers and equipment would burst into flames and fail to work. UL revoked their listing.

To check to see if you have a Federal Pacific breaker box installed in your home or business, open the metal door on your breaker box (the user door, not the one that requires you to remove screws!), and look for a label showing the manufacturer. If it reads, Federal Pacific, call us to a free quote on changing out your potentially fire hazardous breakers.

The following article, written by a home inspector for the Washington Post, provides more detail.

by Alan Gould, Washington Post
January 13, 2007, page F1.

These electrical panels, widely used by builders in the 1960s and 1970s, are considered unsafe. The problem is usually described as a latent hazard – that is, the panels and circuit breakers themselves do not cause unsafe conditions such as a short in a wire, but the breakers often will not trip when they should. That can lead to overheating and fires. In extensive testing by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the circuit breakers had a failure rate of approximately 25 percent. I see many Federal Pacific-brand electrical panels in homes I inspect, sometimes several in a week. They are easy to identify by the Federal Pacific and Stab-Lok branding on the panel cover. If a household electrical circuit is overloaded, the circuit breaker in the panel is supposed to trip (cut off) so that heat cannot build up and cause scorched wires, melting and fires. I rarely see evidence of this, but the many cases of failure have led to an industry view that because these panels are obsolete and possibly dangerous, replacement should be considered. That usually costs between $1,000 and $1,600. To date, there is no recall or class-action lawsuit for this panel, but the CPSC has issued safety warnings. The product is no longer manufactured.