FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
1. I have aluminum wiring, is this a safety issue?
The answer is, it can be. One of the problems with aluminum wiring is the phenomenon called “cold creep”, as aluminum warms up it expands and when it cools it contracts and over time this loosens the connections.
50% Greater Chance of A Home Fire Due to Aluminum Wiring*
Another problem with aluminum is that it oxidizes (a thin layer of Oxide covers the bare wire) with these two factors the physical connection between the device and the aluminum is compromised. Resistance goes up and heating and arcing occur creating an atmosphere that can cause fires.
Aluminum electrical wiring was used to wire many homes, apartments and condos between 1965 and 1975 and really should be upgraded for your family’s safety …
A third and also major issue with aluminum wiring is aluminum wiring when in contact with some other dissimilar metal it corrodes, thus when new devices are installed in a location with aluminum wiring it is important to take the necessary precautions and have a licensed professional electrician that has experience and knowledge in aluminum reclamations come out and assess your wiring system.
There are four ways to rectify the dangers of aluminum wiring. The Electrical Connection electricians are specially trained to inspect and safely retrofit aluminum wiring installs with the following four options:
- The best way to correct the aluminum wiring fire hazard is to replace all aluminum house wiring entirely using copper wire BUT the cost and damage to the home is substantial, except in total renovations,
- Upgrade all devices (plugs and switches) that are rated to safely work with aluminum connections, BUT with this option, the wire to wire connection points still have to be addressed,
- Install special connectors, called “merrettes”, which are safety rated for copper/aluminum connections for the wire to wire connection points and copper “pigtails” (short copper connecting wires) to the devices,
- The method that is preferred by The Electrical Connection is the use of alumicon connectors to connect aluminum wire to copper wire. this is superior because there is no physical contact between the copper and the aluminum, so the negative effect of the two metals being in contact with each other is eliminated. We at The Electrical Connection only use 2 of the four methods and that is rewire the house using copper or Alumicon.
The Electrical Connection electricians are specially trained to inspect and safely retrofit aluminum wiring installs. Inquire about our home inspection service.
*The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that homes wired with aluminum have a greater chance (50% higher), of an electrical connection reaching “Fire Hazard Conditions”, than a home wired in copper.
2. What is a GFCI?
GFCI is an abbreviation for “Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter”. It is a life saving device that shuts off automatically when detecting a ground fault and is much faster than a breaker. This is why the electrical code requires a GFCI outlet wherever water is present eg. Hot tubs, sinks, bathrooms, kitchens etc.
3. What are tamper resistant receptacles and how can that keep my kids safe?
A tamper resistant receptacle is manufactured in such a way to prevent single prong objects (like a key, nail etc) from being inserted into one side of the receptacle making it more difficult for children to get an electrical shock. Today’s electrical authority (the Code) requires all new residential construction to install tamper resistant receptacles. If you have an older home The Electrical Connection recommends to install tamper resistant receptacles wherever children are present.
4. When do I need an arc fault circuit breaker?
Current Codes require all receptacles in a home with the exception of counter plugs and bathroom plugs to be protected with an arc fault circuit breaker. This can help prevent a fire in your home due to electrical wiring. 20% of all fires in Canada are due to electrical fires.
5. Are two Prong outlets safe?
It is safer to have a grounded system. With the 2 prong system it is missing the ground wire which is a safety feature. The best way to rectify this is to run new wires throughout the house. This method is not the preferred method for some because of the drywall damage necessary to run the new wires. The preferred method (accepted by the electrical authority) is to protect the circuit with a GFCI device eg. GFCI breaker. We are happy to provide either method depending on your preference and budget.
6. How can I save energy?
The most common way to save on your electrical bill is the installation of LED light fixtures. This can be accomplished by either retro fitting old fixtures or replacing the fixture in its entirety. For commercial applications such as high bay metal halide or traditional fluorescent lighting again replacing the fixture with an LED fixture. LED lighting is an upfront cost with long term savings. LED lighting uses up to 1/6th of the electrical consumption in comparison to the traditional bulb.
7. Should my panel be replaced and how much will it cost?
There are many variables as to why a panel should be replaced or upgraded. Here are just a few to consider: Available breaker space, available power, age and requirements for your home insurance. To get a proper diagnosis and a solid guaranteed price it is necessary for one of our professional technicians to come to the location and advise accordingly.
Your home electrical panel is the heart of your home’s power system. Don’t let your panel fail due to excess stress, or let it “wear out”.
Reasons to upgrade your electrical panel: available breaker spaces- many times when doing a renovation or installing a hot tub, or just adding any electrical circuits, we then discover that there is not enough available breaker spaces and a panel upgrade, or the installation of a sub panel, becomes necessary.
Available power – when adding additional power loads, depending on the size of the loads, the panel may have to be upgraded. Adding a 40A hot tub or a 60A car charger often brings the power consumption above the available limit, so one then requires a panel upgrade.
Age – as time passes the natural wear and tear of the electrical equipment (breaker) occurs and the chance of equipment failure increases.
Electrical panel manufacturers recommend panel replacements starting at around 30 years, depending on the panel brand and IF it was checked and maintained periodically.
Inquire about our home inspection service.
CAUTION: There are two brands of panels that may have major manufacturing and or design flaws that potentially put home owners at risk, they are Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) panels and certain Zinsco panels. Federal Pacific Electric Company was one of the most common manufacturers of circuit breaker panels in North America from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. Experts now say that stablock breakers can appear to work fine for years but after one over current or short circuit they can then become a fire hazard.
An expert who investigated the potential hazards of FPE panels stated that under test conditions FPE panels fail to trip at a much higher rate than standard panels. Tests have proven that one in four breakers will NOT trip causing breaker malfunction and is a fire risk.
When a breaker fails to trip and extreme amount of power from the supply surges into that circuit, it cannot be stopped or shut off manually. Electricity will flow burning the insulation off the wire and or melting equipment. The panel could over heat and catch fire causing serious harm to a home and its occupants. Many FPE panels with stab loc breakers can operate for years, but if and when they do malfunction, a fire disaster could occur. To this day an average of 2800 fires per year are a result of FPE panel malfunctions.
What brand of electrical panel do you have?
Every electrical panel should be regularly inspected.
8. Is it necessary to install Whole Home Surge Protection?
In The Electrical Connection’s professional opinion and based on our increasing reliability on electronics it is wise to protect these expensive devices with a whole home surge protection package. To date we have been using power bars to protect our computers, T.V.’s, sound systems etc. but we also have to protect our coffee makers, washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators and anything else with electronic components.
9. How much will this electrical job cost me?
The best way to get an accurate price for any job is to invite us to come out to the site and properly assess what your electrical needs are then we can give a fair, accurate quote with a price guarantee.
10. When do you need a certified electrician?
For the best interest of your family and home all electrical work should be done by a properly trained electrician. Technology and codes are continually changing so it is becoming more difficult for the average home owner to do the work themselves.
11. Why are my lights flickering?
There are a few different possibilities as to why your lights are flickering, loose connection, faulty switch, old socket or a malfunctioning dimmer. In any case you should turn the lights off and call a qualified electrician because one of the possibilities is a loose connection which causes arcing and heating which is a fire hazard. This should be looked at immediately.