It’s possible that you have a list of questions relating to electrical issues, typical warning signs, electrical contracting, and so on. Here, you’ll find the answers to some important questions. If you have unanswered questions or you need our services, call ACB Electrical right away.
Q. Does new electrical wiring and/or changes have to be inspected?
A. Yes, the law requires that any alterations to electrical wiring or new wiring must be inspected (in Ontario) by the ESA. The only exception is what is called a “like for like change” where a device such as a switch or a plug is being replaced or changing of a light fixture or a replaceable part in a light fixture, such as ballast in a fluorescent. In most cases, troubleshooting and making a repair such as fixing a connection or replacing a defective device (under certain circumstances) does not have to be inspected as well. Even electrical contractors must get inspections on our work. There are contractors on the ACP program, in which the work and inspections are handled differently, but there still must be a permit taken, and a “certificate of inspection” at some point will be issued, you should receive a copy of it from the contractor you hire, if you don’t, then ask for it. It is your guaranty that everything is done safely and to code. At some point, you may be asked to see it by your insurance company, or during the sale of your home.
Q. My neighbour, brother, cousin, best friend, best friend’s brother-in-law’s neighbour said he can do the wiring for me, should I hire or let them do it?
A. No, he can’t, unless that person is a licensed electrical contractor. It is, as of Jan 01 of 2007, illegal for anyone to do electrical work in the province of Ontario. The person should be:
1. A licensed electrical contractor
2. The homeowner himself/herself
3. A licensed electrician directly employed by a licensed electrical contractor who is securing and taking responsibility for the work of the electrician
4. An HVAC installer who can only run the wiring for the equipment he is installing (furnace/AC)
Absolutely no one else can do electrical wiring for you. Anyone caught by the ESA will be fined. In case of any defects in the wiring, you will be forced to hire a contractor to fix, or in some cases have to redo the whole job depending on how many things are wrong with it. In case the person does not get caught, there can still be legal problems down the road should something happen as a result of that wiring, such as loss of insurance coverage, lawsuits for injuries, or worse.
Q. The wiring that I can see in my house looks sloppy, for example, lots of junction boxes, wires hanging not neatly run, very sloppy work where they come into the panel, is this a hazard?
A. It may or may not be. Chances are, though, there are portions of it that are hazardous, some more than others. Properly done wiring should be neat and tidy, not loose and sloppy, with very few if no junction boxes at all. There are a lot of rules and regulations that govern how the wiring is to be done so that it is safe and will last a very long time. The majority of DIY’s and unlicensed handymen don’t know all the regulations that govern every aspect of the wiring or just ignore them. And, that’s when it becomes unsafe. There can be shock and fire hazards of varying extremes with every rule or regulation that is ignored. Even though it may have “worked just fine for 10, 20, 30, or 50 years,” a lot of problems take many years to arise. In the worst-case scenarios, when they arise, it may be too late.
What can you do? You can call the ESA and arrange a general inspection with them, or call a professional electrical contractor to do an evaluation. This can usually be done on a basic level in about or just over an hour in an average home that is in not to bad shape. A home that has had a lot of tampering may require a little longer, with that a list of problems and hazards. Basically, things that should be fixed can be made, and you can decide what to do from there.
Q. My lights flicker or go dim and then back to normal. Why is that?
A. In a properly wired house, this should never happen, at least not noticeably, unless there is a very large electric motor starting somewhere in the house. There can be any number of causes; most typically it is an overloaded circuit or a loose or bad connection. There are a few other causes that are rarer. But when this is occurring, it should be looked at and fixed as it can cause issues with today’s sensitive electronics even with CFLs, or in the case of a bad connection that is or may start arcing, can be a fire hazard.
Q. What are typical trouble signs that I should be aware of in any kind of panel?
A. There are a few, heating, breakers, fuse blocks getting warm, the top of the panel getting warm, or any of the wires around the panel getting warm. Arcing sounds, like a sizzling noise, is noticeable from a couple of feet or very faint. In case of strange smells, particularly hot plastic smell (burning plastic smell) where the lights on an entire circuit (or the entire house) flicker or goes dim, a portion gets brighter occasionally. A multitude of things can go wrong in or around a panel, and those are a few of the warning signs. Just remember that these problems never really get better; they only get worse. Don’t ignore them, as they can all cause damage to your equipment or even a fire.
Q. Will upgrading my fuse panel to breakers solve the problem of circuits tripping?
A. Not in most cases, breakers are less sensitive to small surges of amperage typical on motors like in a fridge, freezer, pump, etc., than the typical fast-acting or non-time delay fuse. Those may not trip, or trip as often. However, other regular household circuits that are overloaded will cause a breaker to trip just the same as a fuse. But that is what it is meant to do, prevent you from overloading your wiring. Typically, what we have run into in a lot of old fuse panels because they are limited in the number of circuits. And, if at some point in time they are full when something new is added the wire or new circuit gets doubled up with another circuit on the same fuse. A lot of times, it's these fuses that seem to go; those get split up onto their own breaker in a new panel. When this is not the case, it is best at that point to evaluate the circuit itself to find out why it's tripping the breaker. In most cases, it requires running a second feed and splitting the circuit into two, as it may have too many things on it from the beginning, or over time has been tapped into and too much was added.
Q. I have an old breaker panel. What kind of problems can exist or might I have with it?
A. A lot of the older panels have gone off the market, and breakers for a lot of them are no longer available. Some older panels when subjected to hard usage or moist/damp environments for many years, the breakers can internally break down or deteriorate, and not operate, as they should. They can even fail to trip under an overload condition. Just like anything else mechanical, it will stop working properly. If you are not sure, the safe thing to do is to contact a professional to take a look at them and see what condition they are in (a low-cost service call compared to a house fire).
Q. Should I upgrade my entire electrical service?
A. If you presently have a 60 amp service, then yes, definitely. If you have 100-amp service, we can do a load calculation, and we will ask you some questions about your usage present and future and make a recommendation whether or not you should consider upgrading to 200 amp. If you are popping your main 100-amp fuse or breaker on occasion, then the answer is yes. Some older 100-amp services are prime candidates for replacement and deterioration. It can/ will cause future problems, so at the point of upgrading a panel, an assessment should be done to see if the exterior service equipment is deteriorated enough to warrant replacement at the same time.
Q. Is it a big job to change a panel?
A. Not for a professional, most panels can be changed in less than a day. It all depends on the circumstances, which are always unique to every house.
Q. I have an old fuse panel and hate it when a fuse pops and/or I don’t trust it anymore what can I do?
A. The best is to change it to a breaker panel, with a flip of a switch the circuit can be back on. No more fumbling in the dark for fuses, no mistakes in putting in the right size fuse (therefore eliminates that fire hazard).
Q. I have an old fuse panel in my home, is it safe or is it a hazard?
A. For the most part, fuse panels are safe. Much depends on the age, the environment it is located in, such as a basement that is always damp, and how it was treated over its life. The biggest hazard in a fuse panel is human error. When the wrong size fuses are put in, when fuses are loose, turned too tight, or too loose can result in arcing. Too tight can damage the contact point and will lead to arcing. Arcing causes permanent damage and will progressively get worse, and can possibly even eventually lead to a panel fire if not attended to.