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Fuses are a 1 time use. When they trip that is it and then you have to go to the store at the in a blizzard or at 4 am to buy some more fuses. They are more dangerous to install, that you could get electrical shock from if held wrong. Can actually cause fires in your home, when you try to install a larger amp fuse than what you pulled out.
Breakers that are on the market today have what is called a trip mechanism, so when there is a problem on the circuit the breaker trips, and does not reset and hold. This saves you money if this ever trips, nothing to buy or replace.
A home inspector is a cheaper way to have the home inspected, that you are about to buy. A home inspector looks at the roof, electrical, plumbing, structure and the HVAC. Some inspectors are even trained to do radon gas detection.
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A trip charge is a charge that a company puts onto your bill just to get a truck to come out to your area to do work. This is for nothing more than to bring a vehicle to your door step, no work, just a vehicle. Every large utility company has this added in your monthly bill, as a fuel charge, vehicle, or service fee.
A service call is a charge that a company has for their first hourly rate; some are higher for the first hour as to make up for the trip charge, yet stating that they don’t charge a trip charge. At G&W Electric there is no additional rate added to our service calls, we will not charge a trip charge.
There are three levels of electrical workers, the starters are the apprentices, (the grunts and workers), and then after 3 years of employment this person can go take their test to become a journeymen electrician (now they are licensed). Then after 5 more years of work and schooling they can go take the master test. There has to be a master electrician in the business of an electrical contractor (business owner).
An electrician is a person that is licensed in that city or state to do electrical work, and are referred as journeymen electricians. These people are the ones that you normally find on Craigslist, as unemployed, or out of work. They are selling you their trade at a so called reduced rate for employment, but you are taking your life into your own hands here. They are NOT insured for liability, Workman’s comp, bonded, or pull a permit. If they fall off of a ladder and hurt themselves, or the place they are working on burns down, or if they start the job and walk away from it after getting a payment from you. You are the one that is responsible for all of this not the licensed electrician you hired.
A master electrician is the only person that can get a contractor's license, by rights and is normally the business owner. This person has to meet the requirements local rules and have what the city or state wants for insurance. People are normally employed under this person, and it is their responsibility that the company is doing everything correctly to the National Electric Code(NEC), the city or State code, or the electrical producers codes, if not all three!
How do you know if your home is grounded? Do you have a ground rod next to your meter can? Do you have a bare copper wire extended out of your electrical panel and attached at the water line?
To understand what it is to be grounded, is that there is a wire that is intentionally going directly to ground. This does not mean the white wire inside of your home is the ground. In a 3 wire system it is the bare wire that goes directly to ground for your electronic equipment to work properly. This wire is then connected to a bar inside of your panel, and then there is the line ground that is supposed to be within 5′ of earth next to the water line shut off of the house. Not just connected to the water line next to the panel, as I see in a lot of homes.
The ground rod that is outside is a lightning suppressor and not meant for correct grounding. Although we (G&W Electric) have placed 2 ground rods connected together to act as a grounding source when there is no water line ground to be had.
Anyone can change a receptacle; however are you changing them out correctly? If your home is the older style home that has the 2 wire systems meaning a 2 prong plug in. You will find it hard to plug in those new electronic items in your home, flat screen TV, microwave, garage door opener, refrigerator, hair dryer to name a few. All of these items and many more require a 3 prong receptacle in your home.
Some people go to the hardware store and buy 3 prong receptacles and change them out for themselves in their home. This is OK until they go to sell the home. The problems with this are, the 2 wire system does not have a ground, and so your 3rd prong shows an open ground to it, when tested. These little testers can be purchased at any hardware store even Walmart. Then an electrician has to come in and fix the problem, when the house is being sold. We are required by our codes to locate the start of each circuit and install a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI), from there you can have a 3 prong receptacle in your home, but it still, will NOT be grounded; only protected by the GFCI. The only true way to ground a receptacle circuit is with a 3 wire romex and grounded at both the water line, and ground rod.
As the new home building industry slows down and has been so for the past 4 to5 years without much growth, the electrical has been the same since the early 1990′s without much change to the electrical panels, or wiring. However the practices have changed with the new involvement or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) and Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI) receptacles and breakers, along with tamper resistant receptacles. But these are for other chapters, today we are talking about your electrical panel.
In the late 1960′ through the mid 1980′s the housing was a big boom and many home were being built fast in and around Iowa, long before the Home Depot, and Menard’s. So a way to conserve money was to buy a cheaper electrical panel from the wholesalers. These cheaper panels were the Gould’s, Federal Pacific, Murray, Bryant, XO, and ITE to name a few. You upper grade panels were the Square D, Siemens, Cutler Hammer, and GE and breakers.
Today the electrical panels have not changed much in the past 20 years. But now the old upper grade panels of yesteryear have their own upper and lower grades, and only a few of the lower grades still exist. Square D makes the QO, and Homeline style breaker and panels. The QO is the upper grade for Square D and is used in the industrial area more, so its prices are somewhat higher and the Homeline is its lower grade. GE owns Cutler Hammer and Cutler Hammer has an upper grade called a CH, and their lower grade a BR, while GE has either a stab in breaker, or an industrial bolt on, as does Square D QO. Siemens bought out Gould in the early 80′s and Gould had bought out ITE in the mid 70′s.
It amazes me how many fuse boxes there are here in Des Moines still. These fuse boxes have been around since the start of electricity in the area, and are still being used today. People are prone to stick a larger sized fuse in the holder, so it won’t burn out. But did you also know that these wires are also burning up on the inside of the walls, or at the connections? The size of the wire determines the size of the fuse or breaker. By code us electricians are not allowed to stick a 20 amp wire on a 14 awg wire (14 awg is rated in at 15 amps) as it will over heat the wire over time causing it to short out and possible cause a fire. Let alone placing a 30 amp fuse where the 15 amp fuse is supposed to be. This is why we now have breaker panels, so people can’t just change out the breaker for a larger sized breaker. A breaker panel is good for at least 30-40 years before you should think about replacing the beakers if not the entire panel. At G&W Electric we do panel change outs, fuse box upgrades and breaker panel replacements, or even a complete electrical service upgrade.