Frequently Asked Questions
This is a collection of questions most frequently asked by our customers when it comes to Electrical.
If you can't find an answer to your question here, please contact us and we will be glad to help you.
How do I reset a circuit breaker?
When a breaker trips, it's generally because too many things were plugged into one circuit. When this happens, unplug the devices on that circuit and then find the panel (most often in the garage or laundry room) where the circuit breaker panel is located. In most cases, the breaker handle may look slightly out of line with the other breaker handles, but sometimes they may not look tripped at all. To reset the breaker, first, move the switch all the way into the “OFF” position. Once you feel it click, then you can switch it back into the “ON” position. This should restore power to the circuit.
If the panel is not labeled properly, it may be difficult to figure out which circuit breaker belongs to which circuit. This could pose a safety issue to you and your family in the event of an emergency where the power needs to be turned off.
If resetting the breaker does not restore power to the circuit, or if the breaker does not hold in the “ON” position, you may need to hire an electrician to troubleshoot the issue*. (*See resetting a GFCI for more information.)
What is a GFCI outlet, and how do I reset it?
GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets protect you and your family from potentially deadly electrical shocks. They are most commonly found in places where moisture is a factor: kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, garages, and the exterior of the home. GFCI outlets are distinguishable by their 'test' and 'reset' buttons; however, these outlets can affect other standard-looking outlets further down the circuit. If an entire group of outlets go out in one of these areas, find the nearest GFCI outlet. Press the “Test” button first, then press “Reset”. This should restore power to the GFCI outlet and all others down the line.
If resetting a GFCI does not restore power to other outlets, there may be another GFCI outlet in or around that area (there should be at least two in every kitchen). Try resetting all GFCI outlets you can find.
If a GFCI outlet trips again immediately after being reset, or if the power does not return to the GFCI, you may need to hire an electrician to troubleshoot the issue*. (*See resetting a circuit breaker for more information.)
What is an AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters)? Why is it required for new or modified circuits? What is “nuisance tripping”?
AFCI circuit breakers are specialty safety devices that have been around for well over a decade, and their job is to prevent fires. They get better and better as time goes on, but they’re still not a perfect product. The main problem that homeowners experience with AFCI circuit breakers is nuisance tripping. It’s what we call it when an AFCI device trips for no apparent reason. The two main causes for nuisance tripping at AFCI circuit breakers are improperly wired existing circuits and incompatibility with electronic devices in the home. The objective is to protect the circuit in a manner that will reduce its chances of being a source of an electrical fire. Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) are required by the National Electrical Code for certain electrical circuits in the home.
What are the hazards of Zinsco / Stab Lok / Federal Pacific (FPE) / Sylvania electrical panels?
When a breaker fails to trip, an extreme amount of power from the outside electrical supply surges into a home’s panel and circuits. Once that happens, it cannot be stopped or shut off manually. Electricity will burn until it runs out of fuel or the wires melt. The panel could overheat and catch fire, causing serious harm to a home and its occupants. Many Federal Pacific Electric/Zinsco panels and breakers can operate properly for years. But if and when they do malfunction, a disaster could occur.
Why do my lights flicker when my AC turns on?
When you turn on a high-energy device, like a modern AC unit, the initial power draw can put a substantial drain on your available electricity. This can cause your lights to dim. While flickering lights might seem worrisome, this is often a normal electrical response to power being diverted. Lights that dim for a long time, flicker on and off rapidly, or only dim on particular circuits could be symptomatic of more serious electrical issues and would need to be addressed by a professional electrician.
What do I need to know before buying an EV (electric vehicle)?
Prior to purchasing an electric vehicle, you should consult a professional electrician that is familiar with the installation needs of a new EV charger. The power needed to service an EV charger is significant. In some situations, a PG&E main service panel upgrade may be required. Before adding any new large electrical loads to your home, a professional electrician should be consulted to ensure the system has adequate capacity.
Solutions for avoiding the main service panel upgrade to allow for the safe installation of an EV charger do exist but are not applicable to all homes.
What is an electrical service upgrade and why is it needed?
An electrical service upgrade refers to making sure your electrical service is up-to-date and up-to-code! Often this means replacing a small fuse box with a modern panel with breakers. It may be that you already have breakers, but they too are old and outdated, or you need more power for your home. This involves upgrading the electrical service to 200 amps, which is the standard in today's homes. In other cases, however, an upgrade to 400 amps or more may be necessary.