FAQ

Below is a list of our most frequently asked questions.  Select the question for the drop-down answer.  If you have an electrical question that is not listed here, feel free to contact us. We’ll do our best to get you an answer.

Service & Billing

Here are some common warning signs of potential electrical problems that we recommend be checked by a licensed electrician soon after being first observed.

  • A shock from any electrical fixture, appliance, plug, or switch.
  • Arcing or sparking anywhere in your electrical system.
  • Frequent tripping of breakers in your electrical system.
  • Unusual sounds – such as sizzling or buzzing coming from your electrical system.
  • Discolored switch plates or receptacle covers or those that are hot to the touch.
  • Damaged, cut, missing, or broken wiring insulation.
  • Wiring which may be spliced rather than properly combined using wire nuts and a junction box.
  • Wires that may give off an odor of hot insulation, which may be an indication of overheating.
  • Non GFCI receptacles that are within  6 feet of a water source.
  • Extension cords being used as a semi-permanent method of providing power.

We do charge for one way travel to get to the job site. However, in no case will you be billed more than 15 minutes of travel – regardless of where you live in the Portland metro area.

Many types of electrical work require that a permit be obtained from the local municipality. Larger, more involved electrical work may also require an inspection. The municipality charge for a permit is included on your bill. In most cases inspection is included in this charge.

Frequently (but not always) the Licensed Apprentice Electrician will be on your property to assist our journeyman. This is part of a rigorous education/training program required for their license. They are under the supervision of the journeyman electrician during all work. Even though in training, they provide a benefit in that they are able to help complete a job more quickly and efficiently – actually reducing the total labor cost below what would occur if only the journeyman was present. Note: if an apprentice electrician is assisting in the completion of work, their time will be added to the invoice. No charge will be made if they are not assisting.

Circuit Breakers

No, it’s best if you bring in the old breaker and match it up.

Usually the problem is simply an overload and you only need to run fewer appliances on the circuit. However, if it is not overloaded and it keeps tripping, you should suspect a short. Also, look for a defective cord, socket or plug.

In most cases the answer is no. They are designed to trip at certain levels to protect equipment and for fire safety.

This is usually caused by three things.  The first reason could be there are too many electrical items plugged into the circuit.  Circuits are designed to only handle so much electric demand.  The second reason is there could be a short in the wiring, or the third reason is the breaker or fuse could be faulty.  It is recommended that an electrician evaluate the problem to ensure there are no safety issues.  Your electrician can also talk with you about adding more circuits to your home so that your electrical system can support all your needs.

Lighting & Bulbs

The ballast probably needs to be replaced. Another sign of a faulty ballast is black tar-like substance oozing from the fixture.

Working tubes usually have a gray tinge on the ends, but dark gray or black is a sign that the tube is failing.

First find the sensor and see if it is being obscured by something. If not, you can probably just replace the sensor.

It provides brighter, cleaner light. However, it consumes lots of electricity and gets very hot. You should ensure that it stays away from draperies, bedding, clothing and hanging plants.

It’s best to use a rough service bulb.

If you’ve ever studied how electricity works, you know there are enough scientific terms and definitions to drive anyone up a wall. Whether you were sleeping through Physics 101 or just need some help figuring it out here’s a basic refresher on four electrical terms that you can use to wow friends with your knowledge: voltage, amperage, wattage and Lumens. In an electrical circuit, the electrons that carry electricity are like the water in the hose. Voltage is the force pushing the electrons through the circuit. Amperage is the amount of electricity going through the circuit. Wattage multiplies the force and amount to calculate how much total energy is being consumed and lumens is how much light is produced.

  • Voltage is like water pressure. Without water pressure, the water will just sit in the hose. Similarly, voltage is the power that pushes electricity through a circuit. The higher the voltage, the more rapidly electricity is being pushed through the wires.  Voltage is determined by the power supplier, and in residential homes in the United States, it’s delivered as 240V, then split in a transformer. Most outlets are connected to one 120V line, but some appliances, like the dryer or stove, may use 220V.
  • Amperage (Amp) is a measure of how much electricity is flowing past a given point. Each circuit in your electrical panel measures the electricity being requested for power to each plug or light attached to that circuit by wires. If the requested power exceeds the size of the breaker (20Amp), then the circuit will trip.   In the water analogy, an amp would measure the amount of water coming out of the hose each second, for example. If your hose is small, less water will come out than if it’s a fire hose with a larger diameter. The pressure is the same, but you get a different amperage depending on the diameter of the hose. Motors (like vacuums, blenders, etc.) are rated in amperage, but for purposes of lighting, you probably won’t run into amps very often. Just know that it’s the quantity of electricity flowing in a given time frame.
  • Wattage (a watt) in the water analogy, is the rate at which your bucket is filled. If the bucket represents your lightbulb, a watt measures how much electrical power it is using at any given moment.  Since watts measure the total amount of power being used, a 60w lightbulb uses much more energy than a 12w bulb. The type of bulb (incandescent, LED, fluorescent, etc.) will impact how many watts it needs. As a general rule, it’s fine to use a lower wattage bulb in a lighting fixture, but not a higher wattage bulb, as it may damage the fixture.
  • Lumens measure the amount of light a bulb produces, but that is not necessarily related to how many watts the bulb consumes. A 60w incandescent bulb may produce as many lumens as a 12w LED bulb, but the higher wattage means it needs much more power to produce it.

Plugs & Outlets

It’s a safety device that shuts off the power if a wire in an outlet develops a leak that could electrocute someone. This hazard is so serious that the National Electrical Code requires all new homes be equipped with them in the bathroom, kitchen, workroom, outdoor, basement, garage and swimming pool circuits.

GFCI outlets are commonly known as the outlets “with a button”.  GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. The outlet monitors itself for an electrical current imbalance.  (Those imbalances are what can give you a nasty shock!)  If it recognizes an imbalance, it will “trip” or shut itself off.  The national electric code requires that GFCI outlets are installed anywhere near water including bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and outdoors.  If you have a GFCI outlet that is constantly tripping, you should have it looked at as that may be an indicator of a more dangerous problem.

There is a test button on all GFCI outlets.  The outlets should be tested from time at time – at least yearly.  Press the “test” button to trip the outlet.  Press the “reset” button to fix it.  If nothing happens when you press the test button or if the outlet will not reset, that could indicate a dangerous situation.  The outlet needs to be inspected by an electrician to ensure it safely operating and there is no underlying electrical issue.

No, if the first in the series is GFCI, then all are protected.

No!  The third prong is designed to prevent deadly electrical shock from the electrical item you are using.  The third prong acts as a “ground” so that, if a wire inside the item were to come loose, the plug can help divert the electricity back into your home’s electrical system rather than shocking the next person to touch that item.  If the third prong is disabled, there is nothing protecting you or a family member from receiving a nasty shock from the equipment.

In most newer homes, there should be four-prong dryer and range receptacles. If you have a three-prong power cord, you will need to have a licensed electrician change it.

Other

Yes, special saddle boxes are designed for hanging heavy fixtures-up to about 50 pounds. Since a ceiling fan moves, these boxes are good for about a 35-pound ceiling fan.

It’s a device that changes the voltage. In most home usage, it reduces the voltage for use on low-voltage equipment, such as thermostats, doorbells and low-voltage outdoor lighting.

There are three components to the doorbell; the button, the transformer and the bell itself. First, look for any loose wires throughout the system. If all the wires are connected, test the doorbell button by removing it and touching the two wires together. If this makes the doorbell work, you have a bad button that is easily replaced.

Check the transformer. You will have to find it. It might be in the attic, but it can be anywhere. You just need to trace the wire. If it makes a humming sound when the button is pushed, your problem is probably the chime. If it doesn’t make a sound, change the transformer to see if that’s the problem.

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