And Now, Answers to Your Most Frequently Asked Questions.
Here’s a collection of the questions our customers ask on a pretty regular basis, along with answers we trust you’ll find both helpful and easy to understand.
Have a question you don’t see addressed here? Then send us an email now and we’ll get back to you just as quickly as we can!
What causes a circuit breaker to trip off?
Circuit breakers are made to trip off whenever too much electricity is detected in the electrical lines that are being protected. Circuit breakers will typically trip off under the following circumstances:
- A circuit is shorted
- A circuit is overloaded
- Something damages the circuit breaker
Two electrical wires coming into contact with each other can cause a short circuit. When this happens, your circuit breakers are designed to trip off in order to protect your electrical system. If you have an older system with fuses, this will cause a fuse to blow.
When troubleshooting a short circuit, think about what happened immediately before the circuit shorted out. If you had just plugged in your vacuum, for example, start by unplugging it. After you have unplugged the vacuum or other appliance, re-set the circuit breaker or replace your fuse. If everything runs normally, this indicates that the problem is not with your electrical system.
If you are unable to find a specific appliance or other electrical item that caused the problem, then you should call a local electrical to find and fix the short circuit.
When there is too much power flowing through a particular electrical circuit, it can cause that circuit to overload. In order to protect that circuit, your circuit breakers are designed to detect any overloads and trip off. To fix an overloaded circuit, simply lower the number of appliances plugged into that circuit. If you find yourself needing to plug in more things, talk to an electrician about adding one or more circuits.
What should I do if my garbage disposal stops working?
Follow these steps if your garbage disposal power stops working:
- Always make sure that the switch on your garbage disposal is turned to the off position before doing any troubleshooting.
- Check the inside of the garbage disposal for something that may be jamming its motor. Clear out obstructions as necessary.
- Turn on your disposal for just a moment. Does it make a humming noise? If it does, the power supply to your garbage disposal is working properly. Your disposal is most likely broken, or has something blocking its internal mechanisms.
- If your garbage disposal makes no humming noise when you turn it on, then reset the disposal by pressing the small button on the bottom or side of the disposal. Try turning it on again.
- If all these steps do not work, try flipping your circuit breakers off and then back on to see if this fixes the problem.
If you do not know how to reset your circuit breakers click here to learn how to Reset Circuit Breakers.
Why aren’t my lights turning on?
There are six common reasons why lights won’t turn on:
- You have a bad bulb. This is much more common than you would at first think. As your first step, replace your bulb with a new bulb. If this does not work, then try a bulb from a fixture that you know for sure works.
- The light switch is broken. You will need to replace the switch.
- Your fixture is broken. The best solution is typically to replace the fixture. If you desire, however, most fixtures can be repaired.
- Power issues. Please read our Power Problems section.
- The time clock for your light is set incorrectly or has broken. Try resetting the time or replacing the time clock.
- If your light is turned on and off by a photo cell, adjust or replace it.
Mercury-Vapor, Fluorescent, or High-Pressure-Sodium Lights
Why won’t my lights turn off?
There are three primary causes:
- Your switch is broken, and needs to be replaced.
- The time clock is set incorrectly or broken. Reset your time clock. If this doesn’t work, replace the time clock.
- If your light utilizes a photo-cell, check to make sure that the photo-cell is functioning properly. If not, then replace it.
Why are my lights blinking on and off?
Blinking lights are commonly caused by one of two things:
- Broken photo-cell. Adjust your photo-cell.
- Many recessed light fixtures use a thermal cell to turn off lights when temperatures are too high. Try using a bulb with lower wattage.
What causes fluorescent lights to flicker?
Flickering fluorescent lights have three primary causes:
- If your bulb flickers only when it just turns on, it probably just needs to warm up. You will notice this especially on cold days. Just give the bulb time.
- Your bulbs are old. It is time to replace the bulbs.
- Your electrical ballast is old. The ballast needs to be replaced.
What causes light bulbs to burn out prematurely?
Here are the three most common reasons:
- You are using a bulb too high in wattage. The majority of glass-covered light fixtures have a maximum wattage rating of 60 watts per bulb. Many people will use 75 or 100-watt bulbs in these fixtures. As a result, the bulbs burn out very quickly. Make sure you always use the correct wattage in all light fixtures.
- Low quality bulbs. Always use name brand light bulbs.
- Unknown problems with fixtures. Although the light fixture looks like it should operate just fine, and nobody can figure out what is wrong with it, your bulbs still burn out quickly. If options 1 and 2 don’t fix the problem, you probably need to replace the fixture.
What causes light bulbs to hum?
The main causes of humming lights are:
- Bad transformer or ballast. It is time for a replacement.
- There could be a conflict between a low-voltage light fixture and a low-voltage dimmer. This can be tough to fix, but try out several different dimmers to see if you can find one that works properly.
Why are my lights dimming on their own?
You will sometimes experience lights that go dim for a brief period of time and then return to full brightness. This most often occurs whenever your lights are on the same circuit as an appliance that uses a high level of power. Because of this, the light will dim momentarily whenever the appliance turns on until electricity levels even out. This often happens, for example, when your central air conditioning system turns on.
How do I make sure I don’t lose power to my refrigerator?
It’s important to always have an ample supply of power going to your refrigerator or freezer. Here are two tips to help you solve this problem quickly:
- Check to see if the outlet your refrigerator is plugged into is a GFI outlet. Start by resetting the GFI to see if that will restore power. If this solves the problem, you’re done. In this case, however, you should talk with an electrician about replacing the GFI outlet with a normal receptacle very soon.Because GFIs are very sensitive, you should never have your refrigerator plugged into one. This could result in loss of power to your refrigerator while you are at work or on vacation.
- If you find yourself unable to restore power to the outlet that your refrigerator plugs into, call an electrician so they can troubleshoot the problem. In the meantime, use a heavy extension cord to plug your refrigerator into a nearby outlet so that you don’t lose any food.
How do I stop my smoke detector from chirping?
Smoke detectors are one of the most important safety devices in your home. Every now and then, however, you will have a smoke detector chirp or set off for no reason. If this happens to you, follow the steps below:
- If your smoke detector is battery-powered, remove the battery and insert a new one. If you still have a problem, you should replace the whole smoke detector unit.
- If you have hard-wired smoke detectors (120 Volt), flip your circuit breakers one at a time until your alarm turns off. You can then turn all of the breakers back on, except for the breaker that powers your smoke detector. You should now replace the broken smoke detector with a new one.
Is it normal for a dimmer switch to be warm to the touch?
Although you may not have noticed it before, it is perfectly normal for a dimmer switch to be warm to the touch. Dimmers are typically warm when in use, especially when you have two or more dimmers in the same area.
If your dimmer is warmer than usual, or hot, this could pose a safety issue.
Warnings about Dimmers – Two things to be careful of:
- Dimmers should never be connected to paddle fans, motors, or low-voltage lights. These electrical devices require specially made dimmers.
- Make sure that you do not exceed the recommended wattage for your dimmer. Your typical dimmer is rated at a max of 600 Watts. This is the same as powering 6 one hundred Watt bulbs or ten sixty Watt bulbs.
How can I be sure that a fuse has blown?
Fuses are designed with a small wire that will fail if too much power flows through it. As a result, the electricity will no longer flow through this wire.
Although many people think that looking through a glass fuse will let you know if it is broken or not, this is not always the case.
Do I really need GFI outlets in my home and, if so, where should they be located?
To be compliant with the National Electrical Code, any outlets in areas where water is used must contain GFI outlets rather than normal electrical receptacles. This type of outlet is used near water for safety reasons.
Ground fault interrupter outlets closely monitor the electrical wires that they are connected to and will shut off power to the outlet if there is any electrical problem at all.
If you ever lose electricity when you are in your bathroom, kitchen, garage or outdoors, check first to see if it is a GFI receptacle. If so, it will have a “TEST” button and a “RESET” button. First push the “TEST” button, then push “RESET”. If you have a GFI outlet that is constantly shutting off, try plugging a different appliance into it to see if you get the same result. If the problem lies within the outlet, you will need to call a qualified electrician.
Tip: Although the outlet that has lost power may not be a GFI, it may be protected by a nearby GFI that has tripped off. Check all of the GFI outlets in the area to see of any are tripped to see if this will restore power to your affected outlet.
Technical GFI Data
GFI Outlets (often called GFI Receptacles) can identify differences in electrical power as small as 3ma. If more power is detected coming from the hot side than is leaving from the neutral side, it will immediately shut itself off. While this may be annoying, the electricity coming in must go out either through the neutral end or somewhere else. This feature protects you from excess electricity.
You should test your GFI outlets each month. It is easy to do by pressing the “TEST” button. If this does not cause the “RESET” button to pop out, you should call an electrician. If your “RESET” button pops out, your outlet is working normally. To reset the outlet, just push the reset button back in.
What should I do if I lose power to my entire home?
If your entire home or building is out of power:
- There may be an issue with the power from the utility company reaching your electrical panel. Call your utility company.
- Try resetting your main circuit breaker. It could be shut off or broken.
- All circuit breakers have been flipped. Try resetting each breaker in your electrical panel.
- If none of the above helps, call All Services Electric for assistance.
What exactly is a short circuit, and how can I correct one?
When two wires accidentally touch each other, a short circuit occurs. This will cause the affected circuit breaker to trip, or a fuse to blow.
The best way to fix a short circuit is to think about what happened just before it occurred. Many times, a short will occur when you plug something new in.
If you just plugged in your hair dryer, for example, unplug the dryer and reset your breaker. If this fixes the problem, your electrical system is ok. You should probably get a new hair dryer, though.
How do I reset a circuit breaker?
Even if a circuit breaker looks as if it is in the on position, it could still have tripped off. This sometimes happen when a circuit breaker flips off internally, and the “on/off” handle does not move to the off position.
If you think that your power loss is a result of a flipped circuit breaker, follow these steps:
- Turn off all computers and electronics that could be affected by power loss.
- At your electrical panel, move the first breaker to the off position, and then back to the on position.
- Do this with each breaker until you have flipped every single breaker off and then back on.
- Return to your device to see if it once again has power.
- Your job is done if you have power again! If not, you will have to call your local electrician.
Tip: Nearly 25% of all electrical issues are solved with this one technique. We wish you luck!
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