Frequently Asked Questions from Homeowners
1. Why do circuit breakers trip?
HUFNAGEL ELECTRIC’s Answer: Overload is the most common reason for tripping. Too many things are plugged in or turned on in the branch circuit. Short circuits are the 2nd most common reason. If you reset the breaker and it continues to trip, call an electrical professional in the surrounding Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area.
2. What is a GFCI?
HUFNAGEL ELECTRIC’s Answer: A GFCI or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter is a special breaker or receptacle providing extraordinary protection from shock in areas that you can come into contact with water & electricity at the same time. The GFCI can tell if current as low as 5 milliamps is “leaking” out of a circuit to ground. If the GFCI senses this leakage it will de-energize the circuit due to amperage imbalance. If this current is “leaking” through your body to ground because you have touched an energized piece of equipment you may feel a shock but it will be a very short duration before the circuit is turned off by the GFCI. These receptacles have “test” and “reset” buttons and are found in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry areas, garages, and unfinished basements.
3. What is an AFCI?
HUFNAGEL ELECTRIC’s Answer: An AFCI is a special breaker intended to provide fire protection caused by arcing faults (small sparks) by recognizing characteristics unique to arcing and by functioning to de-energize the circuit when an arc fault is detected. An AFCI recognizes the “signature waveform” of an arcing fault and shuts the power off to the circuit to protect against fire. As of the 2008-NATIONAL ELECTRIC CODE, AFCI circuits are required in all newly constructed homes in the following areas; family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, bedrooms, sunrooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways, or similar rooms or areas. However, if you have an older house, you can still take advantage of the benefit of an AFCI protected circuit. In many cases, Hufnagel Electric can install this innovative safety technology today so your family will be protected by the best technology available today.
4. Why do my light bulbs burn out so quickly?
HUFNAGEL ELECTRIC’s Answer: You may be exceeding the maximum lamp wattage of the fixture, creating too much heat. There should be a label inside the fixture that recommends the appropriate maximum wattage for that particular fixture. If the label is not there, consider replacing the fixture.
Many times vibration is the culprit in short bulb life. There are vibration resistant bulbs for ceiling fans, garage door openers, lighting fixtures in high foot traffic areas, such as a 1st floor ceiling light, or a light fixture near a slamming door. A rough service bulb would do well in these locations.
Sometimes there are more than 120 volts being brought into the light socket. You can purchase a 130 volt light bulb to take care of this problem.
5. Why are my battery powered smoke detectors not good enough?
HUFNAGEL ELECTRIC’s Answer: The National Electrical Code, which sets the minimum safety standards for the electrical system in your home, requires that each smoke detector in your home be hard-wired into your electrical system, have battery back-up, in case your power goes out, and interconnect with your other smoke detectors. If one goes off, they all go off. A smoke detector is required in each bedroom, one is required in the immediate vicinity of hallways outside of bedroom areas. One additional smoke detector is required on each story of the dwelling. A C.O. detector is also required to be installed in the immediate vicinity of bedroom doors if you have natural gas appliances, propane appliances, or an attached garage.
6. What is a surge protector/arrestor?
HUFNAGEL ELECTRIC’s Answer: A surge protector/arrestor protects against surges, spikes, lightning etc. These surges may come down the utility line or they may come from within your home or nearby. This device will sacrifice itself to protect your electrical system and electronic equipment from surges. Many surge protectors simply plug into the wall and your equipment plugs into it, this is consider a “Point-of-Plug Surge Protector/Arrestor”. Using this kind of surge protection is less than optimum protection for the attached equipment. Hufnagel Electric can install a main load center whole house surge protector to protect everything in your house including phone and cable equipment. This is the best surge protection you can get and it protects everything in your home and comes with a 3-year manufacturer’s warranty.
7. Why do dimmers get warm, buzz, and is this safe?
HUFNAGEL ELECTRIC’s Answer: During normal operation, solid-state dimmers generate heat. A solid-state dimmer is roughly 98% efficient and 2% of the power is dissipated as heat, causing the dimmer to feel warm to the touch. The closer a dimmer is run to full output and the higher the load (watts) on the dimmer, the warmer it will feel. Dimmers are small transformers and while transforming the energy that dims the lights, a buzzing sound is heard. This can be consider as the dimmer performing its function. These are perfectly normal and safe. Dimmers are designed to the strictest UL safety standards, and can handle their full rated load without overheating. If a dimmers’ buzzing is able to be heard at a far distance or begins to become too hot to hold your fingers on for a short amount of time, the dimmer may be malfunctioning or dissipating more than the customary 2% as heat and you should consider contacting Hufnagel Electric to have your malfunctioning dimmer serviced.
8. What is Troubleshooting?
HUFNAGEL ELECTRIC’s Answer: Troubleshooting is the “detective work” involved in any electrical repair. We need every clue we can get to troubleshoot quickly and accurately. This is where you the customer can help us and yourself out tremendously by having your main load center labeled properly prior to any electrical issues occurring as well as giving our technicians an accurate description of the problems’ “what, how, and when” at the time of Trouble-Shoot service call. We test and examine your wiring of course, but first we listen to you, to find out exactly what you have experienced and why you have contacted Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s #1 Electrical Troubleshooter.
9. How long does Troubleshooting generally take?
HUFNAGEL ELECTRIC’s Answer: Troubleshooting a problem usually does not take very long when the correct questions are asked by the technician and the questions are answer accurately by the customer. The average time is about an hour. In many cases the solution to correct the electrical problem is even easier than finding the electrical problem. If we discover that the trouble shooting process will take more than our one (1) hour minimum, we will inform the customer.
10. How many technicians do you send on a troubleshoot/service call?
HUFNAGEL ELECTRIC’s Answer: We always send two (2) technicians during normal business hours. This allows us to resolve the matter safely, quickly, and accurately. During off hours or weekends, we send out (1) technician due to availability.
11. Can you fix the problem the same day?
HUFNAGEL ELECTRIC’s Answer: We will make every effort to do so. More often than not we can fix the problem very quickly the same day. Some problems require a city permit, an inspection, or the local utility company (Duquesne Light or Penn Power) to do work and we have to work with these entities’ sometimes rigid schedules.
12. How can I know how much this will cost?
HUFNAGEL ELECTRIC’s Answer: Ask us! We don’t want to surprise you with a higher invoice than you expect, any more than you want to be surprised. Once we have diagnosed/estimated your electrical problem we will give you an upfront price to fix it.
Remember, electrical wiring is not a hobby! Many of the serious problems we see are code violations in wiring installed by a “do-it-yourself-er” or homeowner with some advice from “the guy at the hardware store.” These problems often come to light when a property is being sold and a real estate inspector requires extensive/expensive repairs. Most of all they can be potential FIRE, SAFETY, or ELECTROCUTION hazards.