10 Commonly Asked Electrical Questions

Through our years of experience, we’ve been asked almost every question under the sun. We decided to compile ten of the most commonly asked electrical questions along with our answers.

1. Is There A Difference Between A Fuse And A Circuit Breaker?

A fuse and a circuit breaker both perform the same function of disrupting the flow of electricity when a fault is sensed. The only difference is that a fuse will have to be replaced once it has tripped, whereas a circuit breaker won’t need replacement. Due to this, circuit breakers are more common.

2. What Is A “Short” Or A “Short Circuit?”

A “short” and “short circuit” describe the same problem. When a short circuit occurs, the electoral wire comes into contact with the neutral or grounded conductor wire and excessive heat is generated. If you see sparks in your electrical panel, this may indicate a short circuit. If this occurs, you should call an electrician immediately for assistance. 

3. What Is A GFCI Outlet? 

A GFCI outlet is designed to protect you from electrical shock when moisture is present. GFCIs should be installed in wet locations including unfinished basements, garages, and within six feet of any sinks, kitchens, or bathrooms. You can identify a GFCI outlet by the two buttons on the face of the outlet. One button reads “test” and the other reads “reset.” The “test” button will cause the GFCI outlet to trip, or turn off, and the “reset” button will reset, or turn the power back on. If the outlet will not reset when the “reset” button has been pressed, then a problem may exist, and you will need the help of an electrician.  

4. Why Do My Light Bulbs Blow Out Frequently?

There are several reasons this could be occurring. However, one particular reason that can be extremely dangerous is overheating. Having to replace bulbs over and over again is not only a massive inconvenience, but it is also a fire hazard. We recommend having your light fixtures inspected by an electrician if you notice that bulbs are constantly blowing out.

5. Should I Be Worried About Outlets That Don’t Work?

Before you worry, try a simple test. Find a small lamp and plug it into the outlet in question. Then, flip on all of the wall switches in the room. The lamp may turn on when you flip a switch because some outlets are controlled by a wall switch. If you cannot find a switch that operates the outlet, check around the room and see if other outlets or lights are out. Next, check the electrical panel to see if any circuits are tripped. If they are, reset the circuit breaker. If you try all of the wall switches and the circuit breaker, and find that the outlet still does not work, be sure to call an electrician to evaluate the problem. There may be a short somewhere in the system.

6. Why Do My Lights Flicker?

In many cases, lights flicker because of an outdated electrical system. If this is the case, your electrical panel or wiring will need to be replaced. In other cases, it can be a loose wire, insufficient power supply, or another appliance on a circuit drawing too much power. Regardless, it is best to have the problem inspected by a licensed electrician. 

7. What Is Tripping My Circuit Breaker?

If you have reset circuits, only to have the breaker trip again, it is likely that you have a more serious problem that needs to be addressed by a qualified electrician. Our experience has shown that typically a power-hungry appliance is causing the trip in the circuit breaker. Usually, it is caused by a space heater during the winter, an air conditioning unit during the summer, or even something as small as a hairdryer. However, sometimes it is simply that the rating of a frequently used circuit needs to be increased. For example, if a 15-amp circuit keeps tripping, then you may need to have it changed to a 20-amp. Changing circuits should only be done by a professional, certified electrician. 

8. What Is The Difference Between Conventional Circuit Breakers And AFCI?

Conventional circuit breakers only respond to overloads and short circuits. They do not protect against arcing conditions that produce erratic and often reduced currents. AFCI stands for Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter. AFCIs are designed to protect against fires caused by arcing faults in electrical wiring. AFCIs are required in the United States for residential bedrooms. 

9. Why Is My Light Switch Hot?

If you go to turn off your light switch and find that it is hot to the touch, this is indicative of a serious issue that could lead to an electrical fire. Possible reasons for this include the switch being overloaded, the switch failing, or faulty wiring. In any case, you should address the problem immediately and call an electrician as soon as possible.

10. Can I ‘DIY’ Electrical Projects?

At Miller’s Services, we advise against making your electrical repairs a do-it-yourself project. First and foremost, some electrical projects require a permit. Additionally, there is a large risk of being shocked or starting a fire when working with electrical wiring. Finally, attempting to do them yourself could cause more serious damages than you began with, as well as costly repairs. For your safety and for your wallet, we recommend calling an expert electrician to perform any home electrical projects.

At Miller’s, our electricians are available around the clock for residents of the Middle Peninsula of Virginia when they are in need of a certified electrician. Contact us at 804-758-4314 for answers to any of your electrical questions.

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