Here at Bélanger Electric, we’ve received thousands of electrical questions over the years from people just like you. Bélanger Electric can be your resource for the most common electrical FAQs.
Take a look at the FAQs below and see our answers to the most popular ones.
What are the red and black buttons on my GFCI outlet?
The black button is a test button and when pressed, should deactivate the outlet and any other outlet fed from it – Indicating a properly functioning device.
The red button is the re-set button that you depress to reactivate the outlet or outlets in the event of deactivation resulting from a fault.
What is the difference between a breaker panel and my old fuse panel?
Both devices, either breaker or fuse, are designed to trip (turn off) in the event of an electrical overload, i.e. 20 amps of electrical load on a 15 amp circuit would cause a trip. The only difference is that a breaker is mechanical and may be reset. Whereas, a fuse is one time only and must be replaced.
Please Note: modern breakers are much more efficient and offer greater levels of protection.
What is a GFCI device or breaker?
GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. In layman’s terms this device protects you from electrical shock. When it senses the slightest increase in resistance resulting from ground fault, (i.e., the use of electrical devices in or near water), it turns off to protect you.
What causes the lights in my house to flicker?
Central air conditioning and heat pump condensers may cause a noticeable slight dimming on start up. Lights may flicker or dim due to startup of some appliances or motor driven equipment. Check with the local utility company for possible defects in supply source or for the utility switching to other utilities for supply.
Why do I blow fuses or why does my circuit breaker trip?
Except in the case of ground fault interrupters, which are susceptible to moisture and/or weather conditions, fuses and circuit breakers should not trip. Check to see if some type of plugged in appliance is causing the problem.
What should I do if my lights, switches and receptacles don't work?
Check to see if the outlet is on a switch. Check and reset GFCI outlets and circuit breaker. Check light bulbs and replace if necessary. If none of these are the problem, call Bélanger Electric.
How do I reset my breaker when it has tripped off?
First, disconnect any additional devices that may have caused the breaker to overload and trip. Breakers are mechanical devices and must be turned all the way off before turning back on. Remember this is a mechanical device, so this may require several attempts. If this fails to reset the breaker, there may be a more serious problem. Call Bélanger Electric.
What does it mean when my fluorescent lights are flickering or cycling on and off?
Flickering may indicate impending bulb failure, minor power fluctuation, and/or improperly installed bulbs. Cycling on and off is usually a clear indication of ballast and/or bulb failure. It is recommended when replacing a ballast to replace bulbs as well.
Can I hang a ceiling fan where a light is?
Yes, but first you must make sure the electrical box is properly braced and rated for the weight and torque of the ceiling fan you are installing.
Can I dim fluorescent lights?
Yes. Dimming fluorescent requires not only a special dimmer, but also special fixtures. You cannot place a typical incandescent dimmer on existing fluorescent.
I have a new home. Why does my refrigerator or freezer, located in my garage, keep going off?
Unless you made provisions with the builder for a dedicated circuit, the outlets in your garage are GFCI Protected per National Electrical Code. This device will not tolerate the additional resistance load created by refrigeration equipment. The GFCI senses there is a fault, and therefore trips off. The only cure to this problem is to provide a dedicated, non-GFCI circuit allowable by code.
Can I plug my coffee pot and toaster oven into the same kitchen counter outlet?
Yes. Though, if the two loads exceed 20amps, your breaker will sense overload, do its job, and trip off. Under this condition, you must plug one of the appliances into a different kitchen outlet on a different circuit, in order to balance the load.
Can I plug any 110-volt device I wish into my regular 110-volt outlets throughout my house?
Yes. Though, if the device exceeds the capacity of the circuit, the breaker will trip off.
When my air conditioner cycles on, I notice my lights blink. Is this normal?
Yes. This is a common occurrence when large motor/compressor loads start. These devices cause a minor momentary voltage drop, demonstrating itself as the blinking in your lights. This has no negative effect on the electrical equipment within your house.
I have surge/lightning protection on my home. Am I totally safe from lightning strikes?
No. Surge/Lightning Protection only offers additional levels of protection. Nothing can guarantee completely against Mother Nature and where she chooses to strike.
If I have surge/lightning protection on my main service should I use point-of-use surge plugins at my TV, stereo, computer, etc.?
Yes. Main line surge is no absolute guarantee and any additional surge protection downstream in the system offers a greater level of protection; though, nothing is absolute when it comes to the power of Mother Nature.
I have a 110 Volt Outlet on the Exterior of My Home. Can I Plug my Christmas Lights into It?
Yes. Within reason, if the quantity of lights creates a load greater than the capacity of the circuit breaker, the breaker will trip off. In this event, additional circuits may be required to accommodate your holiday display.
If I have problems with TV or telephone wiring within the house, whom should I call?
When a problem arises, we recommend you us. Most TV and telephone utilities will still service within your home for a substantial fee. This service, as in the past, is no longer free.
Why does my recess can light cycle on and off since I put a larger wattage bulb in?
Modern recess cans are rated for a maximum wattage bulb and are equipped with a thermal device that does not allow a bulb larger than that rating. If a larger wattage bulb is used, as the excess heat builds up, the thermal device will shut the can off until it cools. This is a safety device to protect your home against fire.
I have two telephone lines in my home. Why when I'm on the phone and the other phone line is in use, do I hear the other conversation in the background?
This is commonly called Bleed over and usually results from one of three conditions.
1. Excessively long runs of wire within the home of non-twisted pairs.
2. Loop wiring from phone station to phone station.
3. A nick in the phone wire somewhere within your residence causing a weak interconnect between phone lines.
Phone wiring installation today should be done as a home run system, each phone station being a dedicated run back to a common terminal block.
Please remember if you have a problem with your phone wiring within your home, today it is the responsibility of the electrician rather than the phone company as in the past.
Why do the bulbs in my exterior fixture burn out so often?
This is usually caused by several factors.
1. Use of non-brand named bulbs.
2. Larger wattage bulbs, which cause excessive heat build-up shorting the life of the bulb.
3. Power Surges.