Q: My outlet is not working in my bathroom, kitchen, basement, garage or outside but there is no GFI reset button on the outlet. What should I do?

A: Look for a tripped GFI in another location. When GFI protection was first introduced, many electricians would protect one outlet from another in a remote, and sometimes distant location. Since these are the areas that ground fault protection is most often required, if you have an outlet not working in one of these locations, look for a tripped GFI in another one of these locations before calling an electrician.

Q: I have been told my electric panel is obsolete or no longer safe, is this true?

A: In many cases if your panel is more than thirty years old, it may be time to replace it due to obsolescence or safety reasons. Certain manufacturers are red flags for this problem. If your panel is Federal Pacific or Zinsco you may want to consider replacement in the near future. These panels are no longer manufactured and have been proven unreliable to safely open circuits in the event of a fault or overload. Other things to look for: 1- Rust or corrosion on the panel or cover; 2- Fuses; 3- The outer sheath of the service cable on the exterior of your house has deteriorated (this allows water to enter the meter base and panel).

Q: My breaker trips when I use multiple appliances in my kitchen. What can be done to resolve this?

A: Kitchen counter appliances tend to be some of the highest electrical loads for portable appliances, particularly those with heating elements. It is not uncommon for any two kitchen appliances to trip a circuit breaker. If you’re not able to control the problem by staggering the use of these appliances or plugging into different outlets, the solution for this is to have a new circuit installed at the location of these appliances.

Q: My friend has offered to do some wiring for me. Why shouldn’t I have him do the work and save money?

A: While many people know enough to make an electric circuit operate, just the fact that it works doesn’t mean it was done safely and correctly. Anyone that lacks the proper insurance and licensing should immediately be dropped from your consideration. Beyond that, the National Electric Code is updated every 3 years and every electrical installation is required to comply with this code. Circuit breaker size, wire size, wire type, termination type, location, ground fault or arc fault protection are just some of the factors that need to be considered with every installation. Failure to do so can result in safety and fire hazards. They can also lead to future problems that will likely be identified and require correction when the house is being sold and a home inspection is performed. Be safe and protect your property, have it done correctly the first time.