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How to Check For and Reset a Tripped Breaker

March 5, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Category: Electrical Tips

Often, I’ll get a call from a customer (usually in a panic) that the lights in their living room and a couple of bedrooms aren’t working. Or, maybe it’s a room full of outlets that don’t work. After asking if there are any tripped circuit breakers they’ll usually be quite confident that they checked already and there’s nothing wrong. Unfortunately, after driving all the way out there it will usually be just a circuit breaker that needs to be reset! Here’s how to check for yourself:

1. Locate your electrical panel. Please note that you home many have multiple panels and it’s imperative that you check each one, not just the biggest one in your house!

2. Pull the panel door open. If you’re lucky enough to have a Square D QO panel (the breakers will all have little clear windows on them) it’s easy to find a tripped breaker. Just look for the breaker that has a red-orange window. That’s the tripped breaker.

3. With most other major electrical panels tripped breakers will either be all the way in the off position (which is extremely easy to spot and you probably wouldn’t be reading this article now) or more commonly, in a “tripped position” neither on or off, but floating in the middle. It’s this position that gives must homeowners a problem because the breaker looks as if it’s on. Here’s how you test for this: Simply go up and down your panel trying to push each breaker in the “on” position. There should be little to no play because the breaker is already on. When you come across the tripped breaker there will be a lot of excess play. Now you’re ready for the next step.

4. Turning the breaker back on is a step that sounds easy (and it is) but most people don’t get quite right. Nine times out of ten someone with zero electrical knowledge will simply flip the breaker towards the on position and when nothing happens assume there is a bigger problem. Here’s why this doesn’t work: with most manufactures you MUST flip the breaker fully off THEN flip the breaker back on.

5. That’s it! Now check for power and make sure that there’s nothing else still off in the house as you may have multiple breakers that could have tripped.

6. If there is no evidence of a tripped circuit breaker you should consult a licensed electrician immediately.

Legal Note: These instructions will cover most electrical panels out there, not all. As always, consult your licensed San Francisco electrician before proceeding or if you have any questions.


Electrical Inspection Room-by-Room Cheat Sheet

February 2, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Category: Electrical

Electrical Inspection Room-by-Room Cheat Sheet

General Guidelines

Electrical codes are in place to protect you, the Bay Area homeowner. These general guidelines apply to new installations and will give you the basics of what electrical inspectors are looking for. Be sure to check with your local electrical inspector because Bay Area codes may vary from the list provided. In the case of existing housing, the codes will apply if you are updating a home, and it requires an electrical update. It is also suggested that you update wiring in your home if it is unsafe and a danger to your family. This is a job best undertaken by your Bay Area electrical contractor.


Bathrooms use a lot of power and may need more than one circuit. Mainly, because you may have a curling iron, razor, hairdryer, and the combination light, fan, and heater all running at the same time. The combination fan, light, and heater should have its own 20-amp circuit. Likewise, the outlet should have its own 20-amp circuit. All outlets in bathrooms should be GFCI’s. Light fixtures should be covered with lenses or globes and moisture resistant if placed in a shower or tub area.


Any Bay Area kitchen should have a separate circuit for each appliance with a motor. The microwave, refrigerator, garbage disposal, and dishwasher would be the major appliances included. Generally, the code requires that you install a minimum of two receptacle circuits in the area above the counter top. An electric range, cook top, or oven must be wired to a dedicated 240-volt circuit.

Living Room, Dining Room, and Bed Rooms

These rooms require that a wall switch be placed beside the entry door of the room so that you can light the room before entering it. It can either control a ceiling light, a wall light, or an outlet connected to a desk lamp. The ceiling fixture must be controlled by a wall switch and not a pull chain type light. Wall receptacles should be placed no farther than 12 feet apart. Dining rooms usually require a separate 20-amp circuit for one outlet used for a microwave, entertainment center, or window air conditioner.


Special care is needed in stairways to ensure all of the steps are lighted properly. Three-way switches are required at the top and bottom of the stairs. If the stairs turn, you may need to add additional lighting to accommodate the area to be lit.


These areas can be long and need adequate lighting. Be sure to place enough lighting so shadows are not cast when walking. Remember, hallways are often escape routes in the event of inclement weather and emergencies. A hallway over 10 feet long is required to have an outlet for general purpose. Three-way switches are required for the two ends of the hallway. If there are more doors throughout the hallway, say a bedroom or two, then you may want to add addition four-way switches to the circuit outside the door of each room.


Closets must have one globe covered fixture controlled by a wall switch. Exposed bulb fixtures, like pull-chain fixtures, get hot and come in contact with clothing or other combustible materials stored in closets. Although your existing Bay Area home may have these fixtures, it is recommended that you change them for safety reasons.

Laundry Room

The washer and dryer should have its own 20-amp receptacle. In the case of an electric dryer, a separate 240-volt circuit should be installed.

Attached Garage

Inside the garage there should be at least one switch controlling the lighting. It is recommended that three-way switches be installed for convenience between the doors. This lighting should be in addition to any garage door lighting that you may have. Garages need a separate circuit for at least one outlet. This is generally required to be a GFCI outlet. You should check your local code to be sure. When in doubt, make it a GFCI. Any outside outlets connected must be either a GFCI outlet or an outlet connected to a GFCI breaker.

Remember that the electrical codes are in place for your safety. Although you may believe that they are overkill at times, these practices save lives everyday. When it comes to electric safety, don’t become a statistic! Follow the rules of the codes and be sure to have your Bay Area electrical inspector give you the green light for the safety of your family’s sake.

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Can’t Find Just the Right Lamp? Make Your Own!

January 24, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Category: Lighting

If you can’t find just the right lamp to suit you or add interest to your Bay Area home, consider making one. You can use almost anything for the base-a stack of old books, old crockery, a bottle, an old bobbin, even a stack of baseballs. The only criterion is that you have to be able to drill a hole through it. Here’s how to do it:

Materials and Tools:

decorative object to be used as the base
drill with a 3/8-inch bit
block of wood (stained and finished to desired color)
four wooden button caps for lamp base
wood glue
threaded lamp rod with nut and bolt
lamp kit, including lamp cord, socket and harp
utility knife or wire strippers


1. Drill a hole through the center of the item you’re using as a base. It may be necessary to mount the item on a block of wood to create a sturdy base, in which case you’ll need to drill a hole in the block of wood as well.

2. Stain or paint the wooden button caps to match your base. Glue the button caps to the bottom of the base. This will raise the base and allow a lamp cord to pass under it.

3. Using a hacksaw, cut the lamp rod to the desired length and file off any rough edges. Thread the lamp rod through the bottom of the decorative object and wooden base. Use a washer and nut to secure the rod from the underside of the base.

4. To make the lamp cord easier to thread through the rod, place masking tape around the end or the cord. Then thread the lamp cord through the lamp rod from the bottom of the base until you have about 5 inches of cord sticking out of the top of the rod.

5. Thread the socket components onto the lamp cord in this order: the lock nut, the neck, the harp holder and the socket cap. Be sure to screw the socket cap onto the rod securely; this is what holds all the other parts in place.

6. Pull about 2 inches’ worth of the lamp-cord wire apart. Use a utility knife or wire strippers to strip off ½-inch of insulation from each wire, being careful not to cut the wire.

7. To prevent the wires from being pulled back through the lamp rod, tie an underwriter’s knot by making a loop with each end of the wire. Hold the end of one loop in front of the joined cord and the other loop behind the joined cord. Pass each end through the loop formed by the opposite wire and tighten the knot. To be sure the knot is secure, pull on the plug end of the lamp cord.

8. Attach the wires to the socket. To make sure there are no frayed ends, twist the strands of the exposed wire in a clockwise direction. The neutral wire, which is usually ribbed, is connected to the silver terminal. The hot wire is connected to the brass terminal. Bend the wire around the screw in the same direction that the screw will be turned and tighten.

9. Tuck the wires down and fit the socket cap in place. When the socket cap clicks, you’ll know the connection is secure.

10. Add the harp and a lampshade.

Now you have a lamp for your Bay Area home!  Remember, for more involved electrical wiring or lighting solutions, you should always call your Bay Area electrician.

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If you are looking for professional lighting instillation in the San Francisco area, then please call us today at 800-944-2252 or complete our online request form.

Cracking the Color Code of Bay Area Electrical Wiring

December 22, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Category: Electrical

Electrical wiring is something that requires foresight, planning, and a certain degree of know-how. Going into electrical wiring without these tools at your disposal can potentially have some pretty frightening consequences! Electricity isn’t something to be toyed with haphazardly.  Having said that, it’s not something that you should necessarily be afraid of either.

There are various codes and rules in place to make electrical wiring as easy and as safe as possible – both for your professional Bay Area electrician and for the beginner. Aside from various electrical wiring handbooks, the first and primary tool at your disposal is the color code that has been established to aid in differentiating the various wires. These colors will often vary depending on region, so you’ll have to find out what it is for your area.

There are some fundamental differences between the color code in Europe and that of the western hemisphere, such as Canada and the US. These regions are not the only places that variations exist, but I’ll assume the majority of those reading this article are from these areas. Please confirm all color codes with a Bay Area electrician before commencing construction.

Standard Electrical Color Code in most of Europe (IEC – International Electrotechnical Commission)

Standard Electrical Color Code in the US and Canada

Once the power has reached your breaker, it is then typically divided throughout your Bay Area home to your various wall sockets, lights, and appliances. This is where you will probably benefit from knowing the color code as you’ll know which is hot, which is neutral and so forth. As you can see from the above data, the “color trend” for electrical wiring seems to be black or brown for hot, and white or blue for the neutral.

Again, you should get confirmation for your particular country and region for good measure! Another way to find this out is to go to your breaker and examine where the individual wires come out. If there are any labels telling what is hot and what is neutral, this will serve as proof. And yet another way is to pull a light switch out of the wall (temporarily) and see which color wire is being “switched”.

If your home has been wired correctly, the hot wire should be running through the switch, with the neutral bypassing the switch and going straight to the light fixture. If any of these double-checks result in conflicting patterns, you should probably contact your Bay Area certified electrician explaining the situation and request advice. There’s a possibility that the prior homeowner did some tampering of his own.


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Tools of the Bay Area Electrician’s Trade

December 14, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Category: Electrical

It is impossible to imagine a day without electricity in our lives. Though you always rely on a good Bay Area electrical contractor in to make any major electrical repair or to upgrade the electrical wiring in your Bay Area home, there are times when you may desire to put on the electrician’s hat to make minor repairs in your home. Knowing the right tools would help you make such electrical repairs safely and quickly.

Handling electricity is a dangerous job- one that should be best left to a qualified Bay Area professional, especially if you are dealing with high voltages. However, if you are left with no time to call an electrician for installing a new ceiling fan in your new apartment due to a lack of funds or a hectic work schedule, there are some basic tools you will need to possess before you start your DIY electrical project.

Pliers, measuring devices, wire strippers, nut drivers, screw drivers, power saws and drills, labeling machines, and hammer and fishing tools are some of the tools that will be needed by any licensed Atlanta electrical contractor. Let us now learn about these tools in more detail:

These are some of the tools that are used by electricians daily to complete their work in a more productive manner. All these tools are constantly being upgraded so that they can be useful in carrying out electrical repairs and installations based on modern NEC codes.

If you wish to buy basic electrical tools for your home, it is important that you buy these products from an electrical supply house so that you can carry out electrical repairs in your Bay Area home in a more efficient, economical and safe manner.

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If you are looking for a professional electrician in the San Francisco area, then please call us today at 800-944-2252 or complete our online request form.