Education Library

Teach Children Electrical Safety

Teach Children Electrical Safety

83588599_e53522d58dIt’s never too early to start teaching children electrical safety.

Did you know that about 2,400 children go to the ER every year because they stuck things like paper clips, hairpins, knives, nails, and other objects into electrical sockets? That’s an alarming statistic, and one that could easily be reduced, if only more of us were proactive in teaching our children.

Make it fun. Make it practical. Make it part of everyday living.

You don’t have to have structured lessons to impart a healthy respect for electricity. [Read more…]

Breakers and fuses: What’s the difference?

FAQ 3: Breakers and Fuses: What’s the Difference?

breakers and fuses

Fuse panel

Breakers and fuses are both designed to trip (turn off) in the event of an electrical overload. However, breakers are mechanical and may be reset, whereas fuses are “one time only” and have to be replaced. Breakers typically offer greater protection, because modern technology allows for more sophisticated measurement and more precision tripping.


Both breakers and fuses are designed to trip when a circuit is overloaded. (And FYI, modern sophisticated fuses can often provide a level of protection greater than most breakers. But this is something more for industrial applications, and typically costs significantly more.)


Fuses often aren’t sized properly. [Read more…]

What is an ACFI, and why do I need it?

FAQ 2: What is an ACFI, and why do I need it?

ACFIwhat is an ACFIAFCI (Arc-Fault-Circuit-Interrupting) breakers and receptacles (also known as AFI or simply “arc-fault”) have been on the scene since the early 2000s. Beginning with the 2014 National Electrical Code (NEC) they are being required almost everywhere in residential applications that is not already protected by a GFCI.


Both have test buttons. Both protect. They look alike. (You may not be able to tell the difference unless you look closely!)

After that, the differences are HUGE. GFCIs protect from differential current—i.e., what’s coming in and what’s going out. (See our GFCI article.) AFCIs, on the other hand, protect from FIRE. They are designed to save lives. Thus, they are taking on a prominence that will only be increasing, and they are adding to the costs of construction significantly—typically, AFCI breakers cost between $40 and $80, and receptacles around $30 or more.


AFCIs are a bit more complicated to explain than GFCIs, because they measure two things: arcing (electricity traveling through the air or other substance instead of wires) and current (load). [Read more…]

“Do-it-yourself” Electrical Safety

PROBLEM: You’ve got an electrical issue. Is it safe to do it yourself?

Do it yourself Electrical safetyI often have customers say, “I’m afraid of electricity.” That’s a GOOD thing. It’s healthy and safe. It can avoid damage to equipment and property. It can be life-saving. And it can save extra expense when from having to call an expert in to figure out what you did wrong.

I typically don’t advise people to work with electricity unless they feel confident. But sometimes I get calls from people who are already in the middle of a project. For Do-It-Yourself-ers who have some experience and are not afraid to try, here are some basic DO’s and DON’T’s when dealing with electricity:


  • TURN THE POWER OFF! This is the most immediate need, even if you DO know what you’re doing. Besides the danger of shock, there are possibilities like [Read more…]

Breaker Tripping – What to do now

HELP! Breaker Tripping: Is My House or Business Going to Burn Down?


PROBLEM: Circuit breaker tripping repeatedly.

We had two service calls this week with the same symptom: “The breaker keeps tripping!”

Turned out the cause—and the recommended solution—was very different for each!

Case 1: Breaker tripping because of faulty wiring

[Read more…]

Why GFCIs are Safe

Home Inspection Headaches: Do We HAVE to Rewire Old Receptacles?

ungrounded vs grounded outlets

PROBLEM: The home inspector says that the home’s 3-wire receptacles don’t have ground connected and must be fixed.

If you’re trying to sell a home, you may be surprised to hear the home inspector report that your 3-wire receptacles (the “monkey face” outlets) aren’t actually grounded.

This occasionally happens in older homes. At some point, someone simply replaced the old ungrounded 2-wire receptacles with new 3-wire receptacles—often because they have equipment with 3-wire cords and it’s simply inconvenient to purchase adaptors—but didn’t actually ground the connections.

When that happens, and the house goes up for sale, triggering a home inspection report, the home inspector must report such a condition. What’s the seller to do?

[Read more…]