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Why Does My Dimmer Switch Get Very Hot?

June 30, 2006

Q: I have a new house and the dimmer switch on the kitchen lights gets very hot. There are 11 can lights with 65W bulbs in each. What is my problem?

A: I believe the problem is your dimmer switch in undersized. Dimmer switches are rated in watts and according to the load served. Your load is 11 cans x 65 watts each = 715 watts. You probably have a 600 watt dimmer switch in place and you need to upgrade to a 1,000 watt dimmer switch.

You may also replace your light bulbs with lower wattage bulbs. In this case, the maximum wattage bulbs that you may use is 50 watts. However, I recommend replacing the dimmer switch.

When you replace your dimmer switch, be sure to turn off the power first and verify that the power is off before touching any wires. When you install your new dimmer switch be sure that the ground wire is hooked up. It is extremely important to ground dimmer switches.


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Extra Wire In My Bedroom Light – Where Does It Go?

June 29, 2006

Q: I’m installing a new light in my bedroom. I have a black, red, white and bare copper in the light box and the light has a black, white and bare copper. My understanding is the bare copper wires are ground and they go together. The white is neutral and they go together. Now I have a black wire from the light and a black & red wire from the switch. How do I connect these wires?

A: It sounds like this box is wired for a ceiling fan. Typically we install a 3-wire to these locations so the fan and light can be switched separately. I’m not sure how this is wired. Sometimes electricians use the red for the light and black for the fan and sometimes it is the opposite.

I recommend hooking up one wire at a time and try turning on the light switch. Try black to black and see if it works. Put a wire nut on the extra wire (black or red) and tuck it back into the box.

Remember safety first when working with electricity. Be sure to turn off the power to the circuit you are working on and use a volt meter to verify that the power is off before touching any wires.


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Installing a 220 Volt Circuit for an Air Conditioner

June 28, 2006

Q: How do I run a 220 line for air condition out side unit? Please give directions from fuse panel to outside panel.

A: The first thing you need to do is check with your local inspector and see if you need a permit before beginning any work.

Next you need to turn off the electrical power to this circuit and verify that the power is off using a volt meter.

Your air condenser unit will have a nameplate on it with the electrical requirements. Most units we install here in Montana require 30 amps @ 230 volts. We have also seen a few larger units that require 40 amps. 10/2 Romex is rated for 30 amps and 8/2 is rated for 45 amps.

I recommend starting outside and working back to your electrical panel.

Outside at the condensing unit you need to install an air conditioner disconnect. You can find these at your local Home Depot or Lowe’s. This box is weatherproof and is rated according to the amperage requirements of your unit. This will mount on the outside wall near the condensing unit.

From the disconnect to the unit, you need to install 1/2″ liquid tite flexible metallic conduit for 30 amps and 3/4″ liquid tite flexible metallic conduit for 40 amps. Most units require 1 straight connector at the disconnect and 1 90 degree connector at the unit. You also need to install 2 – 1/2″ 1 hole straps on the conduit for support; one approximately 1 foot from the connector at the disconnect and one at the closest point along the house wall before the conduit turns to connect to your condensing unit.

In this conduit you need to install 2 hots and 1 ground wire. When using the conductors from your Romex, you need to remove the outer sheath before installing them in the conduit. In the condensing unit’s wiring compartment you will find a green wire attached to the metal frame; terminate this to the bare ground wire coming from your conduit. The two hots will terminate to either 2 wires, a terminal strip or a motor starter. Your unit will come with instructions on where to terminate these wires.

The bare copper wire is your ground and it will terminate to the little ground bar or lug attached to the metal frame of the disconnect. The wires coming out of the conduit at the disconnect will terminate to the “load” side of the disconnect. These terminals are marked as “load” in the disconnect.

Then you need to install your Romex from your disconnect to your electrical panel. Without seeing your place, I can’t tell you how to get from point A to point B. Typically, we run these wires in an unfinished basement or crawl space. Your Romex needs a connector at each end and requires a staple within 12 inches of each connector and every 3 feet thereafter. The Romex needs to be protected where subject to physical damage; like the short distance it pokes outside your rim joist and goes up to the disconnect.

Terminate the bare copper ground wire at the disconnect to your ground bar or lug and the two wires to the line side terminals.

Now you want to turn off power to your electrical panel. This is either done with a main breaker in the panel or outside at your meter box location. If you turn off power outside be sure to verify that your power is off at the panel with a volt meter. If you turn off power at a main breaker in your panel, be careful as the wires entering that main breaker will remain live. This may be a good job for a licensed electrician. Most electrical contractors will do this, allow you to do most of the work and then come and inspect your work and terminate the wires in your electrical panel.

Next you need to terminate your ground wire to the ground bar in your electrical panel. Then install your 2-pole breaker and terminate the two hot wires to it. Put the panel cover back on and turn on the power to the panel. You need to check with your air conditioner person before turning on the power to the unit. Most times they want to start the unit for the first time to check for leaks or problems.

Always remember safety first when working with electricity. Never work with live electricity. Always test to verify that the power is off before touching any wires.

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Can I Change My Old 2-Prong Receptacles To The New 3-Prong Receptacles?

June 26, 2006

Q: I have an older home that has the old 2-prong plugs. One of the plugs is bad and needs to be replaced. I can’t find a 2-prong plug anywhere. Can I replace the old 2-prong plug with a 3-prong plug?

A: There are three ways you can change a 2-prong receptacle (ungrounded) to a 3-prong receptacle (grounded): The National Electrical Code article 406.3(D)(3) states “Where grounding means does not exist in the receptacle enclosure, the installation shall comply with (a), (b) or (c).

(a) A nongrounding-type receptacle(s) shall be permitted to be replaced with another nongrounding-type receptacle(s).

(b) A nongrounding-type receptacle(s) shall be permitted to be replaced with a ground-fault circuit interrupter-type of receptacle(s). These receptacles shall be marked “No Equipment Ground.” An equipment grounding conductor shall not be connected from the ground-fault circuit-interrupter-type receptacle to any outlet supplied from the ground-fault circuit-interrupter receptacle.

(c) A nongrounding-type receptacle(s) shall be permitted to be replaced with a grounding-type receptacle(s) where supplied through a ground-fault circuit interrupter. Grounding-type receptacles supplied through the ground-fault circuit-interrupter shall be marked “GFCI Protected” and “No Equipment Ground.” An equipment grounding conductor shall not be connected between the grounding-type receptacles.”

The third way is to rewire the receptacle to include a ground wire.

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Electrical contractors say the price of copper has gone so high in recent months that it’s starting to hurt their bottom line.

June 26, 2006

Electrical contractors say the price of copper has gone so high in recent months that it’s starting to hurt their bottom line.

By Niala Boodhoo

First it was drywall, then it was the skyrocketing cost of concrete pushing up the overall price of construction. Now, copper is the latest raw material with rapid price increases that are affecting companies from Miami to Shanghai.

Demand for copper has more than tripled the price of the metal, used in plumbing and electrical work, over the past few years. Last month, copper traded at a record $4.04 a pound.

In South Florida, that means standard copper wiring going from about $1.50 a pound to $4 a pound within a little more than a year, some contractors say. Though prices have receded somewhat since then, the increases have local contractors scrambling to revise contracts because of the market fluctuations.

”It’s nearing the price of cheap gold,” says Walid Wahab, president of Wahab Construction, a firm that specializes in high-end interior construction. Wahab said he was shocked recently when pricing one project to find the costs to wire the building had tripled.

While essential building materials like concrete, structural steel and drywall have leveled off in price, that’s not true for copper, a conductor used to wire not just electricity but also telephone and data lines in buildings. Entire story

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