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Lower Your Monthly Electric Bill and Save Energy

July 28, 2008

The cost of electricity can really hit you where it hurts. Now with Kill A Watt you can reduce your energy costs by identifying the real energy abusers. Simply plug your appliance into Kill A Watt and assess how efficient it really is. The jumbo LCD display measures consumption by the kilowatt-hour, just like your local utility company, so you can quickly calculate costs. It’s perfect for seeing how much juice that freezer in the garage is sucking up, or to see how much it costs to keep your computer on throughout the day.

  • Identify the real energy abusers in your house
  • Take it with you when shopping for appliances to test for energy efficiency
  • Test all the outlets in your new home before escrow closes
  • See how much it costs you to keep your computer running all day

But measuring appliance consumption is just the tip of the iceberg. By plugging this in, you can also test if an outlet is working, or evaluate the quality of the electrical power provided by your utility company. It does this by monitoring voltage (Volt) and line frequency (Hz). It’s perfect for detecting voltage drops around the house, to predict brownout conditions or to make sure a new home’s outlets are in working condition before escrow closes.

Imagine being able to forecast your electric bill before you get it. With the Kill a Watt, you can calculate electrical expenses by the hour, day, week, month, even year. With an accuracy within 0.2%, you can safely know what to expect your expenses to be.

With electricity rates rising, we receive several calls and emails from our customers daily asking how to lower their monthly electric bill and save energy. The first step is to identify the “power hogs” and see what can be done to make them more efficient. This Kill A Watt measures volts, amps, watts, frequency, power factor, VA (apparent power) and killowatt hours. Everything you need to identify the “power hogs”. I highly recommend this to everyone trying to lower their electric bill and save energy. Click here to learn more and get your Kill A Watt today.

More items to help lower your monthly electric bill and save energy:


Three Changes in the 2008 National Electrical Code That Will Drastically Affect Homeowners With Their Next DIY Electrical Wiring Projects

July 27, 2008

2008 National Electrical Code (NEC) 210.12(B) Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Protection (AFCI). Dwelling Units.

Probably the most important change in the 2008 National Electrical Code® (NEC®)is that Arc-Fault Circuit Interruption (AFCI) Protection is now required for all 120-volt, single phase, 15- and 20 ampere branch circuits installed in most areas of your home. The requirements which applied only to bedrooms in 2005 have been extended to every habitable area of the house in 2008.

Arc-fault circuit interrupter protection is required in family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, bedrooms, sun rooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways or similar rooms or areas.

AFCIs will not be required in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, unfinished basements, garages, attics or outdoors.

More than 20,000,000 arc-fault circuit interrupter devices have been installed to protect branch circuits in residential bedrooms since they were first required in 2005. The electrical loads in the other areas of a house where AFCIs are now required are similar to the electrical loads in a bedroom. Bathroom, kitchen, garage and outdoor receptacle outlets supply different types of electrical loads. In 2008, AFCI protection is not required in areas of a home where electrical loads may have different characteristics than bedroom loads. AFCI protection is only required in those areas of a dwelling with the types of loads that have a proven track record of being compatible with AFCI protection.

In locations where arc-fault protection is required in dwelling units, the entire branch circuit must be protected. That means all the branch circuit wiring from the panelboard to the last outlet on the circuit must be protected, because any of that wiring is subject to arcing faults.

Exception No. 1 permits a combination type AFCI device (receptacle) to be installed as the first outlet in the branch circuit, which provides protection for the remaining portion of the branch circuit. This leaves the homerun wiring between the panelboard and the first outlet without AFCI protection. If Exception No. 1 is used, and AFCI protection starts at the first outlet, the homerun wiring must be installed in metal conduit or cable, Type RMC, IMC, EMT or Type AC cable. Type MC cable is not permitted because the walls of Type MC cable are thinner than the walls of Type AC cable. All these wiring methods meet the requirements for equipment grounding conductors in 250.118. Metal boxes are also required.

The 2005 NEC® permitted the AFCI device to be located outside the panelboard, but it had to be installed within 6 ft. of the branch circuit overcurrent device. The 6 ft. limit from the panelboard to the first AFCI device has been eliminated in 2008, and a combination AFCI device can be installed as the first outlet on the branch circuit at any distance from the panelboard as long as the homerun is installed in one of the metallic wiring methods described in the exception.

I agree and disagree with these changes. First, I agree because this will make for safer installations and less arc faults resulting in less fires. However, I disagree because, to my knowledge, there is not a tester out there that can simulate an arc fault. So, how do we know these things work? We are just supposed to take the manufacturers word for it? I understand the logic and theory behind arc fault protection, but does it really work?

210.8(A)(2) GFCI Protection for Personnel. Exceptions 1 & 2 Deleted.

Receptacle outlets installed in dwelling unit garages, accessory buildings having floors at or below grade level that are used for storage and work areas, and receptacle outlets in unfinished basements must have GFCI protection for personnel. In 2005 two exceptions were permitted, allowing certain receptacles to be installed without GFCI protection. Those exceptions have been deleted. In 2008 all 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles installed in garages, accessory buildings and unfinished basements must be GFCI protected. The only exception is for a receptacle supplying a fire alarm or burglar alarm system in an unfinished basement.

Exception No. 1 in the 2005 NEC® permitted receptacles that were not readily accessible to be installed without GFCI protection. The garage door opener receptacle was not required to be a GFCI protected outlet. Now it must be.

Exception No. 2 in the 2005 NEC® did not require GFCI protection for single receptacles for one appliance or for duplex receptacles for two appliances that were located in dedicated space and not easily moved in normal use. Freezers, refrigerators or other heavy appliances occupying dedicated space in a garage or unfinished basement were not required to have GFCI protection in 2005 under this exception. In 2008 these 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles must be GFCI protected.

This is another change that will cause problems. We never GFCI protected motors because they will “leak” enough voltage to cause the GFCI to nuisance trip. The biggest problem that I see here is the garage door opener motor. Because these receptacles are typically above 8 feet, we didn’t GFCI protect them before. However, they are required to be GFCI protected now. I’ll bet that this change will cause several people to get locked out of their homes.

406.11 Tamper Resistant Receptacles in Dwelling Units.

In every kitchen, family room, dining room, living room, parlor, library, den, sunroom, bedroom, recreation room, bathroom, garage, basement, laundry and outdoor area, all 125-volt, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles shall be listed tamper resistant receptacles.

This is a dramatic and controversial code change. Tamper resistant receptacles are designed to prevent a child from being injured inserting a foreign object into the receptacle. Manufacturers use several different techniques to make their receptacles tamperproof. Many children have been shocked and badly burned by sticking keys, hair pins and other objects into receptacles.

No exceptions to this requirement are included. Receptacles for dedicated appliances, like refrigerator outlets, kitchen countertop receptacles, and other receptacle locations which are above the reach of a child are all included. In a dwelling unit, the receptacle outlets specified in 210.52 must be listed tamper resistant receptacles. Tamper resistant GFCI receptacles are available.

This is the biggest change that I disagree with. I do not think that countertop receptacles, dedicated appliance receptacles or any other receptacle out the reach of children should be required to be tamperproof. This also adds an additional burden to people living in homes without children; like the elderly. What ever happened to those white plastic receptacle plugs that all responsible parents placed in their receptacles and you can pick up at WalMart for about $2.00? Our kids are grown and moved out now, but we now have grand kids. Because of this, every receptacle in our house that is accessible to the grand kids has two of those receptacle plugs in them.

Because of the cost of AFCI’s and tamper resistant receptacles, an executive order was enacted in Ohio to revert back to the 2005 NEC® from the previously adopted 2008 edition. By my estimates, AFCI’s and tamper resistance receptacle requirements in the 2008 will increase the cost of wiring a single family home by about $1000. Some of the changes to the 2008 NEC® are so controversial and increase the cost so much, that several states are either not adopting the 2008 NEC®, adopting the 2008 NEC® without AFCI requirements or reverting back to the 2005 NEC® if the 2008 edition was adopted.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are several changes in the 2008 NEC® that I agree with. The three that I outlined above, I think are the most controversial and increase the cost of your next DIY electrical wiring project the most. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the changes in the 2008 NEC® before beginning your next electrical wiring project. If your state has adopted the 2008 NEC®, then you are required to comply with these changes for all new electrical installations.

What is your state doing? Did they adopt the 2008 NEC®?

Answers to Electrical Questions About Receptacle and Switch Box Heights, Installing a Sub Panel to Feed a Tankless Water Heater and Troubleshooting a Dishwasher Circuit

July 26, 2008

Question mark Pete Belger asks:
How far up from the floor should the light switch box be and the same for the receptical box?

It is all personal preference. I recommend matching the existing height of the other switch and receptacle boxes in your home. I typically install my switch boxes 48 inches above the finished floor (AFF) and receptacle boxes 18 inches AFF.


Tom Maslar asks:
I have a 200 AMP Main Service in the garage with yet another 100AMP SUB Panel to the basement coming off the main 200AMP Panel using a 100AMP Breaker and #2/3 cable from the 100AMP Breraker to the Sub Panel Load Center Connectors in the Basement, said sub-panel used to supply current to various outlets and appliances. When I checked with PP&L the Utility Company about the service coming into the main panel they tell me it is the same guage even if I had a 400AMP service.

My question pertains to an American Home AWH24 120amp Tankless Water Heater that has three seperater heater elements each element with it’s own #8 AWG wires (Red & Black) each set of wires get attached to one of the three 40AMP Breakers (one double pole 40amp and one single pole 40amp breaker equivalent to three 40amp breakers.) one Ground from the Water Heater goes to the Ground in the Load Center Sub Panel.Hookup.

When the house was constructed the Electrician installed yet another 125AMP Breaker in the Main Lug Loadcenter in the garage and ran the #2 wire (three wires & a ground) to the basement for future use.

Now what I intend to do if it is safe and feasable is to install a second Load Center (Breaker Box) in the basement affix the #2/2 guage cable to the load terminals one to theNeutral Bar one4 to the Ground bar. Then install the Double Pole 40amp and one single pole 40Amp and run the total of six # 8wires one red and one black for each element from the Water Heater to the 40amp breakers and the ground to the ground bar. Can you advise if all that I have said is acceptable.

You can’t do this. When sizing wires for a sub panel, you need to use the National Electrical Code® (NEC®) table 310.16 instead of 310.15(B)(6). You also did not mention if the wires in your cable are copper or aluminum. For copper wires, you need to use the 60 degree column in 310.16 and the maximum amperage allowed is 95 amps. For aluminum wires, you need to use the 75 degree column in 310.16 and the maximum amperage allowed is 90 amps. The cable can’t carry the 120 amps needed to feed your tankless water heater.

I also recommend checking the wires feeding the garage sub panel. If they are aluminum, then you need to change the breaker to 90 amps. If they are copper, then the 100 amp breaker is ok. Now, I stated above that the copper wires are only rated for 95 amps. However, according to NEC® section 240.6, a 95 amp breaker is not a standard size. So, you are permitted to step up to the next common size breaker; which is 100 amps. This is a perfect example of why the NEC® is so confusing.


Dametri asks:
My question is, I have a dishwasher that I know works cuz I tried it before installing it and there is 120 volts coming and going from the breaker (which is a 15amp split breaker between the D/W and the Garbage Disposal, which works), light switch and the dishwasher itself, but the D/W is not working???? thats seems like an electrical problem because the D/W works just not in this apartment… can u help???

You need to check to see if there is voltage at your dishwasher. To do this take the access panel cover(s) off of the bottom of the dishwasher; right below the door. The electrical junction box is typically 2 inches square and on the right side. Turn off the power, open the junction box, pull the wires out, disconnect the dishwasher wires, turn on the breaker and measure between the hot (black wire) and neutral (white wire), you should also check between the hot and ground wires. You should have approximately 120 – 125 volts for each measurement.

How is the dishwasher wired? Is it hard wired or is there a cord and receptacle behind the dishwasher? Check for loose connections in the dishwasher junction box and receptacle box if there is one.

Answers to Electrical Questions About Wire Size in a Bedroom, Wiring a Switch Loop and Wiring a 3-way Switch

July 25, 2008

Question mark Sharon Rockwell asks:
What size wire should you use when wiring a bedroom?

14 AWG wire is the smallest size you can use in a bedroom. However, I recommend installing 12 AWG cable. 14 AWG wire is rated for 15 amps maximum, while 12 AWG wire is rated for 20 amps maximum.


Lawrence asks:
My laundry room had only a bulb with a plastic diffuser. I have installed a nice fixture, however, the fixture needs a switch. The box that the origianl bulb was wired from has only a black and white wire (rather old wire, I might add) and I purchased regulation wire (one white, one black and a ground). I am at a complete loss, as I have tried to wire the switch both with the hot wires (from the old box) only connected to the new fixture with a line running to the switch. (light is always on and breaker blows when I turn light off). The other configuration I tried, which I thought was correct; hot wire (from exsisting box) to the switch and then back to the new fixture. The only way I could see this working was to put both white, black and ground wires on each of their respective screws. This caused a similar issue with the circuit breaker. I know there must be a simple solution … can you help??

What you are trying to install is a switch loop. First, ensure that the power is off to this circuit. Next connect the ground wire to the ground screw on the switch. Now connect the black wire to one of the brass colored screws on the switch; it doesn’t matter which one. Next you need to either wrap the white wire with black electrical tape or use a black permanent marker to color the insulation black.

According to the National Electrical Code® (NEC®), the only time you are permitted to use the white wire as a hot wire is when used for a switch in a residential application and the wire needs to be identified as a hot wire. That is what you are doing with the black tape or permanent marker.

In your light box, connect the ground wire to the box (if metallic), the fixture bar (if there is one) and the fixture. Now connect the existing white wire in the light box to the white wire from the light fixture. Next connect the black wire in the cable coming from the switch to the black wire from the light. Now identify the white wire in the cable coming from the switch box as a hot again and connect it to the existing black wire in the light fixture box. Close everything up, turn on the circuit and test.


Melvin Tullos asks:
Can I use Romex 12/2 with ground to wire a 3-way switch?

You need 12/2 with ground and 12/3 with ground to wire a 3-way switch. You need the 12/2 with ground for the power supply and switch leg to the light(s). You need 12/3 with ground between your 3-way switches. I have a wiring diagram for wiring a 3-way switch here.

Lithonia Lighting Recalls Indoor Lighting Fixtures Due to Fire Hazard

July 23, 2008

Lithonia Lighting recessed can and trim On July 22, 2008 Lithonia Lighting, of Conyers, GA recalled approximately 1,200 indoor lighting fixtures. A thermal protector could be missing from the lighting fixtures, posing a risk of overheating and fire.

The recalled fixture is a ceiling-mounted downlight. Model number LV3R is included in this recall and is printed on a UL label inside the light’s housing. They were sold at electrical distributors and electrical sales representatives nationwide from April 2007 through May 2008 for between $60 and $80 and manufactured in the U.S..

You should immediately stop using the lighting fixtures and contact Lithonia Lighting to arrange for a free replacement fixture. For additional information, contact Lithonia Lighting at (800) 315-4935 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site at

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