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Answers to Your Electrical Questions from a Master Electrician

March 24, 2007

I’ve created this post because I receive numerous emails from everyone trying to figure out how to ask their electrical wiring questions on this blog. I’ve tried instructions in the side bar in text and audio and this did not work. I downloaded an awesome plugin that creates a very simple form, but Yahoo! does not allow PHP mail from any email address that is not on my domain. In my opinion this is useless. Why would I want a contact form for other people on my domain to contact me only. The other people on my domain are employees. They already know how to contact me. Oh well, enough with my rants; there is no negotiating with Yahoo!.

Where can I get help with electrical questions?

You may submit any residential electrical wiring question in the comments section of this post. You may also submit your question in the comment section of any related post on this blog. I will answer the first residential electrical wiring or troubleshooting question posted to this blog daily. I will answer your electrical question within 24 hours. If you need immediate assistance, please visit DIY Electrical Help.

What kind of electrical wiring projects can you help me with?

At this time I will only offer help for residential electrical wiring projects. I will not offer help for commercial or industrial wiring projects as you are required to be a qualified electrician to do this type of work. However, in most areas, homeowners are permitted to complete electrical wiring projects on their own homes. Please check with your local building codes department before beginning your wiring project to ensure you are legally permitted to do this type of work in your area.

What kind of experience do you have?  

I have over 21 years experience in the electrical trade. Where I have worked on a wide variety of projects from small jobs like adding receptacles to large industrial projects like a co-gen power project and most everything in between. In my opinion the co-gen power project was the coolest job I had the opportunity to wire. I was a working foreman on this project and managed as many as 20 other electricians and apprentices. This project was at a landfill where we used the methane gas the degrading trash creates as the fuel supply to power two – 1 megawatt generators and feed the utility company 35,000 volts.

I will answer your DIY electrical wiring question either in a separate post by itself or in a “Q&A” post with others.

DIY Electrical Wiring Help from a Master Electrician Do you need assistance with your electrical wiring project? Please visit my DIY Electrical Wiring Help from a Master Electrician page. Where I provide electrical wiring tips, expert electrical advice, answers to your electrical questions and electrical consulting & design services over the phone, via instant messenger or via email.

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387 Responses to “Answers to Your Electrical Questions from a Master Electrician”

  1. carlos lazen on October 20th, 2008 8:10 pm

    how close to a cooktop an outlet can be install.

  2. gaetano on October 21st, 2008 5:47 pm

    I just recieved my new table saw for my shop it is a 600 volt 3 phase
    can i hook it up directly to my electrical panel on 3 circuit breakers??
    P.s the shop has a 45 KVA transformer 600 volts.
    If not then how can i hook it up ….Thanks

  3. arthur civatte on October 28th, 2008 8:42 am

    how to hook up a six inch fan to draw heat from the attic in the winter during sunny days controlled by a thermostat. arthur

  4. Mari Jarvis on November 10th, 2008 6:00 pm

    Everytime I turn on my hot tub the circuit breaker pops out. Why? Is there a simple fix? Thanks so much,

  5. Kemon Dukas on November 15th, 2008 9:52 am

    I would like to control two lights from one switched receptacle Thank you,Kemon Dukas

  6. patricia L. Mireles on November 21st, 2008 2:27 pm

    There”s an outlet below the cabinet could I drill a hole for the extension cord, and run it through the cabinet to the top for accent lighting?

  7. Gilbert Raimbert on November 24th, 2008 12:47 pm

    I want to wire a transformer to construct an arc welder. I do not know how to determine the primary and secondary wire sizes and number of turns.
    lamination core = 1.75 in.
    lamination stack = 3.0 ln.
    please help !!!

    note . supply voltage = 230ac

  8. Carl on November 27th, 2008 9:10 am

    I added a receptable to a bathroom. I used a tester and touched the ground wire and black wire i have power but if i touch the black and red wire no tester but i have powwer in the receptable
    It appears the groung wire iand black is feeding the receptable.. i
    checked and I do have all ground wires connected and all black wires connected
    and all wihte wires connected. there is 2 other light connect to to this junction box.

    Any ideas?

  9. David Figaro on November 30th, 2008 12:22 pm

    My basement toilet and bath are below ground. I have an extractor or sump pump to take the waste water to the sewer. I noticed that my pump only works when I plug it into the outlet directly and not via the automatic plug that is plugged into the electrical outlet first. What could be the problem? It worked fine last week so I am not sure what went wrong. The pump works it is just not automatically coming on after numerous uses of the toilet as it should. I have to manually unplug the automatic plug and the sump pump plug then directly plug in the sump pump plug for the pump to work. I can’t leave it plugged in because I don’t want to burn out the pump’s motor. PLease help.

  10. chanda on November 30th, 2008 5:28 pm


  11. Frank on December 21st, 2008 10:43 am

    I have an outlet in our family roomthat is no longer working properly. It is only reading 30v ac when I test with my meter. I have replaced the receptacle with no change and have checked the wires connected to it.

    There is an outlet on the other side of the wall in a bedroom that is on the same circuit and it works fine as does all the other outlets.

    Also on the circuit is a hall light with a dimmer switch.

    Any ideas?


  12. Stan on January 2nd, 2009 11:21 am

    At my cabin the washer drains into a dry well. The main electrical service is underground and enters the house very near that drywell. If we do several loads of laundry and I use the outside faucet in the same general area, I sometimes get a slight shock if wet or if on wet ground and touching the metal handle. (I have measured this at 4 to 7 volts AC). My electric system is grounded also in that general area. Would this go away if I ran a ground line from the main circuit box to the laundry cold water pipe? (Or would this just make it worse?

  13. wayne carver on January 3rd, 2009 7:08 pm

    i want to install three different lights into my ceiling in my building, how do i run the wires into one switch

  14. john on January 7th, 2009 9:30 pm

    Hi i am currently going to school to obtain my journymans,in my third question is what year nec book and section tells you the requirements for 18 inch centers for recepticles mounted above finished floor ln residential applications.The 2008 nec book tells me nothing about what i am looking for.Thanks john.

  15. Louis Mangiacapra on January 23rd, 2009 7:48 am

    I want to connect from my service entrance to my workshop. I would like to bring 100 or 150 amp service to my shop. I have 2″ conduit buried already. My service entrance is a 200 amp panel. My question is how large is the wire that I need to run for either 100 or 150 amp service?

  16. bob on February 3rd, 2009 6:39 pm

    i have a new treadmil that trips the afci breaker when first turned on but is fine when breaker is reset

  17. Steve on February 4th, 2009 2:21 am

    I am installing a new load center to replace my zenco. Problem is that it does not have enough space for the cks I have. The new panel is a Siemens but does not indicate that I can use qt breakers. If I can use 4 20 amp qt breakers it will work. Can I do this. The breakers will fit. I cannot seem to find a tech support on the Siemens web site. Thanks,

  18. Kevin on February 11th, 2009 7:51 am

    I am installing a garbarge disposal in my kitchen, but there is currently no pre-run electrical for the new appliance. However, there is an outlet placed near the sink where you would usually see a switch for the garbage disposal so, I’m wondering… How would I go about converting that outlet into a switch for the disposal?

    My concerns are, how to insert a switch there without interrupting the rest of the outlets on the blacksplash/countertop circuit? and Is it ok to put something that draws 10.2 amps on a backsplash circuit running on a 15 amp breaker? Will I run the risk of tripping the breaker if I happen to be making coffee or toast when I run the disposal?

    Your advice will be much appreciated!

  19. Les on March 16th, 2009 7:02 pm

    I have just finished putting new outlets and switches in my customers house. She had the old 70’s style devices that the wires pushed into holes in the back of the devices. You would have power in and power out feeding another outlet and if you had a bad connection or a wire had popped out, you would lose power to the rest of that circuit. What a nightmare! I’ve counted about 100 oulets and switches that I have changed. My problem is that when I installed GFI outlets in all the bathrooms, kitchen, utility room, bar, and outside outlets, all worked great except the one bathroom that has two three way switches that control vanity lights. Every time I turn on the lights the GFI’s blow. I inspected the light fixtures and found no problem. I feel like there is a split neutral or there may still be an outlet I missed with a neutral that is barely making contact. Do you have any ideas short of putting the GFI’s on a seperate circuit?


  20. Shelia on September 11th, 2009 9:10 pm

    Concern, about 3- 5minutes , after turning my ceiling light switch off ; I hear a soft sound rattling or vibration. I am wondering what this is. Ceiling lights are part of a ceiling fan, 4 bulbs. I have had the fan for 10 years, I just starting hearing this sound. Only when the light is turned off. Please advise and Thanks is advance.

  21. Kelly on March 5th, 2010 5:36 pm

    I have 2 questions that are related. When there is an outlet wire (20amp) coming from the fuse box going to the first outlet box and it is too short to reach the outlet box. What can be done to lengthen the wire besides running a new wire? Such as, I have seen instances were someone soldered a 6 inch piece of wire and taped up the soldered joints to reach the outlet box. But I do not think that is legal. What is the legal way to lengthen the wire?

    Why is it not legal to hide a junction box in a wall or ceiling? It seems safe to me. It is metal. Nails or screws can’t penetrate it. I can more easily nail through a legally run wire then I can a metal junction box. Everyone says it is illegal but no one seems to know why? A lot of people try to make an educated guess. But no one seems to be sure.

    Thanks Kelly

  22. Gary Holzworth on March 9th, 2010 11:17 am

    OK, here’s the problem. I own a 4 unit townhouse in central Ohio. One of the units gets extremely high electric bill during the months of January, and February. As much as $50.00 to $75.00 higher than the other 3 units. Can you give me some insight on where to start looking for the problem. Do base board heaters have a tendency to draw more amps as they age causing the spike in the bill? This is the second winter we have experienced this problem with two different tenants, obviously their going to move out after their agreement is finished. We’re going to try turning off the breakers to the baseboards and look to see if there is a reduction of speed on the wheel of the electric meter. This might be an indicator I don’t know. Whats your thought about it?

  23. joe on April 29th, 2010 9:35 pm

    I need to know if one can put a dishwasher beside an electric range and still be within code. thanks joe

  24. Gus Vigil on May 14th, 2010 12:27 pm

    I have a living room ceiling light is connected directly( black to black, white to white, and green to green) to the dinning room ceiling light wiring. A switfch controls both. What is the best way for to intall a separte control switch? The home is rather old and the current switch has only a black and white wiring.

    I appreciate your time.

  25. adrian dean on May 17th, 2010 5:55 am

    how do I go from a 4 prong twistlock to a 3 prong dryer plug? I have a porter cable generator and want to be able to use my welding machine away from home

  26. Shirley Fabley on May 20th, 2010 8:01 am

    We are trying to put in a new gcfi receptacle instead of the old 3 prong outlet. We have 3 black wires, 3 white wires and a ground. We are not sure which black/white wire goes where but after many unsuccessful attempts, it still doesn’t work. Any suggestions?

  27. ray brooks on May 31st, 2010 3:26 pm

    I lost power a few times last winter and have the following questions. I have a master cut off breaker on the house, so;
    Can I power the house (except for the heat pump) by pluging the generator into the outside recepticle?
    Would it only charge the circuit it is pluged into?
    If so, is there a male/male cord made or marketed for this or can I make one?
    If I make one should it be a high amp cord, or would it over tax the system?

  28. cinda dewerff on June 15th, 2010 7:48 pm

    i have two recepticles in bathrm that are not working but everything else seems to be. nothing seems to be tripped on elect. box either. what could be the problem?

  29. jerry on June 20th, 2010 7:33 pm

    I wish to put two fluorewscent lights together with one pull switch> How do I wire it ?

  30. Brian Caslick on January 30th, 2011 11:32 am

    What gauge of wire do I use for a kitchen split circuit? 12 or 14. I know I need 3 plus a ground, but I don’t remember if it is 12 or 14 gauge.

  31. Nathan on March 12th, 2011 10:39 pm

    Went to check the hot water heater at a rental property and the 220 on the to legs read 0 on the voltmeter, but individual they both read 120 each. What is the cause, it was working perfectly before. Thanks

  32. Kyal on September 19th, 2011 3:18 pm

    I have a dual switch in a bedroom. One switch controls the light and one switch controls the fourth plug in on dual receptacles. The lights are on one breaker and the receptacles on their own also. I changed the receptacles to white along with the switches exactly the way they were wired before with red black ground and red and now my fourth outlet is hot all the time and does not work with switch?? I used single pole switches, is that my problem? do I need to use a double pole switch??

  33. Loren Harbison on September 26th, 2011 7:24 pm

    I have a double gang box whith light switches in it. The face plate will not go on because it hits trim that is around a window near box. Is there any way I can move light switches over 3/8 inch inside double gang box so face plate will bypass trim and go flush to wall. I do not want to cut side of face plate to make it fit. Also cutting trim so face plate will fit is a no go. Guy who put trim on window has trim over lapping the double gang box by 3/8 inch I need to move switches over so face plate will fit. Or any other way to make face plate fit so it looks good. P.S I can put original face plate back on that home owner took off. It is already cut on one side so it will fit. Home owner dose not like the way this looks.

  34. Ronnie on October 10th, 2011 11:42 am

    I want to replace a wired timer for my carriage lights. The new timer has a black, red, white and green wire. The junction box has a black, red, white and 2 blue wires. I know black is to black, red is to red. I tried white to white with capping off the blue wires. The timer works. However, the lights are not working.

  35. Alice Strang on October 12th, 2011 6:22 pm

    The long florescent light across the top of my control panel on my electric clothes dryer came on by itself,and I haven’t a clue as to how I might turn it off. Any ideas?

  36. RJ Ducain on December 31st, 2011 4:58 pm

    On a single three wire kitchen plug system (Red,Black.White,& Ground) there are 4 split receptical kitchen plugs. All the individual recepticals have the top as one circuit and the botom is a separate circuit. How would I wire in to the main panel two separate 15 Amp Federal Stab Loc Ground Fault breakers to protect these circuits? On each breaker the instructions say to use Load Power and Load Neutral on main screws of the breaker and the supplied neutral wire coming out of the breaker is to go to the main panel neutral bus bar. That works for the first 15 Amp GFI breaker but where do I get the second Neutral Load wire for the second 15 Amp breaker?

  37. lance on January 4th, 2012 11:17 am

    how do i wire 2 switches in a 4gang box on a generator