Home Electrical Basics | HTH 015

Transcript

Aaron:
00:00
Welcome
back to another episode of the How To Home Podcast. On today’s episode, we are
sitting down with a licensed electrician to talk about some home electrical
basics, where the future of home electricity might be headed, and how to
diffuse a bomb.
Aaron:
00:17
My
name’s Aaron Massey, and welcome back to another episode of the How To Home
Podcast. I’m here alongside Tracy Pendergast.
Tracy:
00:23
Hello.
Aaron:
00:24
And
our guest today is Caleb Effinger, from Effinger Electric.
Caleb:
00:28
Hello.
Aaron:
00:29
And
we are talking about home electrical basics. I think it’s a topic that scares a
lot of people, but we’re kind of here to demystify a little bit of how power
works in your home, what’s safe and what’s not. And we’ve got our new set here-
Tracy:
00:42
I’m
feeling it.
Aaron:
00:43
To
kind of welcome us into this topic. So I’m feeling it.
Tracy:
00:46
Yeah.
Aaron:
00:46
I
like it. I appreciate you-
Caleb:
00:48
Absolutely.
Aaron:
00:48
Making
the time to come out and chat with us. And why don’t you give us a little bit
of a background on how you got into it, and how long you’ve been doing it?
Caleb:
00:55
I
got into it 20 years ago. It was really a … my father had a construction,
electrical company, and so I grew up doing that since age 10. And just then
learned the trade, and eventually came out to California and started my own
company.
Tracy:
01:18
So
this has always been a good outlet for you.
Aaron:
01:21
Oh,
zing, zing, zing.
Tracy:
01:23
I’m
just here for the puns today. I’ve got nothing else.
Aaron:
01:26
And
that’s your logo on your hat?
Caleb:
01:27
That’s
right, yep.
Aaron:
01:28
It’s
pretty cool.
Caleb:
01:28
Yeah,
yeah, yeah.
Aaron:
01:29
Before
we dive too deep into our topic today, home electrical basics, just want to
take a quick second to thank our founding sponsor of the show, which is
Filterbuy. Filterbuy is an HVAC filter provider, and they ship everything
direct to consumer for their website. You can go on their website,
Filterbuy.com, enter your filter sizes, set up your delivery schedule, I have
mine set up for every three months, and they ship them directly to my house,
and I don’t have to worry about when to change my filters or anything like
that. So super easy service, very affordable, and they’re made right here in
the USA, so you can’t complain about that.
Tracy:
02:03
Also
make sure you’re following us on all of our social media, we love to hear your questions
and make you a big part of the show. So give us a follow on Instagram, we are
HowToHome_Guide, and you can find us on Facebook at How To Home.
Aaron:
02:16
So
let’s dive in to today’s topic, which is home electrical basics. And talk to me
about how, or what inspired you to get into the trades, and I know you’re
passionate about kind of coaching and teaching the next generation.
Caleb:
02:28
Really
ever since the beginning there was a dire need for tradesmen. Really all the
trades, but the two areas that I saw were HVAC contractors and electricians.
And so just by way of example, the average age of electricians today is 55. So
that means we have a big wave of work coming our way as electricians, which
means we’re going to need help. And so that’s why I’m really passionate about
raising up the next generation of electricians. And you know, it’s a trade that
you can … you know, you work hard with your hands, you feel good when you go
home every night, it’s a great way to provide for your family.
Caleb:
03:08
So
it’s a very respectable skill, trade, job. And so that’s … there’s a need,
and I’m trying to fill that need.
Aaron:
03:20
What
do you think it is about the trade specifically that there’s been this gap
that’s been created over whatever the past 20 years or something? I think in
every field, carpentry, electrical, HVAC, you’re seeing that across the board.
Why is this new generation not as attracted to the trades as maybe the older
generations were?
Caleb:
03:40
Based
on experience and my own experience of hiring guys and them not being in love
with it, it takes a lot of hard work. Nobody wants to put in that work.
Aaron:
03:53
There’s
that old … there’s a … I don’t know who said it or whatever, but there’s
that saying that a lot of people miss out on success because it’s dressed in
overalls and looks a lot like hard work.
Caleb:
04:04
Yeah.
Aaron:
04:05
People
want kind of the quick buck, or they want to figure it out-
Caleb:
04:07
Yep.
Aaron:
04:07
And
they want to rise to the top before they even get their foot in the door.
Caleb:
04:10
Mm-hmm
(affirmative).
Aaron:
04:11
So
I think … and certainly for me when I went to … or when I went to school,
the teachers and the people that I interacted with on a daily basis, like
college was like your only option. It was like, you’ve got to college, you’ve
got to become a doctor, or a lawyer, or whatever. There was no like
incentivizing of the trades, there was no like shops classes and the arts, and
stuff. They’re kind of being cut a lot, so they weren’t really viable options,
I think, at least they weren’t instilled in you as viable options.
Aaron:
04:36
So
I think there’s that hurdle as well that people are kind of overcoming now.
Tracy:
04:40
Right,
and I think everything is so immediate now in our culture. You can get help
same day, you can get things delivered to your door, you can figure out how to
do things quick on YouTube or whatever it is, and they think learning and
things that take time and patience aren’t as accepted.
Aaron:
04:59
But
obviously when you’re working with electricity and stuff, there is a one,
there’s a demand, there’s always a demand. And two, you need skills, and you
need knowledge. And part of what we’re going to do today is dive into that
skill, the knowledge, and try and hopefully educate homeowners a little bit on
things they can do themselves, things they should hire out for, and just give
them some knowledge about how home electrical really works, so that you are
knowledgeable when and if you need something done.
Tracy:
05:29
Absolutely,
because I don’t think this episode is necessarily … anyone’s going to walk
away an electrician, right, no one’s going to learn how to do everything that they
want or need to do, but it’s educating ourselves so we can A, look for things
that could be potentially dangerous, or need maintenance. And then knowing when
to call someone like yourself, and knowing when things are doable at a just
basic level.
Caleb:
05:55
Absolutely.
Aaron:
05:55
So
let’s talk about the dangers a little bit. What are the dangers faced by DIYers
in terms of electrical? What types of things should people be really cautious
of doing?
Caleb:
06:06
The
most dangerous thing is working on live electricity. And so that’s where I
would start, let’s figure out where the power’s coming from so we can turn the
circuit off so we can work safely. That’s my main concern about homeowners.
Because you know, I want people to be safe.
Aaron:
06:28
Full
disclosure, I’ve worked on live electricity a few times. You’re up in the attic
and you’re digging around, and you turn the circuit off down at the breaker and
that wasn’t the circuit that you needed, and it’s like well, do I climb out of
this little tiny enclosed attic space and take 25 minutes to get back up into
this space that I’ve been in? Or do I just work on it-
Tracy:
06:46
Roll
the dice.
Aaron:
06:46
One
handed and see what I can do? And sometimes it pays off and sometimes it
doesn’t.
Tracy:
06:51
Well
I think that’s why-
Aaron:
06:51
But
I’m still here.
Tracy:
06:54
I
think that’s why a lot of people are hesitant to so their own electric work,
just because it’s kind of one of the more dangerous things to work on. So what
are the safety precautions? Obviously turn off the electricity.
Caleb:
07:05
Right.
Tracy:
07:06
What
are some other things that people can do when they’re working on like common
electric projects?
Caleb:
07:12
Well
see, I would say a simple one is if you’re switching on an outlet or switch,
which as a homeowner you can do and there’s … between YouTube and calling
guys like me, we can walk you through that. So shutting off the power, and then
secondly, wearing gloves. That’s a simple thing you can do, because most of the
times that you’ll get shocked is when an accident happens, when you’re screwing
on a wire nut or something, and your hand slips and the wire nut comes off and
boom, you get shocked.
Caleb:
07:49
So
that could be prevented just by wearing gloves.
Aaron:
07:53
And
when you do get shocked you learn, I can tell you that.
Caleb:
07:55
Yeah.
Aaron:
07:57
I
mean, maybe that’s something that a lot of people are unaware of. Like most
residential 110 volt circuits and stuff, they’re not going to kill you if you
get shocked by them, unless you have an outstanding medical condition, or
you’re standing in a puddle of water, or some other … something else, but on
a daily basis, if you get shocked, you’re not going to get killed by it. 220 is
a little different, it’s a lot more, but we’ll dive into that in a little bit.
Aaron:
08:20
But
let’s talk about … let’s go back a little bit. Let’s just talk about how
power comes into your house, and how it kind of breaks down into the different
circuits and stuff. So the power comes from the power company really in two
ways, right? It comes either overhead via a power line.
Caleb:
08:36
Yep.
Aaron:
08:37
And
down through a service mast in your roof. Or it could be potentially buried and
come up into the panel box. And where does it go from there?
Caleb:
08:45
So
your SE cable, service entrance cable, like you said comes in underground or
above. And then it attaches to your main panel box, and then from there it
disperses throughout the house, almost like a spiderweb or something.
Aaron:
09:03
So
you can have many, many … in a typical home you’ll have 10, 12 110 circuits,
for example.
Caleb:
09:10
Mm-hmm
(affirmative).
Aaron:
09:11
And
those typically run either 15 amp or 20 amp breakers.
Caleb:
09:15
Right.
Aaron:
09:15
And
depending on the load, and 20 amp breakers might power your overhead lighting,
15 amp breakers might be your wall outlets in a given room or whatever. And you
can have … depending on the size of your home you can have any number of
those. But typical sized panels for your home are like 100 amp panel boxes, or
200 amp panel boxes, and then maybe you might have some sub panels off the main
one that power other areas of your home, like 60 amp, or some other things.
Aaron:
09:43
But
what that’s describing is the size of the panel box that it’s kind of going
into. A 200 amp panel has a lot more spots in it where you can have a lot more
circuits than a 100 amp.
Aaron:
09:56
And
then beyond that you have your 220 or your 240 volt circuits, right?
Caleb:
10:00
That’s
right.
Aaron:
10:00
And
those are higher draw, higher amperage kind of devices like-
Tracy:
10:04
For
like washing machines-
Aaron:
10:06
Dryers-
Caleb:
10:06
Right.
Aaron:
10:06
Electric
ovens, things like that. Big appliance draws, or maybe heaters and HVAC things.
Caleb:
10:13
Yep.
Tracy:
10:13
So
if there’s an issue, how do you know when it’s the power companies issue to fix
or your issue to fix?
Caleb:
10:20
Sure.
Tracy:
10:20
What
kinds of things fall on the homeowner, and then what kinds of things do you
call the city, or I mean, the electric company?
Caleb:
10:28
So
really the electric company, their job ends at the meter, so-
Tracy:
10:34
So
keeping it on.
Caleb:
10:35
So,
yeah, so keeping the meter on, exactly.
Tracy:
10:37
Okay.
Caleb:
10:37
So
if it’s anything with your breaker panel, whether it’s a bad breaker, blown
fuse, whatever it is, it’s going to be the homeowner’s responsibility to fix.
But yeah, if it’s something where a tree falls down on your line outside, on
your overhead service entrance cable, then that’s the power company’s-
Tracy:
11:00
Okay.
Caleb:
11:00
Responsibility.
Aaron:
11:01
What
is the difference between 110 volts, we talked about you can have 110 volt circuit
or 220, 240 volt circuit. What’s the difference between the two?
Caleb:
11:11
So
we’ll go back to the service entrance cable, so the service entrance cable
coming in, you have two wires, and each wire is 110. And so, if you look on
your breaker panel you’ll see two wires coming in, of course plus your neutral.
But each line is pushing 110 volt coming in. So if you have a double pole
breaker, then it’s going to cross both of your lines, which is going to make it
240.
Aaron:
11:45
They’re
alternating phase current, right?
Caleb:
11:48
That’s
right.
Aaron:
11:48
So
that’s how-
Caleb:
11:48
Yep.
Aaron:
11:49
You
can add them together and make them into 240 volts, or 220 volts. It’s
basically you have two hot legs going into a single outlet or whatever it is,
that are making it double the voltage of a typical outlet.
Caleb:
12:02
Exactly.
Aaron:
12:02
And
that’s why you only need 110 for small things, phone chargers-
Caleb:
12:06
That’s
right.
Aaron:
12:06
And
lamps, and fans, and stuff. But for things that need a lot of power you have to
have the 220, 240.
Caleb:
12:12
Exactly.
Aaron:
12:12
And
so we talk about 110 volt circuits, really it’s kind of a range of voltage,
right?
Caleb:
12:17
Exactly.
Aaron:
12:18
It’s
a range between 110 and 120.
Caleb:
12:20
That’s
right.
Aaron:
12:21
So-
Caleb:
12:21
Yeah.
Aaron:
12:22
That’s
why when we say 220, 240 it’s the same range, it’s just doubled.
Caleb:
12:27
Exactly.
Aaron:
12:28
So
you’re considering 110 to 120, for the sake of this maybe we’ll just simplify
it to 110, and then 220.
Caleb:
12:35
Yeah.
Aaron:
12:35
For
example. But it’s a range of voltages. And you add them together and that’s why
you’re considered either. So you may see an appliance or something that says
240 VAC, or something like that-
Caleb:
12:48
That’s
right.
Aaron:
12:48
And
what they’re really referring to is just what we’re talking about, it’s 220.
Caleb:
12:52
Exactly.
Aaron:
12:53
It’s
just a range.
Caleb:
12:54
In
the trades we interchange 110, 220, 120, 240. It’s one of those things, yeah,
just like you said, it’s a range. And just by way of example, if I got my
voltage tester out and I tested one of these outlets around here, it might even
say 118 on the voltage tester. So then I might go down the street and it might
say 114. So it’s really location and area.
Aaron:
13:29
So
there’s three main terms, really, when it comes to electricity that the average
homeowner would come across, right? There’s volts, there’s amps, and there’s
watts.
Tracy:
13:37
Watts.
Caleb:
13:38
Watts.
Aaron:
13:39
So
why is it important for a homeowner to know the difference, and what are the
differences? What are those things?
Caleb:
13:44
You
have your volts, and amps, and we’ll liken them to plumbing. So you have your
volts, which is like the pressure from your faucet. And then the amps is the
flow.
Aaron:
13:58
Like
the volume.
Tracy:
13:59
Yeah,
that makes sense.
Caleb:
13:59
The
volume, yep, exactly. That the bigger the device you have the more amps it’ll
take to-
Tracy:
14:06
Because
the flow is-
Caleb:
14:07
Exactly.
Tracy:
14:07
Bigger.
Caleb:
14:07
Because,
yep, it needs more power.
Tracy:
14:10
Clicked.
[crosstalk 00:14:11]
Caleb:
14:11
And
the power is the watts.
Tracy:
14:14
Got
it.
Caleb:
14:14
Is
the watts.
Tracy:
14:16
That’s
a really great way to explain it.
Aaron:
14:18
So
then the watts would be the combination of the two, you multiple the volts
times the amps and that gives you the wattage.
Caleb:
14:24
Exactly.
Aaron:
14:25
So
you have a 15, let’s say for example, you have a 15 amp circuit at 110 volts.
So if you multiply 15 by 110, that’s the total watts of the circuit. Which I
can’t do that math in my head right now, I think it’s like 1800 or something
like that.
Caleb:
14:41
Sounds
good.
Aaron:
14:41
I
don’t know, we’ll just say that’s what it is because I can’t do the math in my
head.
Tracy:
14:45
So,
when you’re plugging in two of those heat drawing appliances, it’s like putting
too much flow through a too small like-
Aaron:
14:55
Pipe,
basically.
Tracy:
14:56
And
that’s why it-
Aaron:
14:57
Trips.
Caleb:
14:58
It’ll
trip.
Tracy:
14:58
Stops.
Caleb:
14:58
Exactly.
Tracy:
14:59
That
makes sense.
Caleb:
15:00
Yeah.
Yeah so let’s say for the sake argument your lighting circuit keeps tripping.
You could essentially fix that problem by taking out light bulbs, because
they’re pulling the watts, and then it will stop tripping.
Tracy:
15:16
But
the long term fix would be replacing the actual … what’s it called?
Aaron:
15:20
Circuit?
Tracy:
15:21
The
circuit to make it …
Caleb:
15:22
Well
you could either split the circuit up. Yeah, if you have a live circuit that
has too many lights on it, you could split them up, or if they’re like older
incandescent lamps, if you go LED you’re going to save so many watts that
you’ll probably be fine. And that’s something you can do on your own and you
don’t have to have an electrician come out and put you in a new circuit.
Aaron:
15:48
The
beauty of LEDs I think in general, which we could talk about later on maybe in
another episode, is they provide the same measure of lumens a lot of times.
Caleb:
15:56
Mm-hmm
(affirmative), yep.
Aaron:
15:57
Lumens
is the amount of light that a light gives off, at a much lower wattage. So
that’s why they’re cheaper, because you get the same brightness of light,
basically, at a much lower wattage, so you don’t have the draw on your energy
bill, that’s why they’re cheaper.
Tracy:
16:12
My
husband like hoards Costco LED lights. He gets them for my dad too.
Aaron:
16:18
Smart,
that’s why they’re there.
Caleb:
16:19
That’s
why they’re so popular.
Tracy:
16:20
He’s
like, “Dude, hook me up with some.” Yeah, they’re just … they’re
awesome.
Aaron:
16:22
So
when you buy something, when you buy a microwave for example, or a toaster or
anything, it’s always labeled in watts.
Caleb:
16:29
That’s
right.
Aaron:
16:29
So
where does watts come in with volts and amps?
Caleb:
16:33
Watts
equals volts times amps.
Tracy:
16:36
Uh-oh,
he pulled out the notebook, he’s like this is about to get technical.
Caleb:
16:36
I’ve
got my [crosstalk 00:16:39] manual here.
Aaron:
16:41
Well
I know I kind of break it down. It’s a math equation, but-
Caleb:
16:45
Yeah.
Tracy:
16:45
I’m
just light if the number’s higher, my hair will dry faster. My food will cook
quicker.
Aaron:
16:50
Which
is true, but what it’s really referring to is drawing more power.
Tracy:
16:55
Right.
Aaron:
16:55
So-
Caleb:
16:55
That’s
right.
Aaron:
16:55
The
higher the wattage the more power it’s drawing, so the more expensive it is to
run.
Caleb:
16:59
Exactly.
And the higher wattage, it’s going to affect your amps.
Aaron:
17:06
So
let’s say you have a 15 amp circuit, right, it affects how many things you can
plug into that same circuit before the circuit trips.
Caleb:
17:14
Trips,
yep, exactly.
Aaron:
17:15
Because
if you have 15 amps, and your microwave, for example, is drawing nine, well if
the microwave is running that only leaves you six amps left to plug other
things in. So if you plug something else in that is more than six amps, that
breaker’s going to trip.
Tracy:
17:30
We
got a good lesson on this during our remodel, because right now in our
extension cord there’s a space heater, a toaster, and a microwave and it’s
uh-oh, turn off the heater so we can cook something.
Caleb:
17:42
Yeah.
Tracy:
17:42
Turn
off the microwave so we can toast some bread. Because it two things are in that
extension cord-
Caleb:
17:47
Yeah.
Tracy:
17:47
At
the same time drawing heat-
Caleb:
17:49
Yeah,
and you-
Tracy:
17:49
Our
house goes down.
Caleb:
17:50
Bring
up a really good point, and I get a lot of calls on this. They’ll say,
“You know, my breaker keeps tripping, why is that?” And the initial
question they always ask is, “Okay, when is it tripping, what things do
you have going?” And more often than not, it is, “Oh yeah, we got the
microwave running, I’m drying my hair.” It’s like, “Well, okay, then
there’s too many watts pulling on, or too many amps pulling on that
circuit.”
Caleb:
18:22
Any
time any heating element you have plugged in, toaster oven, microwave, hair
dryer, that sucks a lot of energy. So just keep that in mind. It may be a
simple fix, it may be, “Well, I’ll dry my hair in the other bathroom, or
I’ll plug the toaster into a different circuit than what the hair dryer’s on in
the bathroom.”
Caleb:
18:46
And
honestly, that’s why the code says you need to have 220 amp circuits in the
kitchen, so you can separate heating elements, because that’s where you use all
the heating elements, in the kitchen.
Tracy:
19:00
Right,
that’s what I was just going to ask. So this is one of the reasons why getting
a permit and having and inspection is so important, because it’s safety and
functionality, right?
Caleb:
19:11
Exactly.
And you hit it, it’s not just safety, it’s also functionality. Which is super
helpful in the long term, because you want … you don’t want us coming back
out there and then we’ve got to get all of our tools out again, and add another
circuit, it’s like well, might as well do everything right the first time.
Aaron:
19:26
Well
and that’s the idea of the National Electric Code, right?
Caleb:
19:30
Exactly.
Aaron:
19:30
So
what’s cool about electricity in general is it is kind of governed by a
national code.
Caleb:
19:35
That’s
right.
Aaron:
19:36
So
electricity in California is not different than electricity in Virginia, or
Florida, or anything like that. Where can people go to figure that information
out? They just Google it?
Caleb:
19:44
Googling
it, yeah, you’re going to find a general answer that’s going to be really
helpful. And then electricians, like myself, too. We love answering those kind
of questions because we geek out about the code work. It’s our Bible, the NEC
is the electrician’s Bible. We’ve got to know it up and down.
Aaron:
20:06
Let’s
talk about the difference between 110 and 220 circuits. Right, you can identify
the difference between the two, how?
Caleb:
20:13
If
you go to an outlet and it’s three prong, depending on which way it’s mounted,
you have two ports on one side, that’s your hot and neutral, and then one on
the other side which is your equipment ground. So you have three ports. That’s
110, some kind of wall mounted AC unit, let’s say. You might unplug it and you
will see four ports. One port is, again, for equipment ground, one port is for
your neutral, and then the other are for your two hot lines, which is going to
110, 110.
Aaron:
20:45
Or
220.
Caleb:
20:46
That’s
right.
Aaron:
20:46
So
you want to use some extra caution if you’re working with that, because it is
quite a bit more power.
Caleb:
20:50
Yeah.
Aaron:
20:51
Make
sure you shut the power off and if you have an issue and you’re not familiar
with it, that might be a time when you definitely do want to call an
electrician in.
Aaron:
20:57
What
types of things can a homeowner do on their own and what types of things do you
think an electrician should definitely be involved in?
Caleb:
21:03
Some
basic things that a homeowner can do is updating live fixtures, replacing
outlets, replacing switches. If you get into needing to add circuits, needing
to run a new outlet, drilling holes in the wall, I would recommend calling a
professional licensed electrician for that. It’s going to two things, it’s
going to save you money and in the long run, because you’ll get in there,
you’ll start drilling, and you’ll hit another line. So now you’ve got to go
repair that line, and then at that point maybe you do have to call an
electrician. And so it would’ve been easier just to call an electrician in the
beginning.
Tracy:
21:50
Or
just a professional set of eyes to make sure you’re doing things safely so
something doesn’t happen down the line.
Caleb:
21:56
Exactly,
it keeps it safe.
Aaron:
21:58
So
say I want to hire an electrician, what types of things as a homeowner should I
look for to make sure that I’m hiring the right guy? Because there are a lot of
handymen types that-
Caleb:
22:08
For
sure.
Aaron:
22:09
Can
do electrical work, like myself. But I don’t have a license, I never claim to
be a licensed electrician. I feel like I know a lot. But I don’t have the
license. So what things should a homeowner look for?
Caleb:
22:20
So
first and foremost of things to look for when hiring an electrician, is he
licensed? That entails a whole lot. It means he’s been through the trenches to
have the state say, “Okay, yes, we recognize you as an electrician, here’s
your card.” And so is he licensed?
Caleb:
22:38
Another
big thing too is insurance, is he insured? And bonded? And in the state of
California, you can’t even have your license without being bonded. And so
insurance, bonded, licensed, all these things, they really protect both the
electrician and the homeowner.
Caleb:
22:59
And
so an electrician who goes to the lengths to keep all those up to date is an
electrician that has put time, and thought, and effort into that. And so he’s
going to put time, thought, and effort into your house.
Tracy:
23:13
We
just moved into our house recently, for example. We don’t really know the
history of the electric, we know that when the inspector came no huge red flags
were raised. But what can we do to make sure that everything is safe, and
updated, and just maintenance tips to walk around our home, things to check on
regularly to keep our home safe and make sure the electrical is functioning
well?
Caleb:
23:38
Two
things come to mind. One is going to your breaker panel once a year, every
other year, flipping all the breakers off and then turning them back on. What
this does is this just keeps the breakers responsive, so if there ever is a
time that a breaker needs to trip, whether you’re getting shocked, or you’re
overpowering the circuit, it’ll trip. And you want it to trip, because that’s
what keeps things safe.
Caleb:
24:06
Another
thing that comes to mind too is outlets. Any time you see a loose outlet, you
go plug your vacuum cleaner in, or whatever it is, and it kind of hangs there,
replace the outlets. It’s a cheap thing you can do to be safe. What happens is
a loose outlet can spark, because the terminals there aren’t tight. And so you
want to make sure that the outlets are tight and properly working.
Aaron:
24:38
What
you’re referring to in that case is like when you go to put … say you’re
plugging in a vacuum or a fan or something, and the cord kind of droops out of
the outlet, it doesn’t-
Caleb:
24:46
Exactly.
Aaron:
24:47
Fully
latch in and stay.
Caleb:
24:48
Exactly.
Aaron:
24:48
That’s
what you’re talking about.
Caleb:
24:49
Yep.
Aaron:
24:50
You
know, these are mechanical things, the outlets, the breakers, they’re
mechanical things, they do wear out over time. So replacing them is essential,
or flipping the breakers on just to keep those components from getting sticky.
Caleb:
25:03
Exactly.
Aaron:
25:04
They’re
like people, when they sit down too long and don’t move they stiffen up. When
they’re supposed to move that next thing, they don’t want to move. So-
Caleb:
25:11
Exactly.
Aaron:
25:12
Keeping
them kind of loosened up over time is essential to keep it safe.
Caleb:
25:16
Yeah,
for sure.
Tracy:
25:16
We
also … we talked to Pat from Orkin recently, and he had a … he was telling
us the importance of rodent control-
Caleb:
25:25
For
sure.
Tracy:
25:25
With
electric. Have you seen accidents happen or anything get damaged because of
little critters?
Caleb:
25:32
Yeah,
so I was in an attic a couple of months ago in fact, and I saw a wire that had
been chewed in two. And so I’m thankful I was up there, just to replace the
wire.
Aaron:
25:48
Most
wiring stuff that’s in attics is supposed to be encased in something, right?
Caleb:
25:53
That’s
why we run MC and conduit in houses, especially in southern California, because
there are a lot of-
Tracy:
26:03
Protect
that wire.
Caleb:
26:04
Issues,
and yeah, exactly.
Aaron:
26:06
You
mentioned the term MC, what does MC stand for? MC conduit.
Caleb:
26:10
Yeah,
so that’s metallic conduit, and there’s the flexible … there’s the FMC, which
is a flexible metallic conduit, and I like running that in residential houses
because one it’s easy to run, and it’ll keep rodents from being able to chew
through your wires.
Aaron:
26:31
Yeah,
so it’s just the idea of just protecting the wiring from any … a nail, who
knows.
Caleb:
26:37
Exactly.
Aaron:
26:37
Whatever
it is that could potentially interfere with the wiring.
Caleb:
26:40
For
sure.
Aaron:
26:41
And
create a potentially hazardous situation.
Aaron:
26:43
So
if I’m an average homeowner, a DIY person, and I want to be able to tackle
basic jobs around the house, what five tools or a few tools would you maybe
recommend that I should get or invest in that will allow me to tackle a lot of
those types of jobs?
Caleb:
26:58
Oh
yeah, for sure, absolutely. So a 10 in one, or 11 in one screwdriver. That’s
really helpful. You’ll be able to take the plate off, the switch plate off,
which is typically flathead, and then you’ll be able to switch it up and take
the outlet out, which is typically Philip’s head, so a 10 in one screwdriver.
Caleb:
27:18
Another
one, needle nose pliers, those are helpful in grabbing wires that are back in a
box, and you never want to stick your hands in an outlet when you’re working on
it. You always want to use your tools, because your tools, if you use them
properly, are going to keep you safe. You reach back in there with any of
those, you pull the wires out, and now you need to know if it’s hot or not. And
that’s when another tool that’s handy is a non contact voltage tester. So it
looks like a little pen or something, and you just turn it on and it goes off-
Aaron:
27:53
Beeps
and blinks.
Caleb:
27:53
Yeah,
exactly. And then pliers is another one that’s handy. With pliers and needle
nose, you can twist wires together. Because again, you want … say you’re
adding a wire to a set of wires, you want a tight connection. You always want a
tight connection, whether it’s a neutral or hot you’re tying in, you want a
tight connection. So with needle nose and your lineman’s pliers you’ll be able
to get them tight, and then you can put your wire nut on.
Caleb:
28:25
Gloves
is another huge thing that you should have. It’s an extra measure to keep you
safe. You’ll want a pair of wire strippers, too. Something to keep in mind when
you are stripping wire is use the right wire gauge stripper to strip the right
gauged wire. What can happen is if you use the wrong size, say a smaller size,
it can cut into the wire and then what happens is you go to twist that wire nut
on, and you can actually break the wire in two, and you think everything’s
going good, you push it back in there, and you don’t realize that actually the
wire has come loose, and then that can create sparks. And so I’ve seen that
happen before, too.
Tracy:
29:08
Find
a stripper you can trust.
Caleb:
29:10
Yes.
Aaron:
29:11
That’s
good advice for every area of your life.
Tracy:
29:13
Invest
your money in a stripper you can trust.
Aaron:
29:15
Yeah.
So one of the most common questions that I get is a lot of people have old
homes. So they come into the issue where when they’re trying to replace their
receptacles, they’re trying to put in the new like tamper resistant three prong
outlets, but their outlets are old and they’re the two prongs, they’re not grounded.
What do they do in that situation?
Caleb:
29:36
The
ground on your outlet is the equipment ground, and so if they have ran metal
conduit throughout the house, you’re actually safe, you’re okay.
Aaron:
29:48
So
the box itself in those instances might be metal.
Caleb:
29:52
Yes.
Aaron:
29:53
And
that is acting as the ground?
Caleb:
29:54
Exactly.
Aaron:
29:55
So
if you ground the receptacle to the box it should work?
Caleb:
29:58
Exactly,
yeah. And they … I mean, you can pick them up at Home Depot, they sell those
grounding pigtails, and that’s what those are for. They’re to connect your
outlet with the metal box, if it doesn’t have a ground wire.
Aaron:
30:12
Yeah,
so that’s a pretty easy fix for a homeowner to do.
Caleb:
30:15
Yep,
yep.
Aaron:
30:16
And
easy way to tell what’s what. When you have the power off you can’t tell what’s
the hot wires and what’s not. A hot wire is usually black or red.
Caleb:
30:24
Exactly.
Aaron:
30:24
A
neutral wire is usually white-ish.
Caleb:
30:28
Mm-hmm
(affirmative).
Aaron:
30:28
And
it can be hard to tell in an older home because sometimes the wires were just
cloth covered or whatever.
Caleb:
30:34
Exactly.
Aaron:
30:34
So
it can be hard. So when you pull it out of the wall, I always recommend when
you do pull an outlet out of the wall, grab it from the top and the bottom, not
from the sides.
Caleb:
30:42
Exactly.
Aaron:
30:43
If
you grab an outlet from the sides, like that, that’s where the terminal screws
are. So you’re creating a circuit between your two fingers.
Caleb:
30:49
Yep.
Aaron:
30:50
So
you’re going to get shocked if the power’s on. So if you grab it from the top
and the bottom where the little fins are, you can pull it straight out without
getting zapped. And then once you pull it out, on the sides you have your
terminal screws, right?
Caleb:
31:03
Right.
Aaron:
31:04
And
they’re different colors. So can you explain the different colors of the
receptacle?
Caleb:
31:08
Yes,
yes. So you have your black wire, which is like you said, typically hot. Your
white wire which is typically neutral. And then on your … and I say typically
because I’ve been in situations where you could tell maybe someone’s been lazy
and they didn’t have black wire on the truck so they just installed two white
wires. And that can be-
Aaron:
31:33
Confusing.
Tracy:
31:33
Confusing.
Caleb:
31:35
Confusing
for the next guy in line. And then on your outlet you have brass side, and a silver
side. I guess the way I always remember it, my dad taught me this at a young
age, black to brass will save your … butt.
Aaron:
31:50
Black
to brass will save your butt, okay, gotcha.
Caleb:
31:52
So
that’s how I always remember it. And then along those lines too is if the
outlet had been working before, and just randomly stopped working, if the
switch had been working before, take pictures of it. So at worst case you
forget to look at which wires went where, you can go back to those pictures.
And then a second thing too is once you’re safe and your power is off and
everything, just move one wire at a time. So for like … talking about a three
way switch, put it right next to it and move your common over first, find your
common in your old switch, which again it’ll be written on there, and then just
move that wire over to the common on your brand new switch, and then move your
other two wires.
Caleb:
32:37
So
that’s something that I’ve found can be really helpful. A lot of times I’ll get
calls, in fact I had one last week, that they called, “Hey, I took off the
switch and I forgot to note which wire went where.” And so we had to kind
of walk through it and troubleshoot. But so I like to say it can be an easy
task if you just one for one wire.
Aaron:
33:03
Where
do you think the future of home electrical is going? I know there’s a lot of
like wireless stuff out there, anything else that maybe we haven’t touched on?
Caleb:
33:11
Sure.
So talking to some of the engineers in these lighting companies and
manufacturing companies, I think we’re headed to a spot where it’s all
controlled via wifi. And basically that means almost like hands free. So you’ll
be able to be a mile away from your house and your heating will come on, and
then you’re 20 feet from your door and your lights will come on.
Aaron:
33:37
So
we’re just going to dive into some social media questions if you don’t mind.
Caleb:
33:40
Great.
Aaron:
33:40
Some
of our listeners have hit us up with some questions. So let’s just dive in.
Tracy:
33:45
I
keep tripping my circuits at home, but I need the lights in that room. Is there
any way that I can fix this without needing an electrician?
Caleb:
33:52
A
couple things, one, try to figure out what is making it trip. My guess is that
lighting circuit is actually connected to some outlets too, and so maybe hair
dryer, or a heating element, toaster oven, something is making that circuit
trip. So I would try to figure out what’s causing it to trip, and then plugging
it into a different circuit. You can also, again, try to swap out the lights
for a lower wattage, by means of like LED. You’re going to save a lot of watts
doing that.
Tracy:
34:33
If
I’m trying to diffuse a bomb, which wire do I cut?
Caleb:
34:35
Orange.
Always orange.
Tracy:
34:37
Always
orange.
Caleb:
34:37
Yes.
Tracy:
34:38
Okay.
Awesome.
Aaron:
34:39
That’s
good to know.
Tracy:
34:41
I
use screw caps for my electricity projects, but I’ve seen other people use
other things. Are there merits to using something other than screw caps?
Aaron:
34:48
I’m
thinking that he’s talking about wire nuts, as far as screw caps. Sometimes
people will use electrical tape and stuff, but it’s not-
Caleb:
34:55
Yeah,
yeah, I think that’s one of those things, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The
wire nuts, if that’s what we’re talking about here, they’re tried and true. You
get a … again, you’re going to get a real tight connection because you’re
going to twist them with your pliers and needle nose, and then you’re going to
put that wire cap on there, and it’s going to be tight and secure. There are
these things called port connectors.
Aaron:
35:23
I’ve
used those.
Caleb:
35:25
I
… they’re easy, and I have tried them out. The reason I don’t think that I
like them is they can get kind of loose. And again, to me, a loose connection
is going to cause friction, which is going to cause heat, which down the road
is not a good thing.
Aaron:
35:44
Once
you put the wire nut on there, and you cinch it down, do you wrap it in
electrical tape or do you just leave it alone?
Caleb:
35:52
I
actually do wrap it in electrical tape. And again, that’s a safety thing, not a
… it’s not to keep the wire cap on, it’s to keep sparks from going out if for
some reason it sparks.
Aaron:
36:05
When
I am working on a receptacle, I actually wrap the terminal heads around the
sides, once I have it all connected, I take a piece of electrical tape and wrap
it around the sides, for the very reason I mentioned earlier where people tend
to have a tendency to grab it like-
Caleb:
36:19
Exactly.
Aaron:
36:19
Like
a briefcase from the sides and pull it out. And it’s just a … it adds a layer
of insulation between-
Caleb:
36:26
Exactly.
Aaron:
36:26
Your
fingers and the thing, so if somebody does grab it instead of from top to
bottom they grab it from the sides, it’ll give you some insulation and keep you
from being shocked.
Caleb:
36:34
And
secondly along with that, is if your outlet is in the metal box, it’ll keep
unnecessary tripping down. That was an issue we had actually last month, the
breaker kept tripping and so we went around and checked the outlets and sure
enough, one of them was touching a metal box, and it just had vibrating shifted
over and just touched it, and so-
Aaron:
36:58
Just
enough to cause a spark.
Caleb:
37:00
Yeah.
Aaron:
37:00
To
trip the circuit.
Caleb:
37:01
Exactly,
and so we just taped it and we were done.
Tracy:
37:04
And
lastly, I have a bunny who chews on cords. Is there anything I can do to
mitigate that? It started a fire.
Aaron:
37:11
Get
rid of the bunny.
Caleb:
37:12
Yeah,
there you go. Let’s see, you can get cable covers for … I’m assuming it might
be like an extension cord or something. Pick up some cable covers, and cover
it, that’ll fix your issue.
Tracy:
37:26
We
use those cable covers for our toddlers in our house.
Caleb:
37:30
Right,
yeah.
Aaron:
37:30
Your
toddlers chewing on wires?
Tracy:
37:32
No,
but they tug and so everything that’s wired is covered with one of those
covers.
Caleb:
37:37
Yeah.
Tracy:
37:37
They’re
really … they don’t look bad either.
Caleb:
37:39
No.
Tracy:
37:40
They
can look really nice.
Caleb:
37:41
Yeah.
Aaron:
37:41
Well
I appreciate you being here, and I think you’ve shared some tremendous
knowledge. Obviously electrical is one of those things that a homeowner should
be a little bit knowledge about, but there is a lot involved, there’s a reason
why there’s a skilled trade associated with it, and you have to go through it a
lot to get to a level like yourself. So … but I think you’ve shared some
really valuable tips for the average homeowner that can-
Caleb:
38:03
Good.
Aaron:
38:04
Hopefully
keep everybody safe, that’s priority number one.
Caleb:
38:06
Yeah,
absolutely.
Aaron:
38:07
But
also improve the functionality, like you said, there’s two things we care
about, safety and function.
Caleb:
38:14
Mm-hmm
(affirmative).
Tracy:
38:14
I
learned so much, so thank you.
Caleb:
38:15
Oh,
it was a joy to be here, thank you.
Aaron:
38:18
Yeah,
appreciate it. And we want to thank our listeners. This show is kind of run on
your suggestions and your questions, so please continue to hit us up via social
media, or you can hit us up at our voicemail, 978-709-1040. We’re active all
the time, so make sure you guys are engaged with the show, hit us up with any
questions or comments, and we look forward to it.
Tracy:
38:39
Yeah,
and where can people find you if they live in the southern California area, or
want to get in touch with you?
Caleb:
38:46
You
can go to our website at EffingerElectric.com.
Aaron:
38:50
And
we want to take a quick second to thank our founding sponsor of the show, which
is Filterbuy. We couldn’t do the show without them, so make sure you guys visit
Filterbuy.com to sign up for HVAC filter.
Tracy:
39:00
Also,
if you go to HoToHome.com you can sign up for the email list, and you will get
updates on the podcast when they drop and also get great articles for
maintaining your home with great tips and tricks.
Aaron:
39:12
Okay,
well thank you so much for being here.
Caleb:
39:13
Oh,
thank you.
Aaron:
39:14
Thank
you guys for listening and we’ll see you next time.

Show Notes

This week, we chat with licensed electrician Caleb Effinger about home electrical basics and safety.

LET’S CHAT!

You can always call and leave your questions and comments on our voicemail!

978-709-1040

Electricity 101

  • Power comes from the power company either via powerline or buried and attaches to your main panel box and disperses through the house.
  • The electric company’s job ends at the meter (keep it on), you’re responsible for everything else.
  • 110 circuits are for smaller appliances, 220/240 for larger things like air and washer/dryer.
  • Volts are like the pressure from your faucet, amps are like to flow/volume & watts are the power/pressure.
  • If your lighting circuit keeps tripping you could go LED and save a lot wattage.
  • The higher the wattage, the more power it’s drawing.

Show Highlights:

  • Caleb is passionate about raising up the next generation of electricians, because there’s a dire need.
  • The average age of an electrician today is 55.
  • The most dangerous thing you can do is work on live electricity. Turn the circuit off and work safely.
  • If you’re working on an outlet or a switch shut off power and wear gloves. These are simple ways to keep safe.
  • The National Electrical Code governs electrical safety- https://www.nfpa.org/NEC
  • A homeowner can update light fixtures, switches etc. Caleb recommends calling a professional to add circuits.
  • Things to looks for when hiring an electrician: make sure they’re licensed, are they insured and bonded? These things protect the electrician and the homeowner.

Maintenance Tips:

  • Go to breaker panel once a year and turn breakers all off and on to check for tripping.
  • Replace any loose outlets.
  • Pest control is key to keeping your home safe.
  • Wires should be in-cased within the home for safety. It keeps rodents, nails etc from interfering with the wiring.
  • A hot wire is usually black or red, a neutral wire is usually white-ish.

5 Tools for DIY

  • 10-in-1 screwdriver
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Non-contact voltage tester
  • Pliers
  • Gloves
  • Wire strippers

PHONE CALLS/SOCIAL:

Q: I keep tripping my circuits at home but I need my lights in that room

A: The lighting circuit might be connected to some outlets too. Try swapping out lights for a lower wattage bulb as well (LED).

Q: If I’m trying to diffuse a bomb, which wire do I cut?

A: Always Orange

Q: I use screw caps, are there merits to using something else?

A: If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Wire nuts are tried and true and you get a real tight connection.

Q: I have a bunny who chews on cords, is there anything I can do to solve that?

A: Cable covers will fix the issue.

Caleb’s INFO

Website | www.effingerelectric.com

Contact | [email protected]

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Further Reading