Frequently Asked Electrical Questions - Southwest FL Electric Inc.

With over a decade of experience and having served thousands of customers throughout Fort Myers, you can imagine that we get a lot of questions about electrical repair. However, some come up more often than others.

Here are the questions we get the most and our answers.

People often refer to fuses when they mean breakers. Still, they’re completely different even though they perform the same function to prevent an electrical system overload from damaging appliances and gadgets plugged into it. Between the two, fuses are less expensive and easily replaceable. However, this is where many people feel they’re inferior to breakers. When a fuse blows, you must replace it, which can be a hassle if the lights are out or if you don’t have any spare fuses lying around. Also, you can’t just use any fuse from the hardware store; you must get one that matches your home’s electrical load, or it won’t operate properly. If you get a fuse that’s too small, it will quickly overload, and if you get one that’s too big, it will draw too much power and potentially melt. Also, fuses can be dangerous if they explode and release shrapnel. Breakers cost more to install upfront, but they’re much safer and more convenient to use than fuses. If the current overloads, the breaker trips, and you simply flip a switch to reset it instead of replacing a fuse. Also, breakers don’t explode or melt, and you’re not exposed to live electricity flipping the switch like you are when you replace a fuse. Breakers also use additional protections like GFCI safeguards, which fuse boxes don’t have. Most people opt for breaker panels when building their home or renovating, but it’s best to consult with an electrician before making a decision.
GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupter, and these outlets are designed to protect people from electric shock where electricity and water are present. You can easily identify GFCI outlets by two buttons on the front, one that reads TEST and the other RESET. The TEST button causes the outlet to trip, and the RESET resets it. As to whether you need GFCI outlets or not, the National Electrical Code requires GFCI protection in areas in the home where water and electricity are near one another. You don’t have to install them in older homes unless you’re updating the wiring, but because they’re designed to protect you, it’s a good idea to put them in. If you’re concerned about GFCI outlets in your home, call us for an inspection.
Flickering lights are a common household electrical problem, and in most cases, it’s a malfunctioning lightbulb that’s the cause or a large appliance is activating. Since most homes operate on a 200 amp electrical service, a sudden power draw from a major appliance like an HVAC system or microwave will cause your lights to dim temporarily. However, in other instances, it could be a potentially dangerous situation. If all of the lights in your home flicker simultaneously, it could indicate power arcing, which happens when the current jumps between tiny gaps in wire connections. Arcing uses power, causing your lights to flicker. If the flickering happens because of power-hungry appliances, we can solve that by upgrading to a 240-volt receptacle. If it’s an issue with arcing, rewiring may be needed to solve the problem.
Most people don’t think about their outlets, and you’d be surprised how many older homes still use their original outlets seemingly without issue. But, outlets do wear out from repeatedly plugging and unplugging devices. You may notice that some plugs are loose when you plug them in, which indicates that the outlet needs replacing. Also, repeated use causes the outlet’s connection between the weirs and terminal screws, causing arcing and heat buildup. Once heat builds up in the outlet, it can melt the plastic and may lead to an electrical fire. So, should you replace your outlets? If they’re warped or damaged, or don’t have a third grounding socket, or you don’t have GFCI outlets in places where water and electricity mix, then yes, it’s time for an upgrade. Call the pros at Southwest Florida Electric Inc. today to find out if your outlets are ready for an upgrade.

That’s it for now. We hope this answers some of your questions. And if you need more information, don’t hesitate to call us at (239) 745-5020.