FAQs


1. Why do circuits breakers get tripped?
2. What is the difference between fuse panels and circuit breakers?
3. What is a GFCI and how can I reset it?
4. How can I safely test a GFCI outlet?
5. What should I do if the power goes out?
6. My lights seem to dim sometimes, should I be concerned?
7. Is it bad for my home to have aluminum wiring?

Dealing with electrical concerns or issues can be confusing. Let the experts at Mister Sparky provide answers to your questions!

1. Why do circuits breakers get tripped?

Circuit breakers are designed to close off energy circuits to prevent serious hazards such as overheating, fires, and injuries. Circuit breakers may “trip” or turn power off for various reasons. The most common causes include:

  • an overload in the amount of electrical devices plugged into the circuit
  • issues with the wiring of the circuit such as a “short” or short circuit in the wiring (when the “hot” or black wire comes in contact with the “neutral” or white wire)
  • ground fault (the “hot” black wire comes in contact with either the ground wire or metal box supporting the ground wire)
  • a malfunctioning breaker or fuse

In the event that your circuit breaker continues to trip or you cannot figure out why it is being tripped, contact Mister Sparky for professional help.
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2. What is the difference between fuse panels and circuit breakers?

Fuse panels and circuit breakers are both designed to protect you and your home from electrical mishaps. Fuse panels are considered more sensitive to overheated, and may be more effective in preventing circuit overloads. On the other hand, studies show that fuses are often installed improperly or have technical issues, leading to fires and other hazards. Circuit breakers are more up-to-date to handle these types of problems. For this reason, circuit breakers themselves may be safer and are recommended as replacements for fuse panels.

3. What is a GFCI and how can I reset it?

GFCI’s, or ground fault circuit interrupters, are devices linked to power outlets that sense electrical hazards and imbalances, and cut power off when these factors are present. Most homes have ground fault circuit interrupters in bathrooms, utility rooms, kitchens, and outdoor areas to prevent shock and fires.

If a GFCI has tripped, simply press the “reset” button on the interrupter to restore power. You should hear a click when you press the button in, and electricity should be available. If the outlet does not have a “reset” button, it may be connected to a different GFCI which you will need to locate and reset.

Ground fault circuit interrupters that cannot be reset indicate further complications in the wiring system and should be handled by electrical experts.
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4. How can I safely test a GFCI outlet?

Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI’s) help keep you safe when functioning properly. Check the GFCI by pressing in the “test” button located on the outlet. This should cut off power to that circuit. After doing this, push in the “reset” button until it clicks. Power should be restored.

If power to the outlet does not turn off when the “test” function is used, the GFCI outlet should not be used. An electrical expert will need to handle the situation to ensure your safety.
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5. What should I do if the power goes out?

For safety, find a flashlight to see around the house instead of candles or fire. Shut off any electrical devices connected to the home that may have been in use. This will reduce power surges when electricity is restored. Keep refrigerators and freezers closed to preserve food. Leaving one light on can help notify homeowners when power has returned.

To determine the cause of the outage, locate your service panel to find out if a circuit breaker was tripped. Make sure all breaker switches are in the “on” position; if any are in the “off” position, this indicates that a circuit breaker cut off the electricity supply.

If you notice that neighbors are without power as well, there may be a break in a line close by. Report the issue to your local electricity provider. Power lines should never be handled by anyone other than experienced professionals.
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6. My lights seem to dim sometimes, should I be concerned?

We refer to this as a “brown out”. which occurs when less energy is available for certain parts of your home. For instance, in warmer months, your air conditioning system may utilize extensive amounts of power, reducing electricity for use of other items. This may also occur during use of certain devices such as vacuum cleaners which consume around 5 amps of energy during use.

While voltage drops may be generally non-threatening, be aware that this reduction in electricity can cause damage to certain devices such as computers, and induction or three-phase electrical motors. Turning off all unnecessary appliances and electrical devices during a brownout will encourage proper power restoration.

Brown outs should last momentarily. If the situation persists, the problem may be caused by a voltage dip due to a poor neutral connection between your breaker box and power lines. Persons who suspect that this is the issue should contact their power provider or Mister Sparky to resolve the problem.
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7. Is it bad for my home to have aluminum wiring?

It depends. Correctly installed aluminum wiring is perfectly safe. However, as with all wiring, poorly installing wires can lead to irreparable damages and safety issues. Most homes constructed between 1965 and 1973 utilize aluminum branch wiring in walls to support lights and outlets. Common issues have arisen with aluminum wiring due to splice connection failures which may cause temperature increases and fires.

Although the majority of homes contain copper wiring today, copper can be found in certain parts of home to supply power such as electrical panels, oven ranges, and heat pumps.
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Still have questions or concerns? Submit a post on our Q&A form to have Mister Sparky answer your question.

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