2014 Pricing

I am a fully licensed, bonded and insured California C10 Electrical Contractor.  I have been a San Francisco electrician since 1987.    I do most all work with my own hands.

"...A professional handles money and accounts very carefully..."

Service calls typically come to resolution or clear estimate in the first hour. Hourly rates are as follows:
  • Residential Service :$180 visit & 15 minute increments after
  • Commercial Service :$220 Call & 15 minute increments after
  • After 8p or emergency: Time *1.5
  • Minimum call: $100 minimum "no tools used"
  • Menu of typical prices 

    Allow some margin in appt times. I normally send an "in transit" text en route



Are you a professional? Click here =)


San Francisco permit expediter

Bring your construction project into compliance with the San Francisco Department of building inspection



Q2. Under what condition can a two-wire receptacle be replaced with a three-wire receptacle, when no ground is available in the box?
A. Where no equipment bonding means exists in the outlet box, nongrounding-type receptacles can be replaced with [406.3(D)(3)]:

  • Another nongrounding-type receptacle.
  • A GFCI grounding-type receptacle marked "No Equipment Ground."
  • A grounding-type receptacle, if GFCI protected and marked "GFCI Protected" and "No Equipment Ground."
Basically, if you only have two wires in the box you will need to replace the outlet with a GFI

Note: GFCI protection functions properly on a 2-wire circuit without an equipment grounding (bonding) conductor, because the equipment grounding (bonding) conductor serves no role in the operation of the GFCI-protection device.

CAUTION: The permission to replace nongrounding-type receptacles with GFCI-protected grounding-type receptacles doesn't apply to new receptacle outlets that extend from an existing ungrounded outlet box. Once you add a receptacle outlet (branch-circuit extension), the receptacle must be of the grounding (bonding) type and it must have its grounding terminal grounded (bonded) to an effective ground-fault current path in accordance with 250.130(C).


Don't try this at home...

Maintain Electrical SafetyThe insulation on electrical wires can become damaged by wear, flexing, or age. Some clues that you may have an electrical problem are:

  • Flickering lights. If the lights dim every time you turn on an appliance that circuit is overloaded or has a loose connection.
  • Sparks. If sparks appear when you insert or remove a plug, that could be a sign of loose connections.
  • Frequent blown fuses or broken circuits. A fuse or circuit breaker that keeps tripping is an important warning sign of problems.
  • Frequent bulb burnout. A light bulb that burns out frequently is a sign that the bulb is too high a wattage for the fixture.
  • Avoid the use of extension cords.


Aging happens but fires don't have to...

It's more likely that a fire will occur in a place you can't easily see. Waste heat generated by electrical current can cause wiring hidden within a home's walls to expand and contract, eventually loosening it. Once that wiring is loose, the electricity can arc, with a heat output reaching 1,500 to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.
That's more than enough to ignite wood or old insulation under normal circumstances, but in San Francisco,  Inside a house in dry months, the relative humidity within the walls can drop to that of the average desert, turning studs -- wooden wall supports -- into kindling, easily ignited by an arcing current.
Here we arrive at one of the problems with electrical fires: By the time you see smoke coming out of your outlet, a fire has most likely already begun and is spreading out of sight within your walls and up to your attic. It's easy for a homeowner who has turned off the power to a burning socket to think that they've taken care of the problem. But an unseen fire may already be building beyond the outlet.
Even worse, electrical fires can be particularly tricky to put out. Since they involve electricity, using water to put out the fire can cause electrocution. Chemical powders can cause the fire to smolder then reignite. 

TFCI thermal fault outlets protect "glowing connection".

BSafe® Technology – How It Works 
BSafe’s TFCI™ thermal cut-off technology outlet incorporates a multi-sensor thermal switch mechanism. It senses abnormal temperature at each plug outlet and wiring screw terminal on the device and shuts off electrical power to the load on the outlet when overheating occurs.

AFCI – effective in 2002 this type of circuit breaker was first required only in residential bedrooms. It's now required for most all circuits in homes. AFCI shuts down power in a fraction of a second when hazardous condition exists.

Top Causes of Arc Faults

  • Loose or improper connections, such as electrical wires to outlets or switches
  • Frayed appliance or extension cords
  • Pinched or pierced wire insulation, such as a wire inside a wall nipped by a nail or a chair leg sitting on an extension cord
  • Cracked wire insulation stemming from age, heat, corrosion, or bending stress
  • Overheated wires or cords
  • Damaged electrical appliances
  • Electrical wire insulation chewed by rodents

GFCI protects people from electric shock. AFCI protects against electrical fire. Both together provide very thorough  protection for the system. Adding TFCI (thermal fault as above) is the most complete protection available today. 


Electrical Outlets Safety

San Francisco / Marina
All 15- and 20-ampere receptacles in a dwelling unit shall be listed tamper-resistant.

TR receptacles have been mandated in hospital pediatric wards for over 20 years and have proven to effectively prevent electrical injuries.

"...Going against all the fire safety training I’d gone through growing up, I grabbed an industrial extension cord and power strip from the garage, and ran it through the dining room into the den. I finished setting up my laptop around 2 a.m. and went to bed.... ...After that, I got kind of lazy. I knew that I had to deal with the electrical problem, but I was dreading what it would cost to have an electrician come fix it. We lived with the extension cord running across the floor for about a week, hoping that no one would decide to drop by unannounced..."

Incandescent lamp => longevity


Trapeze track lighting

"Trapeze" suspension lighting systems can have many troubles, even when installed correctly if they are not occasionally maintained. Basically, when you put in new lamps, you should check that nothing is loose.

Loose connections, xfmr "hum", short lamp longevity, expansion contraction, socket burnout are some findings even at correctly installed installations over time

Many troubling issues revolve around incompatible dimmers and loose mechanically bolted connections

The price driven practice of installing the wrong dimmer creates the fairly common scenario: arcing failures with suspension systems. See the attached photo showing incandescent switch controlling magnetic low voltage trapeze system. Instead of a $140 switch the original installer often uses a $45 switch which works well for a few years until it smokes both the switch and the xfmr.

Remedies include:

  • tighten up connections
  • replace loose sockets / fixtures
  • ensure compatible xfmr / dimmer pairing 
  • replace magnetic xfmr w electronic or magnetic DC
  • swap halogen lamps for LED



Here are some photos of our work and
some photos of electrical interest!
Our service area is the 415.

Telephone: (415)877.1172

Posted by Hello

Device longevity

Some things get better with time.



How many things can you plug into an electrical outlet before it catches fire?

out of the 5,300 annual household electrical fires, about 2,000 of those occur over the holiday season. By getting a better idea of how household electricity works, you can avoid the danger and blown fuses caused by overloaded outlets.


nBeach? or Marina...



Typical Prices

Most basic troubleshooting calls including repair and installation calls are resolved less than $500. We have developed this list to serve as a guideline and to provide "ball park" estimates for common items. These costs are for a typical small to medium house in California. Difficult access, commercial work or other factors could increase cost substantially. Please note: Recent construction cost increases may make some of these prices lower than you will find locally. Drywall repair and paint, as needed, done by others

Minimum service call 
  • Residential Service Call $180 per man hr or menu 
  • Commercial Service Call $220 per man hr or menu 
  • After hours or emergency/ urgent call at time and a half 
  • Minimum call "nothing done" with tools used $100
  • SF DBI permit and onsite inspection meetings $800
  • Correct "all lights flicker" troubles starting at $450 typical [liaison w PGE troubleman add $150]
  • PGE Liason for upgrades: Job Card
    • Underground engineer, troubleman, estimator, surveyor meetings $1250
  • Safety Survey $500 typical
  • Bring Grounding System to compliance $950 typical
  • Mobilize extra large ladder or staircase ladders $400 typical.  Scaffolding is more
  • Well documented small resale inspections $500-$800 typical
  • New small Subpanel from $1200
  • Upgrade small fusebox or FP panel to 100 amp panel from $1,800
    • Add $2000 typical  to move FP panel out of closet and over to a nearby wall. [Drywall and paint by others]
  • Upgrade small Meter Main 200amp $3,500 typical plus permits, PGE liaison, grounding
  • Upgrade larger residential single family Meter Main to 400amp main $8k+ typical
    • plus sfdbi permits and pge liason
    • does not include trenching new underground
  • Replace existing Small lighting Fixture $90 typical bulk
  • Install simple chandelier less than 25lbs or new Ceiling Fan $450 typical
    • w/existing switch and rated box
  • Replace existing switch or outlet [bulk] $65 typical plus material cost 
    • [$20 commercial duty devices - dimmers or specialty switches more]
  • Replace existing 2prong outlet with GFI outlet bulk]  $65 typical plus material [typ $45]
    • [add $45 for exterior in-use cover & weather resistant device or combo device]
  • Plasma TV / Bidet install $900 typical plus cost of power circuit if needed [Drywall and paint by others]
  • Bathroom remove and replace existing Exhaust Fan with adequate vent $950 labor typical. [Drywall and paint by others]
New Circuits
    • New, remodel, or extend switching  / lighting / power outlets: $650 typical. 
      • $650 first remodel light, $500 for switch or each additional light in series
      • $450  for new romex to nearby outlet typical  [interior residential] => back to back or open hatchway in wall
      • $800 ea remodel power outlet run using hard pipe / metal cable if required.
    • New120-volt circuit starting from $900 less than 100 feet
      • adjust for panel condition, wire path and total distance
    • New 240-volt circuit starting from $950 less than 50 feet
      • adjust for panel condition, wire path and total distance
    • Add $200 parts and labor for AFCI protection as needed.
  • Bathroom Remodel starting from from $900 [size & finishes]
  • Kitchen Remodel starting from from $1,800 [size & finishes]
  • Repair lighting ballasts / transformers bulk $95/ea plus materials [typ $85/ea]
    • recessed cans $200 plus $85 material typical


What causes humming in audio systems?

Some articles claim that wiring and grounding problems account for up to 80 percent of all power quality related problems related with sensitive electronic equipments like audio/video systems.


Frequently Asked Questions


There are three possibilities. One brand of breaker shows a "red flag" when the breaker is tripped. Another brand trips all the way to the "off" position, you can't miss it. The majority of breakers trip to an "intermediate" position, and those can be tricky to locate. They trip to a position half way between "off" and "on". You'll have to look closely. Sometimes they barely move from the "on" position. When in doubt, and when it is safe to do so, reset all of your circuit breakers. You might find one that feels "soft" and you'll know you found it.

Click each circuit breaker
all the way
then all the way
That's two clicks per breaker


Circuit breakers have to be forced all the way to the "off" position first, before being turned to the "on" position, or they won't reset. First force the breaker all the way off, then all the way on.


Go to the affected area and determine what all doesn't work. Unplug every appliance or lamp plugged into a "dead" outlet. Switch off all lighting in the affected area. Disconnect everything you can find on the "dead" circuit. Then return to the circuit box and try again to reset the breaker. If it trips off again, I will need to visit your site to troubleshoot the problem. If the breaker now stays "on", return to affected area and start reconnecting everything you disconnected. Often times you'll find that you have a defective appliance that is causing the problem. If you plug in the toaster and the breaker trips, you need a new toaster, not an electrician.

Many outlets in modern homes are "GFI" protected, meaning there is a GFI outlet somewhere in the circuit that has tripped, and killed all power to the remaining outlets on the circuit. Look for a GFI receptacle somewhere. They look different than a normal power outlet, they have a "Test " and "Reset" button on them. They will be found in bathrooms, basements, garages, outdoors, kitchens, or any area around a sink or water source. Push the reset button on any GFI outlet that you find, and power will likely be restored. This simple knowledge may save you a service call.


If you are using CFL light bulbs on a dimmer switch, you probably just ruined your dimmer and possibly the light bulb also. CFL's aren't compatible with most dimmer switches, and damage will occur if attempted. Either remove the CFL and re-install a regular bulb, or replace the dimmer with a regular switch. We can help you out with that.  Mismatched dimmers with loads are also very common.  Many times the correct dimmer for an application is expensive [ELV and MAG LOVO] and there is a much cheaper dimmer that will work fine for a little while.  These problems often show as smoke coming slowly over time out of the switch box and the wall above the switches becoming sooty.

A large part of my house is out of power, all the powers gone, resetting the main breaker won't help what should I do?  
First, If this is going on for a while... go ahead and run an extension cord to power up your fridge as necessary

Talk with your neighbors, see if anyone nearby has the same problem = perhaps this is a Pg&E issue. 
If you have a smart meter you can tell if it's a Pg&E Issue by looking at the digital display of the smart meter. Blank is definitely an indicator!
If you suspect utility problems call PGE 1800 PGE 5000


Sparking outlets and wires esp knob and tube

EXCESSIVE THERMAL INSULATION: There are simple ways in which a fire can be created with an electric cord that is neither damaged nor subjected to a current in excess of its rated capacity—loop it up upon itself several times, or provide a high amount of external insulation, or both. Laboratory demonstrations have verified that ignition readily occurs; in one case, simply coiling the cord three times and covering with a cloth sufficed. A special form of this hazard occurs with the old knob-and-tube wiring, which was common in the US prior to World War II. This type of wiring uses two separate conductors which are not grouped into a cable, but are individually strung on widely-spaced porcelain knobs. The current-carrying capacity is dependent on there being unobstructed air cooling of the wires, and fires have occurred when the wires were buried in thermal insulation. 

STRAY CURRENTS AND GROUND FAULTS:Stray currents occur when circumstances cause current to flow through paths not intended to carry current. Ground faults are a well-known example. They can occur if a conductor is abraded or damaged and contacts metal siding, roofing, etc. Kinoshita et al. documented that only 5 A was required for ignition when a 3-conductor, PVC-insulated cable contacted a galvanized iron roof.  An unusual mode of ignition from a ground fault is where current flows through a gas line. The current causes overheating of the metal and eventually a failure occurs In cold climates, it is not rare for individuals to thaw a frozen water pipe by attaching a welding transformer and passing current through it. Fires have resulted due the very large currents that are involved. Sanderson studied a case where thawing activity did not ignite the house that was being worked on, but caused ignition in six neighboring houses fed from the same power utility connection.

video video


Insuring knob and tube

There's still lots of knob and tube electrical distribution in San Francisco.
Some people don't see any value in upgrading it... hopefully, they're not your neighbors!

Some electricians also have been working with this for a long time and have become inured to it.
It's difficult, costly and disruptive to abandon all the old knob and tube wire.

If your home is already insured the most practical way to upgrade is to

install modern arc fault breakers as possible,
add new code compliant circuits as needed,
starting with the kitchen, the bath and points of heavy use.
Thermally protected outlets as per need
Verify the integrity of the grounding system
Install smoke detectors
We usually recommend to abandon knob & tube incrementally, again this is if your insurance company has no problem with it!

An obsolete electrical system that is giving warning signals should be inspected and corrected as recommended by an experienced professional

Good Labeling!  Under the fixture :/

Modern electrical systems are very safe.

Junction buried in the wall and filled it with newspaper from 1963

Gas Chandelier support

good looking junction box


knobby tube

Security system power source


valenica corridor



Extension cords no substitute for permanent wiring

Are extension cords needed to reach the outlets in any room?
In older homes, Electrical outlets, are spaced too far apart for current standard.

 This creates too much demand on too few outlets, and encourages the use of extension cords 
often run under rugs and furniture.

Loose or deteriorating electrical connections, such as the wiring junctions in switches and outlets, impede current flow and create resistance. This can result in arcing and fire.  Accessory plug-strips are  a sure sign of too many things plugged in at one location 
This creates more current demand than the system can deliver

In most cases, hard pipe and new circuits are required for safety. The bottom line is that extension cords are never OK , but temporary power taps Can Be OK under certain circumstances.

The problem with flexible cord used in extension cords it that the rubber used will deteriorate over time and become brittle and fall off. This can leave the conductors inside exposed to damage and possible failure of the insulation system which could lead to a fire.  For this reason flexible cord can not be used as a substitute for the use of other permanent wiring methods from Chapter 3.

Flexible Cords, Cables and Fixture Wire

Understanding the wiring requirements of Article 400, including guidelines for flexible cords, cables, and fixture wire

To prevent fires, be very careful with extension cords.
Avoid trip hazards.
Do not cover or walk on cords.
Plug extension cords into GFIs.
Test the GFI when you plug the cord in.
Always unplug cords at the source when not in use.
Do not use cord if damaged.
Inspect them as you roll them up and out.
No "Daisy Chain"
Do not plug one extension cord into another.
Completely connect plugs.
Push them in all the way.
Use three-wire extension cords with 3-pronged plugs

605.5 Extension cords. Extension cords and flexible cords shall not be a substitute for permanent wiring. Extension cords and flexible cords shall not be affixed to structures, extended through walls, ceilings or floors, or under doors or floor coverings, nor shall such cords be subject to environmental damage or physical impact. Extension cords shall be used only with portable appliances.

Regarding temporary power taps, the UL white book is quite clear,
"...Relocatable power taps are not intended to be permanently secured to building structures, tables, work benches, or similar structures, nor are they intended to be used as a substitute for fixed wiring.
The cords of relocatable power taps are not intended to be routed through walls, windows, ceilings, floors or similar openings”.

Remember the UL position on permanent securing. It’s often desirable to secure the RPT to avoid damage. Securing is permissible by the UL standard as long as no tools are required to remove it. Therefore they are not permanently secured.

Power Strip This device is not classified as a cord set or extension cord, but is referred to as a Temporary Power Tap (TPT). It is permitted to have six outlets because its over-­current protection will protect the #14 AWG cord at its rated value of 15 amps. A TPT is intended only for indoor use as an extension of the branch circuit. (UL 1363)

Temporary Power Taps are often supplied with supplemental over-current protection, which is not the equal of a listed circuit breaker for reliability or effectiveness. Switches, indicator lights, a transient voltage surge suppressor (TVSS) and/or an electromagnetic interference (EMI) filter may also be included.  The word "temporary" is broadly interpreted because of the special need for the extra outlets where we have a cluster of appliances such as a computer, printer or disc drive. Admittedly this assembly may be used for months or even years without moving, but its length is limited to a maximum of 25 feet. UL (policy) considers this usage to be within the intent of the cordbecause such equipment is moved occasionally, and because there is no other practical way to provide for this very common need.

The main difference between temporary power taps and extension cords lies in the intended use of the products. UL lists extension cords as cord sets under the category of Cord Sets and Power Supply Cords. A cord set can have a current rating less than the branch circuit rating (depending on the ampacity of the cord and the rating of the devices such as cord-connector body or switch, whichever is less). For this reason, a cord set must be selected in relation to the rating of the equipment with which it is used. Cord sets extend the appliance power supply cord so that the appliance can be ".... energized from a receptacle outlet" [Section 400-7 (b)]. Temporary power taps extend the branch circuit.

This information was originally published in “Straight Talk on Extension Cords, Power Strips and Daisy-Chaining” by Ernie Harper, CSP.


How OK is it to replace ungrounded outlet with GFCI outlets?

How can you replace an old two wire receptacle safely and in a code compliant manner?  

You can either replace it with a "new" old style two wire outlet, or better, replace it with a GFI protected outlet.  You used to be able to connect the ground to the cold water pipe, but that is no longer allowed since the 1993 iteration of the NEC.

A. Where no equipment bonding means exists in the outlet box, nongrounding-type receptacles can be replaced with [406.3(D)(3)]:
  • Another nongrounding-type receptacle.
  • A GFCI grounding-type receptacle marked "No Equipment Ground."
  • A grounding-type receptacle, if GFCI protected and marked "GFCI Protected" and "No Equipment Ground."

Note: GFCI protection functions properly on a 2-wire circuit without an equipment grounding (bonding) conductor, because the equipment grounding (bonding) conductor serves no role in the operation of the GFCI-protection device.

CAUTION: The permission to replace nongrounding-type receptacles with GFCI-protected grounding-type receptacles doesn't apply to new receptacle outlets that extend from an existing ungrounded outlet box. Once you add a receptacle outlet (branch-circuit extension), the receptacle must be of the grounding (bonding) type and it must have its grounding terminal grounded (bonded) to an effective ground-fault current path in accordance with 250.130(C).

"Can you just run a bare wire from the old outlet to a cold water pipe to ground the new outlet instead?

a new ground wire to the old knob and tube means basically  three new wires to the old wall opening  replacing the knob and tube with a new grounded circuit... new power from a nearby grounded circuit.  Once you start extending new circuits they need to be in conformity with current code.  Up to 1990 you were just allowed to run a bare wire to the nearest cold water pipe.  Not anymore.  That means the whole circuit will require AFCI protection - all of which are very good things...  Those prices are labled "new circuits" in the menu and the typical cost is published here.
  • If you need dedicated solid power that requires running a new pipe to the main => that is a new hard pipe circuit. There are only so many outlets you can run from the one breaker.  Even an elevator always has "room for one more" up to a point!

Under the 1990 NEC {250-50(b)Exception} and in earlier code cycles a bonding jumper was permitted to be run from the grounding terminal of the receptacle to any water pipe that was bonded in accordance with 250-80(a)

250-80(a) Metal Water Piping. The interior metal water piping system shall be bonded to the service equipment enclosure, the grounded conductor at the service, the grounding electrode conductor where of sufficient size, or to the one or more grounding electrodes used.

The following vid shows a bad switch.

inspection basics

Why does polarity matter, anyway?

Is there any danger? Contrary to what many people think, reverse polarity can also be a serious safety concern. Consider a light fixture with no bulb. If wired correctly, the only live part is the button at the base of the socket. A person is much less likely to touch this button than the threaded collar around the socket. If wired with reversed polarity, it is the threaded collar that is live! If you inadvertently touch the metal base of the bulb while it was in contact with the socket I can receive a severe shock.

Switched Appliances - Polarity matters with appliances that have switches. When the appliance is plugged in, power should only go as far as the switch. If polarity is reversed, power will go through the entire appliance back to the switch. If a wire comes loose in the appliance, the entire case of the appliance may be electrified, even though the appliance is not on. This is a shock hazard. Reversed polarity outlets often go unnoticed for a long time. Many appliances will work just fine.


They don't make that anymore...

San Francisco / Cow Hollow

Notice the center meter socket, the lower left corner has been lost to heat from arcing.


Over 93%  of homes n the U. S. now have at least one smoke detector. As the number of smoke detectors in homes increased over the years, the residential fire death rate has dropped nearly 50 percent. This success story is tempered by the fact that the number of inoperable smoke detectors is growing. Experts warn that the trend to fewer fire deaths will reverse if we do not solve the problem of inoperable smoke detectors. They estimate that one in three homes have an inoperable smoke detector. Some fire departments have found units in one half of homes to be disabled.

How often and how should I clean my smoke detector?
You should clean your smoke detector every six months with the bristle attachment on your vacuum.

How often should I change the battery in my smoke detector?
You should change the battery twice a year; "Change your battery when you change your clocks" is the recommended interval.

What if my smoke detector "chirps"?

People often mistake the low-battery signal for a nuisance alarm. When the battery is getting low, smoke detectors are designed to "chirp" every minute or so while the battery still has enough power to warn you that it is about to stop working.

The "chirp" is distinctive because it is a single, very short sound that occurs every minute or so. If your smoke alarm does this intermittently, first replace the battery to see if that solves the problem. If not, then the unit needs replacement due to old age or needs cleaning.

How effective are smoke detectors?
Residential fire deaths have decreased steadily as the number of homes with smoke detectors increased. Reports from the National Fire Protection Association show that people have nearly a 50 percent better chance of surviving a fire if their home has the recommended number of smoke detectors.

When do I need to replace my smoke detector?

Smoke detectors that are 10 years old are near the end of their service life and should be replaced. Some people think that their smoke detector sits idle until smoke is present. But it is working every minute, constantly monitoring the air 24 hours a day. For example, an ionization smoke detector goes through 3.5 million monitoring cycles in 10 years. In a photoelectric smoke detector, a light operates 24 hours a day to check for smoke particles in the air.  Just like any electrical appliance, the components of smoke detectors wear out over time. When a smoke alarm reaches 10 years of use, the potential of failing to detect a fire increases substantially. Replacing them after 10 years reduces the likelihood of failure.