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20140102

2017 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 :$250 visit & 15 minute increments after
  • Commercial Service :$300 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





20090210

San Francisco permit expediter [historically significant]




Bringing historically significant projects into compliance 
with the San Francisco Department of building inspection



20080709

Gradual Stiffening

...the actual building process is a creative act. It allows the building to be built up gradually. Members can be moved around before they are firmly in place. All those detailed design decisions which can never be worked out in advance on paper, can be made during the building process. And it allows you to see the space in three dimensions as a whole, each step of the way, as more material is added…


The essence of this process is very fundamental indeed. We may understand it best by comparing the work of a fifty-year-old carpenter with the work of a novice. The experienced carpenter keeps going. He doesn’t have to keep stopping, because every action he performs, is calculated in such a way that some later action can put it right to the extent that it is imperfect now. What is critical here, is the sequence of events. The carpenter never takes a step which he cannot correct later; so he can keep working, confidently, steadily.

The novice by comparison, spends a great deal of his time trying to figure out what to do. He does this essentially because he knows that an action he takes now may cause unretractable problems a little further down the line; and if he is not careful, he will find himself with a joint that requires the shortening of some crucial member – at a stage when it is too late to shorten that member. The fear of these kinds of mistakes forces him to spend hours trying to figure ahead: and it forces him to work as far as possible to exact drawings because they will guarantee that he avoids these kinds of mistakes.

The difference between the novice and the master is simply that the novice has not learnt, yet, how to do things in such a way that he can afford to make small mistakes. The master knows that the sequence of his actions will always allow him to cover his mistakes a little further down the line. It is this simple but essential knowledge which gives the work of a master carpenter its wonderful, smooth, relaxed, and almost unconcerned simplicity.



A Pattern Language
Book by Christopher Alexander, Murray Silverstein, and Sara Ishikawa

Chris was the sponsor for my Individual Major in Building Process UC Berkeley '92

20070617

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.

20070610

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

I















It's more likely that an electrical fire will occur in a place you can't easily see, although overloaded cords in contact w combustibles can also present a hazard in plain sight.
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.  

The temperature of an electrical arc can be hotter than the surface of the sun.

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".


http://www.tcforensic.com.au/docs/japan/3.html

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. 

20070515

Electrical Outlets Safety


San Francisco / Marina
TAMPER-RESISTANT RECEPTACLES
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







20070506

Trapeze track lighting [and Monorail] rev 2015







All connections on 12V cable and rail systems, including fixture connections, need to be re-tightened every year or so. They expand and contract with heat and also get loose when people change bulbs and wiggle a system... Loose connections cause heat build-up and ... you end up with melted and fried parts.

We have seen a lot of this over the years, and it comes down to a deferred maintenance/negligence problem.




"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









Mismatched incandescent dimmer [cheap] to low voltage load - usually smokes the switch and the light - but it take s a couple of years.  The mismatch switch is $45 / the correct switch is $140.














20070505

Beautiful!


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.  Gfi / device longevity




video

video


20070504

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.

20070429

LED drivers

LED's are supposed to last a very long time.
Require specialized tools and troubleshooting process.




20061208

HOW OK

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).


If you need a grounding wire for some other reason, say proper operation of electronics, sound system, some control board or other sensitive electronic equipment, you will have to run new compliant wire back to the grounded part of the premise wiring.  Before 1994 you could just grab the cold water pipe at any place in the system,


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.
But no longer
You cannot just hook to a water line anywhere. I have seen that done and there was plastic pipe coming in. No good.
See also : http://www.zerosurge.com/older-homes-and-buildings/





20061007

What Do the Markings on Circuit Breakers Mean?

Cheaters and other distinctions


What's the concern with tandem circuit breakers?

When tandem circuit breakers are used in locations where they're not allowed, they could make an improper physical connection to the bus bar in the panelboard, which can create a fire hazard. Tandem circuit breakers also increase the total load on the bus bars in a panelboard; this is where professionals need to use common sense.


For panelboards manufactured before adoption of the Class CTL standard,  non-Class CTL tandem circuit breakers are allowed to be installed as replacement circuit breakers only.  Non-Class CTL tandem circuit breakers do not have the ‘rejection’ feature that Class CTL breakers have.  As clearly indicated by the label on the side of the circuit breaker pictured below, these circuit breakers are not allowed in ClassCTLpanelboards.  The difficulty for home inspectors is that the marking is not usually visible after installation, and home inspectors aren't supposed to pull out circuit breakers to try to figure this stuff out.



For Replacement Use Only not-CTL – 

The Class CTL (circuit limiting) panelboard has only been in existence since 1980, even though the lighting and appliance branch circuit panelboard has been in the NEC for decades. CTL panelboards have a rejection means designed to reject more than the appropriate number of circuit breakers that can be installed in the panel.

The marking “For replacement Use Only Not CTL Assemblies” means that the circuit breaker does not have CTL rejection provisions and is intended for replacement in older equipment pre-dating the CTL requirements for circuit breakers and panelboards. Circuit breakers with this designation should not be installed in a panelboard marked “Class CTL Panelboard” since that would be a violation of the listing of the assembly [NEC 110.3(B)].









20060907

nBeach? or Marina...

video

20060829

Bidet /Wall Mount TV /New Convenience Outlets

Hourly rate is $300 commercial
$250/hr residential - current rates published at brilliance.net



A  menu of line items:
$500  for new romex to nearby outlet typical  [interior residential] => back to back or open hatchway in wall


Wall mount TV / Bidet install $1,800 typical plus cost of power circuit if needed
[Drywall and paint by others]


Back to back / open hatchway in wall is one method.


IMG_7637.jpg

Traversing the sink cabinet is another.  
Both require opening the wall to create a passage, especially if there is structure impeding the path.  This will likely be disruptive, dusty and time consuming.  You may need someone to paint and patch.  


The distance / path from power source to destination are the determining factors for typical prices  shown in our Menu
Hard pipe is the other method.

20060628

Remodeling ceiling fans



The best news:
Replacing an existing light fixture with a fan can be 
a simple, one-day task since the wiring is already in place. video



However—and this is very important—you often can't just hang the fan from the existing electrical box, unless the original install used a really strong junction - rate to support a ceiling fan or large chandelier

 A common plastic box is simply not strong enough to support the added weight and vibration of a fan. Presuming you don't have access to the ceiling fan from above, you must either use a specially rated hanger and box to mount the fan between joists or screw a fan-rated "pancake" box directly to a ceiling joist.

If you're installing a new electrical box, fasten it to a ceiling joist or a 2 x 4 wood brace between two ceiling joists. If there isn't a suitable joist or brace available, but you have access to the framing through the attic, add a brace that can support the fan.

The other option is shown in this photo from the SF Chronicle: installing an expandable ceiling fan hanger bar and electrical box. A hanger bar for "new work" fastens to the joists with screws. You need access to the joists — such as from the attic — to install it. You can install a hanger bar for "old work" from below the ceiling by fitting the bar through the rough opening. Extend the bar until it wedges securely between two joists.  The new electrical box must be grounded or attached to a ground wire in the ceiling.

20060602

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 $250 per man/hr or menu 
  • Commercial Service Call $300 per man/hr or menu 
  • After hours, wknd or emergency/ urgent call at time and a half 
  • Minimum call (tools used) $100
Global
  • SF DBI permit and onsite inspection meetings $800
  • Correct "all lights flicker" troubles starting at $750 typical [liaison w PGE troubleman add $200]
  • PGE Liason for upgrades: Job Card, Underground engineer, troubleman, estimator, surveyor meetings $1250
  • Bring Grounding System to compliance $1000 labor typical
  • Mobilize extra large ladder or staircase ladders $500 typical.  Scaffold/Lift is more
  • Well documented small Safety / Compliance Survey $600-$900 typical
Panels
  • New small Subpanel from $1800 plus AFCI breakers as needed
  • Upgrade small fusebox or FP panel to 100 amp panel from $2,000 plus SFDBI permits, PGE liaison, grounding
    • Double that to move FP panel out of closet and over to a nearby wall. [Drywall and paint by others]
  • Upgrade small Meter Main 200amp $5k typical plus permits, PGE liaison, grounding, AFCI cbs
  • Upgrade larger residential single family Meter Main to 400amp main $8k+ typical
    • plus sfdbi permits and pge liason
    • does not include trenching new underground
Devices
  • Replace existing Small lighting Fixture $125 typical bulk: 
    • undercab fluorescents and kitchen counter pendants @$300/ea plus parts
  • Install simple chandelier less than 25lbs / new Ceiling Fan / 8' length of track $500 typical
  • Replace existing single gang switch or outlet [bulk] $125 typical plus material cost 
    • for 2 gang and larger boxes - count each switch, regardless
    • [$20 commercial duty device material - dimmers or specialty switches more]
  • Replace existing 2prong or non compliant outlet with GFI outlet bulk]  $145 typical plus material [typ $45]
    • [+ $45 for exterior in-use cover; weather resistant device or combo device]
  • Plasma TV / Bidet install $1,800 typical plus cost of power circuit if needed [Drywall and paint by others]
  • Small Electric Vehicle or Water Heater $1500 less than 50' from panel of adequate capacity. 
    • adjust for panel condition, wire path and total distance
  • Bathroom remove and replace existing Exhaust Fan with adequate vent $1000 labor typical. [Drywall and paint by others]
  • Install new in-wall / baseboard heater at existing feed & thermostat.  Heater provided by others $450 typical
New Circuits
    • New, remodel, or extend switching  / lighting / power outlets: $1800 residential typical (distance & path)
      • $1150 first remodel light, $750 for each additional switch or light in series
      • $500  for new romex to nearby outlet typical  [interior residential] => back to back or open hatchway in wall [traverse structure (beams, corners) is more]
      • (hard pipe / metal cable as required) is more
      • Wall repair / painting to be done by others
    • New120-volt circuit starting from $1500 less than 100 feet
      • adjust for panel condition, wire path and total distance
    • New low amperage 240-volt circuit starting from $2000 less than 50 foot run
      • adjust for panel condition, wire path and total distance
    • Add $200 parts and labor for AFCI protection as needed.
    • Low voltage / control wiring / troubleshooting at hourly rate typical
Remodels
  • Bathroom Remodel starting from from $1800 [size & finishes]
  • Kitchen Remodel starting from from $4500 [size & finishes]
Repairs [special ladders / materials / access]
  • Repair lighting ballasts / transformers bulk or Recessed cans 1 hr labor [$250 residential / $300 commercial] plus $85 material typical
  • T5 / dimmable fixtures 1.5hr + parts typical commercial duty BALLASTS & LAMPS Includes four year warranty parts and labor on materials we provide

20060515

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.

20060112

Frequently Asked Questions



I PROBABLY JUST HAVE A TRIPPED CIRCUIT BREAKER, BUT WHAT DOES A TRIPPED CIRCUIT BREAKER LOOK LIKE?
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.

When resetting a circuit breaker always only touch the plastic handle of the breaker with one hand. Do not ground yourself out to the breaker box or touch any other metal when resetting the breaker. Always wear shoes. Do not touch any metal with either hand.  Use only one hand.
You might find one that feels "soft" and you'll know you found it.

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




I HAVE A CIRCUIT BREAKER THAT WON'T RESET

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.
A short circuit will always trip the breaker immediately after you attempt to reset it and make it appear to be “stuck in the middle,” but too many lights and appliances on the circuit may take a few seconds or longer to re-trip a breaker. If disconnecting some of the loads on the circuit does not stop the breaker from tripping, then you likely have a short and need to call an electrician.

I RESET THE CIRCUIT BREAKER BUT IT BUZZES AND TRIPS RIGHT BACK OFF



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, we'll 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.


If after you have unplugged everything, reset your circuit breaker and the circuit breaker stays on – happy days! Now you can go through the house plugging back one item at a time and check when the circuit breaker trips to identify the problem appliance.

Sometimes its needed to plug in a radio first and turn it to a loud station, that way you can hear if it turns off while you are plugging appliances back in.

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.
If it clicks off with a “pop” or a “flash,” don’t touch it anymore! This is an indicator of a “hard fault” which could cause the breaker or the appliance to explode if you keep trying to close the breaker. This needs an urgent call to mitigate the hazard.



SOME OF MY OUTLETS QUIT WORKING. I'VE CHECKED ALL THE BREAKERS AND NOTHING IS TRIPPED. WHAT'S WRONG?
Many outlets today are "GFI" protected, meaning there is a GFI outlet somewhere in the circuit that has tripped, & 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. Press hard using a sharpie or a wooden spoon. This simple knowledge may save you a service call.



MY DIMMER SWITCH DOESN'T DIM ANYMORE AND THE LIGHTS BUZZ AND FLICKER

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


Gas pipe chandelier

High Level Faults:



20050921

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