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20140102

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





20100602

+professional.wk

Are you a professional? Click here =)

20090210

San Francisco permit expediter

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


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...




















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 San Francisco  weather is less humid than usual lately. 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

plug
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

"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 at correctly installed installations. 

Incorrect 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 enclosed photo showing incandescent switch controlling magnetic low voltage trapeze system.  Instead of a $100 switch the original installer often uses a $30 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
  • swap halogen lamps for LED

Inline image 1

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.




video


20060907

nBeach? or Marina...

video

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.


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
Global
  • SF DBI permit and onsite inspection meetings $800
  • Correct "all lights flicker" starting at $450 typical [liaison w PGE add $150]
  • Safety Survey $500 typical
  • Bring Grounding System to compliance $500 typical
  • Mobilize extra large ladder or staircase ladders $400 typical.  Scaffolding is more
  • Well documented resale inspections $350 typical
Panels
  • New Subpanel from $1200
  • Upgrade fusebox or FP panel to 100 amp panel from $1,800
    • Add $1500 typical  to move FP panel out of closet and over to a nearby wall. [Drywall and paint by others]
  • Upgrade small Meter Main to 200amp main $3,500 typical
Devices
  • 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: $500 typical. 
      • $500 first remodel light, $400 for switch or each additional light in series
      • $450  for new romex to nearby outlet typical  [interior residential]
      • $800 ea remodel power outlet run using hard pipe and 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
Remodels
  • Bathroom Remodel starting from from $900 [size & finishes]
  • Kitchen Remodel starting from from $1,800 [size & finishes]
Repairs
  • Repair lighting ballasts / transformers bulk $95/ea plus materials [typ $85/ea]
    • recessed cans $200 plus $85 material typical

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. You might find one that feels "soft" and you'll know you found it.


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.

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, 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.

SOME OF MY OUTLETS QUIT WORKING. I'VE CHECKED ALL THE BREAKERS AND NOTHING IS TRIPPED. WHAT'S WRONG?
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.

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





20050916

Insuring knob and tube

 

There's still lots of knob and tube electrical distribution in San Francisco.  
Some people don't see value in upgrading it.
Hopefully, they are 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 install modern arc fault breakers as possible, and add new code compliant circuits  as needed,  usually starting with the kitchen, the bath and points of heavy use.  Verify the integrity of the grounding system and install smoke detectors

We usually recommend to abandon knob & tube incrementally,  again this is if your insurance company has no problem with it!


Modern electrical system are very safe.  

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

20050911

valenica corridor

slideshow

20050801

Extension cords no substitute for permanent wiring





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

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.


tripp lite.jpg

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.



20050515

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 in SF.


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).





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.

20050514

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.







20050210

What constitutes Acceptable Flicker?

Tiburon

20050209

Backup Power





Click here & here for generator info

Did you know that some of the most inefficient systems on Earth are the electrical grids. At night when demand goes way down, most people do not know that the turbines cannot be reduced in capacity as low as the demand goes and that electricity is literally dissipated into the atmosphere as heat because it has nowhere else to go. Imagine storing about 30 to 40 percent of that lost energy and the savings it would affect across this planet.


20050111

Helping your electrician help you!


20050109

Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Electrical Hazards


...Federal Pacific circuit breakers have a long and well documented history of inadequate performance. The presence of an FPE panel is a "Safety Defect" . These breakers often fail to trip when overloaded which can lead to fires. For more information search the internet for "Federal Pacific electric panel".

Most electricians or electrical inspectors can only look at the breakers ("they look OK to me"), and operate the toggle ("they click on and off OK"). But the question is: will they trip properly on electrical overload or short circuit? The history of Federal Pacific panels show them to be primary safety devices of questionable reliability. It is not correct to call non-tripping FP breakers a “fire hazard”. A fire hazard is any electrical failure that causes ignition. AS circuit breaker’s function is to stop electrical processes that could (if allowed to proceed) lead to fire in the building. If an electrical fire hazard develops in the building, the breaker is supposed to trip and minimize the possibility of ignition. If the breaker is defective, fire is more likely to result. FPE STAB-LOK circuit breakers are a danger in that regard

There is no question but that the FPE STAB-LOK® panels should be replaced. There is no practical and safe alternative.

20050108

Personnel Protection



GROUND FAULT PROTECTION
All receptacles listed below must be protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter.
a. Sheds
b. Garage receptacles that are readily accessible
c. All receptacles in an unfinished basement or crawl space at or below grade,
with these exceptions:
1. A laundry receptacle, that is not easily accessible.
2. Single receptacles not duplex type on a dedicated circuit located and
identified for specific use by a cord and plug connected appliance such as
A freezer or refrigerator.
d. Bathroom receptacles
e. All outdoor receptacles
f. Kitchen receptacles that serve counter tops
g. All temporary construction power
h. Laundry, utility and wet bar sinks. Where the receptacles are installed within 6 feet of the outside edge of the sink.
NOTE: 15 and 20 amp 125 and 250 volt receptacles in wet locations shall have in-use covers.

20050106

Small 60 Electrical Services - are they adequate?

60 Amp Electrical Services (foto is a thirty amp service in Tenderloin)


 
This service is certainly too small for today's standard! The real danger is that the exposed wires are energized. All electrical equipment with more than 50V potential must be protected in a listed enclosure.

The size of an electrical service can play a crucial role in your home.
Click here: is bigger really better?

Electrical usage per U.S. home has more than quadrupled since the 1950s. As a result, the wiring in many older houses, particularly those that have not been upgraded over the years, is insufficient and susceptible to dangerous overheating. Newer homes that have been wired to minimize cost can be susceptible to overloading, too.  If the service is adequate, the next step is to add more circuits. That divides the electrical current among more wires instead of just a few overtaxed circuits. Additional circuits and circuit breakers also provide an increased safety margin. 

20050102

Uninterruptible Power Supply Mainframe Computer


Novato: The transfer switch on the right lets you "float" the mainframes off of the battery [which is being charged]; run the load just from the utility; or just turn the whole thing off!!! Posted by Hello

20040917



WHAT GOOD IS A 100 AMP ELECTRIC SERVICE?

Will your home inspector tell you if your electric service is too small?
30 amp service
While it goes beyond the scope of a home inspection to perform load calculations, occasionally I’ll do a rough calculation if I get concerned that an electric service is too small for a house.  If the service size from my rough calculation comes up too close to the actual service size, I’ll recommend having an electrician perform an official load calculation… and I think I’ve done this twice.  Ever.
At nearly every home inspection, I find one of two things:  either the electric service is outdated and obviously too small, such as the 30 amp service pictured at right, or the service has been upgraded or over-sized and is plenty large enough for the home.  I don’t find much in-between those two.
I got to thinking about this while inspecting a 3,600 sf house in Plymouth for an old friend from high school.  This home had a 100 amp electric service, which seemed too small for that size of a house.  I considered recommending an electrician to do a load calculation on the house, but I first plugged in a few numbers at an online load calculator - http://www.electricalknowledge.com/SFDLoadCalc.asp .
I didn’t have all of the exact numbers that I needed, so I guessed on a bunch of them, such as the VA ratings on the garage door openers, garbage disposer, dishwasher, and microwave.  I put in 1800 VA for each one of these, which is certainly way too high, but it makes me feel better about guessing – at least I’m not guessing on the low side.
This home was heated with a gas furnace, had a gas clothes dryer, a gas water heater, and a gas oven.  The only major 240 volt appliance at this home was the air conditioner.  This is pretty common for a home in Minnesota.
Can you guess what the calculated service size was?  68 Amps.
Granted, my calculation probably wasn’t perfect, and I’m not sure that this online load calculator was completely accurate, but this was enough to make me not worry about the service size.  When I took an electrical inspection class many years ago, we had to perform a lot of load calculations for fictional houses, and I learned enough to know that if most of the major appliances are gas, a 100 amp service is probably plenty enough.
I invite you to plug in the numbers from your own home at the online load calculator that I linked to above – you might be surprised at how small of a service you could actually get away with.  For the record though, the smallest allowable service for a new home today is 100 amps.