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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 check it out.



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

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