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Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a question about why something does not work or work as you think it should, you might find the answer here.

At the bottom of this page is archived past issues of the Z'Electrical Gazette E-Newsletter. In them, you will find articles about products and technical information.

If you have a question that is not answered here,
contact us and we will answer it as soon as possible.

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I have answered these questions in order of probability. Number one being the most likely cause of the problem.

Why do my light bulbs burn out so fast?

  1. You may be buying cheap, low quality bulbs. You do get what you pay for when you buy bulbs. Do not buy the four for a dollar special, pay the extra money to get better ones. Also, look for the volt rating. Do not purchase ones that have less than an 120v rating. If you can find 130v rated bulbs, these are even better.
  2. Do you have a rambunctious child in a room above where the light fixture is? Sometimes in an high traffic area or where a lot of activity is happening in the floor above the fixture, this will cause enough vibration or disturbance to weaken the filament on a bulb.
  3. I was told this one by another electrician. There may be loose wires internally of the fixture or a bad solder joint on the lampholder which causes varying voltages to be allowed through the filament. I have not been able to prove this theory, yet. Normally the connection will go bad and the bulb will not light.
  4. Who knows! Sometimes with electricity, things happen or do not happen the way they should and there is no explanation.

What about flourescent lighting and the new compact flourescent lamp (CFL)?

  1. Fluorescent lighting is energy efficient and using these lamps will save you money.
  2. You will need to check the packaging for the Kelvin and Color Rendering Index rating. These values will tell you the type of light that is emitted. A "Cool" fluorescent lamp should have a high Color Rendering Index, which determines color accuracy, and a high Kelvin temperature, color of light, that replicates natural sunlight at high noon. A bulb like this would have ratings of: CRI of 82 or more (daylight is 100) and a Kelvin of 5500 or more (daylight is 6000).A "Warm" fluorescent bulb would have values less than this and produce an orange or brownish light.
  3. For the "A" style screwshell lamp socket, they are manufactured in different shapes. See GE Lighting's CFL webpage to view what they have available.
  4. At the bottom of this page, see May 2007 Volume 3 and June 2007 Volume 4 for more information and a chart that shows cost savings.

Why does a switch on the wall not work in my Bedroom/Living Room?

  1. There is a switched receptacle that is being controlled by that switch. Usually, half of the receptacle will work all the time and the other half is controlled by a switch.
  2. Is there a ceiling fan set-up in the room? This is for a fan/light control. Many times we send two switch legs to a ceiling fan rated box so that the fan and light can be on different switches.
  3. Bad switch or wiring connections.

Why do the receptacles in my Bathroom/Kitchen/Garage/Outside/Basement not work?

  1. These receptacles are probably controlled by a GFCI receptacle and it has detected a ground fault or a short from a bad cord or bad motor on a tool or appliance and has interrupted the circuit. Reset the test button. Lightning can also trip the test in a GFCI receptacle and this is why you find it tripped and do not know why.
  2. These receptacles are probably controlled by a GFCI breaker and it has detected a ground fault or a short from a bad cord or bad motor on a tool or appliance and has interrupted the circuit. Reset the test button. Lightning can also trip the test in a GFCI breaker and this is why you find it tripped and do not know why.
  3. Bad GFCI receptacle or breaker if you cannot reset the test button.
  4. Bad receptacle, circuit breaker or wiring connections.

Why does my GFCI receptacle in my garage trip when I plug into my automobile radiator fluid heater?

  1. GFCI receptacles monitor how many amps flow through them and out of them. Basically, the amount of amps that are read coming in on the hot wire needs to be the same going out on the neutral wire, within a predetermined value by the GFCI manufacturer. This is how GFCIs trip to protect you from deadly shock. When you use a GFCI receptacle to power your cars radiator heater it normally will trip a GFCI because most of these type of heaters are not made to exacting tolerances and there is some bleeding of power into the cars engine and the same amperage is not being returned to the GFCI, so it trips. You will need to plug it into a non-GFCI receptacle.
  2. A faulty extension cord is being used.

Why are my smoke detectors beeping once a minute?

  1. This is usually caused when the batteries have lost power. They will beep once a minute until the batteries are changed. Make sure that you change the right battery or they may still beep. Also, the smoke detectors have an interconnect wire that signals all the smoke detectors in case of emergency and with some brands the bad battery signal will be transmitted to all smoke detectors. This is a good time to change the batteries in all the smoke detectors.
  2. One of the 120v conducters that connects to the pigtail of the smoke detector is loose and needs to be reconnected.
  3. The smoke detector is faulty and needs to be changed.

How deep should the trench be for underground wires?

According to the National Electrical Code, Article 300.5 and Table 300.5. Here are the most common trenching depths:
  1. 24 inches for all voltages above 30 volts not protected by conduit or GFCI protection. Caution ribbon installed 12 inches above wires.
  2. 18 inches installed in non-metallic raceway conduit. Caution ribbon installed 12 inches above wires.
  3. 18 inches under minimum 2 inches of concrete or a driveway. Caution ribbon installed 12 inches above wires.
  4. 12 inches for maximum 120 volt, not more than a 20 amp circuit and protected by GFCI.
  5. 6 inches for control of lighting and irrigation systems not more than 30 volts.
  6. 24 inches if you are not sure how deep. Caution ribbon installed 12 inches above wires.

Why are my lights dimming and/or getting brighter?

  1. This is usually a sign of a neutral wire that has lost it's connection. Especially, if when one light is turned on and another gets brighter or dimmer. If the whole structure is affected, it is most likely at the service point.
  2. A conductor, hot or neutral, does not have a complete connection but is connected enough to allow a small amount of voltage to pass through. In this case, there most likely is arcing happening. If the whole structure is affected, it is most likely at the service point.

What should I know and prepare for when we first meet to talk about our New Home/Remodel/Addition project?

  1. Have a blueprint or drawing of any form of the project, even if it is sketched on a napkin. Make sure you have a copy for yourself and one for the estimator so we can take notes together. A professional blueprint is prefered but not totally necessary on the smaller jobs. We will retain the copy you supply us with for future reference.
  2. Think about what style you are going to decorate the home. Think about what you want in the home for lighting, receptacles, appliances, heating and cooling systems. Think about where the dining room table will be, the layout of furniture in the living room, where the beds and desks will be in the bedrooms or if there is going to be a work bench in the garage. Look at model homes for ideas of lighting trends and fixtures or look through "Better Homes and Garden" type magazines.
  3. Be prepared for a lot of questions from our estimator. The decisions do not have to be made now, there will still be another step before the final decision is made before we start our installation.
  4. Unless you are absolutely set on what you want and there is no discussion of design, let us enjoy the time getting to know each other as we dialogue on what you want in your home, it may take a while.

When do we schedule you and what can we expect in your part of our New Home/Remodel/Addition project?

  1. If needed, we install service equipment when a wall is built to mount it on as soon as possible so we can get power to the project.
  2. We need to start our general wiring and outlet box placement after all the framing is done and when the HVAC and Plumbing contractors have done their jobs. At this time, we ask the homeowner to meet us at the site and make the final decision on placement of lights and receptacles. This way they can see exactly where they will be and if there are problems with framing being in our way, we can make the location adjustments together. When we are done, we call for rough-in electrical inspection. Do not cover the walls before electrical inspection.
  3. If there is a basement, we usually come prior to the final stage and get the basement lights and mechanicals working.
  4. We start the final stage after the walls are painted, the ceiling texture done, HVAC and Plumbing contractors have installed the things we need to wire for them and the light fixtures have been delivered with the appropriate lamps. When we are done, we call for final electrical inspection.

Where should I purchase my light fixtures?

  1. I recommend that you purchase them at a lighting studio. I do realize that they are more expensive but in the electrical industry you do get what you pay for. With a lighting studio, they have more options, better quality, they deliver and if there is a problem with a fixture, they will service the product so you do not need to.
  2. An home improvement retailer. I would say use Home Depot or Lowe's, they have a little better selection and quality than Menard's, in my opinion . You will have to do the legwork to get the product to the jobsite and if there is a problem with any of the fixtures, you will have to do the legwork to get it replaced and back to the jobsite.
  3. Garage sales, internet or off of a "relations" garage shelf. But know this, for a licensed electrician to install a light fixture, it must have an UL Rating or equivalent.

Why do I need an inspection?

  1. It is Minnesota State Law (Minnesota Statute 326.243) to protect you or someone who buys your house from faulty wiring practices that result in electrical shock or a fire in your home.
  2. To have a neutral party check to see that you or someone you hired did the job correctly.
  3. If you do not have an inspection and there is a fire and the insurance company realizes this, they may not pay for the damage that was created by the fire. It is common that if the fire inspector does not find a cause for a fire, they usually will blame it on the electrical wiring as the cause, even if it truly is not the cause.

Where do I get an inspection form?

  1. Go to the MN State Board of Electricity website and download the form at this link here, Inspection Forms. On this page you will look for the Homeowner Request for Electrical Inspection Form link, it will open up and you can fill it out and then print it for signature and mailing. There is also an instructions link underneath the form link, if you need help. Because some communities are inspected locally by city electrical inspectors, you may have to go to your city hall building inspections department to get an electrical permit. See the next paragraph for a link for the inspectors and on that list it will say if they use state or local forms. If it states that they use local forms, you will need to go to your communities building inspection department.
  2. You will need to call an inspector for the inspection and you will find the list of inspectors at this link here, Directory of Electrical Inspectors. In the directory, you will be looking for your county and the city or township that you live in, if there is more than one inspector for your county. By MN state rules, the inspectors only receive calls between 7:00am to 8:30am. If it is a local inspection by a city inspector, they may receive calls during normal business hours.
  3. If you do not have computer access, you can go to the local building inspection place in your city or county and they will aide you in getting the form filled out.

What if I pull the electrical permit and want you to do the wiring?

  1. An electrical contractor would be putting their license, insurances and bonding in jeopardy by not going through the legal process. When an electrical contractor performs the work on a property, it is their responsibility and duty to apply for permit, if applicable. Since this is true, then there is no need for someone else to pull the permit. If you have already pulled the permit, the State Board of Electricity will refund the charge for any amount that was not used.
  2. It is not lawful in the state of Minnesota for this to be done. Minnesota state law reads this way (italics mine), "An owner is a natural person who physically performs electrical work on premises the person owns and actually occupies as a residence or owns and will occupy as a residence upon completion of construction. Minnesota Statutes 326.01, Subd. 6e. See, Residential Electrical Inspection Checklist or contact the MN State Board of Electricity. Electrical inspectors will interpret this wording different ways but the MN State Board of Electricity interprets that only the owner of the property may do the wiring.

My friend/relative is going to help me wire my project, is there anything wrong with that?

  1. I recommend that if your friend/relative is not a licensed or working electrician that you hire a professional. Too many times, we have been called in to complete a job that a friend/relative has started but for whatever reason cannot finish and what happens is we usually have to rewire the whole project. Because, there are too many codes for the layperson to know or understand. It is not so bad for the customer if they were not charged by the friend/relative but if they have paid any moneys, it was for nothing. Then as we are doing the rewiring, it could be a long process for two reasons, we will have to take time to figure out what they did and then remove and repair what is wrong. Even with the wires that can stay, it would have been much faster and less expensive if we had just started and completed the job ourselves.
  2. As licensed and working electricians, we can complete the job so much faster, cleaner, more efficiently and without errors when it is time to energize the new circuits after the walls have been covered and painted. What has a customer saved by using a friend/relative if you need to remove sheetrock to repair something? You may save money by using your friend/relative to do the wiring but it may not be worth the cost of repairs to fix things done wrong, materials wasted by not knowing efficient ways of wiring and especially the time that is lost because they can not make it to your project for whatever reason.
  3. It is not lawful in the state of Minnesota for this to be done. Minnesota state law reads this way (italics mine), "An owner is a natural person who physically performs electrical work on premises the person owns and actually occupies as a residence or owns and will occupy as a residence upon completion of construction. Minnesota Statutes 326.01, Subd. 6e. See, Residential Electrical Inspection Checklist or contact the MN State Board of Electricity. Electrical inspectors will interpret this wording different ways but the MN State Board of Electricity interprets that only the owner of the property may do the wiring.





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Archives

March 2007 Vol. 1 Hunter Ceiling Fan Remote Control, Lamp Styles, Zotz Electrical Web Site and E-Newsletter, Harrington Homes Parade Model
April 2007 Vol. 2 Occupancy and Vacancy Sensors, Trenching Depths, Zotz Electrical Web Site and E-Newsletter, Zotz Electrical Seeking More Business
May 2007 Vol. 3 Trademaster Hallway Lights, Compact Fluorescent Lamps? - Part One, Metro Utilities New Shop, 811 Number For Gopher State One Call
June 2007 Vol. 4 Fence or Deck Post Lights, Compact Fluorescent Lamps? - Part Two, Electrical Inspection Fees To Increase, Zotz Electrical Home Page
November 2007 Vol. 5 P&S Shim-Lock, How To Calculate Electricity Usage, Community Christian School Retrofit, Konstructiv Homes Minneapolis Remodel
December 2007 Vol. 6 LED Christmas Lights, What Is A LED Light?, ECE Rebate For LED Christmas Lights, Need Repairs Done After An Home Inspection?
January 2008 Vol. 7 Cheetah Devices, How A Light Dimmer Works, President Signs New Energy Bill, Ask Zotz Electrical For A Comparative Bid
February 2008 Vol. 8 LED Retrofit Module, Edison Built First American Power Grid, New Code Changes, Zotz Electrical Wires Boilers
March 2008 Vol. 9 AirZone Bath Fans, How A GFCI Receptacle Works, UTC Aquires Firex, Emergency and Maintenance Service Work
October 2008 Vol. 10 Malibu Solar Lighting, Brief History Of Electricity, Underground Feeder Repair, Zotz Electrical Licensed in North Dakota
December 2008 Vol. 11 T & B Ty-Rap, Christmas Light Safety, Zotz Electrical Finishes 2nd Home In Williston, ND, Year End Review
February 2009 Vol. 12 Electro Industries Boilers, How Off-Peak Programs Work, Counterfeit Electrical Products, Pentagon to Install Cree LR24 Recessed
May 2009 Vol. 13 Arlington Box Extender, Do You Really Save Anything?, Great River Energy Receives Award, Fluorescent T-12 Retrofit Incentives


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