Electrical Service Questions San Diego, CA | Point Loma Electric and Plumbing


My lights are flickering, is that dangerous?

Your lights may be flickering for any number of reasons ranging from completely normal to dangerous.

It is normal and not dangerous if your lights dim or flicker when large appliances such as an air conditioner come on. This is caused by the appliance drawing a larger amount of power to start up the motor.

If the lights are flickering in one fixture or room, this can be caused by an issue with the fixture, the circuit breaker or one of the outlets or switches on the circuit.

Flicking lights throughout your house can be caused by problems in your electrical panel or from the utility. If all the lights in your home are flickering, you should call a licensed electrician to evaluate the issue.

The function of a circuit breaker is to limit the amount of current flowing through a wire so that it does not exceed the rating of the wire. If too much current is flowing through a wire, it will heat up and can become a fire hazard. It is very important that the correct size of breaker is used to match the size of the wire.. The most common reason your circuit breaker to trip is because the circuit is overloaded. The best way to resolve this is to lower the load but using less electricity from that circuit (unplug something or don’t use more than 1 appliance at a time) or to add an additional circuit to support your electrical needs. Never put a larger size breaker that the wire rating in your panel. A tripping circuit breaker is doing its job to protect your home. There is a reason it tripped, and you should find out why.

“My breaker tripped and won’t reset” is a common call that we get at Point Loma Electric. Some common reasons why a circuit breaker won’t reset are that the circuit is overloaded, there is a short circuit somewhere or the breaker itself could be bad. If your circuit breaker won’t reset or trips repeatedly, that is symptom of an electrical problem that needs attention from a licensed electrician. If you have circuit breaker that won’t stay reset, never replace the breaker with one of a higher rating. This is dangerous and can cause your wires to overheat and could even possibly lead to a fire.

There are actually 3 breaker positions, “off” to the left, “on” to the right and tripped which is actually in the center. Many times people just push the switch to the “on” position and it won’t stay on. You need to push it firmly OFF first and then push it to the “on” position until you hear or feel it click.

GFI stands for Ground Fault Interrupter and GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupter. They both mean the same thing. The purpose of a GFCI outlet is to prevent shocks or possible electrocution in locations that could potentially be exposed to water or are ungrounded.

If your power is out:

If the power is out in just part of your house:

First check your electrical panel to see if you have a tripped circuit or blown fuse. If your breaker is tripped, reset it by first firmly pushing it to the OFF position and then firmly turning it back ON. If the breaker does not reset there are a number of issues that could be the cause.

A blown fuse or tripped breaker is a warning that there may be an overload in the electrical circuit or that there may be a defective appliance plugged into the circuit.

If the power is out on one circuit there are a number of possible causes. First check to see if there are any GFCI receptacles on the circuit or nearby. GFCI or GFI outlets have 2 button on them. One is usually marked TEST and the other RESET. Firmly press the reset button and see if that restores power to the circuit. Look around carefully. Sometimes there are GFCI receptacles in places you don’t expect such as inside of cabinets or hidden behind furniture.

If the power is out in multiple areas:

There may be a problem in your electrical panel or fuse box. It is possible that there is a problem with your main breaker. If the main breaker is tripped you can try to reset it If you are on the west coast the main breaker is usually located above or below the rest of the breakers in your electrical panel. If you are going to try to reset the main breaker you should first turn off the rest of the breakers in the panel to avoid turning the power back on under full load and potentially damaging your main breaker. If your main breaker is tripped, this is a symptom that there is a problem in your electrical system. It is a good idea to call a local licensed electrician to evaluate your electrical system and determine the cause of the problems.

Electrical Panel or Service Upgrade FAQ’s

Upgrading your electrical service means that you upgrade your electrical system to bring more power into your home. Many older homes were built with 60 to 100 amps of electrical service. At the time the homes were built that was sufficient to meet the electrical needs of most homes. With the addition of dishwashers, flat screen tv’s, microwaves, hairdryers, toaster ovens and all the electrical devices we’ve come to depend on 60 or 100 amps is no longer sufficient to support your home’s electric needs. Upgrading your service will bring enough power into your home to use you modern appliances.

There are a number of reasons to consider upgrading your electrical service. The first and most important is that if your home is older than 25 years, your electric panel may be obsolete. It can be difficult and very expensive to replace parts and make repairs to obsolete panels. Of more concern is that some brands of obsolete electrical panels such as Zinsco and Federal Pacific can actually be a dangerous fire hazard. For more information about Zinsco panels, click here.

The other common reason to upgrade your electrical service is to give your home the electrical capacity to handle all of your modern appliances.

Common warning signs that your electric service is overloaded are brownouts, or lights dimming when you turn something on. Frequent circuit breaker tripping. If you know your electric service is underpowered and you don’t suffer from circuit breakers tripping, that can also be a cause for concern. A circuit that trips is doing it’s job to protect your wires from overloads and overheating. If you still have glass fuses, it is definitely time to update your homes electrical system. Like all home systems and equipment, electrical panels have a finite life span. The useful life of a panel is 25-35 years. If your panel is older than that, you should have it evaluated by a qualified electrician.

No! Think of your home’s electrical panel as the heart of your electrical system. That is where the power comes into your home. Upgrading the panel and bringing more power into your house is the first and most important step to bringing your home into the 20th century.

Typically we will first remove the old electrical panel from your home. A new panel is installed in it’s place and all of the electrical circuits are transferred to the new panel. New circuit breakers are installed as well. Then new copper wire is routed up through the riser on your roof which will also be replaced. Then SDGE must come to your house to attach larger wires which will bring more power into your home. It is very common for homeowners to also add additional circuits to their home at this time in order to better distribute the electrical power throughout the home.

In San Diego, the process of upgrading or replacing your panel is a long one. First, SDGE must come out to write up a “service order”. This document tells the electrician and inspector where the equipment must be placed. A service order is required in order to obtain a permit and inspection. It can take anywhere from 3 to 12 weeks to obtain a service order in San Diego. Once the service order is obtained, then we call SDGE to schedule a date for your upgrade.

On the morning of the work, SDGE will come out and disconnect your power, we do the work and get it inspected the same day. After inspection, SDGE will return and restore power to the house.

We can usually complete your electrical service upgrade in a single day. If you are having additional work done such as adding more circuits or changing plugs and switches, it may take more than one day, but you will not be without power overnight.

Usually the power is shut off early in the morning and power is restored by later afternoon.

The cost to upgrade your electrical system will vary based on a number of factors. For example if the location of your panel does not meet with current building codes, the city and SDGE may require the location to be moved or trenching to the transformer if the power is underground. This can add to the cost. We have seen prices to upgrade electrical systems ranging from a low of about $1800 to over $8000. Beware of estimates that seem very low. The parts and materials required to upgrade your electrical system are costly and this work should only be done by experienced electricians. A permit and inspection is always required for this type of work. The only way to upgrade an electrical service at a very low price is by cutting corners. That is something we do not do at Point Loma Electric and Plumbing.

Tripping breakers can be due to problems with the breaker, but tripping circuit breakers are primarily due to overloaded circuits. Replacing or upgrading the panel does not resolve this issue. The solution is to add additional circuits to the house. Once the electrical panel is upgraded and more power is being delivered to the house, you can then add additional circuits to support your electrical power needs.

House Rewiring FAQ’s

Many people with older homes think their entire house needs to be rewired. That is not always the case. Many older homes still have a great deal of safe serviceable wiring still intact. If you are considering having your home rewired, have a licensed residential electrical contractor look. They can tell you if you really need to rewire your house or if a minor or major upgrade may solve your electrical problems and cure any safety issues.

Sometimes holes can’t be avoided. However, an experienced and skilled residential electrician knows that there are many tricks to avoid cutting up your walls. Small holes are unavoidable when running new wires, but there is rarely cause for cutting large holes in walls. Small holes are easy to patch and we always patch any holes that can’t be avoided. At Point Loma Electric and Plumbing we make every effort to minimize any holes that need to be made. Since we specialize in older homes we have many tricks up our sleeves to avoid making holes as much as possible and if a hole is required, we keep it as small as possible. We also can offer patching services if required as well.

That will vary based on many factors such as the size of the home. Accessibility to run wires either through the attic or in the crawl space under the house. The type of building materials can make a difference as well as the number of obstacles. Crowded homes with a lot of large furniture or objects that need to be moved can take considerably longer.

There are many factors that affect the cost of a home re-wire. An experienced electrician will need to make a thorough evaluation and discuss your household electrical needs in depth. Beware a price that seems too good to be true. Rewiring an entire home is a very labor intensive endeavour if done correctly. We have heard many horror stories of fly by night electricians abandoning homeowners mid-job because they realize they underbid the work and will end up loosing money if they complete it at a price that is too low.

We have many years of experience in re-wiring homes. Our prices are competitive for the quality of workmanship and service we provide. We pride ourselves on focusing on your job until it is complete and finishing quickly in order to minimize any inconvenience to you. We can finish a whole rewire in about 1/2 to 1/3 of the time that most companies estimate it will take them. Our electricians are experienced in doing this type of work and we don’t leave until you are finished. You will also be happy with our thorough clean up.

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