Tips

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Trouble Shooting

At Vons Electric, we’re always happy to trouble shoot solutions and offer full suggestions

Whether you really want can lights but have no ceiling cavity, or the pitch of your warehouse roof presents challenges in lighting your loading bay. From wiring an attic, the underside of a cabinet or a closet interior, to advising on an entire office refit, new home build or a factory renovation, Vons friendly and professional team specialize in finding electrical solutions when other advisors might have given up. We’re known for it!

We’ve included some troubleshooting tips here so you can match the more common variety electrical problems with the best course of action: fixing it yourself, calling us, or calling your local power supply company.

Tips

When Vons can help save you time or money, that's what we'll do

Even if it means helping you find you don't actually need our service! We want to help you avoid emergency or unnecessary call outs. So we invite you to use these tips or to phone us when the need arises. By all means don’t hesitate to call at any time if you need to or you feel unsure or worried - that’s what 24/7 emergency service is for! But if you do find you’re facing a simple issue - like a blown fuse or a breaker/ GFCI reset - that you can sort out on your own, or safely put off till our next business day, many of these tips can step you through that.

Could the sudden lack of power in the outlet I was using be my GFCI - and what is that anyway?

Want to get to know your ‘ground fault circuit interrupter’? These are the outlets with a TEST and RESET button in the middle and that are usually found in your kitchen, bathroom or other locations – usually somewhere that poses a risk of water contact. If a GFCI ‘trips’, (interrupts your power) it means the outlet has shut down to protect against a temporary overload of electric current. You won’t be able to use that outlet again until you reset the GFCI.  This usually is very simply done by just pressing the RESET button; listen for the audible click and you’ll know it has successfully reset.

Note: often times, several outlets in the same room are protected by one control outlet’s TEST and RESET buttons, for example all the outlets along a countertop in your workshop or kitchen. This means the GFCI in charge - that you now need to reset - might not be the actual outlet you were using when the power stopped.

What if I’ve checked all my breakers and still can’t restore my power?

If the breaker reset process doesn’t restore power, there could be an issue with the way the power is being supplied. If power is out within your home or building in multiple, random areas (i.e.  where it’s still on and where it’s gone off is somewhat hit or miss), the problem may be something you can’t address; it may stem from a missing ‘leg of service’. In this case, it’s best to call your power supplier (ComEd, City of St. Charles, City of Geneva, City of Naperville, City of Batavia, etc.).

 

Okay, I know the problem’s not my GFCI - now what?

If no GFCI is involved, or it is, but using the RESET button doesn’t restore the power you’ve lost, it’s time to grab a flashlight and go visit your main electrical panel.  It’s usually found in the mechanical room/area of a home or business and will have a row of ‘switches’ called breakers. A breaker can ‘trip’ as a safety measure to stop an excess of power into the system. When this happens, it needs to be reset by returning the ‘tripped’ breaker to its original ‘on’ position. Look closely at the breakers/switches. You want to locate the one that looks to be out of line with the others in the row; this will be the tripped one. Return it to the ‘on’ position by bringing it back into line with the other switches. Sometimes the variance is too subtle to see, but you can detect it by touching the switch/breaker with your fingertips.  You may need to check each breaker to be sure you don’t miss a tripped one; just move each one from ‘on’ to ‘off’ and back to ‘on’ again.  Note: If the panel doesn’t have breakers/switches, it will have fuses that look like a knob. Fuses can be changed out by simply unscrewing the old bad fuse and replacing it with a new fuse - much like changing a light bulb. You’ll be very proud of yourself if you keep a few on hand so you’re always prepared.

Why am I changing light bulbs so often?

When light bulbs keep burning out sooner than they should, it usually means you have a loose connection. Most likely the neutral wire is causing the problem; in this case you’ll need to have a qualified electrician address the issue. 

What do I do if my lights are flickering?

This is a time to turn to Von’s. Flickering lights indicate a poor connection somewhere. Unless a qualified electrician searches for and fixes the problem, a poor connection can lead to a broken connection.

Why are my recessed lights going off and on?

This is a safety feature that prevents overheating and is built into these types of fixtures. They can turn themselves off if they have become too hot and go back on again once cool enough. However, this behavior is usually caused by a problem that should be addressed, for example the fixture may be in contact with ceiling insulation or the light bulb in use is not suitable for the fixture.

What can I do if an electrical outlet stops working?

Have you checked the circuit breaker and the GFCI outlet? Those are your first steps (refer to the 1st and 2nd tips in this list). If you find there are no breakers tripped and if only one outlet has stopped working, that outlet might have burned out. Check around the outlet plugs to see if there is any sign of blackening. To avoid the possibility of starting a fire, never use an outlet that looks like this - even if one side or one plug is still working. The safest action is to get the entire outlet replaced immediately.

 

Yikes! I saw a spark fly from an electrical outlet:

Believe it or not, this can actually be normal. Yes, a little unnerving, but actually it’s something like static electricity. It can happen when you turn on an appliance or machine and the power is pulled in so quickly it causes a momentary spark. If everything is working as it should, this will settle down immediately as the power flow evens out. What is not normal, and is a cause for immediate action, is when an outlet ‘short circuits’ as this can cause an electrical fire.

What happens when an outlet short circuits?

The insulation surrounding the wires inside an outlet can melt and allow a serious spark to occur when a connection is made.  This happens when too much heat builds up inside the outlet. Outlets can also short circuit by being exposed to water. If you need an outlet outdoors or in a wet area, be sure to have a ‘ground fault circuit interrupter’(a GFCI) installed. These special outlets are designed to shut down the circuit if it comes into contact with moisture. 

If your lights are flickering:

This is time to turn to Von’s. Flickering lights indicate a poor connection somewhere. Unless a qualified electrician searches for and fixes the problem, a poor connection can lead to a broken connection.

We’re sure you’ve already thought of this tip:

When you discovered your electrical panel requires fuses, you bought a bunch of spares to keep on hand, didn’t you? And to be sure they’re easy to find in the dark, you keep them next to the flashlight? Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference, right?   

A non-electrical tip we just have to share!

We’re pretty delighted with ourselves now that we found a sure-fire way to stop worrying about the batteries in our own home, office, and warehouse smoke detectors. We started using the Lithium Ion batteries for smoke detectors. Not only are they rated for 10 years, but they’re around $10 (even less if you order on Amazon). Our math says that’s just a $1 a year or less. (As you know, we’re all for cost-effectiveness and efficiency).

To remember when we installed them and when they’re due to be replaced, we just wrote the month and year on the battery in permanent marker. Worth trying! Remember if you do use regular copper top batteries, they need to be changed twice a year; an idea is to sync annual battery replacements with a life milestone – change them at your anniversary, birthday, or when the clocks change.  That way you’ll never forget and you’ll always be protected!

Finally, be a boy/girl scout! Prepare in advance

part of your home or business fire-safety plan, be sure everyone knows what to do and what not to do if an electrical fire ever begins. As a very basic starter suggestion: ensure you have an adequate sized fire safety blanket for smothering flames and an easy to use fire extinguisher of a size likely to suit your needs. Make sure your family or employees know where all these are kept - and they remember how to use them. Most importantly, ensure everyone knows how to turn the power off at the mains before making any other attempt to stop a small electrical fire from really getting going. 

When You Want To Hire An Electrician

Whether you talk to Vons or someone else, these are the steps you’ll want to ensure are included in an inspection of the electrical system in your home or business

Inspect interior and exterior wires.

Damaged, frayed or unprotected wires can be dangerous, especially in basements, attics, and tight enclosed spaces. Wires that come into contact with hot surfaces or pipes are also a hazard and must be reported and remedied.

Check the installation and functioning of any GFCI outlets.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlets are an important safety mechanism for any home or business and should be installed anywhere - indoors or outdoors – to replace an outlet that may come in contact with moisture or water. They are designed to shut off in the event the outlet becomes overloaded or short circuits. A licensed electrician can ensure new and existing outlets are correctly wired and can advise where you should replace ordinary outlets with a GFCI. 

Test all outlets and wall switches.

Checking the health of a wall switch or outlet can often reveal unsafe wiring hidden behind it, before it becomes a major and dangerous issue. An electrician can test for ungrounded circuits and reversed polarity, look for blackened, smelly or discolored (dangerous) outlets and replace any that are loose or damaged.

Inspect the electrical panel for moisture or damage

Also known as the breaker box. It is critical that your electrical panel has sufficient clearance; the circuit breakers and wiring within it are “to code”; and there is no sign of overheating, corrosion, moisture, or oxidation. The electrical panel needs to be properly grounded and bonded to the water pipes. Never attempt to remove or inspect an electrical panel yourself as they can be dangerous.

Check the electric meter.

Check the electric meter to make sure it was installed securely and that there are no signs of water damage. Rust at the base could indicate water entering the meter which increases the risk of water getting into your main electrical panel. The meter also needs to be checked for broken seals or other defects.

“Vons would rather have a longstanding, satisfied customer than one quick job.”

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