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Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 4,116
Likes: 4
When is it time to call an Electrician?

What advice or tips can you give on things for the consumer or customer to look for?


Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 440
Likes: 3
I would advise anyone who does not work in the industry to call everytime a problem arises. Please, do not try to work on it yourself. I get calls all the time, and usually try to "trouble shoot" the problem over the phone. I try to get an understanding of the person's knowledge, needs, and expectations, and work from there.
A gentleman called about a lift station that had two pumps on it. We talked about how the lift station operated, and he told me that one of the motors would trip the overloads after running for a few hours. I told him to uncouple the pump from the motor, and run it for several hours. If it trips the overloads while uncoupled from the pump, I would say that the bearings in the motor are about to fail, improperly sized overloads, etc., etc., etc. He was so greatful that I didn't send a service truck out with a two hour minimum charge, and chances were that it was the pump, not the motor. He didn't call back. I'll bet he had a pump problem. If he calls next week, and there is still a problem, I'll send truck out then.
Example 2:
Mrs. Jones' bathroom receptacle won't work. Mrs. J: "Sonny my plug won't work in the bathroom." I reply, "Mrs. Jones, do you have a cordless phone?" She says, "Speak up sonny, I can't hear you on this phone my daughter gave me. You know the kind that you can take all over the house." "Mrs. Jones would you walk into your restroom?" She does. "Mrs. Jones, is there a button on the plug that is not working?" "Sonny, you're a smart fellow. Yes, there is!", she replies.
"Ma'am, please push that button", I respond.
"Does it work now, Ma'am?" "Mrs. Jones, how old is your hair dryer?" She quacks, "Sonny, I bought that thing just after the liberation of France in WW II. Oh, it's my favorite hair dryer." I resound, "Mrs. Jones, I thought we agreed last month that you would replace that old thing. I think you have gotten your money's worth out of it." "Well, if I have too", she cries. "It was good talking to you Ma'am. Talk to you next month. Bye."

The Watt Doctor does make house calls.
HMEL 688

The Watt Doctor
Altura Cogen
Channelview, TX
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 4,116
Likes: 4

Thanks, You sound like someone that cares about the customer. What I was looking for was more along the lines of;

"If electrical receptacles or lights go off and on again by themselves there could be a very serious problem developing and it's important to have it checked right away" Many people might think that as long as it doesn't stay out that nothing is wrong or needs attention right away.

or items that should be checked periodically for operation or condition. Noises that mean something is up, If something feels warm, etc.


Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,056
In this world of DYI, it's an uphill battle to convince people to hire out professionals.
I would say that changing devices is probably OK, but anything beyond that should involve professional help. Of course on ungrounded systems they won't know what to do about that pesky green screw on the new receptacle.
You can't even change fixtures today without addressing temperature rating of supply conductors.
I got a call Monday from someone who wanted to re-attach their loose 200 amp underground meter socket. When I got there, the top flange that overhangs the front cover had been pried up in order to try to pull the cover forward for removal. The cover had slid down about 1/2" and the inner edge of the opening for the meter was about 1/4" from the (energized) line terminals. During the discussion of the hazard involved, he mentioned that he tried it himself because "I'm a pretty handy guy".

[This message has been edited by Redsy (edited 03-07-2002).]

Joined: Nov 2001
Posts: 328
I am of the opinion that it's time to call the electrician when:

1) An outlet (non-gfci, & yes we still have those in spite of the ignorance it may demonstrate) stops working. I may be handy with a screwdriver and can get the faceplate off but anything beyond looking behind it is beyond my skill level.

2) I want anything electrical added to my building/home.

3) I see evidence of sparking or smoke from an electrical outlet. I'm pretty handy, like I said before, and I know most of this stuff runs on 'internal smoke'... once the smoke escapes, it's done, kaput, time to call for help.

[Linked Image]

Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 5,392
I had a call, the customer claimed the hardware store 'sold bum fuses'
{he had 30A screw-ins} ...
His kids had busted a receptacle , & jambed it against the steel box. It was behind thier bed... [Linked Image]

BTW, you guys are a riot! [Linked Image]

Joined: Jan 2002
Posts: 26
When you fail three inspections(same project) and the code violations are three pages long.

True story: About four years ago a school teacher & his wife tried wiring their 4000 sq. ft. custom-built home. The method they used; reading a "so-called" DIY wirng book. After failing the rough-in inspection three time, the AHJ suggested they hire a licensed contractor.

When we showed up what we encoutered wasn't pretty. To make a long story short, we ended up re-wiring 75% of the house.

BTW, great forum.

Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 4,116
Likes: 4
Well, since we're on a tangent anyway ...

I recently helped to troubleshoot a 'blinking lights' complaint and soon found that the Homeowner had wired the Bathroom and Den himself years ago.

He had heard that NM cable should not be subject to damage and was concerned about that, so, ... He wired the rooms with vacuum cleaner cord !! Yeah!


[This message has been edited by Bill Addiss (edited 03-07-2002).]

Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 375
i think the problem is preventative maintainance.

It is clear that when a part fails with visible symptoms that repairs are needed, but how and when does one check for impending problems? Should you call an electrictian out once a year or once a decade to examine for loose wires in panels and overheated wires in can lights?

Joined: Nov 2001
Posts: 328
Ok, seriously this time...

I wouldn't think of wiring my home (or any other building) myself. Not because I'm afraid the electricity wouldn't work, but because I know quite well that it (the electricity) WOULD work and I might not have contained or controlled it properly. So, all new electrical work requires a professional.

Also, an annual inspection or at least a good once-over on some consistent schedule sounds like a good idea. Our church is establishing a 'handy man ministry' with the help of several professionals that attend and own their own businesses (in the fields of expertise for which they're volunteering). We're hoping to offer an electrical, a plumbing, a heating/cooling, and roofing annual mini-inspection and maintenance visit, especially to those who are unable to assess or complete their own home maintenance needs (widows, single moms, etc).

Also, I call my electrician when I see him hanging around the corner store too often shooting the breeze with his buds over coffee in the morning and I ask him when he's going to come install those bathroom fan/vent/light thingies that have been on the shelf in my garage for eons.

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