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Your Electrical Questions Answered

The team at Forsyth Electrical Services Inc. knows that you may have many questions about different types of circuits, electrical boards and wiring. This page is dedicated to helping you get the answers you need. We also have a “What You Should Know section that is designed to give you further details about different types of electrical components.

Select a question below to find the answer. If you still need more details about a question, feel free to call us.

Q. I have a fused circuit panelboard. Is this safe?
A. Yes, provided that the overcurrent device (fuse) is rated to protect the circuit as it was originally designed and installed. Example - a fuse protecting a typical circuit supplying lighting and receptacles is rated at maximum 15 amps.

Q. I live in an older home with knob and tube wiring. Is this safe?
A. Yes, provided that the circuitry has not been altered, and the original installation is maintained in proper working conditions. Example - the originally installed overcurrent devices for protection of a typical circuit supplying lighting and receptacles, and wired with knob and tube wiring, would have to be rated at 15 amps maximum.

Q. My insurance company has ordered me to replace the existing knob and tube wiring and the existing fused circuit panel. Is this a government safety requirement?
A. No. There is no such requirement in the Canadian Electrical Code provided that the existing installation is kept in safe and proper working condition. The request of the insurance company should be discussed by the homeowner with the provider.

Q. My breakers keep tripping. Is this a hazard?
A. No. The circuit breaker is functioning as it was intended to protect a circuit from overloads. This is an inconvenience to you but not a hazard. You should have a licensed electrical contractor determine what is causing the overload. Examples of some devices that often cause overloading are electric space heaters and air conditioners.

Q. I have many appliances with 2 prong plugs, and my outlets are made to accept 3 prong plugs. Is using 2 prong plugs in the 3 prong outlets dangerous?
A. Most appliances that are bought in the store with a two prong plug are either made of plastic and do not need a ground wire, or are double insulated, in which case it would actually be dangerous to have it grounded. If the plug was installed by someone other than the factory or a reliable electrician, then it should be inspected by someone trustworthy

Q. Everyone gets a ‘belt’ from electricity every now and then, don’t they?
A. No, not if they are careful and follow the simple rules to securely isolate electrical equipment, and check it is dead before they start work. If you have received an electric shock but were not injured, then you are lucky. Next time a slight change in events may lead to a very different result. No one is immune to an injury from electricity.

Q. What are electrical surges?
A. Surges are momentary spikes in electrical voltage. A surge, also called a transient, can enter a home or business through incoming electrical lines, telephone lines, and even the cable TV or internet lines. A surge can be generated by lightning or by the motors in your electrical appliances when they turn on and off during everyday operation. Electric utility power switching can also produce harmful surges while attempting to meet changing energy demands.

Lightning strikes may cause immediate and severe damage, but low level surges are not to be scoffed at. Over time, smaller surges will degrade electronic components and shorten the life of your electronics including your computers, home entertainment systems, phones and even major appliances in your kitchen your laundry room.

Q. How can I protect myself from electrical surges?
A. You can protect the investment of your electronic devices with the installation of surge protectors. While surge strips protect one electronic device, there are many products that can protect all the connections in a home. At Barney's Electric, we strongly recommend the installation of surge protectors to protect your home or business and your possessions. When whole-home devices are used in combination with surge strips, your electrical devices receive maximum protection.

What You Should Know about Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) 

  • What they are: A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is an overcurrent protection device designed to interrupt the electricity circuit to the load when a current to ground exceeds a predetermined value. GFCIs are designed to almost instantly sense an electrical ground fault and interrupt the protected circuit to stop the flow of electrical current before someone is hurt. 
  • In Ontario GFCIs are required for exterior outlets, bathroom outlets, and in new kitchen construction/renovation where kitchen counter receptacles/outlets are being installed within 1 meter of the edge of the kitchen sink. 
  • GFCIs should be tested monthly to ensure that they are in proper operating condition. To test your GFCI you should:
  1. Push the “reset” button on the GFCI. 
  2. Plug in a light or small appliance (turn on). 
  3. Push the “test” button – the light or small appliance should turn off. 
  4. Push the “reset” button – the light or small appliance should turn on.
  • If your GFCI does not function as outlined above you should contact a licensed electrical contractor or electrician to check and fix the GFCI.

What You Should Know about Electrical Panels

  • Electricity enters your home from the Local Distribution Company through the service entrance at the main switch. From the main switch, the panelboard or fuse box splits power into circuits that distribute electricity throughout your home. Each circuit distributing power throughout your home is protected by a fuse or circuit breaker. Fuses and circuit breakers detect short circuits and overloading and will blow (fuse) or trip (circuit breaker). 
  • Modifications to your electrical panel should be done by a licensed electrical contractor or electrician and should be inspected by the Electrical Safety Authority. 
  • Fuses that regularly blow or circuit breakers that regularly trip should be checked by a licensed electrical contractor or electrician. 
  • Upgrades to your panel to increase service size (amperage) should be done by a licensed electrical contractor or electrician, and should be inspected by the Electrical Safety Authority.

What You Should Know about Circuit Breakers and Fuses

  • Fuses and circuit breakers are safety devices in your electrical panel that are designed to prevent overloading and potential fire hazards in your home. These devices protect against over current or overloading by stopping the flow of electricity when it exceeds safe levels for your home. 
  • Circuit breakers can be reset using hand controls after the problem has been eliminated. 
  • Fuses, once they blow, need to be replaced. It is important that you replace fuses with the proper size fuse. Also check to ensure that you are using the correct fuse. There are two types of fuses. Fuses identified with the letter “P” are recommended on all general circuits. Fuses identified with the letter “D” are time delay or dual element fuses and should only be used for large motorized appliances such as dryers, furnaces, refrigerators, freezers and window air conditioners. Fuses identified with the letter “D” should not be used on general lighting circuits
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