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Electrical Service FAQs

HELP Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Drains is proud to provide homeowners with the answers they need to all their electrical service questions. Get the answers you need to the questions you have below.

Don’t see your question on our page? Contact our team online to speak to one of our expert electricians today!

Electrical Panels


How do you read an electrical panel?


The first thing to do when reading an electrical panel is to locate your breaker box. It’s a gray box mounted flush to a wall in your home, usually in the utility room, garage, laundry room, basement, or closet. Open the breaker box to reveal the two columns of switches. Each switch sends power to a specific circuit in your home; if you’re lucky, someone will have labeled each circuit either next to the switch or in a numbered list on the breaker panel door. If you don’t have your switches labeled, the easiest way to label them for future tripped circuit troubleshooting is by turning off all the circuits except for one. Then, check the lights and switches that still work in your home to determine to which circuit the switch belongs. Once you find the circuit, label the switch accordingly and repeat the step for every switch in the breaker box.

What is the difference between a fuse box and an electrical panel?


Older homes may rely on a fuse box rather than an electrical panel for their power supply. Fuse boxes are metal boxes used to store fuses, which power an electrical current through a metal strip. When the electrical current exceeds its limitations, the strip melts and ceases power to the circuit. This is what’s known as a “blown fuse,” and when this happens, homeowners must replace the melted fuse. By contrast, an electrical panel is a metal box with a panel cover that stores circuit breakers, which are mechanical switches that can automatically detect current overload. Unlike in the case of a fuse, when a circuit breaker is tripped, they do not require replacement to resume power to the circuit.

What are the different types of electrical panels?


There are four different types of electrical panels:

  • The main breaker panel is responsible for regulating the circuit breakers and electricity consumption in the entire home.
  • A fuse box is comprised of small fuses designed to prevent circuits from overloading.
  • Main lug panels run line wires into lugs to eliminate the need for a main breaker altogether.
  • Subpanels get their energy from the main panel through a particular circuit, allowing homeowners to control the electrical consumption of specific members of their household.


Can you change a 100-amp electrical panel to a 200-amp?


You cannot change a 100-amp panel to a 200-amp panel without upgrading the power service connected to your home. This is due to the fact that 200-amp service requires a much larger wire size and price than 100-amp panels.


Ceiling Fans & Lighting


Are three- or four-blade ceiling fans better?


It depends on your specific needs: Four-blade ceiling fans offer much quieter operation and typically come in more stylish configurations. However, three-blade ceiling fans move air more powerfully than their four-blade counterparts and are less expensive to install. Speak with your trusted electrician to understand your options and make the most informed decision.

Can I install a ceiling fan myself?


Ceiling fan installation requires a knowledgeable electrician to get the job done just right. Without the proper tools or training, you could place yourself at great risk for personal injury, including from electrical shock. We strongly recommend having a skilled electrician handle the job for you.

How far should a ceiling fan be from the ceiling?


It’s recommended that ceiling fans are installed 8 to 10 inches from the ceiling to ensure efficient air circulation.

Do you need a ground wire for a light fixture?


Ground wires are required in the U.S. in order to install a light fixture properly. The fixture must have a place to install a ground wire if there are any non-conductive metal parts present on it.

Outlets & Switches


Can you put switches and outlets on the same circuit?


Yes, you can. According to the National Electrical Code, there is no limit on the number of outlets that can be assigned to a single circuit. The NEC only states that the circuit may not exceed more than 80% of the circuit breaker’s limits to prevent frequent tripping.

Can a switch control an outlet?


Sometimes, homeowners may choose to split a receptacle so that their wall switch controls one of the outlets. This is typically done in bedrooms so that a lamp plugged into a switched outlet can be turned on as you enter the room.

Does every wall need an outlet?


According to the NEC, Section 210.52, there should be an electrical outlet located in each bedroom, living room, family room, kitchen, and any other room that is a dedicated living space. All outlets must be placed at least every 12 feet measured along the floor line.

Are there outlets made specifically for outdoor use?

Yes — there are weather-resistant electrical receptacles specifically designed to withstand the outdoor elements. These outlets are rigorously tested for their resistance to extreme weather conditions and UV light exposure to ensure the utmost safety while in use.

Wiring, Rewiring & Surge Protection


How do I know if my wiring is correct?


There are many ways that homeowners can test to ensure their home wiring was done correctly:

  • Document every time a circuit breaker trips in your home
  • Keep your eyes and ears open for flickering, buzzing, or dimming lights
  • Look out for frayed or chewed wiring
  • Identify any discolored, scorched, or smoking outlets or switches
  • Feel for warm or vibrating wall outlets
  • Smell for burning or smoky odors

If you notice any of the signs of faulty wiring impacting your home, get the HELP you need by scheduling rewiring services.


Can you live in a house while rewiring?


In most cases, you can continue living in your home while it is being rewired with minimal disruption to your daily life. However, if you’ve recently purchased your home and had the electrical survey note the need for rewiring, it’s recommended that you have this service completed prior to moving in.


Do you have to tear out walls to rewire a house?


Our skilled electricians have the necessary experience to rewire your home without the need for tearing down your walls. Instead, we rely on the crawl space access to the wiring systems behind your walls to deliver rewiring solutions that won’t make a mess in your home.


How many times can a surge protector be used?


Surge protectors vary in their life span, and much of their longevity depends on the number of power surges they experience. In most cases, it’s recommended that you replace a surge protector at least once every two years.


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