Random Electrical Tips
Jonathan Z. Kremer
1. When buying light
A. It’s a good idea to
stay away from fixtures that have no place for the heat of the bulb to
disperse. They cause the bulb(s) to burnout prematurely, and, if they
are the flat ceiling type, usually end up burning the wires from the
ceilings. One of the worse culprits are flat halogen fixtures that are
totally closed up. Halogen lamps burn very hot. If the bulb is right up
against the back of the fixture, it usually ends up burning not only all
the wires coming out of the ceiling, but the ceiling too. This can be a
real fire hazard.
B. All metal on light
fixtures should be grounded. Make sure that there is a proper place on
the fixture to connect the grounding wire. Ask the salesman if you’re
When moving into a new
apartment (rented or purchased), it’s a good idea to chart out your
electrical panel as soon as possible. This is done by marking your main
breaker and ground-fault, then numbering each breaker. Then by getting a
sheet of paper, making rows and numbering them, have one person stand
near the panel (person #1) while another (with paper in hand) goes to
the first room and puts on the lights. Person #1 then turns off breakers
(one by one) until something goes off in the first room. Then the one in
the room asks what number breaker it is, and marks it down. This is done
for everything and anything electrical in the room. Please be accurate
in your markings. When the first room is completed, continue on to the
next, and then the next, until the whole apartment/house is charted.
Don’t forget outdoor lights and outlets, balconies, and basements/sheds.
This chart will be of great use, in more ways than one, sometime in the
Have the connections in your
electrical panel checked at least once a year. Even in the best scenario,
the wires and connections are constantly heating up and cooling down in
direct relation to the amount of power being used. As time passes, this
heating and cooling causes the metal to expand and contract. This leads to
the screws working loose, which in turn causes the wires and connections to
start burning up. In most factories, as part of the preventive maintenance
plan, all connections are checked twice a year in all of the electrical
panels and junction boxes found around the building.
Never use extension cords or
3 way adapters (called a “mishulash” in Israel) with any appliance that
uses a lot of power (i.e. ovens and heaters). With time, this will cause
the outlet, adapter and plug to burn up. Many times when this happens,
and the problem is not caught early enough, causing the wires in the
wall to burn up as well, requiring much more work replacing.
Some fluorescent lamps
have two bulbs sharing the same ballast. This means that if one bulb burns out
the other will stop working until the faulty one is replaced. Even though having
one ballast for two bulbs saves the cost of another ballast, it can
never-the-less be very inconvenient and confusing. Where possible, try and pick
a fixture that has a ballast for each bulb.
To save time and trouble,
when replacing a fluorescent bulb change the starter at the same time. Usually
when a bulb dies out, the starter is not far behind.
Clean the dust off your
bulbs regularly. Dust on the bulb blocks out part of the light that the bulb
puts out, making it less efficient.
Test your ground-fault
interrupter (GFI) every few months. On the body of the GFI is a test button.
This button, if pressed, will cause the GFI to trip, demonstrating that it is in
working order. Should the GFI fail to trip when the button is pressed, call an
electrician to examine, and possibly replace, it.
NOTE: To understand what a GFI is, please see
"All About Your Electrical Panel"
This next tip is mainly
for the older homes that don't get their grounding from the
foundations of the building.
It happens too often that
a plumber comes to a home to replace some damaged piping, and a
couple of days after he finishes the occupants realize that they are
getting electrical shocks from all the faucets and appliances. This
could be caused by accidental or non-accidental disconnecting of the
grounding (earth) system during the repair.
In most of the older
buildings in Israel the grounding of the electrical system is
connected to the metal water piping coming from the municipality and
the piping running through the home or apartment building.
Most of the water piping
used today for repairs is plastic. Plastic is an insulator, and
cannot maintain the continuity of the grounding as did the metal
piping. Depending on where the work is done, when a plumber replaces
even a small part of the original water piping with plastic, the
whole grounding system can fail, leaving you in a potentially
Although most good
plumbers are aware of the grounding problem and work appropriately,
unfortunately many are interested only in the plumbing aspect and
disregard the affects that it has on the electrical system.
If piping is being
repaired in or around your home (especially on the main line), ask
those in charge if they are affecting the grounding in any way and
what they are doing to preserve it's working status.. If you have
any doubts as to what condition your electrical grounding is in,
call your electrician.
When installing a ceiling
fan with a light fixture, it is better to install a double switch on
the wall to control the fan and light (even though it may involve
adding another wire), rather than use the pull chains provided on
the fan constantly. Not only are the switches (pull chains) less
convenient to use, they are usually not as robust as the wall
switches are and wear out/break much easier. Also, the switches on
the fan are usually much harder to purchase when it's time to
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