Electrical advice is playing with fire and life safety issues.

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Forum topic by TopamaxSurvivor posted 03-30-2011 11:06 AM 2900 views 0 times favorited 75 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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18788 posts in 4285 days

03-30-2011 11:06 AM

Topic tags/keywords: electrical advice playing fire life safety issues motor over current protection overload

About 40 years ago I asked a plumber on a job how to do something in my house. He asked why I didn’t hire a plumber to do it. I told him I could run pipe. His response was anyone can run pipe, but if you want it done right and not leak, you need a plumber.

The same goes for electrical systems. Anyone can run wire and pass inspections. A few days ago, I had a conversation with a state inspection supervisor about corrections for issues that were missed by the previous inspection when the building was built. His response was he was offended that anyone would expect inspections to be 100%.

A friend on here has pointed out there may be some risk giving free advice on the web. There is so much bad information being given on LJ about electrical systems, I just cannot let it go uncorrected. In spite of being well intended to help some one out, you are still playing with fire and, in some instances, life and death issues.

Reading a few facts in a code book or article is only one of many points to be considered in any installation. Every article in the code is affected by many others. None of them stand alone.

25 years ago, the supervision at L&I wanted me to become a state electrical inspector. They said they were having a very difficult time finding qualified people to do the inspections. The choices were boiling down to lowering their standards either by doing fewer inspections or accepting unqualified inspectors. In the end, I could not deal with all the people working in the trade that should not be licensed and were on the edge of committing arson and manslaughter instead of electrical work. I have heard many comments from customers asking about the degradation of the field personnel in the last 10 – 15 years. The push for cheaper labor is getting to critical mass. Unfortunately, some unsuspecting victims will be paying a very high price; hopefully, it will just be property loss.

One of the LJs in the local area asked me about installing a sub-panel. Because of all the misinformation being espoused here on LJ, he thought it was a requirement. The fact is most FHA and other lender inspectors require consolidation of sub-panels into a main panel. Unless it is going to a separate building, if there is space in your main panel that is the place for the circuits.

One demonstration I used to use was putting a paper clip across an outlet causing a short circuit. Most the 15 and 20 amp circuit breakers on the market would melt it before the breaker tripped. Fuses and Sq D or Cutler Hammer breakers would trip before the paper clip even got hot. Fuses of the proper size are safer than circuit breakers, but people do not want the inconvenience. With breakers of that quality in most installations, do you really want to over size the over current protection? That over current protection is supposed to stop all catastrophic failures and fires whether they are part of the building or in utilization equipment.

Overload protection on most motors is over sized, especially what is provided external to the motor. It is normally too slow to protect a motor with locked rotor current when it becomes physically jammed. It is not short circuit protection. The breaker in the panel is supposed to serve that purpose whether the problem is in the building wiring, in the attachment wiring or the motor.

Be very careful what and who you believe. If you get some bad advice about WW, you might ruin an expensive piece of wood; have finishes you don’t really like or even a gooey mess that will not dry. You probably aren’t going to have a fire or worse. Electricians are just like fighter pilots and every other trade and profession. Very few aces!

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

75 replies so far

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13694 posts in 3950 days

#1 posted 03-30-2011 11:26 AM

good information bob

and here i was going to make diamond rings

i saw a video about how to cut diamonds

looks easy
a little flat chisel
a little hammer

i could get rich

just send me your rough stones

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

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18788 posts in 4285 days

#2 posted 03-30-2011 11:50 AM

If I had any, I would probalby try to break them up myself ;-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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861 posts in 3276 days

#3 posted 03-30-2011 12:04 PM

You got a point there ,Top

-- E J ------- Always Keep a Firm Grip on Your Tool

View knotscott's profile


8364 posts in 3984 days

#4 posted 03-30-2011 12:22 PM

You do make a good point Bob. Your post is an excellent eye opener.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18788 posts in 4285 days

#5 posted 03-30-2011 12:28 PM

I was a bit hesitant to post it. Not sure how it would be received, but people do not realize how high the stakes can be. I have seen too many catastrophes in the last 40+ years. Most of them preventable by proper installation and or maintenance methods.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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3076 posts in 4111 days

#6 posted 03-30-2011 12:39 PM

Great Advice Bob…
My Brother is an Electrician too, and he says the same things…

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

View saddletramp's profile


1180 posts in 3247 days

#7 posted 03-30-2011 01:42 PM

Bob, although I understand a little bit (key word is little) about the principles and mechanics and even the physics of electricity, I am certainly not an electriciian and I would never presume to offer advice to anyone on wiring or ciircit breakers or the like and conversely I would never ask advice from anyone other than a qualified electrician (fortuneately my SOL is one).
Even though I am sure that in principle you are absolutely correct, it still leaves me with a quesion and believe me I am not trying to be sarcastic. Without a separate dedicated circuit for each electrical device, how can you size each circuit to be an exact fit for everything that you plug into it? Again, I am not trying to be sarcastic, I just don’t understand (not an uncommon occurrence for me LOL).

-- ♫♪♪♫♫ Saddletramp, saddletramp, I'm as free as the breeze and I ride where I please, saddletramp ♪♪♪♫♪ ...... Bob W....NW Michigan (Traverse City area)

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336 posts in 3771 days

#8 posted 03-30-2011 01:49 PM

I would expect this stems from yesterdays questions around a 220v saw and a 60 amp breaker. Or at least that was your tipping point. And i agree with you, if you don’t know what you are doing call a professional that has the proper credentials. It’s not worth the risk. That said, get references and check those credentials because there a a lot of unqualified ”qualified” people out there doing things that they shouldn’t be doing…

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13571 posts in 3302 days

#9 posted 03-30-2011 01:59 PM

I’m glad you weren’t too hesitant to post it. I’ve been hoping for a post like this from someone with some experience. When I moved into my new town, I asked around about the best electrician & fired two just because I didn’t like their attitude. It’s simply too important to be left up to anyone you don’t completely trust. It’s going to be expensive. Why wouldn’t it be and what isn’t?

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

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261 posts in 3288 days

#10 posted 03-30-2011 02:10 PM

Forums are a breeding ground for misguided information. If you ask a electrical question here you’ll get a lot of different answers some good and some bad, the person asking the question wouldn’t know which is which unless they had a better understanding of how electrical works. And if you ask that same question on an electrical forum you’ll get more of the same answers and more creditable.

I think one of the best things someone can do is buy one of the basic wiring and advanced wiring books you’ll find in any big box store like home depot ,lowes,menards ect…

-- New Auburn,WI

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16284 posts in 4827 days

#11 posted 03-30-2011 02:28 PM

Well said, Bob.

I’m a fairly mechanically-inclined individual, but I don’t know much about electrical work. When I see a question posted on how to do something, and the poster gets four or five totally different responses, I have no idea which of them, if any, is correct. For that reason, I plan on leaving the vast majority of my electrical work to a qualified professional.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View spunwood's profile


1202 posts in 3445 days

#12 posted 03-30-2011 02:42 PM

Thanks man, Good advise.

-- I came, I was conquered, I was born again. ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν

View GaryL's profile


1099 posts in 3439 days

#13 posted 03-30-2011 02:47 PM

Excellent post Bob!
I know from your many posts that you are a knowledgable electrician that actually cares about doing the job at hand correctly and safely. I believe you have also said in the past that it is difficult to diagnose a problem or offer advice to a possible upgrade without actually being there to see all the factors involved. Some important details can be left out in a simple post. Having a local, qualified professional that can look at the particular project needs first hand is always the best way to go.
Thanks for bringing this up.

-- Gary; Marysville, MI...Involve your children in your projects as much as possible, the return is priceless.

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3580 days

#14 posted 03-30-2011 04:13 PM

Since I was in that discussion about the 60amp outlet and the table saw I feel I should comment here. I have offered advice when I felt I could assist someone, and, on occasion, to try to dispell some bad information I have seen posted by others. I usually try to give examples of what I have done and, if beneficial, quote authoritative references. And, since I have been an electrician, an industrial controls specialist and designer, engineer, engineering manager and project manager during my 40 year carreer I have usually done something similar to just about everything I read soI feel ”qualified” to comment.

I ran across an interesting post on the ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) site. I will reference it here:
” The word today is subpanel. Try to find it in an authoritative reference. It’s not in the National Electrical Code (NEC). It’s not in the International Residential Code, although the term sub-panelboard appears in two Figures in the Commentary. It’s not in the American Heritage Dictionary, nor is it in the Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. While widely used, this word does not exist, at least according to references approved by The Word’s Resident Librarian and Grand High Arbiter of Authoritative References.

This situation creates two questions. If you replace the word subpanel, what term do you use? If you use the word subpanel, how do you spell it? The Word gets a spelling error message in Microsoft Word when he types subpanel.

The word subpanel is a compound word that comes from the words subordinate and panelboard. The problem with the word subpanel is that every panelboard downstream from the service equipment and in the same building is treated as if it were a subpanel. This is true even if there is only one panelboard in the electrical system. If the first panelboard in a system is a subpanel, then what do you call a panelboard downstream from the first? Perhaps it is a sub-subpanel? This confusing situation is, no doubt, why the NEC does not use the word subpanel.”

And I might point out that I said you have to meet the local code requirements for what ever you install.

I will agree, there is way too much advice being given by folks who are not qualified, but then again, everyone has an opinion and the right to express it.

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16284 posts in 4827 days

#15 posted 03-30-2011 04:28 PM

Crank49: I’m not questioning your credentials at all, but by way of example, you help me make my point.

I’ll click onto an electrical discussion where three or four guys are arguing back and forth about the right way to do something, and ALL of them list an impressive resume showing why they are completely qualified to comment on the topic. How is a know-little like me supposed to know who to believe? I think that is Bob’s point of why it is best to have a professional do the job rather than take advice from folks who aren’t really seeing the complete picture.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

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