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Saturday, January 15, 2011

GFCI Protection


The rules regarding GFCI seem to be misunderstood, alot. Everyone knows they are required in bathrooms, outside and in garages, but I see this question quite frequently: What are the rules for replacing 2-wire receptacles without replacing the wiring? The answer is you can replace them with new 2-wire receptacles or GFCI receptacles. You can feed receptacles downstream of the first GFCI receptacle with standard 3-wire receptacles as long as they are labeled "GFCI Protected - No Equipment Ground". These stickers come in the box with the GFCI receptacles. Even the 15A GFCI receptacle has a 20A feedthrough, therefore it does not restrict the circuit amps.
Another misconception is the use of GFCI breakers vs GFCI receptacles. They work in exactly the same way. The determining factor is usually ease of resetting the GFCI or routing of wiring. If the receptacle is in an elevator pit in a commercial building, it is easier to reset if you use the receptacle, but in a residential dwelling it is just as easy to put the bathroom receptacles, garage receptacle and exterior receptacles on a breaker.
Another rule that is often broken is the use of GFCI protection during construction. The building is getting near completion, the power systems are on, the receptacles and lighting have been turned on, but there is still work going on. People start plugging their cords into the receptacles in the walls. Why not they are hot and much closer than the temporary receptacles mounted at the temp panel, which may have already been removed anyway. The code requires that construction personnel use GFCI protection during all construction. Workers need cords with built in GFCI or the GFCI plug in units. This requirement is for all workers, not just the electricians and not just on commercial or industrial projects. This also holds true for remodel work in  an existing facility.
Another misconception is that GFCI receptacles require a ground connection. This is 100% false. A GFCI monitors current flow on the "hot" wire and the "neutral" wire. If there is more than 5 miiliamps difference between them, the GFCI interrupts the circuit. So basically, what goes out on the hot must come back on the neutral. If it goes anywhere else, the circuit is opened.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tips and Tricks

Every electrician has a trick he uses to make his job easier. We all  adapt our methods to suit our work style, making our jobs easier or sometimes just more aesthetic.
Have you ever noticed when bending conduit with a foot bender the first bend is nice and tight, a clean looking bend, yet the second bend always has a slight banana after the bend. This is caused by the conduit not being flat on the bending surface for the second bend or flipping the bender upside down and pulling down on the conduit. Most electricians already know that the closer you grasp the conduit to the bender, the less banana you get. I always slightly over bend the second bend. Then when I take the overbend out, it removes the banana before it starts to straighten out the actual bend.
What are some of your tips or tricks? I'll continue to post more and would like to include yours.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Quality Tools = Quality Work ?

Does the quality of the tools used by electricians equate to the quality of work they do? I believe the answer is mostly yes. Through the years, the electricians I have come in contact with have proven this to be correct more often than not. I'm not talking about an apprentice or helper just starting out. They may be trying out the trade to see if it's what they want to do for a living or may not be making enough money yet to afford the better tools. I'm referring to journeyman level workers. The guys that can read the blueprints and go do the tasks assigned to them. These people seem to understand that the right tool for the job actually makes the job easier and faster, therefore making them more productive. Yet there are many that choose the bargain tools. Why spend $35.00 on lineman pliers when you can get the same thing made in China for $12.95? Don't they do the same thing? At first glance they appear quite equal. Try cutting some #1 wire with each. Did the cheap tool do the job? Will it do it more than once? You will find out that in the long run the quality tools will last and continue to do their job. I know some guys that have Klein pliers that are 20 years old and still use them daily. How many Chinese pliers would you have gone through in 20 years?
I also tend to think that if a man buys cheap tools he really isn't in the trade because he enjoys it, he just does it to make a living. If you're not doing it because you enjoy it, then you probably won't put forth the effort to do a quality job.
What are your thoughts?

Just Getting Started

Welcome to Everyday Electrical. I will be discussing topics related to the electrical construction industry.A little about me: I have been in the trade since 1982. I have had an electrical contractor license since 1996. I have worked in primarily industrial and commercial construction and service.
I welcome comments and questions from readers. I know not everyone will share the same views, but by sharing opposing opinions we will have a chance to learn. 
I'd like to start off today by talking about Journeyman licensing. I believe all electricians should strive towards obtaining this license. It shows your employer that you are serious about your choice of occupation, that you are not just here to collect a paycheck. It is something to be proud of, an achievement, a goal recognized. Yes, it costs you hard earned money each year to maintain, but it gives you greater bargaining power when applying for a job. I know when I hire people on, I am willing to pay a better wage to a license holder. It tells me this person is more likely to do a better job and require less supervision.
I know there are many electricians out there that don't have a license that are top notch. I have to wonder why they don't have a Journeyman card. Are they too lazy to take the exam? Are they not that good with math? Do they lack knowledge of the NEC?
What are your thoughts?