Thursday, February 18, 2021

Solar, PVC, EMT and Corrosion


You have to use the right equipment for the job that is suitable for the environmental conditions that it will be installed in.

Residential Solar

With electrical equipment you have many options that are perfect for the job that you are doing. On the other hand, you have unlimited options for equipment that will get the job done, but will not last long enough to get your money out of it.

Residential Solar

I’ve installed a lot of solar in many different environmental conditions. The main thing to keep in mind when doing electrical work is that cheap is almost never the way to go. Sure, it will work! But most likely you will be right back out to do maintenance on the equipment you just installed a short time ago, and you will have very unhappy customers.

Some companies will think that it is job security to install the cheaper equipment. They often can under bid their competition by using cheaper equipment also. I personally will not work for any company who uses this type of philosophy, nor will I do that on my own projects around the house.

Meter Base

I work with electricians who think that using PVC conduit instead of EMT conduit is somehow cheap or substandard. This simply is not true; they both have a place. PVC isn’t just for underground either. Now I’m not saying that using PVC all over the outside of buildings is good either. Like I said at the beginning you need to use the right products for the location that they are being installed.

For example, in salty environments EMT just does not hold up to the corrosion and will rust out in a years’ time. PVC works great underground but when its installed on the side of a house ran horizontally in direct sunlight it will warp, expand, shrink and all the glued joints will pull apart over time.

Combiner Box

So, what do you do if you do need to use PVC on the side of a building because it’s a salty environment and you don’t want to use EMT fearing it will rust out quickly? You just need to install it properly with the knowledge that it is being installed exposed on the outside of a building. One way is running it tight up under the eaves out of the sunlight for horizontal runs and strapping it at no more than 24” intervals.

PVC Conduit


Then when exposed to direct sunlight try to only run it vertically for short distances.  More straps with PVC is usually better in most cases. Painting the PVC conduit after install will also help make it blend in and stops the discoloration from the sun.

Residential Solar


The main thing is to plan your install so that you have the least amount of exposed conduit possible.

Residential Solar

 Unfortunately, when it comes to electrical disconnects and service equipment, corrosion is a big problem. Stainless equipment is expensive and not always an available option.

Residential Solar

With combiner boxes and J-boxes they come in all sorts of weather/environment ratings. You can get them made from fiber glass, stainless and PVC. So, make sure you get the right one for the job.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Residential Solar, Utility Interconnects

I have spent years working on electrical systems in multiple states, counties, cities and small towns. The most interesting thing is the fact that they all follow the NEC, but the truth is that  none of them interpret it the same and they all have their own specialty code or just have decided that they have certain installation methods they allow or don't allow regardless what the code says.

Solar Power Generation
Residential solar production

If you are a homeowner just doing work on your home then this isn't really problem most of the time. But if you are an electrician in the trade moving to another area or even another state to do electrical work, then you will need to find out what the latest electrical installation methods are and what the local inspectors like to see. I have found out the hard way that just because the code allows it, this doesn’t always mean that the inspectors will allow it.

Meter Main Interconnect
Utility Interconnect for Solar

Sometimes this is because they interpret the code differently, or sometimes its due to that specific geographic location requiring different environmental considerations. This can make certain wiring methods not expectable in that region or area.

Solar Inverter
Residential Solar Inverter

For example, say you work primarily inland in the pacific northwest but you decided to go to any number of the little beach towns to replace an old service for your brother. You may be in for a surprise. You installed that new meter main on the house, but when the inspector comes to inspect your work they inform you that you can only use stainless steel service equipment. For some of you that may be common knowledge but for others you don’t know what you don’t know.

Save time and money by asking a few questions before you purchase materials, equipment and start a project outside your knowledge area.

None of us know everything. I personally find that the electrical  trade and just technology in general changes so rapidly that I feel like I’m always in a constant state of learning.


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Electrical Trades and Education

Since I first decided to become an electrician, I have been lucky enough to learn from some of the best journeyman electricians in the trade. From the very beginning I have never limited myself to only specializing in one field in the electrical industry. Whether its wiring houses, security systems, fire and life safety, data cable systems, solar, commercial, agricultural, or industrial there is a place for everyone!

Agricultural Greenhouse

Industrial Wiring

Several of my friends in the trade like to specialize or find their knitch in the electrical trade. This can make it so that they are one of the best in that area of electrical, but I have found for myself that this approach can also cause you to become limited in being able to market yourself when looking for a job and most of all you miss out on learning other in demand areas of electrical. If you own or plan on owning your company, specializing in only one scope of electrical work, such as residential house wiring can be a good plan. For the most part it is and can work out great. When the economy is good, and you have a lot of competition you can dominate your area by specializing, being efficient and cutting costs. Your company can boost its profit margins substantially since you will be able to outbid competitors and finish jobs faster that require shorter time schedules. Also, your quality of work should be the best around since that is what you specialize in.

Hydro Electric

Hydro Electric Power

The down side to this can be that if work gets slow it may make it harder for you and your company to pivot to other types of work like light commercial, low voltage, solar or agricultural and so on.

Industrial Wiring

If you are just starting in the trade it could be very advantageous to get yourself working on all types of electrical scopes. I can’t tell you the number of low voltage electricians that have told me they wished they would have chosen to go to the next level. You may be thinking to yourself that you only want to do one type of electrical work like fire alarm, security or any low voltage systems. That is great if that is what you want to specialize in, but do yourself a favor while you are in the apprenticeship learning the trade, get licensed to do it all. After you have that license you can still choose to do low voltage projects only, specialize in it and make lots of money, you just won’t be limited should you change your mind later.

Low Voltage Controls

Environmental, BMS, Fire Alarm

Agricultural Boilers

Try to get yourself exposed to as many parts of the electrical trade as you can. I’m not saying that you need to be great at all of them but have a basic understanding, the rest you can develop on the job depending on the path you decide take. The electrical trade changes so fast that you will always be learning and changing installation methods and the materials being used. If you do this, you will be a more well-rounded electrician, and you will be way more valuable to future employers. You will also find that low voltage and high voltage wiring is getting more and more interconnected every day. Smart houses and controls, generator backup systems, everything is beginning to be controlled by wireless or some sort of low voltage control systems so knowing all sides of it make you very valuable. If nothing else, it is a great sense of accomplishment, and pride in knowing that you can do all aspects of the electrical trade.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

DIY House Wiring Corrections

Residential solar



Unless your home is new or was built in the last 5 years there’s a good chance you may have some kind of electrical components that are not up to code. Whether the problem is outdated electrical wiring or you purchased a house that was someone else’s flipper investment, or it just is a home that the previous owner liked to do all of their own remodel and maintenance, electrical wiring that is not up to code can put your home and family at risk.

Old Wiring

If your home happens to be really old you may encounter what is referred to as knob and tube wiring. When the home was built it was considered state-of-the-art electrical technology. Today knob and tube wiring is considered very dangerous because the wires aren’t grounded, the circuits support lower amperage than is needed today, and the wires feature insulation that disintegrates over time. Because of these issues, most insurance companies refuse to insure buildings with knob and tube wiring.


If your home was built before 1950 and the wiring hasn’t been updated, hire an electrician to inspect your home. A lot of home buyers sometimes are led to believe that the home inspector that came out to inspect the home before you purchased it, are licensed electricians or that they will catch everything that is a violation while they inspect your home. The truth is, most are not electricians, and even if they are, they can’t find every problem. If after you purchased your home and you find evidence that knob and tube wiring is present, you should have an electrical contractor come out to verify, and then most likely have that method of wiring removed and bring all of the house wiring up to current code. This can amount to a costly task, but when you are talking about the safety of your home and family, I feel that it is a necessary cost. If your are up to it you may find that some of this work you may be able to fix your self to help cut the cost. Just remember the whole point is to modernize the wiring and bring it up to code, so be sure you are aware of the latest codes if you decide to tackle some of the work yourself.

Adding New Light Fixtures

A common wiring issue that comes up while updating older homes is overheating existing house wiring after replacing light fixtures. New light fixtures can overload old wiring because they are rated to operate at a hotter temperature. Modern lights are manufactured with wires meant to withstand 90 degrees C, while old wires are rated for just 60 degrees C. So, what can happen after installing new lighting is that it can basically cook the old insulation off the existing wiring, which can cause shorts and or a fire.


If your home has wiring from before 1987, install a splice box and at least three feet of new wiring to connect a new light fixture to old wiring. This prevents you from having to rewire the entire circuit. If you’re unsure how old your wiring is, look for a date stamped on the insulation jacket. Wires manufactured after 1987 have a date; those made before 1987 have no date.

Non-IC Rated Can Lights

Recessed lights that come in direct contact with attic insulation must be IC-rated. Otherwise, you must keep three inches of space between the light and the insulation. When non-IC-rated lights touch insulation, they can overheat and stop working. Over time, thermal protectors may fail and allow the light to stay on despite extreme heat, potentially causing a fire.


Inspect the can lights. If you find that they are not IC rated, and that there is insulation coming in contact with them or closer than three inches, you will need to make sure that all insulation is at least three inches or more from the can lights. The other option is to replace them with IC-rated versions.

Illegal Wiring

Splices are some of the most common code violations when it comes to wiring. Most illegal splices happen when someone decides to add more receptacles or move light fixtures. If the splice is not made inside of an approved junction box then it is against code. So is trying to splice too many wires in a junction box that is not rated for the number of wires installed in it. Bigger is better when it comes to wire splicing, and it makes the wires easier to work on.


If you encounter illegal splices, then you will need to get an approved junction box to contain the spliced wires. Mount the junction box, run the wires into it, splice the conductors using the appropriate wire nuts and install a cover plate over the box.

In conclusion, we all like to save money. When it comes to our homes it seems like maintenance is that one thing that always cost more than we expect. So, if you do a little research and ask for some help usually you can cut down on the amount of money spent on your home improvements and emergency repairs. When it comes to electrical there really is a lot of things as a homeowner you can do yourself. If you fell it is out of ability to tackle an electrical problem yourself, and it looks to be a little too complicated, you should hire or at least consult an electrical contractor. In some cases, by having the professionals do it to start with is where the money will be saved.


House Remodel

Common Electrical Problems and Fixes

No matter if you own a home or are a renter, we all have different electrical problems that drive us nuts. The worst part is how long we with live with these annoying issues until we finally fix them. This is some of the most common ones that I most regularly get calls on to fix. Some of these you can do yourself as long as you feel confident and follow some simple DIY steps. If you are ever in doubt please call a certified electrician to help you remedy these common problems.

Loose Outlets

Outlets don't last forever especially the cheaper ones. To get started turn off the breaker. Double check that voltage to the outlet is off using a volt meter or just plug in a lamp and see when it goes off. Replace the outlet with the same one that you take out, or you can upgrade it to the most current code required receptacle like the tamper resistant style. Take notice as to where the wires are connected on the receptacle. The black wire is connected to the brass-colored screw and the white wire is connected on the silver-colored screw. Lastly the bare or in some cases the green wire goes to the green screw or ground terminal on the receptacle. Also, you may have an outlet that doesn't sit flush to the wall. To fix this issue there are several sheetrock shims or plaster ring products to remedy this problem.

Flickering or Dimming Lights

This could be a sign of a poor connection and can lead to eventual arcing – loose/corroded connections making intermittent contact that could result in sparking, overheating, and fire. In a case like this unless you have extensive electrical training your best bet is to call an electrical contractor.

Light Bulbs Burn Out Frequently

If you’re experience frequent bulb blowouts, it could be cheap light bulbs that are only rated 120volt. If you are still using incandescent bulbs in your home make sure they are 130volt rated. LED bulbs are the best way to avoid bulb burn outs. Recessed can lights that frequently fail? This could be a sign that the insulation is too close to the can light housing. Overheating can occur and these fixtures are designed to shut off when they get too hot to prevent fire.

Warm Outlets or Switches

Unless it is a dimming switch, Light switches and warm outlets are as a serious safety concern and should be addressed by a licensed electrician immediately.

Broken Light Switch

Turn off the circuit breaker (the light will go out when you choose the right one). Use a flathead screwdriver to remove the faceplate and a Phillips head to remove the light switch. Test the two wires connected to the screw for electricity. After you have verified that the power is off, remove the broken switch and install the new one.

Tripped Breakers or GFCI

Some electrical appliances, such as hairdryers, space heaters, vacuum, or griddle can frequently trip circuits. Go to your electrical panel to see if a breaker has tripped. If there is, turn it all the way to the off position and then back on. If there are no breakers off then check to see if there is a GFCI receptacle on the circuit that may need to be reset. Sometimes there may even be a GFCI or AFCI breaker that needs to be reset in your panel. It’s the breakers with the little yellow or green reset button. Reset the breaker. If this solves your power outage great! You now know where the problem is and how to get it back on. If you still get the same problem occurring then it’s time to call an electrician to see if you have an overloaded circuit or some other issue. Tripping breakers are to protect your wiring and appliances and also let you know there could be a problem on the circuit.


Monday, January 11, 2021

Electrical is Always Changing!

Residential solar

Being an electrician for over 20 years, it never ceases to amaze me how fast electrical products and installation practices change year to year and sometimes month to month. The longer that I am in the trade the more I see the importance of staying up with trends, new products and also keeping up with continuing education. Looking back at jobs I have worked on years ago compared to jobs today, I am amazed sometimes how I have had to evolve and change how I used to install equipment, raceways, bonding methods, environmental controls, and emergency backup systems.


The learning never stops, systems constantly need to be replaced or upgraded. Some of the electricians I work with say to me that they liked how things used to be without all the over-the-top safety standards, safety gear they are forced to use, constant safety training and daily hazard assessments. I admit that even I get a little frustrated with safety protocols at times but the truth is with these ever-evolving safety standards on jobsites I am insulated from being exposed to electrical hazards every day. I remember just a few years back it was acceptable to work in a hot electrical panel with just a pair of leather gloves and just a couple years before that we were told to just work in a live panel with one hand behind your back! wow, things really have changed. I remember as an apprentice standing on a ladder bare handed cutting a service drop to a 200-amp meter on a house. At the time I was taught to be aware of what I was doing, confident in my electrical knowledge, and my training. I was very lucky to have been able to be mentored by a handful of some of the best electricians in the trade who taught me the right way to be an electrician and that short cuts are never expectable and only cause property damage and can even get people killed.

Agricultural Electrical
Agricultural Controls

Thursday, January 7, 2021

LED Lighting in Your Home, Saving Money

One of the simplest ways to save money on your electrical bill is to change all your lighting to energy efficient LED bulbs and fixtures. Most homeowners don't realize just how much money they can save just by changing over to LED bulbs a fixtures.

All the light fixtures in my house were over 15 years old. I can't even imagine how many incandescent bulbs have been replaced over 15 years not to mention the extra energy wasted over that time period. My kitchen had those old can lights with the black baffles, yuck! they were so out dated. What a difference it made to install all new LED can trims. Better yet, they are so easy to replace. There is no need for an electrician to come out, they just screw right into the old bulb socket and your done! They make multiple styles with multiple color spectrums that will brighten any room in your home.

Garage lights? Yep I changed out all those too!

I even replaced those old halogen style under cabinet lights. Wow! what a difference it made. The old ones were very hot and yellow in color. I love the new look after changing them and it uses so much less energy.

Do you have a green thumb? I do, and yes purchased LED grow lights for my garden starts. If live in an area with a short growing season well then you know it is very hard to have a garden without getting your veggies a head start. I haven't yet built a green house but for now I just purchased a couple of these LED grow lights. They are amazing! I grow corn, acorn squash, avocadoes and also in the middle of the winter I even let my house plants get more light during those dark months.

Less power, great growth

Avocado tree

Speaking of dark winter nights, the old outdoor barn lights were mercury vapor and they really used the electricity! I purchased two new LED barn lights with built in dusk till dawn sensors and I couldn't be happier with how bright they are.

Solar, PVC, EMT and Corrosion

  You have to use the right equipment for the job that is suitable for the environmental conditions that it will be installed in. With elect...