Frequently Asked Questions
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    What's Your Electrical Safety IQ?

    Electrical safety tips are often thrown around in conversation, but distinguishing fact from myth can be difficult. Think you know everything there is to know about the electricity running through your home? Take this quiz and test your electrical safety knowledge.

    Directions: Choose the best answer for each question and keep track of your answers. Then, compare your answers to the correct responses provided below.

    1. What is the correct wattage for a light fixture?
    a. The wattage the fixture specifically requires, usually noted in the instructions or on the fixture.
    b. The wattage the fixture specifically requires or 10 watts above or below what is recommended.
    c. It does not matter. You should choose wattage depending on how bright you want the light to be.

    2. What objects are conductors of electricity?
    a. Metal
    b. Water
    c. A person’s body
    d. All of the above

    3. There are different types of extension cords for indoor and outdoor use.
    a. True
    b. False

    4. Where should you place electrical cords when plugged into an outlet?
    a. Away from areas of high foot traffic.
    b. Bunched behind furniture or underneath a rug so they are out of the way and can’t be seen.
    c. Nailed or stapled to the wall to keep them away from foot traffic.
    d. Wrapped tightly around a piece of furniture or a fixture to prevent tripping.

    5. What is the best way to store your television entertainment system and its components?
    a. In an enclosed cabinet underneath the television
    b. On a shelf that does not enclose the different devices
    c. On the floor

    6. You should use water to put out an electrical fire.
    a. True
    b. False

    7. Which of the following is true about Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets?
    a. GFCIs are used to protect us from electrical shocks.
    b. A GFCI monitors the amount of current flowing and trips the circuit if there is an imbalance.
    c. Under most building codes, GFCIs are now required in areas with a lot of moisture, such as bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and outdoors.
    d. All of the above

    8. What is the best practice for light bulb use?
    a. Avoid using halogen bulbs because they can overheat.
    b. Ensure light bulbs are screwed in securely before use.
    c. Turn lights off before changing a light bulb.
    d. All of the above.

    9. It is a good idea to periodically turn circuit breakers off and on?
    a. True
    b. False

    10. How often should the wiring in a home be inspected by a professional electrician?
    a. Every year
    b. Every 5 years
    c. Every 10 years
    d. Every 20 years

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    Answers to the the Electrical Safety IQ Quiz

    1. What is the correct wattage for a light fixture?

    A – The wattage should always be that which the specific light fixture requires. A higher wattage bulb may overheat, possibly causing wires or a nearby combustible material to overheat. This could lead to a fire. If you are unsure, use a bulb that is 60 watts or less. For unmarked ceiling fixtures that hold miniature bulbs, use 25 watts.

    2. What objects are conductors of electricity?

    D – All of the above. Electricity seeks the easiest path to the ground. It uses a conductor as a mode of transportation. Conductors include metal, wet wood, water, and a person’s body. A body is made up of 70% water. If you are standing on the ground and touch an electrical source, electricity will instantly pass through you to the ground, causing a harmful shock.

    3. There are different types of extension cords for indoor and outdoor use.

    A – True. Cords made for indoor use are not made to withstand the humidity, temperature and stresses of outdoor use. They are more easily damaged and can be a fire hazard. Only use extension cords outside if they are marked for outdoor use.

    4. Where should you place electrical cords when plugged into an outlet?

    A – Cords should be placed away from areas of high foot traffic because they can cause tripping and be damaged when stepped on. Though you want to keep electrical cords away from foot traffic, you do not want to do this by hiding them under furniture or rugs or wrapping them around a fixture. The weight of these flammable objects can crush insulation or break wire strands, creating a fire hazard. Additionally, tightly wrapped cords trap heat that would otherwise escape. This can lead to melting or weakening of the insulation. It might make sense to attach cords to a wall to avoid contact with feet or fixtures, but nails and staples can tear the insulation or cut the wires inside. The best method is to keep cords placed against a wall, away from heavy objects. Make sure they are not tightly tangled with other cords.

    5. What is the best way to store your television entertainment system and its components?

    B – On a shelf that does not enclose the devices. It is important that your entertainment equipment has room to breathe because blocking air flow can cause overheating. You should refer to your individual devices’ manuals for further guidance. In general, avoid enclosing equipment in cabinets unless there are proper ventilation openings. Also, never store paper around your equipment, such as manuals and guidebooks.

    6. You should use water to put out an electrical fire.

    B – False. Never use water to put out an electrical fire. Use a dry fire extinguisher or baking soda.

    7. Which of the following is true about Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets?

    D – All of the above. A GFCI outlet monitors the current between a hot and neutral wire. If it senses an imbalance, it will break the circuit. Typically circuit breakers will do this, but they may not act fast enough. GFCIs are more sensitive and thus act quickly. These should be tested monthly by pressing the “test” button to trip the outlet and break the circuit. You can restore the circuit by pressing the “reset” button. If the test button doesn’t do anything, replace the outlet. If the outlet does pop when you press test but it still has power before pressing the reset button, it means the outlet is wired incorrectly and needs to be fixed immediately.

    8. What is the best practice for light bulb use?

    D – All of the above. Halogen bulbs can overheat, and thus are a fire hazard. They should be replaced with more efficient bulbs, such as compact fluorescents. When bulbs aren’t screwed in securely it can cause sparks or shorts. Lights should be turned off to avoid sparks. Also, bulbs give off heat when lights are on, so changing a bulb when the light has been on for a while can result in burns.

    9. It is a good idea to periodically turn circuit breakers off and on?

    A – True. Circuit breakers need to be checked to make sure they have not become stuck. This helps keep them in good working order. In addition, appliances with compressor motors can be exposed to repeat power interruptions if they aren’t shut off. Thus, flip each circuit breaker off and on three times at least once a year. Be sure to turn off the freezer, refrigerator, and air conditioner before doing this.

    10. How often should the wiring in a home be inspected by a professional electrician?

    C – Every 10 years. This will ensure the wiring throughout your house, particularly wires behind walls, are in good working order and comply with safety standards. If your home is more than 40 years old, an inspection is long overdue.

    Additional Tips:

    • Don’t ever mix electricity and water! Keep appliances and cords away from water at all times.
    • Don’t use extension cords continuously. They are only temporary solutions.
    • Don’t climb trees or fly kites near power lines.
    • Don’t unplug a cord by pulling on the wire. Rather, pull by the base of the plug.
    • Don’t force a plug into an outlet.
    • Don’t stick anything in an outlet except a plug.
    • Don’t overload power strips. They do not offer more power, just more access points to the limited capacity of the circuit.
    • Don’t climb a utility pole or tower. Avoid power lines at all costs, even if they appear dead.

    Be sure to post your results on our Facebook page to enter our special FREE GIFT drawing!

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    What should I do when my lights go out?

    Patience is a virtue – utility companies generally know when outages occur and promptly begin the restoration process. However, if you notice that you are the only house on the block without power, please call our 24-hour emergency electrical repair service immediately. In either case, safety is first and foremost. Only use a flashlight for emergency lighting, never use candles. You should always keep fresh batteries in a battery-operated radio for use in extreme weather. Turning off any electrical equipment you were using when the power went out will minimize surges in your lines. Avoid opening your refrigerator or freezer. Leaving one light on will help you know when power has been restored. If you are using a generator, never operate it inside the home or garage.

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    How can I save money on my electric bill?

    Most of the electricity in your home is used by the heating and air system and water heating. Make sure your heating and cooling systems are running efficiently and central systems are checked twice a year. By installing the most energy-efficient rated equipment, you will save money over the lifetime of the equipment. You could also install a programmable thermostat that will operate your systems more effectively, thus saving run times of your system and saving money. You know those long showers you love so much? Well, they cost you dearly when it comes to heating the water. Cutting back on your shower duration can affect your bill. Another thing that could cause increases in your electric consumption would be a bad breaker or loose connections at the breaker box. Having trained professional check it could minimize some costs. To keep your equipment running efficiently, keep heating and cooling air ducts clean and outdoor equipment free from dirt and other debris. Energy conservation not only saves our resources, but saves you money.

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    Is there a safety issue between having the round fuses instead of circuit breakers?

    No, it is not a safety issue unless the fuse box is damaged or deteriorating. Fuses are actually more sensitive than circuit breakers; therefore they are safer than circuit breakers. There are two main issues with fuses. First, after a fuse protects your home from an overloaded circuit, you have to throw it away. Therefore you may go through many fuses. Secondly, the majority of insurance companies now require that fuse boxes be replaced with circuit breakers. We’ll check the local electrical codes for your particular situation.

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    How do I reset a 'tripped' circuit breaker?

    Go to your main electrical panel, usually located in a garage or carport area on the opposite side of the wall from your electric meter. If you are in an apartment setting the panel is usually in a closet or storage room. Open up the panel to reveal the various circuit breakers. The ‘tripped’ breaker will not be in either the on or off position, but rather in between. Sometimes a small red portion of the breaker will be exposed to show you the tripped breaker. To reset it, just push the switch to the off position and then back to the on position. You should hear a snapping sound and feel some resistance. In the event that the circuit continues to trip, there may be an excessive load on the circuit. Correcting the overload should solve your problem. If that doesn’t work, contact Gray Electric for an evaluation.

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    What is a GFI?

    A GFI is an abbreviation for a Ground Fault Interrupter. It is a specially designed outlet normally used in locations where moisture can accumulate, such as kitchens, baths and laundry areas, to protect you from electrical shock. A GFI measures the resistance on the "positive" and "negative" loads connected to it, and if there is more resistance in either of the 2 loads, the GFI trips. The GFI has a built-in circuit breaker to reset once the problem has been resolved.

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    Should I take any special precautions during the holidays?

    Frayed electrical cords are the primary cause of electrical fires during holidays and celebrations. By maintaining your holiday lights you can minimize the risk. You should inspect them each year for fraying, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. You should use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory. Do not overload electrical outlets. Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Make sure to periodically check the wires - they should not be warm to the touch. And, do not leave holiday lights unattended.

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    Should I hire an electrical contractor?

    In almost every case...Yes. Beware of "electricians" that are not working under or as an electrical contractor. Without proper insurance, training, and licensing, an "after hours" electrician or handyman can be a huge liability to your safety. Hire only professional electrical contractors with competant electricians for all electrical work.

Electrical References

Gray Electric of Mauston and Tomah strives to stay current in the world of electrical contracting, infrastructure, and energy efficiency.

US Department Of Energy

Electrical Saftety Foundation International

Energy Star Rebate Finder

Energy Star

National Fire Protection Association

Consumer's Energy Outage Center

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