12 Frequently Asked Questions on Electrical Systems by New Homeowners

12 Frequently Asked Questions on Electrical Systems by New Homeowners

  • Electrical

When you are in the market to buy a new house, so many questions can arise. Even when you do your best to understand how a home operates, there are all kinds of issues that can lurk under the surface. It’s important to ask the right questions about your new home or potential new home during the process. One of the most vital parts of a home is the electrical system. Make sure that you ask the right questions to understand if it’s up to code, how it works, and frequent solutions to problems. Here are some common questions asked about electricity and the answers that will lead you to understand this aspect of a home’s inner workings.

1. What is a GFCI outlet?

 A GFCI outlet is a “Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter.” That doesn’t mean much to someone not familiar with electrical work. For a new homeowner, it’s an outlet that will protect you from electrical shocks because it has a safety in place that shuts off the electrical current if it encounters something it’s not supposed to, such as water or a person’s finger. It can also help to prevent outlet fires. Keep in mind GFCI’s are usually required by law in most places to be installed near water sources in kitchens and bathrooms and anywhere else that water may be present, such as basements or garages.

2. What do I do if an appliance is plugged into a GFCI and stops working, but the circuit breaker is not tripped?

There is a reset button on the outlet that allows you to restart it. All you have to do is unplug your appliance and hit the button. Then plug your appliance back in. It should work after that if nothing is wrong with the circuits.  

3. What is a short circuit?

This can occur in your electrical wiring when there is a low current connection between your fuse box and the device you want to power on. For example, if there is something wrong with the wires that are connecting everything, they might “short” out. The coating on the wire could be worn away, or broken from the breaker to the outlet. Even small animals in the rodent family sometimes chew through electrical wires in your walls. This is usually a problem that needs to be looked at by an electrician because sparks or fire can occur. 

4. Why would the motion sensor light installed outside continuously stay on throughout the night, or constantly turn on and off?

 For the first part of the question with a motion sensor light staying on, it might just be that your sensor is dirty, so it’s triggering it to stay on. That has nothing to do with electricity, but for the second part of the question it might be an electrical issue. The bulb might not be resting securely in the fitting. Try to replace the bulb and see if that solves the issue.

5. Why would a dimmer/light switch plate be warm/hot to the touch?

 If nothing is plugged into the outlet or there aren’t too many items stressing the electrical supply, it’s perfectly normal for it to be a tad warm. The lights tend to do that in a house. In general if it’s too hot to touch, that’s a serious problem. Damaged wires can cause excessive heat on regular switch plates.

For dimmer switches they have a maximum load measured in watts that they are allowed to safely handle. When they are overloaded you should add up the wattage of lighting units and reduce the load or upgrade the dimmer switch.

6. Why are some of the light switches in my house not connected to anything? When they’re flipped on and off, nothing happens. 

 When you move to a new place it can be hard to figure out which switch plate goes to what outlet. To test an outlet, plug something in that makes noise, such as a radio, then turn on the switch to see if it powers up the outlet. When you encounter a mystery light switch with no matching outlet that does anything, you can remove the outlet plate to see if there are any wires inside even connected to it. If there aren’t problems with the wiring being in the right place, you’ll need to trace the circuit, which you’ll probably want an electrician to do.  

7. Why can’t I turn a tripped circuit breaker in my electrical panel back on?

 If you trip a circuit breaker in your new home, give it a few minutes before you try to go down to the fuse box and let it cool down. Then if you press the switch in the circuit breaker and it still doesn’t come on, something could be overloading it. It’s usually a big appliance, like a washer/dryer, refrigerator, other large item, or too many running at the same time. It might be a broken appliance causing it. If not, the circuit breaker might be faulty or broken, needing replacement.

 8. What is an AFCI breaker?

 An AFCI or “Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter” is a specific type of breaker that helps to prevent electrical fires. It achieves this by sensing hazardous electrical arcs. Most arcs are normal and don’t malfunction unless a problem occurs, so having these types of breakers in place can make your new home much safer. 

9. What is a whole house surge protector?

 A whole house surge protector is a good idea since it tames dangerous power surges that can short out your appliances, or computers. Having one in place is ideally suited to areas that experience intense thunderstorms, where lightning might strike utility poles or lines near your home. Often without it these power surges can fry even GFCI plugs in your home.

10. What is the most energy efficient lighting for my house?

The most energy efficient lighting for your new home, according to Energy.gov is light bulbs that hold the “ENERGY STAR” rating on the box. That includes CFL, halogen incandescent, and LED light bulbs. You might pay a little more upfront for these bulbs, but in the long run you’ll save on energy costs.

11. What is the difference between low voltage fixtures and standard fixtures? 

Low voltage fixtures in your home are the ones that sit in the background. That includes chandelier lights, recessed lighting, desk lights, and task lighting. Outside it might be landscape lighting that comes on at night with a timer. Standard fixtures are your larger lamps, main kitchen lights, and bathroom lights. Brighter light that requires a higher wattage is usually considered standard.  

12. Why does my cabinet-mounted microwave occasionally trip my circuit breaker? 

Your microwave might trip your circuit breaker if you have too many appliances on at the same time on the same circuit. The solution here is to not run so many things at once, or move other appliances to different locations in the kitchen that don’t work on the same fuse. Or you can have a GFCI switch for the microwave outlet, which will hopefully trip the outlet and not the entire fuse to the kitchen.

Have any questions about your electrical system? Call McHale’s Today!

Schedule a consultation with a call to McHale’s today!

Read Reviews From Our Happy Customers!

By McHales

10 Random HVAC Facts

10 Random HVAC Facts

  • Air Conditioning
  • Furnaces
  • Heating
HVAC Facts

10 Random HVAC Facts

You’ve probably heard many of the common energy saving recommendations, such as switching out old light bulbs for new energy saving options. However, by looking further into these 10 random HVAC facts, you’ll not only learn a bit more about your heating and cooling system, but also a few ways to trim down monthly energy consumption. 

Whether you own your own home or currently rent an apartment unit, monthly utility bills are often a big question. You never really know what it might cost when you open that envelope. Wouldn’t it be nice to no longer worry about the number looking back at you? By cutting down energy consumption, you can save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars every single year. 

1. Where Does Most Energy Usage Come From?

Did you know the vast majority of your energy consumption comes from three different appliances in your home? That’s right. 75% of your home’s total energy usage stems from your water heater, air conditioner and heater/furnace. This means if you can improve the energy efficiency of these three appliances you’ll save a substantial amount throughout the year. But what options do you have? First, how old is your water heater? An old water heater bleeds energy. If it is time for an upgrade, consider a tankless water heater.

2. Almost Half of Homeowners Don’t Know What Their Monthly Electric Bill Is

Yes, 47% of homeowners don’t know what they’re spending on electricity. Would you do that for your mortgage, rent, car insurance or cell phone? Probably not. You need to know what you are paying and monitor changes in monthly bills. By doing this, you’ll have a better understanding of what you’re paying and how it changes throughout the year. This will allow you to make necessary changes to improve energy efficiency. 

3. Sleep Better With the Right Temperature

Struggling to sleep? Maybe it’s your home’s temperature. Optimal sleeping temperatures are between 65 and 72. Do different family members need varying room temperatures to sleep? Consider switching to a ductless multi-room system. This allows you to control each room’s temperature directly and can save you money along the way (as you’re no longer cooling or heating the guest bedroom or other areas of the house you rarely use). 

4. 10 Degrees is 14%

According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, if you turn down your thermostat 10 degrees while out of the house and at night, you’ll save 14% on your energy bill. With a programmable thermostat you can easily make this change. A smart thermostat gives you even more control, allowing you to change the home temperature from your smartphone. 

5. Save With Cooler Water

Everyone loves a hot shower. But do you need it that hot? If you turn down the temperature on your water heater by 10 degrees, you can save up to 5% annually on energy costs. If your water heater is on the older side, replacing it can help boost energy efficiency even further. 

6. What Saving $75 Means

By transforming your house into an energy efficient home, you can save at least $75 a month. Over the span of 30 years, this equals a savings of $27,000. Think about what you can do with that sort of cash.  

7. Replace That Old Furnace

A furnace’s life expectancy is 20 years. However, as it ages, it becomes less efficient. This is why you need to have it annually inspected in order to maintain performance and reduce energy costs. Every year, newer furnaces are sold with improved energy efficiency ratings. 

8. The AFUE Rating

Did you know your heating system’s AFUE rating can tell you the percentage of fuel consumed for heat and what you’re losing. Stay on top of this to see if there is a change. It means you’re losing fuel in the transfer. Insulation options can help cut fuel loss and make your system more energy efficient. 

9. Beware the Power Vampire

There are tons of appliances that still draw power, even when turned off. These appliances are referred to as “Power Vampires.” Consider either unplugging unused appliances or connect everything into a power saving power strip. Throughout the United States, all the energy lost to power vampires annually is enough to power 7,387 homes a year. 

10. The Love of Central Air

According to the US Census Bureau of the American Housing Survey, 65% of households have central AC. Only 22% use a room or window unit. The rest either don’t have AC or use an alternative cooling method. AC units can kill your energy bill if you’re not careful. In fact, the amount of energy the United States uses annually to run AC units is the same amount of energy, in total, used by the entire  African continent. 

Have any questions about these HVAC facts? Call Mchales Today!

Schedule circuit breaker replacement with a call to McHale’s today!

Read Reviews From Our Happy Customers!

By McHales

5 Signs You Need to Replace a Circuit Breaker

5 Signs You Need to Replace a Circuit Breaker

  • Electrical
circuit breaker replacement

Circuit breaker replacement can be an economical investment in protecting your home while avoiding damage to your appliances and fixtures and protecting your family.  They are a valuable first line of defense in home safety, but are often overlooked as a solution to real problems.  Your electrical panel is likely hidden in the basement or in a utility closet, well out of sight and thought. However, if you continue to ignore the warning signs and resist checking and replacing a circuit breaker as needed you can experience:

  • Flickering Lights: How annoying is it when you’re eating dinner with the family and the lights keep raising and lowering like in a haunted house? While distracting, you figure you can live with it.  That could be a big mistake.
  • Poor Performance from Appliances: Your stove may bake unevenly or never seem to reach proper temperature.  The dryer might shut off in mid-cycle. You may be convinced that all your kitchen appliances need to be replaced due to strange and inconsistent performance. What a waste of cash if it is simply a circuit breaker that needs to be replaced.
  • Damage to Essential Lights and Appliances:   When circuit breakers fail to control the flow of electricity properly you may experience bulbs that constantly burn out or a microwave that barely lasted past its one year warranty. Overheating can occur, causing lasting damage to coils and computer boards.
  • Potential of Smoke, Fire and Water Damage: When too much power is drawn through a power cord, an electrical fire can result from overheating. Your home could be severely damaged by smoke, water and flame. The cost of failing to check your electrical panel for problems continues to skyrocket.
  • Lower Property Value: When you experience a fire, no matter how small, the integrity and value of the property is lowered. Failing to upgrade electrical service to your home can result in a potential buyer hesitating to put in an offer. They want to purchase a home that is safe and has been maintained.

5 Warning Signs of a Failing Circuit Breaker

  1. Burning Smell In The Electrical Panel: If you smell a burning odor coming from the panel that means wires and insulation have become overheated and are failing to protect your home from an electrical short elsewhere. Don’t wait! Shut off the main power to the house and call an electrician immediately for emergency service.
  2. Breakers Tripping Frequently: A circuit breaker is designed to trip when too much power is being drawn through it to protect your entire home. If a breaker is tripping every time you turn on a particular appliance like the microwave or vacuum cleaner, the breaker may be worn out and ready to fail. An electrician will be able to determine if it’s simply a bad breaker or if you need to add a circuit to your home
  3. Physical Damage: If you notice scorch marks around the breaker, at an outlet or appliances are failing due to melted wires, it’s a good bet that your electrical panel and breakers require immediate service. A melted wire is one step away from your entire house going up in flames. Place that emergency call to the electrician and unplug all fixtures from that circuit.
  4. Breaker Will Not Stay Reset: Probably after several months of resetting a breaker, it simply won’t stay on for any period of time.  The breaker has probably failed. However, your electrician will check the entire circuit to make sure further damage wasn’t done to the wiring.
  5. Old Age: Circuit breakers are designed to last for decades of use. However, if you have a home where the electrical panel has not been serviced in ten years or more, there’s a good chance that there are several breakers ready to fail. Having an electrician inspect your panel is a wise investment.

It doesn’t take a lot of time or money to have failed circuit breaker replacement service. When you invest in preventative maintenance on your electrical panel you will enjoy the following benefits:

  • Peace of Mind: Your home is now a safe environment for your family. You will sleep better when you don’t worry about the house catching fire.
  • Extended Life of Appliances and Fixtures: You can now expect your new refrigerator and cooktop to last for years, until you are ready to renovate again.
  • Improved Convenience: You never realized how much easier life is when lights, appliances and electrical devices work each and every time–simply because you invested in a precautionary repair.
  • Maintains Value of Your Home: Updated service to your electrical panel gives a buyer confidence they are making a good investment.


Schedule circuit breaker replacement with a call to McHale’s today!

By McHales

Reasons to Consider a Holiday Fuse Box Upgrade

Reasons to Consider a Holiday Fuse Box Upgrade

  • Electrical
electrical repair

Reasons to Consider a Holiday Fuse Box Upgrade

Are you planning a staycation for the holidays? If so, then it might be the perfect time for a fuse box upgrade. Because while it might not be the most exciting thing to do with your time and money, upgrading your fuse box or electrical panel is definitely a worthwhile investment. Take a look at our reasons to consider a holiday fuse box upgrade.

Improved safety  

If you have an older home, it was most likely only designed with a few circuits that used a total of 30, 50, or sometimes 60 amps. Today, however, we consume more power because we have far more appliances and devices. That means we place a higher demand on our electrical systems than those old ones are designed to handle. When an electrical circuit overloads, the circuit breaker trips. This interrupts the power supply and prevents the wires or your appliances from overheating and catching fire.

Unfortunately, in older homes, connections are often loose—and that prevents the circuit from tripping, which can lead to overheating wires and cause a fire. Even if you replace the circuit breaker with a larger one, it might not be a safe solution if it’s rated to handle more power than the wire it’s on. 

When you upgrade your fuse box, you ensure that all the wiring, fuses, and circuit breakers are graded to handle the power that your household uses. This eliminates the danger of wiring overheating and causing fires. 

More and more consistent power

As we’ve seen, nowadays we consume more power than ever before. Just think about the number of TVs, laptops, and smart phones every household has compared to even just 20 years ago. Of course, using all this power on a system that’s not equipped to handle it has consequences. Fuses blow more often and need to be replaced. Circuit breakers trip regularly and need to be re-set, for example if you’re running the dishwasher and start the vacuum cleaner. You’ve probably also noticed “brown-outs,” or times when the lights in your home dim if you turn on another appliance. In some cases, you might even notice the lights flickering. 

Replacing your old fuse box with a new one that’s designed to handle all your power needs will ensure that all these small inconveniences are over. Instead of having to drop everything to re-set a circuit breaker when a circuit trips due to you using the coffee maker and toaster at the same time, you’ll be able to enjoy your breakfast in peace and head out to work without any delays. 

Increased home value

If you make the investment to upgrade your fuse box now, it will add significantly to your home’s value, which can be a plus if you’re looking to sell within the next few years. Prospective buyers will see an outdated fuse box as a significant disadvantage—and that will be reflected in how much they’re willing to pay for the home. With a recently upgraded fuse box, the home’s power system being taken care of, which means you can take that into account when setting your asking price. 

Finally, if you upgrade your fuse box before the holidays, then you’ll have the additional security of knowing that your home’s electrical system will be able to handle all of those extra holiday lights!

Thinking of doing a holiday fuse box upgrade? Then call McHale’s today and schedule!

By McHales

Electrical Maintenance During Winter Weather in Bucks County-$88 Electrical System Check!

Electrical Maintenance During Winter Weather in Bucks County-$88 Electrical System Check!

  • Electrical
Save with an $88 Electrical System Check from McHale's
Snow is in the forecast this weekend! It looks like winter isn’t over just yet. Maintaining your home can be tough no matter what time of the year, but the winter season adds a few extra problems such as the risk of ice dams, freezing plumbing, or busted furnaces. Your home depends on electricity to function, which is why maintaining your home’s electrical system should be a top priority.

How to Winterize Your Home’s Electrical System

Ultimately the best thing you can do during a snowstorm is to stay inside and prepare your home for any potential storms and power outages. To stay safe and comfortable this winter season, here are five ways to maintain your home and its electrical system.

Invest in a standby generator.

One of the best ways to prepare your home and maintain your home’s electrical system is to have a backup source of power generation. Installing a standby generator not only ensures you’ll have power during a power outage but that your entire house is insulated and running during the worst of any snowstorm. A standby generator is hooked directly into your home’s electrical system, automatically generating power within seconds of a power outage, and protecting your home’s electronics from any harmful power surges. While a snowstorm might not cause a power outage, it’s better to be prepared than be trapped inside a house without power.

Maintain your major appliances.

Your home’s electrical system is complicated, and properly maintaining it can be even more complicated. Taking care of your home’s major appliances, however, can prevent certain electrical problems such as overloading the electrical panel or starting an electrical fire. Routinely inspecting and maintaining appliances such as your furnace, water heater, and refrigerator, can all count toward preparing your home’s electrical system for the worst.

Insulate your home.

Your furnace and water heater work hard enough to properly heat your home. If your home is lacking enough insulation, it means your furnace and water heater are running longer than necessary to generate heat in your home. Replacing old or damaged insulation, adding new insulation, and sealing any potential air leaks not only helps keep your home warm and cozy, but it also puts less strain on your home’s electrical system.

Rewire your home if necessary. 

Ensuring your home’s electrical system is ready for a snowstorm means thoroughly inspecting your home’s wiring. A fully winterized home with energy efficient appliances won’t make much of a difference if the wiring is old and outdated. If your home’s wiring is reaching the end of its lifespan, it’s important to rewire it as soon as possible. Look for the warning signs. Check for frayed or damaged wires, hot to the touch or burnt outlets, a constantly tripping circuit breaker, dimming or flickering lights, or popping, crackling, or buzzing noises.

Update your electrical panel if necessary.

The problem may not be with your home’s wiring, but its electrical panel. Your electrical panel is designed to cut off power whenever there is an overload which can result in an electrical fire. An outdated electrical panel is not only a safety hazard, but outdated, and unable to handle your home’s current electrical load. If your circuit breaker trips often, you experience frequent power surges, or you hear buzzing coming from the electrical panel, it may be time for a replacement.

If You Need Electrical Maintenance or Repair in Bucks County, Call McHale’s

Our technicians are ready to help you solve any emergency repair your home faces! When you’re having electrical problems, every minute counts. This is especially important during winter weather, so give us a call as soon as you suspect there may be a problem! Some signs of an electrical emergency are:
  1. Burning Smells
  2. Power Outages
  3. Arcing Wires
  4. Carbon Monoxide Detection
  5. And much more during a snow storm!


Your safety and comfort are our main concern. We offer an $88 Electrical System Check to help prepare you for weather extremes, as well as year-round electrical use!
Call today to schedule your $88 Electrical System Check from McHale’s!
By McHales