As you can see in the chart (click here for a larger version of the electrical receptacle chart) there are numerous types of receptacles that can be used to provide electrical energy to equipment, devices, appliances or general purposes and the chart does not reflect half of them. These configurations are many times installed incorrectly and when done so can cause a flash or burns to a person. In Phaze Electric Inc. has been called out to many locations for this exact reason. We have had customers calling in a panic because the new equipment that was just delivered blew up in their face and also burned the electric receptacle that came attached to the electrical device or equipment.
In most cases we service homes or small businesses but occasionally we do work within restaurants and other special electric applications which do see many configurations of electrical receptacles. It is necessary to verify proper voltage and amperage and match the proper receptacles, wire sizes and breakers together in an electrical installation. Not doing so can result in electrocution due to improper internal grounding of the electrical equipment or the inability of use of the equipment due to an electrical overload.
In the case of homes, our jobs are not too overly complicated. We see the 15- or 20-amp receptacles, a 30-amp plug or 50 amps for dryers and ranges. The main issue that does require expert knowledge is the configuration and the amperage of the required load. All new electrical equipment and devices such as electric ranges, stoves, dryers, microwaves and kitchen counter equipment is constructed with a separate grounding system or “4-prong” electrical receptacle. Old equipment was designed with what we call “3-prong” receptacles or “plugs” which combines the neutral and ground as one conductor – which is against current codes dating back to the 80’s. Homes of the 70’s and back were designed with the entire homes electrical service as a 3-wire system. The entire homes grounding system is shared and combined with the neutral. Most customers do not know that they have this type of system and it can be difficult to explain to a customer but simply put you are putting your safety at risk when having this system in your home, thus the reason that the code was changed.
To explain this in a more practical understanding, in the old system, if the neutral was lost or broken in the circuit and you were to touch any metal portion of the circuit such as the metal of the stove, microwave, can opener, electrical panel or the metal screw on the light switch, and let’s say you were barefoot on a terrazzo floor or you were standing on a metal floor strip or you touch your kitchen sink or like in the movies, the radio falls in the bathtub, in all of these old 3-wire cases you would now be part of the circuit to ground; and trust me, you never want to be part of an electrical circuit.
With the new 4-wire grounding system, if installed properly, there is no potential of you becoming part of any electrical circuit in your home. It is the duty of our Service Managers at In Phaze Electric Inc., as the owner has instructed, that we will make any customer aware of any whole house or any portion of a 3-wire system. Please realize that you may request us out to install that new 4-prong receptacle on your dryer and please do not be surprised when we make the suggestion that you update your home’s electrical service equipment to accommodate this need. The other contractor may simply jump out the receptacle which in actuality fools the system in thinking it has a separate ground, but in reality that is not the case. As the owner and the serviceman in the field it is my duty to inform every single customer of the exact proper installation of any electrical system no matter the cost. Yes, we want to make money, and more importantly we want to earn your business as our customer for life, but we will not do so by cutting corners to save you a few bucks. I have lost count of the over 1,000 homes in central Florida that we have successfully updated to 4 wire and in the process brought the entire home up to current code. Most of these jobs were done for under $3,000 to $4,000 and did not require a complete home rewire.
These receptacles are required by NEC (National Electric Code) 2014 Article 210 to be used in a few locations in a home:
Kitchen countertop locations do not include appliances such as refrigerators, microwaves, compactors, wine coolers or disposals. These appliances are dedicated circuits and aren’t typically readily accessible in kitchens. In some cases microwaves are on counters and in this case they would be on a GFCI circuit. Per 2014 code dishwashers are now required to be GFCI protected. Note: per current electrical code it is required that two (2) kitchen GFCI circuits be installed in a kitchen and the circuits divided somewhat equally.
As for garages there are some exceptions here as well. Garage door opener receptacles are not required to be GFCI protected. Also dedicated circuit, single-device receptacles for freezers or other specific appliances are not required to be GFCI protected. Please note that we get many calls from homeowners of outlets not working in their homes. More of these calls come around Christmas, which of no irony to us, is when Christmas lights get installed around the home. As mentioned above, any exterior locations of the home are required to be GFCI protected. The issue is when it rains, or when moisture gets into these lights or where they are plugged into the GFCI receptacle, the moisture will cause the GFCI to trip. What most customers do not realize is that older homes have only 1 GFCI receptacle in the home that controls the garage, sometimes bathrooms and some if not all of the exterior receptacles. To save a few bucks you may want to try to find this one GFCI receptacle (usually in the garage), clear the moisture penetration and attempt to reset the GFCI receptacle or breaker. If that does not work give us a call to come out and troubleshoot the problem.
It is also required by code that washers in laundry rooms or elsewhere must be GFCI protected. Per current code tamper-resistant receptacles are to be used in all residential applications.
Note to customer – Nearly all information that you will ever want to know pertaining to the electrical system of a home can be found in Article 200-230 of the National Electrical Code. The code will refer you to other Articles but in general you would be amazed at the information you will find in the code if you want to compare estimates apples to apples.
It is advised to have all devices throughout your home replaced every 20 years. Doing so will ensure that you are current with new codes and manufacturing specifications. Replacement of devices also does one thing that I cannot stress enough emphasis on; it allows us, the professionals, the ability to see behind the device and inspect the receptacle for any overheating or improper terminations. Receptacles have been designed with Stab-Lok terminations which in my opinion do not last as long as screw tight connections. It is best to have all devices terminated with screw tight connections they last twice as long and are much less troublesome in the long run.
Please do not be surprised when our Service Managers make a suggestion to update your home’s receptacles, switches and GFCI receptacles. Some homes do not have GFCI receptacles installed in locations that they should be. We are professionals in what we do; we are not trying to upsell a job. We are being informative and doing our due diligence to inform you, our customer, of what is needed to take care of your home’s or business’s electrical needs.
Give us a call; we look forward to meeting with you.