Frequently asked questions
Here are answers to some common questions we receive about electrical services. Feel free to contact Curtis‑Elite Electric at (250) 614‑8000 if you have other inquiries; we’ll do our best to help you!
What should I do if I’m experiencing electrical problems?
Depending on the problem you can try changing light bulbs, or resetting a breaker, but for your own safety and the safety of your home or business we recommend contacting Curtis‑Elite Electric at (250) 614‑8000 for any electrical problem you may be experiencing.
Why is my smoke detector making a chirping noise?
The most common cause of noise from smoke detectors is caused by a low battery; batteries in smoke detectors should be changed annually. However it could also be an indication of a faulty detector. Now might be a good time to have it inspected and tested or replaced, as smoke detectors have a lifespan of only 8-10 years.
How do I reset a tripped breaker?
First you need to try and find out why the breaker tripped, try unplugging some devices from that circuit that is off, then you can reset the breaker. You will notice the tripped breaker is neither on or off, it is in the middle. To reset it turn it all the way off first, before turning it back on.
If the breaker will not reset or trips frequently, or if the breaker is hot to the touch you might have a defective or worn out breaker that should be replaced, or a more serious problem with your wiring system that needs to be addressed. DO NOT RISK A FIRE. Call Curtis‑Elite Electric today at (250) 614‑8000 to get the problem fixed for you.
Should I have surge protection installed in my home or business?
Absolutely. Surge protection is one of the most overlooked areas of electrical today. On average our power grid sees about 8-10 power surges every day, most of them are small and go unnoticed but can shorten the lifespan of all appliances and electronics that are connected to your electrical system.
Many people choose to use surge protection power bars for their TV and entertainment systems, but forget that nowadays there can be sensitive electronics in everything. Refrigerators, stoves, laundry machines, and the vast majority of other appliances all have electronics built in, not to mention all of the other small and portable electronics that are common in homes and businesses.
Providing surge protection is like purchasing an insurance policy for your electronics, and costs a fraction of what replacing your equipment would cost.
Why is it important to have a licensed contractor working on my electrical project?
It is illegal to hire an unlicensed contractor to do electrical work outside of what can be done by the homeowner, and no protection is offered for the customer should something go wrong. Only a licensed contractor can obtain the permits to legally and safely complete your project.
How many outlets can you have on one circuit?
As per the Canadian Electrical Code you cannot have more than 12 outlets on one circuit regardless of the size of breaker. Typical circuit breakers are only designed to continuously operate at 80% of their ampacity rating, so for a 15 amp breaker that means that it will only continuously handle 12 amps. If it experiences more than 12 amps for an extended period of time the breaker will trip. Even though the capacity of a 20 amp breaker is more than that of a 15 amp breaker, the Canadian Electrical Code specifies that 12 is that maximum regardless of breaker size, with only a few rarely seen exceptions. Lights are also counted the same way as outlets, with no more than 12 per circuit. A circuit containing both lights and receptacles is also limited to 12 devices in total.
When installing a new circuit Curtis‑Elite Electric aims for 8 outlets per circuit, with a maximum of 10. This allows room for future additions, and lowers the demand on any one circuit breaker, which in turn lowers the risk of overloaded circuits in the future with our ever-increasing use of technology.
What electrical work can a homeowner legally complete without obtaining a permit?
A homeowner can replace light bulbs, plugs, switches, dimmers, cord ends, thermostats, breakers, and ballasts. However when performing electrical work without proper training there is always a chance of injury to yourself or others, as well as damage to your property or possessions. We recommend you keep yourself safe and call Curtis‑Elite Electric at (250) 614‑8000 to come fix the problem.
Can I hang a ceiling fan where a light is?
Yes, but you must first be sure that the box that you are mounting the fan to is properly secured to the structure and is rated for the weight and torque of the ceiling fan that you wish to install.
Why are my fluorescent lights flickering?
Flickering usually indicates that it is time to replace the bulbs, but can also be caused by a faulty ballast or a combination of the two. Cycling on and off is usually a sign that the ballast needs to be replaced. It is always recommended to replace the bulbs when replacing the ballast.
What type of bulbs should I use to replace the ones in my house?
It really depends on the application, and what you expect the bulbs to do. In most cases we recommend switching to LED bulbs. They have come down a lot in price, you can get dimmable versions, they run the coolest, they last much longer than anything else, and they are the most power efficient style on the market. They will pay for themselves over time.
The other option for efficiency is compact fluorescent [CFL], which are almost as efficient, and slightly less expensive. However they are an older technology and are not well suited to cold temperatures, and can have issues with dimming.
The last option is the traditional incandescent or halogen type bulbs. These are the cheapest option; however they give off a lot of heat, and are not even comparable in efficiency to LED. However they tend to have to best dimming characteristics, and give off the warmest light.
What is GFCI protection, and what does it stand for?
GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. It is an electrical device that turns power off when it senses an imbalance resulting from a ground fault. GFCI’s should be used any time electricity is used in an area where water could be present, such as kitchens, bathrooms, outdoors, pools, hot tubs, spas, underwater, or anywhere else that could potentially be a wet location.
GFCI breakers and receptacles both have test buttons and these devices should be tested monthly to ensure they are working correctly.
How can I make my electrical system safer, especially for children?
Child-proofing your electrical system has become much easier with the introduction of tamper-resistant receptacles (also known as child safety outlets) which look and function like standard receptacles, but they have built in safety shutters which allow cord ends to be plugged in but block other objects.
Tamper-resistant receptacles are much safer than plastic outlet caps, which can be removed by young children. They have proved so successful that the Canadian Electrical code has changed to make the use of them mandatory in the new construction of any building that will be lived in.
What size electrical service should I have in my house?
A 100 amp service is most common and is usually sufficient in smaller homes, or homes with a smaller electrical draw. 60 amp services were common in older houses, and although it is not a code requirement to upgrade to a 100A service, it is usually a requirement of the insurance company when the house gets sold that the service shall be upgraded.
For any new houses, bigger houses, or houses that may have bigger draws as a result of a shop, rental suite, hot tubs, or extensive electronics we recommend a 200A service. This will also allow you space for future additions, or unexpected increases in electrical draw.
Should I have a portable or standby generator installed in my home or business?
Portable generators are typically smaller than standby generators, and can be used for your other portable power needs when not being used for emergency backup power. However portable generators usually produce lots of noise, and are not very fuel efficient, requiring multiple fill ups for extended periods of use.
Permanent standby generator systems can be connected directly to the natural gas system in your home, so you don’t need to worry about filling up a fuel tank, and they are generally more powerful than portable generators, having the ability to power your whole house in the event of a power outage, not just select emergency circuits.
Standby generators also utilize and automatic transfer switch that will automatically start your generator and switch your house over to generator power if there is a power outage. With a portable generator you would have to be home to make sure the generator is connected and make the transfer yourself.
Can I install a dimmer to replace a regular switch? What if the lights are switched from different locations?
For the most part, yes you can change out a regular light switch for a dimmer switch. But it also depends on the lights you are trying to dim, keep in mind that not all bulbs are dimmable. You can also only have a dimmer installed at one location even if you can switch the same light(s) from multiple locations.
The exception to this rule is with Curtis‑Elite’s new Z‑Wave ‘smart’ switches. With our technology you can now dim your lights from multiple locations, as well as from your smartphone or tablet.
How do I make my home a “smart home”?
Curtis‑Elite Electric and Curtis‑Elite Security are set up to work hand‑in‑hand to exceed your expectations about what a “smart home” can be. Please call us today at (250) 614‑8000 to find out all about the latest technologies we offer to make your home controllable and convenient.