Frequently Asked Questions

510.521.2423

Why should I use an electrician when I can hire a handyman or an unlicensed electrician for less?
Licensed electricians charge and earn more than handymen for a reason & they have to be able to understand complicated electrical concepts and formulas. We are called in to repair the electrical messes made by handymen on a regular basis, so we won’t complain if you use them. However, keep in mind that you’ll end up paying about as much for a handyman who thinks he knows what he is doing and takes twice as long to do it as you would for a licensed electrician. Also, the work of the licensed electrician is guaranteed to meet code requirements whereas the work of the handyman and unlicensed electrician is not.
What is the difference between a breaker panel and my old fuse panel?
Both devices, either breaker or fuse, are designed to trip (turn off) in the event of an electrical overload, i.e. 20Amps of electrical load on a 15Amp circuit would cause a trip. The only difference is that a breaker is mechanical and may be reset, whereas, a fuse is one time only and must be replaced. Please Note: Modern breakers are much more efficient and offer greater levels of protection.

How do I reset my breakers?
Turn the breaker completely off and then completely on. Some breakers will look like they are not tripped, but could be in the neutral stage, which still does not allow them to function as if they were completely on. A way to help determine this, is to turn every breaker completely off and then on.

There is a humming noise coming from my panel. What does this mean?
This could be the result of a defective breaker. Replacement should be immediate as this defective breaker could cause serious harm to electrical components.

Why is a breaker in my panel hot to touch?
This overheating is a serious defect and could cause arcing in the breaker. It should be immediately replaced.
How can I tell when an electrical outlet is not safe?
The plug falls out of the outlet without touching it, or the outlet is not secure and will move easily when touching it. When the outlet is warm or hot to the touch, you need to immediately take care of the issue by unplugging the device and calling Berkeley Electric as this type of problem can result in a fire.
What does it mean when my fluorescent lights are flickering or cycling on and off?
Flickering may indicate impending bulb failure, minor power fluctuation, and/or improperly installed bulbs. Cycling on and off is usually a clear indication of ballast and/or bulb failure. It is recommended when replacing ballast to replace bulbs as well.
Can I change an existing switch to a dimmer switch?
Yes. We will match the specific dimmer to the lights in your home. There are different bulbs required for specific dimmers. Such bulbs include incandescent, CFLs and LEDs.
Can I hang a ceiling fan where a light is?
Yes, but first you must make sure the electrical box is properly braced and rated for the weight and torque of the ceiling fan you are installing.
What types of recessed lights are available for installation?
Recessed lights come in a variety of sizes such as: 6”, 5”, 4”, 3”, and 2”. When sizing recessed lights, Berkeley Electric shall take into consideration the room, layout and mood to choose the specific type, make, and model to suit your wants and needs. Recessed lighting is a great way to enhance areas in your house such as: theaters, bars, and kitchens, as well as to show off amazing art work. Recessed lighting can also be installed in cabinets, pantries, and nooks to illuminate areas without the bulk of a fixture.

Can I make my home safe if I currently have knob and tube wiring, but do not have the funds available to complete a whole-house rewire at this time? 
To an extent, as knob and tube wiring can be very dangerous. There are ways to keep your home and family safe until you are ready for the re-wire. First, an inspection would be completed by Berkeley Electric to determine the current state of the knob and tube wiring in your home. A 15-amp arc fault circuit interrupter can be installed on the circuit occupied by the knob and tube. An arc fault breaker is a circuit breaker designed to prevent fires by detecting an unintended electrical arc and disconnecting the power before the arc starts a fire. An AFCI must distinguish between a harmless arc that occurs incidentally to normal operation of switches, plugs and brushed motors and an undesirable arc that can occur, for example, in a lamp cord that has a broken conductor in the cord.

Arc faults in a home are one of the leading causes for electrical wiring fires. Each year in the United States, over 40, 000 fires are attributed to home electrical wiring. These fires result in over 350 deaths and over 1, 400 injuries each year.

Conventional circuit breakers only respond to overloads and short circuits; so they do not protect against arcing conditions that produce erratic, and often reduced current. An AFCI is selective so that normal arcs do not cause it to trip. The AFCI circuitry continuously monitors the current and discriminates between normal and unwanted arcing conditions. Once an unwanted arcing condition is detected, the AFCI opens its internal contacts, thus de-energizing the circuit and reducing the potential for a fire to occur. An AFCI should not trip during normal arcing conditions, which can occur when a switch is opened or a plug is pulled from a receptacle.

Does my house need to be re-wired?
We recommend a whole house safety inspection to understand the current status of the wiring. Some wiring that is considered a major hazard is: knob and tube wiring, BX wiring, and an ungrounded system. These compose hazards on your home and if in poor condition, a re-wire shall be considered.

Will my house be destroyed during a re-wire?
With experience in homes dated over 100 years old, Berkeley Electric can find efficient paths and ways to complete a project in a safe, neat manner. Our company will preserve the beautiful details and structure of your home, which in turn will keep the costs and heavy repairs to a minimum.

How long will it take to complete a re-wire and will I need to move out during the process?
Most homes can be completed within one week. Larger homes can take up to two weeks. You will not need to move out of the home during the process. Berkeley Electric will work around your schedule in order to maintain your comfort and you needs.