These are some of the most commonly asked questions we receive from our clients in the Bay Area. Since each home has different electrical needs and requirements, we will provide you with individualized service, from assisting you with lighting and switching designs to receptacle layouts, load calculations, and much more.
1). Should I get a permit?
The National Electrical Code states that all new electrical installations require a permit. First off, permits are a matter of public record, so it's very easy for, say, a savvy perspective home buyer to see if your work has been inspected. Secondly, you may want to ask your insurance company if your still covered because you've had unpermitted work done or are considering not pulling a permit.
If caught doing work without a permit, you will find that your local building department is not happy. If you still insist on not getting a permit, we would have to pass up on your project.
2). What size electrical service is best for my home or business?
Most states, including California call for a 100 amp / 240 volt minimum electrical service. In most homes 1200 square feet or less this is adequate. For Larger homes, especially when considering solar panels, Electric vehicles, and multiple large electrical appliances a 200 amp / 240 volt service will be the minimum size needed.
3). Where should I install GFCI protection?
GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor. GFCI protected receptacles are required for all bathroom receptacle locations, all kitchen general use receptacle / counter area locations. All outdoor locations under 6'-6", and all attic or crawl space locations.
4). What is an AFCI and where is it required?
An AFCI breaker or Arc-Fault Circuit Interruptor was introduced to the Electrical code in 2001, by 2005 most jurisdictions were requiring them on bedroom receptacle circuits. AFCI breakers are now required on all general use receptacle circuits, all lighting circuits, and for the kitchen counter receptacle circuits. It should be noted that, at this time, the AFCI breaker technology does not work very well on motor loads or on improperly wired knob and tube circuits.
5). How many receptacles do I need to install in each room?
Here are the main receptacle spacing requirements:
In every room, receptacle spacing along the walls can be no more than 12'.
A receptacle can be no more than 6' from a door, and you will need a receptacle on every wall greater than 2'.
6). How many receptacles and circuits do I need in my kitchen?
As a general rule of thumb every fixed appliance will need a receptacle and it's own circuit (check the appliance
spec sheet this, the local inspector will want the appliance installed to the manufacturers specifications).
Counter top receptacles will need to be spaced every 4', within 2' of the sink and end of the counter.
This dimension is measured along the wall space, not the actual distance!
General use wall receptacle need to comply with walling spacing rule mentioned above in question #5.
7). When should I call an electrician?
Do you notice any scorch marks or discoloration on your wall around any of the receptacles? Are you aware of any burning odors you suspect are coming from the electrical system? Do you have more than two devices plugged into one receptacle or have an excess of extension cords? Are your lights dimming when you turn on a large appliance, such as a washing machine or vacuum cleaner?
Are your wall switches hot to the touch? Are blowing fuses or tripping breakers? These are all clear signs that you should have your electrical system inspected.
8). How many circuits does a standard home have?
While the number of circuits varies greatly, depending on the size of the home and the number of appliances, most homes (1200 square feet or less) with gas appliances will have about 4 circuits. This is far too few! A home of a similar size built today (with gas appliances) would have about 16 circuits. This does not even allow for solar panels, EV charging systems (definitely something to consider in this day and age), or whole house surge protection.
9). I have a FPE panel and breakers in my home, should I replace it?
Check out the NBC video on YouTube.
10). How much should I attempt on my own?
At the present time, some cities in California allow you to do electrical work on your own home without a license. You would need to check with your local building department. In all cases permits are required anytime the wiring in your home is altered. Most incorporated cities will not issue homeowners a permit if they are not a licensed contractor. Unincorporated areas are more willing to work directly with homeowners. That said, we would advise you to hire a professional. It takes 4 years of apprenticing and an additional 4 years of documented journeyman level experience to even apply for an electrical C-10 license. Please do not take electrical work lightly.
** If despite all warnings, should you choose to do your own electrical work, get a code book! And, purchase your materials from an actual electrical supply house!
Electrical Contractor Serving the East Bay Area, San Francisco, & Marin.
Ph. 510-233-5226 CA State License #731231 Bonded and Insured