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What’s Involved in a Home Electrical Inspection 

Most electrical inspections in the Seattle area require three safety inspections: cover, service and final. For convenience, we would suggest having your electrician make these appointments for you. However, you can schedule these inspections yourself if you want to undertake the permitting process. 

Cover Inspection

Once all new circuits are wired, schedule the cover inspection. Do not cover any work with insulation, receptacles or wall switches until the work has been approved. Do not cover trenches, ditches or slabs either since cover inspections also include underground installations. 

Service and Feeder Inspection 

This inspection follows installation of any electrical masts, meter bases, grounding electrode conductors, and branch circuits. 

Final Inspections 

This inspection follows the completion of your electrical work. You must have all equipment and appliances installed, grounded, and energized for final inspection. Make sure all the covers are in place and circuits are labeled. 

What Inspectors Look For 

All electricians must adhere to the National Electrical Code (NEC) as well as any local or state regulations. All states have different codes which is why your electrician needs to be licensed in your state. 

Electrical inspectors look for a plethora of potential safety hazards. You may be able to see some of these issues yourself. The best electricians know how to comply with local standards so the inspections should be straightforward. Some of the things inspectors look for include but are not limited to: 

  • Damaged or frayed wires 
  • Cords are in good conditions and do not show wear and tear 
  • Correct wires are used 
  • Circuit breakers are properly sized 
  • Ensure circuit breaker boxes are not overloaded 
  • Ground fault circuit interrupters are wired correctly 
  • Wiring to the electrical panel is properly grounded 
  • House is compliant with branch-circuit voltage limitations 
  • All conductors of a circuit are grouped together 
  • Switches in wet or damp locations are properly installed in weatherproof enclosures
  • All appliances are grounded 
  • Wiring is suitable for current capacity 
  • Outlets are properly spaced 
  • All light fixtures have diffusers installed 

 

The list goes on! At Wire Craft, our experienced electricians can take the load off your shoulders and make sure your electrical systems are up to local Washington codes. More importantly, your home will be much safer with compliant, up-to-date electrical systems.

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Upgrading an Electrical Panel 

In a previous post, we took you inside and toured the anatomy of your home’s main electrical panel. This nifty devices controls the power distribution and electricity in your home. 

Upgrading your electrical panel is not something we would ever recommend doing yourself. It’s risky and technical so hiring an electrician is the best way to go. 

Do You Still Have a Fuse Box?

Homes older than the 1960’s operated on fuse boxes instead of circuit breakers. Fuses burn out and have to be replaced, but circuit breakers just need to be switched back on. For safety and convenience, we would recommend upgrading your fuse box to a circuit breaker. 

How Old is your Home? 

Homes that are 20 or 30 years old, typically have lower amperage capacity in their electrical panels. Most homes of this vintage support 60 or 100 amps versus today’s electrical panels which support an average of 200 amps which is more suitable for current lifestyles. 

Does your Panel Feel Warm? 

A panel that feels warm to the touch may be overloaded and could use an upgrade. Ask your electrician for an expert opinion. 

Does your Panel Trip Often? 

If your panel trips often or you hear a crackling noise, this typically means that you have more appliances or devices plugged into a circuit than it can support. This usually means it’s time for an upgrade. If your appliances are not running at capacity this could also be a sign that panels are outdated or overloaded. 

Are You Looking to Make Upgrades? 

If you’re planning to upgrade your appliances, you may want to check if your current electrical panel can support them. If you find yourself using power strips a lot, you may want to add new outlets to your home. In this case, you will also want to consult your electrician if your panel is due for an upgrade. 

Cost of Upgrading an Electrical Panel 

Electrical projects are not usually suitable even for the savviest of DIY-ers. You should hire an electrician to do this kind of work. 

The cost of upgrading your electrical panel, like any contracting project, will vary. This typically depends on the current state of the panel, the age of the home and how many panels require upgrading. According to HomeGuide, the average cost typically ranges between $850 to $3,000. Permits for this kind of project are usually required. At Wire Craft, we can take care of this for you, but it will be a component of the overall cost of the upgrade.

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How does an Electrical Panel Work? 

Most of us refer to our home’s main electrical panel as the breaker box. This is because it breaks the circuit which is required to do electrical work. However, it’s technically referred to as the load center. 

Overview of the Main Panel 

The main panel functions like a switchboard for the entire home. Essentially, it takes the power coming from the main utility and directs it toward each of the circuits powering appliances, lights and other devices in the home. 

Most homes function with one main electrical panel, but others will have subpanels that are used to power specific areas like an addition or a detached garage. 

Circuit Breaker Switches 

Open the door of the electrical panel and inside you will see a series of switches for each circuit breaker. Each circuit breaker has an on and off position that allows you to manually control the power to the circuit. 

When a circuit is overloaded, the switch moves to a neutral third position between on and off. This is a good thing and is designed to fail safely to prevent fires. 

Each switch should be clearly labeled depicting which area or appliance it is connected to.

Older homes predating the 1960’s may have fuses versus circuit breakers. 

Beneath the Dead Front Cover  

Most homeowners never go below the layer of the electrical panel where the circuit breaker switches are located. The cover where the switches are is referred to as the dead front cover. This is typically held in place typically by a screw in each corner. 

To upgrade the electrical panel, an electrician first turns off the power to the main circuit breaker, then removes the dead front cover. 

The main circuit breaker is typically located at the top of the panel. It takes the power incoming from the utility and feeds the branch circuit breakers controlling individual circuits. The main circuit breaker also determines the total amperage capacity of the panel. The standard for newer panel is 200 amps. 

Bus Bars 

A bus bar is a metallic strip or bar, housed inside the panel for local high current power distribution. The service wires from the main circuit breaker feed two hot bus bars in the panel. The circuit breakers snap into place onto the bus bars to provide power to the circuits. 

Once power leaves the circuit breaker, provides power to your appliances, lights, etc. it comes back into the breaker via the neutral wire which is connected to a neutral bus bar.

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Decoding Electrician Estimates 

Electricity is the lifeblood of the home that most of us take for granted. Electrical work is highly specialized and homeowners rely on electricians often. Thus, it is important to know what to look for in an electrical estimate and to understand how they are constructed. 

At Wire Craft, we pride ourselves on Straight Forward Pricing. You can approve the cost before we start any project. 

Evaluate the Job in Person 

The most accurate estimates are done in person. While it may be convenient to obtain an estimate over the phone while describing the problem, electrical work can be very technical and it’s best to have an electrician come to your home to evaluate the problem in person. Then, they can obtain a better understanding of what the job entails. 

Project Summary 

The evaluation should start with a project summary detailing the overview of the project. This provides a clear understanding of what the project requires, what the end result should be and what the customer is paying for. A project summary helps avoid miscommunication between the contractor and the client. 

Project Costs 

The body of the estimate lists the project cost line items. Budgeting accurately protects the contractor as well as keeps the customer happy. The more detailed the project costs, the more transparency the contract provides the customer. 

Primary project costs include but are not limited to labor, time, materials and permits. 

Labor Costs 

Labor costs will depend on the experience level of the individuals working the project. Many electrical projects require highly skilled labor, so this is typically the most expensive portion of the estimate. 

Materials 

The estimate should include the materials required for the project. If the client has already purchased some of the materials, the estimate should highlight that as well. 

Permits 

Depending on the project, you may require permits to do the work. These often have some associated costs. In a previous post, we discuss the process of obtaining permits and common projects that require permits in Seattle. Obtaining a permit for electrical work may also require inspections that sometimes incur minor costs. 

Well written, clear estimates set great electricians apart from the beginning. It establishes trust with the customer and lays the foundation for a strong working relationship.

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The Basics of Running Solar in Your Home

Going solar is both socially responsible and economically beneficial. With the potential for long term energy savings and federal tax credits, it’s no wonder so many households in Washington are going solar. Even in our relatively cloudy state, solar panels still harness a considerable amount of energy. 

At Wire Craft, we are not installers but can help our customers navigate, upgrade and maintain electrical work required to support home solar systems.

In this post we will cover the basics of running solar in your home so you can take advantage of one of Earth’s most powerful resources! 

Paying for Solar 

Installing solar panels is a big investment. This is usually the first hurdle homeowners need to figure out. There are multiple ways of going about it in Washington state such as loans, leases and power-purchase agreements. 

Find out what option works best for you with Solar Power Rocks payment tool

Another way to help with the cost is the big incentive most people can get is the Federal Solar Tax Credit that earns you 30% of your costs back after just 1 year.

Bid your Project 

You will want to bid out your solar installation project to multiple companies to ensure you’re getting a competitive rate. When researching installers, be sure to find qualified and insured companies with the proper certification—the solar industry standard certification is from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.

Make sure company familiar with local permitting and interconnection processes. You will also want to ask if they can refer you to other local customers you can contact for their feedback. 

Solar Installation 

There are five major steps required for solar panel installations after you sign the contract: 

  1. Engineering site visit
  2. Permits and documentation
  3. Ordering equipment
  4. Solar panel installation
  5. Approval and interconnection

 

During the engineering site visit, the engineer will look at your electrical panel to see if you’ll need to upgrade it. If they determine they need to upgrade the electrical panel, that means that your new solar panels will require more amps and the ampere capacity of your electrical box will need to increase. This is something we can assist with. 

On the site visit, the installer will also help you decide on the right size system for your home. They consider four primary factors: solar resources and available sunlight, system orientation and tilt, system efficiency at converting sunlight to electricity as well as other potential utility sources such as wind energy. 

Enhance your Solar System with the Tesla Powerwall 

The Tesla Powerwall is a self-powered home that combines solar energy and Powerwall to power your home day and night independent. 

Powerwall makes up for some of the shortcomings of solar panel technology. During the day, solar panels may produce more energy than your home uses. Powerwall stores that excess solar energy and makes it available on demand, even after the sun has set.

You can determine the number of Powerwall units required for your home along with estimated costs using the Powerwall calculator

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How To Get Your Electrical Work Approved in Seattle

In a previous post we explained how to get your electrical work approved in Shoreline. In this post we’ll dive into getting electrical work approved in Washington’s largest city; Seattle.

Determine if you Need a Permit

First you want to determine if you need a permit for your project. The City of Seattle publishes a list of common projects that require permits.

In the City of Seattle you need an electrical permit any time electrical wiring is installed, altered, extended, or connected to any electrical equipment, including signs. You may not need a permit for some residential or minimally-sized low-voltage systems. Special events, such as street fairs, that have temporary power installations do require an electrical permit.

For requirements on low voltage projects, be sure to review this checklist.

Request a Permit

For low voltage projects, you can apply directly online using this link.

You can also call (206) 684-8464 with any permit questions you may have.

Request an Inspection

You can schedule your inspection to get your permit request approved via this link.

Most electrical permits require three inspections: cover, service, and final.

Cover inspection: This inspection is conducted when all new circuits are wired (boxes installed, wires run, grounding conductor connected or made up, nail plates installed in areas as needed). Cover inspections also include underground installations.Don’t cover your work with insulation, receptacles, or wall switches until the inspector has approved it. Don’t cover trenches, ditches, or slabs until the inspector has approved them.

Service and feeder inspection: This inspection is conducted when the service electrical mast, meter base, service panels, grounding electrode conductors, and branch circuits (if possible) have been installed.

Final inspections: This inspection is conducted when the electrical work has been completed. Make sure panel boxes are covered, circuits are labeled in the right spaces on the box, and all cover plates are installed. You must have all equipment and appliances installed, grounded, and energized for final inspection.

A permit may not be approved if the inspector could not get on site, if the work is not yet complete or if there are code violations. When the city has to do more than one re-inspection, they may charge an additional fee.

You can access inspection results at the services portal.

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How to get your electrical work approved in Shoreline (Washington)

Any form of electrical work carries some risk. That’s why local governments regulate electrical work and projects. In order to get electrical work approved, the city of Shoreline, WA requires inspections. These inspections ensure that  a proposal as built conforms to the approved plans and minimum code requirements.

In this post we will highlight the steps required to get your electrical work approved in Shoreline, WA. 

Fill Out the Application Packet 

To obtain an electrical permit to allow installation, alteration, and renovations to electrical systems in Shoreline, you must submit an approval packet to obtain a permit. Each packet contains different requirements depending on if you are working on a commercial or residential project or if you are the owner of the property or a contractor. 

For the residential electrical permit submittal packet, a Department of Labor and Industries Permit Application must be filled out and submitted along with the appropriate fees per schedule on the application. 

If you are the property owner, you will fill out this permit application form and have your project inspected for approval. 

Schedule an Inspection 

The city of Shoreline allows you to schedule your inspection online for your convenience. Shoreline offers three methods to schedule inspections (online, by phone or by QR code).  

WA State Dept of Labor & Industries conduct all electrical inspections for the City of Shoreline.

After the inspection, the inspector will notify the permit holder or agent of any corrections necessary for code compliance. Any portions that are not determined complete must be corrected and are to remain uncovered until approved by the inspector. Re-inspections may be subject to a minimum hourly charge of $199. 

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What Our Seattle Electricians Do

Electricians are the superheroes of power. After all, they help us keep the lights on! But what is that they specifically do? Essentially, electricians install and maintain all electrical power systems. Electricians generally focus on installation or maintenance however at Wire Craft Electric, we happen to do both. 

There are four primary types of electricians: residential wiremen, inside wiremen, telecommunications electricians and outside linemen. At Wire Craft Electric, we cover nearly all electrical domains. 

At Wire Craft, our highly experienced and trained electricians cover a broad domain of electrical work. These are just some of the primary jobs they cover.

Troubleshooting 

Our electricians troubleshoot electrical issues and electric heat problems. You can count on Wire Craft to help troubleshoot nearly all home electrical issues. Troubleshooting is an important service to outsource to the experts because it can present dangers to people who are untrained in electrical work. 

Repairs 

Repairs are one of our most common requests as electricians. Wire Craft’s highly trained electricians are often called to repair electrical systems such as faulty outlets, switches, circuits and circuit breakers. It’s important to hire the experts instead of attempting to repair faulty or broken electrical systems. 

Installation

Electricians also can install new electrical systems in homes. At Wire Craft, our electricians are often called upon to install new electrical circuits, new lights, outlets and switches. 

Upgrading 

Electrical systems often require upgrading if there are issues or if the systems are too old. It is important to upgrade systems for safety reasons and to make sure you are in compliance with current codes. Our electricians upgrade electrical panels, meters and systems. 

When installing solar panels, the engineer who conducts the site visit may determine that your electrical panel requires updating. This means that your new solar panels will require more amps and the ampere capacity of your electrical box will need to increase. This is something we can help you with. 

Rewiring 

Rewiring a house or rewiring faulty circuits is an important and potentially dangerous task. That’s why it’s important to rely on expert opinions before embarking on any rewiring project. For any home over 50 years old, you will want an electrician to inspect the electrical systems to see if it requires rewiring. This is something our electricians can assist with. 

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How to install an electric tankless hot water heater

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How To Make Your Switches and Sockets More Stylish

Who says electrical components such as sockets and switches can’t be chic and stylish? In this article, get to know some tips on how to beautify your home electrical system while still maintaining its efficiency and safety.

Tips For Fashionable Switches and Sockets

Most people fail to notice how light switches and power sockets look, since they’re merely tools to activate electricity into fixtures and appliances connected to them. However, it won’t hurt to try making them attractive or in tune with your home design.

Here are some style tips related to these electrical accessories:

Kind of materials

Are you aware that light switches don’t just come in plastic? Some switches and electrical sockets are made of glass, aluminum, steel, brass, and marble. Aside from their function, these electrical components may be built from a unique material that already brings a welcome aesthetic.

Functionality

Apart from rocket switches that come with only two settings (on and off), you may opt for dimmers. This kind of switch customizes the amount of light that the lamp emits, based on the setting of the rotating knob.

Another ingenious and modern way to upgrade lighting fixtures is through the use of motion sensors. In some facilities, the light will automatically turn on when the sensors detect movement. This is perfect for convenience (wherein you don’t want to touch a switch anymore) or security (in which an outdoor spotlight may be activated when someone sneaks into your compound).

In addition, due to the rise in popularity of mobile devices, why not install a USB charging port inside your home? Wall-mounted USB ports are extremely helpful, especially when you can’t find the charger adapter.

Patterns

You may also choose to add some patterns and colors onto your existing sockets and switches. Some electrical stores sell patterned casings for light switches. You may also make your own pattern by painting near the electrical socket.

Combination

Some manufacturers have already produced panels that combine switches and sockets. If you find this kind of orientation useful, visit your local store and ask about this kind of product.

Final Word

As with any action or process, function is always more important than form. While fashioning your electrical switches to make them look good, don’t miss out on checking for safety. Make sure that the electrical fashion pieces have been approved for electrical safety.

If you need help in assessing the safety of your home electrical system, give us a call at Wire Craft Electric. Our skilled electrical professionals will evaluate your home and give you expert advice on what to do.

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