Fuse & outlets questions

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Old 04-29-10, 01:50 PM
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Fuse & outlets questions

My husband and I recently rented an older home & have had a couple electrical issues come up that I would like some advice on.

First, the dryer wasn't working. We flipped the circuit breaker a couple times and that wasn't the problem. But the service man said the problem was the outlet. Our landlord (who is overseas for a few months) suggested we check the fuse box in the attic (which seems odd to me when there is a circuit breaker box in the bedroom with a switch that controls the dryer). Anyway, my husband was nervous about messing with a fuse box and so we called around and found an electrician who was willing to stop by & check things out and quoted us $40 for the visit with additional charges pending depending on what he found. He climbed up to the attic, replaced a 20 amp fuse and proceeded to charge us $120 for "20 amp fuse replacement" on top of the $40 visit fee.

I'm frustrated at my husband for not being willing to even peek inside the fuse box. But what I want to know is, was the fuse really that expensive? Was he charging because he had to poke his head into the attic? (it's right by the entrance so he didn't have to prowl around) Or have we been overcharged? Our landlord is ok with us shortpaying the rent for repairs we have to make but I'm cringing at the thought of telling him $160 to an electrician for a fuse!


My second question is that almost every outlet in the house is 2-prong. My husband found little adaptors that we plug our 3-prong cords into which then plug into the 2-prong outlets. But is that safe? My husband asked the Dish network guy when he was installing our service and the guy's response was "Sorry, can't hear you with my headphones on. Because if I heard you I wouldn't be allowed to install your service if you only have 2-prong outlets." Which tells me he was going against policy and that our situation may not be too safe? We have a 3-prong surge protector with all our television equipment plugged into one of those 2-prong adapters. Is this dangerous?
 
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Old 04-29-10, 02:15 PM
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Depending on local pricing, $160 just to check out your situation is pretty normal. At least, around here it is.

But then again, he should have told you that up front. The fuse probably cost him less than $10. If it took him less than 5 minutes to place it, and it sounds like that's the case, he's less than honest and upfront in his pricing.

Your electrical system lacks grounding. What that means is that if there is a fault or short circuit, it can sometimes fail to trip your breaker because the current has no good path to ground. It's not optimum, but it's not extremely dangerous for people. Ground path is typically more necessary to protect equipment and wires than people, so don't be too worried. For personal safety, be sure that you have GFCI (the ones with the buttons on them) outlets in the kitchen and bathroom, because they are specifically for your safety.

Your surge protector doesn't surge protect, without a ground path. If you're only using it as a way to plug multiple things in at once, no big deal. If you'd like it to offer some protection from an electrical surge, it needs the third prong and a working ground system in your walls.
 
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Old 04-29-10, 02:26 PM
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Originally Posted by ladysaotome View Post
He climbed up to the attic, replaced a 20 amp fuse
The dryer circuit should probably be a 30A (which would explain why the fuse blew), but that might be a wiring problem with the home. Don't increase the fuse size without a full evaluation of the circuit.

But what I want to know is, was the fuse really that expensive?
It's hard to second-guess him without actually seeing the job. Did he have to make a second trip to go buy the fuse or order it? The $160 price for a service call with some equipment supplied wouldn't be out of the question, but I don't understand why he would have initially quoted $40.

But is that safe?
It's sort of like an old car without airbags. It was "safe" when it was built, but is no longer "safe" by modern standard. Appliances that only have two-prong cords (lamps, vacuum cleaner) are no different with two-prong receptacles; however appliances that have three-prong cords with one of those adapters do have a higher shock risk if the appliance malfunctions while you are touching it.

We have a 3-prong surge protector with all our television equipment plugged into one of those 2-prong adapters. Is this dangerous?
It's not dangerous, but it is essentially useless at protecting the electronics. Without the ground wire, the surge protector has nowhere to divert surges so they'll go right through to the electronics anyway.

I'm not sure why Dish Network would care about grounded circuits inside the home, perhaps standard boilerplate in their warranty so they don't have to replace equipment damaged by surges. The main concern of the installer should be grounding the dish antenna outside the home. Most of these that I have seen installed by professional installers have been grounded well enough.
 
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Old 04-29-10, 02:31 PM
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You should not have had to replace a 20a fuse to get a dryer working. Dryers are normally on 30 amp fuses. But of course there shouldn't also be a breaker box with a breaker for the dryer unless the breaker box is a subpanel and a subpanel would not be on a 20amp fuse. There is some very strange and possibly dangerous wiring going on.

Does your dryer plug have 3 prongs or 4 prongs? Does the dryer seem to be working OK?

Note the 20a fuse could mea a circuit wired with #12 wire so it shouldn't be changed without a full circuit evaluation.
 
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Old 04-29-10, 02:37 PM
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The electrician was there for maybe 15 minutes - he had the part and was done very quickly.

We live in a slightly remote area and most services charge mileage in addition to a "visit charge". We had been calling the various electricians just to get a rough idea how much they'd charge to come out and check out the situation. This guy was cheapest and he had stated the reason was we are located between his two shops so it was easy for him to stop off while driving from one shop to the other. So we were expecting to pay more for labor & materials - just not quite so much for less than 10 minutes of work. But if that seems about average for most electricians than I guess we won't worry about it. We just won't use him again as I'd rather he have been more upfront with us than to sell himself as such a good deal compared to all the others.

I feel better about the outlets, now. Thanks. Don't know how pleased my husband will be to hear his surge protectors aren't protecting his computer but we mostly use them for the multiple outlets anyway.
 
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Old 04-29-10, 02:42 PM
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The dryer is 3-prong. It seems to be working fine now. It was actually running before we called the electrician, it just wasn't heating. The dryer repair man said there wasn't enough electricity to power the heating element.

The wiring seems wierd - the house is very old and most of the updates seem more cosmetic than functional. oh well, this may just be good motivation for us to buy a home and stop renting.
 
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Old 04-29-10, 02:43 PM
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Not only are you paying for the techs time but also insurance, gas, operating expenses, experience, overhead and profit, markup and other expenses that legitimate businesses have. A large appliance service near me charges $125 just to show up at my door. Parts are extra and I may not get it fixed the same day either.
 
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Old 04-29-10, 02:46 PM
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I understand there are always those costs. We just had asked ahead of time and expected those charges to be in his flat rate - not added to the labor/materials. Live & learn, I guess.
 
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Old 04-29-10, 02:47 PM
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Labor rates vary greatly around the US so $160 would be on the upper end of a service call IMO. You have to remember that your are not just paying for the $10 fuse. The electrician that came to your house had to have a license, van payment, insurance, bond, continuing training, gas, etc. You get the picture. All this stuff costs money, and in some cases, a lot of it!

I understand your frustration of your husband not looking into the problem but in some cases, if you don't know what your doing you can really mess things up. That said, replacing a fuse can be pretty easy. Since your on the internet use it to your advantage. I just put "replacing a fuse" in Google and got this: "Results 1 - 10 of about 2,110,000 for replacing a fuse" Google is a wonderful thing and you can pretty much find how to do anything on it. Many cases with video!

I understand there are always those costs. We just had asked ahead of time and expected those charges to be in his flat rate - not added to the labor/materials. Live & learn, I guess.
Ask your landlord if he has some preferred contractors that he likes to use. Or ask around for people who know of good ones. If it was me, I would not call back that last guy. If I was doing the job I would have been a bit more up front with the job. Sounds too much like a bait and switch.
 
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Old 04-29-10, 02:53 PM
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I understand there are always those costs. We just had asked ahead of time and expected those charges to be in his flat rate - not added to the labor/materials. Live & learn, I guess.

I'm not too upset with my husband. After all, I was afraid to mess with it, too.
However, I did use Google for some plumbing issues we were having. Hubby was afraid to mess with that, too, but I took the faucet apart and didn't resort to a plumber until I hit an issue. Didn't want to risk breaking anything. I think our landlord should at least appreciate our efforts to save him money there.
 
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Old 04-29-10, 04:33 PM
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It was actually running before we called the electrician, it just wasn't heating. The dryer repair man said there wasn't enough electricity to power the heating element
Is the breaker for the dryer single pole or double pole? A double pole will often have two handles tied together. What is the number on the end of the breaker handle or breaker?



(Pros I'm wondering if they used a 120v from the fuse box and a 120v on the opposite phase from the breaker box to power this. If they used an exiting 120v receptacle circuit on the fuse box feed then part of the wiring could be #14.)
 

Last edited by ray2047; 04-29-10 at 04:54 PM.
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Old 04-29-10, 05:17 PM
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. It sounds like the dryer only had 1 hot leg and the 120v motor and electronics still worked but the heating element (240v) didnt work. THe panel could easily been mislabeled

re: 20a, well sum ting wong there...
 
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Old 04-30-10, 07:46 AM
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The circuit breaker was doublepole, I'll have to check to see what the number on the end is. Like Danny7633 suggests, though, it wouldn't surprise me if things are mislabeled.
 
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Old 04-30-10, 09:03 AM
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Try turning the breaker off and see if the dryer still works. I just want to make sure the wiring is safe.
 
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Old 04-30-10, 09:06 AM
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The dryer doesn't work if the breaker is off. We figured that out right away as my husband had to swap out the 4-prong plug on the dryer for a 3-prong one and it took him a couple tries to get right so we always had the breaker off when he would plug it into the wall.
 
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Old 04-30-10, 10:25 AM
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In my area it's around $75 per hour not including parts. They will charge you their travel time to and back. So if you live some distance from their shop they're going to charge you both ways. If you live 1 mile away they will still charge you at least 1 hour even thou they might only have 30 min. total. Hope this helps.

Jim

 
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Old 04-30-10, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by ladysaotome View Post
The dryer doesn't work if the breaker is off
If that is true then there is something wrong with this setup. The purpose of the 20a fuse needs to be determined.
my husband had to swap out the 4-prong plug on the dryer for a 3-prong one and it took him a couple tries
Thatís troubling. Was it because the receptacle didn't match the wiring instructions? You did bond neutral to ground at the dryer didn't you?
 
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Old 04-30-10, 12:32 PM
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Originally Posted by rukkus11 View Post
In my area it's around $75 per hour not including parts. They will charge you their travel time to and back. So if you live some distance from their shop they're going to charge you both ways. If you live 1 mile away they will still charge you at least 1 hour even thou they might only have 30 min. total. Hope this helps.

Jim

That kind of setup is very standard, I think. In this case, however, he quoted his upfront cost at $40. To charge $120 to change a fuse to make up the difference is dishonest. Definitely steer clear of that contractor in the future, IMHO.
 
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Old 04-30-10, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
If that is true then there is something wrong with this setup. The purpose of the 20a fuse needs to be determined. Thatís troubling. Was it because the receptacle didn't match the wiring instructions? You did bond neutral to ground at the dryer didn't you?
As much as I agree with you that there is something less than logical going on, extra over current protection isn't exactly something I'd personally worry about in a rented property. Unless it's unsafe, and this doesn't strike me as being highly likely to be an unsafe situation, I wouldn't worry overly about the landlord's electrical system. Just my two cents.
 
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Old 04-30-10, 12:43 PM
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That explains why he appeared so much cheaper than his competition. We'll know better going forward.
 
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Old 04-30-10, 12:48 PM
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Was it because the receptacle didn't match the wiring instructions? You did bond neutral to ground at the dryer didn't you?
He was able to attach the new cord fine but the dryer still wouldn't power up. We flipped the cord over (reversed sides) where it was screwed to the dryer and then it worked. Which is wierd since everything online said all that mattered was the outer wires be on the outside but I had found flipping the cord over as a troubleshooting suggestion & it worked. The dryer is grounded. It was 3-prong when we bought it, then changed to 4-prong when we moved so we already had the cord to switch it back when we moved again.

The wiring of this place is wacky but everything seems to work ok now so we're not too worried anymore.

Thanks, everybody, for your input. You've really helped assuage some concerns!
 
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Old 04-30-10, 01:09 PM
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We flipped the cord over (reversed sides) where it was screwed to the dryer and then it worked. Which is wierd since everything online said all that mattered was the outer wires be on the outside but I had found flipping the cord over as a troubleshooting suggestion & it worked.
That actually makes sense if one side of the dryer is supplied by the breaker and the other by the fuse. Honestly I would be scared to use the dryer till an electrician verified the receptacle is correctly wired. Could you take a picture of the fuse box? Would you be comfortable removing the cover from the breaker box and posting a picture of the wiring inside? Turn off the main breaker for the breaker box before opening and be very careful because there are live parts even with the main breaker off. http://forum.doityourself.com/electr...your-post.html

Honestly I think this is something the electrician who replaced the fuse should have checked out.
 
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Old 04-30-10, 07:20 PM
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quoted us $40 for the visit with additional charges pending depending on what he found.
That sounds like a trip charge, but he should have specified it was a trip charge to show up PLUS his hourly rate. Typically, hourly rates in this area are around $90 per hour (1 Hr minimum) with drive time one way included in the time charged. Each additional call gets drive time one way added also. $120 doesn't sound too outlandish, but he should have been upfront about ALL of the charges that would apply.
 
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