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Install GFI units in all areas that are near water

Posted: November 14, 2008 9:39 p.m.
Updated: November 15, 2008 4:55 a.m.
Hi Robert,
We have got an outlet in the kitchen and whenever I use the blender, the plug is very hot when I put it away. Do you think installing a GFI would alleviate this problem?
Josh S.

Hi Josh,
By code, you need GFI's, Ground Fault Interrupters, in all areas near water. For example, all above the counter kitchen receptacles have to be GFI protected having their own circuits and no other outlets. Same is true with all bathrooms, with a GFI within three feet of the vanity.

Also, receptacles in garages with sinks, crawl spaces and outside receptacles must be GFI protected.

GFI's measure the current traveling down the hot and neutral wires. If there is a difference as small as 5 milliamps (five one thousandths of an amp), this could indicate that the current is bleeding to ground which will cause the GFI to trip the circuit disconnecting any power to that receptacle and any load circuits.

To give you an idea of how sensitive that is, AA batteries produce 2.4 amps.

With any type of electrical work, I always recommend using a qualified electrician. With electricity, even the pros that have been doing it their entire life still make mistakes and get hurt. When wiring a GFI, the power coming into the receptacle is wired to the line and the wire powering other devices would be terminated on the load side.

Getting back to your blender, it sounds like a loose connection.

It's arcing which is causing the heat. There is going to be a certain amount of heat from an appliance, but if it's really hot there is resistance.

I would first check the breaker to make sure it's functioning. If the plug is getting that hot, the breaker should be tripping. The best thing would be have it replaced. Every five years, you should have your breakers checked.

One of the best ways is to go through the panel with an infrared gun and take a temperature reading. If any breakers are bad, they will ring out hot.

This means instead of tripping and stopping the current, they are remaining open and heating up. If you have any breakers that are not tripping or are tripping unnecessarily, these should be replaced immediately.

Hello Robert,
I've been hearing both good and bad things about tankless water heaters and wanted to get your opinion. What are the major differences and are they difficult to install?
Mildred T.

Hi Mildred,
If it's new construction, they go in pretty easy. How easy it is to remove and replace a tankless water heater in an existing home all depends on where the meter and the exhaust are.

The exhaust for standard water heaters are double walled. With tankless, you have to triple flue the exhaust - triple walled because of the amount of heat they emit especially on a gas unit. If you're on the ground floor and have to go up through two stories with a triple flue exhaust, you'll have to open drywall and it would get costly.

Plus you have to run a gas line over for the connection. It can get fairly labor intensive to change from a standard to a tankless.

The tankless systems are very efficient. With a standard water heater, the water is being heated to maintain a specific temperature 24 hours a day.

So whether you're using hot water or not, the gas is burning. While you're working or sleeping, it's cycling all day and night.

With the tankless, it only heats when you use the hot water and turns off again within a couple of seconds of when you're finished. This will save you 50 percent or more on your water heating gas bill. They will pay for themselves through energy management. They work very well but you usually can't run two showers at the same time with a tankless, especially if you have teenagers in the house.

Mr. Lamoureux,
I'm recently retired and bought a little property to build a house. Could you tell me some good ideas I could build in my home or some of the new high-tech ideas out there? Thank you very much,
Kay H.

Hi Kay,
Your only limitation is your budget. Smart house technology has come a long way just in the last two years and has become much more affordable.

Computer controlled voice activated systems are available that will turn on lights or control your entertainment center; adjust and monitor energy zones and only heat/cool the areas of the house that are occupied and operate and monitor your alarm system.

The technology and pricing of entertainment systems and home theaters have also come a long way in recent years. Since you're talking new construction, I'd suggest in home panels that incorporate all the cabling that feeds into the master panel.

Get everything pre-wired and accessible. Your home entertainment, alarms, computers, pool and fire panels - everything is condensed into one central, master panel.

From there, you run the controls into the rooms you want them in. There are companies that specialize in these panels and have a wide variety to choose from, depending on what you want or might want in the future.

With your pool, for example, you can automate it where it is all remote control. You can activate your jacuzzi or jet pumps for water effects or waterfalls. With electronics, anything you want is out there now. It all depends on how deep are your pockets.

Although there is plenty of hi-tech options out there, don't overlook safety. I would definitely look into fire sprinklers, if it is within your budget.

Fire and alarm systems will cut your insurance costs, but in the case of alarms, they'll want to see that you have a monitoring company. I pay one fee a year and I show that not only do I have an alarm system, but who is doing the monitoring. Through these, you get a break on your home and business insurance rates.

Hey Robert,
In front of my business, I have a sidewalk that is raising. There are no trees anywhere near this area, but one corner is up about 1-inch and as far as I can tell, the curb is not moving, just the sidewalk. Do you have any idea what is causing this and how to fix it? I'm concerned that someone may trip coming into my store.
Jim F.

Hi Jim,
It's expansive soil or soil with clay or shale was brought in and put down bone dry and not compacted the right way when they poured concrete over it.

Over the years, when water soaks down into this soil, it will start expanding and lift your sidewalk. You'll probably start to see cracks in the sidewalk when it contracts again, and maybe inside on your walls.

You could repair the concrete that will lessen the liability of a trip hazard, but the problem will remain which could lead to foundation damage.

Make sure that you have proper drainage in that area to prevent any ponding from watering or rains. You also want to limit any excessive irrigation near that area.

Depending on how bad the situation becomes, you may need to contact a soil engineer that specializes in expansive soil that could make recommendations which may involve re-grading and/or installing a drainage system.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years' experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to


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