Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Handy Jack Gets New Name!

I am inspired to rechristen the nightmare generating miscreant encountered in electrical repair!
I have decided to refer to Handy Jack as The Handy JAbberwoCK in recognition of his most dread nature.

Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Saturday, January 23, 2016


CPSC 2014 Carbon Monoxide/Smoke Detector Recall

I have always admitted I was slow on the draw, but it just recently [January 2016] came to my attention that Kidde had issued a recall of some smoke detectors and a combination smoke and CO detector manufactured from the end of 2013 to May of 2014.

I came across the recall notice by accident while following a link related to another interest. The reason this drew my attention is that the device recall dates were from a period in which I installed a number of these devices.

The supply house I bought them from was unaware of the recall and was surprised by my inquiry.

The manufacture date is on the body of the device

Link to Consumer Product Safety Commission Recall Page

Robert Wilber
Philadelphia Licensed Electrician
Philadelphia License # 3516 - 16765

Wednesday, September 09, 2015


Anything goes as long as you don't get caught too soon....

Please note that certain identities have been obscured to protect me from the wrath of the guilty.

I hark back to my second post:
Don't put yourself in Danger!

I have been a Philadelphia Licensed Electrician since 1979.
I was a Philadelphia Licensed Electrical Inspector from 1987 until 1994.
I still answer questions on All!

They have disclaimers attached, and some of the electrical advice I read is still absolutely frightening!
People who claim to be skilled professional electricians don't always know what they are talking about!
The DIY sites are even scarier.
Read what is offered in these sources, but check to make sure what they say is right. You are your own ultimate quality control expert. Control the quality of the advice you follow, or risk the consequences!

Now comes the scary part that motivated this newest post.

I recently was called to install a GFI receptacle at an existing kitchen location to satisfy a home inspector so a home could go to settlement. What I found was a nightmare.
In 2000, a retired widow bought a little condo in a high-rise to enjoy a stress-free residence. She had the apartment decorated and the kitchen remodeled to her tastes. She hired a licensed general contractor, who hired a "professional" electrician.
The Township in question [TIQ] required that the electrician be licensed. The electrician was licensed.
The TIQ required a permit. The electrician had a permit.
The TIQ required third-party inspection. A licensed inspector inspected the rough wire and the completed work.

Can anyone explain to me how a homeowner can hire a contractor who is licensed [and therefore supposedly skilled] and gets a permit to install wiring, has an inspection performed by an underwriter and nobody is responsible when an installation is found to be substandard because numerous defects are discovered during the new buyer's homeowner inspection when the house is sold fourteen years later?

I asked my insurance agent about the risk accepted by the contractor's insurance company under a liability policy and how long is it in force. The insurance company does not take on any liability. An insurance policy does not cover poor workmanship. If the poor workmanship caused a fire, then the insurance company would pay for the damage caused by the fire. This is assuming the fire occurred within 7 years of the performance of the work. Seven years is currently the standard of time before the contractor is no longer responsible.

The inspection agency [the one that performed the inspections] says that an inspection is only valid for one year.
The argument is that the now deceased 70 year old homeowner (little old lady) might have ripped open the tiled wall and modified the wiring she hired the contractor to install.
I have no idea what the position of the inspector's insurance company is. I can guess.

I asked the TIQ. They keep records for four years. License, permit, inspection report - trash. "That is a civil matter!"
The inspection agency in question is still authorized to inspect in the TIQ.

Home Improvement Contractors are now required to register with the Attorney General's office. I suppose it is because of all the con artists "painting" driveways, absconding with deposit money or charging two million dollars to replace a sewer line.

Pennsylvania Home Improvement Contractor Registration # PA057101
73 P.S. 517.1 - 517.19 also known as

Link opens in new window

"The official registration number of Robert Wilber can be obtained from the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection by calling toll-free within Pennsylvania 1-888-520-6680.
Registration does not imply endorsement."

Registration is NOT a Trade License

The AGs office said basically that it sounded like a civil matter and they hadn't received a complaint anyway.
I have suggested the victim's daughter file a complaint with the PA Attorney General's Office.
I thought that they might take an interest in that one might expect the statute of limitations to start at discovery, rather than at the time of the bad act.

So I guess the old rules apply:
Caveat Emptor!
Anything goes as long as you don't get caught too soon....
Nobody really cares.

(LIFE SAFETY WARNING! [disclaimer]

Electricity is dangerous!

You can be injured or killed!

Improper installations can cause fire, injury and death!

Saturday, June 08, 2013


Philadelphia Cancels Safety Inspections, Cripples C&I Fire Unit.

I don't know whether I would have written about this except for the recent building collapse on Market Street. Everyone is talking about Mayor Nutter and L&I on the radio. They talk like it was a conspiracy. It isn't. It is just the same old bureaucratic maze. People have little jobs doing little things the same way over and over. A lot of things just aren't anyone's assignment, or there are so few people to do so much that it can NEVER get done.
There have got to be ten thousand places to eat in Philadelphia. Just how many health inspectors can we afford to pay for, anyway? Say there are, how many involved? Ten? Twenty? With supervisors, and trainings and paperwork and cars and offices and reports...and what do they get paid, thirty thousand a year? So we spend two million dollars a year on it. ...and these fifteen inspectors get to go into the office and spend at least three hours a day on rote office operations, then breaks and lunch and getting started and shut down and organized to do something. There goes another two hours. Apiece. That leaves three hours a day to inspect - you think I'm kidding? Get a car, put it away, gas it up go somewhere, leaving an hour and a half for inspection, half of which gets spent on paperwork and phone reporting. So each inspector gets to one place a day each, if they are lucky. And one day a week they have to meet with supervisors. So maybe 60 places get looked at each week for less time than it takes to eat lunch. Vacations, holidays ... maybe two thousand places get inspected each year, in the most cursory way possible. That means, with any luck, it takes five years for a restaurant to get inspected. When you consider that 90% of new businesses close in less than a year, it means that an inspector NEVER looks at where we eat!
This is just to give an example.
What I really want to talk about is emergency lighting, you know the little spotlight heads all over the place in all the stores that are supposed to light up when the power fails, the exit signs that show where the door is in the dark or a fire? How many times have you been somewhere where the power failed and the emergency lights didn't work? A lot, I bet. The reason is that people don't check them....and they don't know they don't work until the lights go out and the emergency lights don't come on.
These systems should be checked every month, and tested to make sure they operate long enough once a year for an hour and a half. A log book should be kept showing the test and the result of the annual test, but most people don't keep one.
The City of Philadelphia required an annual inspection, test and certification of exit and emergency lighting by a licensed contractor. The certification was sent to the C&I [Commercial & Industrial] Fire Unit at 900 Spring Garden Street. This meant that at least that one time each year, the emergency systems were checked by someone qualified and maintained in working order.
I just found out that Philadelphia cut the L&I budget by one third a couple of years ago, discontinued that requirement and moved the C&I inspectors from Spring Garden to the local district offices, where they now perform any and all inspections, leaving this critical function in the hands of store owners and landlords.

Monday, January 30, 2012


Why doesn't my electricity work?

I receive many inquiries from people about their electricity not working.
I like to help, but the possible cause of problems can be drawn from so varied a list that it is nearly impossible to provide a useful response.
The following is a perfefct example.


I live in a 100 plus old six unit building in DC that--like many places--is staggering under the demands of modern devices. This has caused the occasional interruption with toaster oven plus space heater combo...nothing that can't be fixed easily and then thrown back on with the circuit breaker switch.

This week, however, it seems the whole thing expired. In one whole half of my apartment, no lights come on DESPITE the circuit breaker being clearly in the "on" position. In fact, it never flipped into the red "off" side. I've switched it back and forth a handful of times in the hopes that I can activate something, somehow, to no avail.

My unit has not been rewired completely ever, to my knowledge. a few outlets no longer work, but this is the first time half the building has gone out.

Each unit controls its own lights, room by room in the circuit panel, however there is a big box in the basement for the building, although when I checked it out, there was no labeling that indicated it controlled anything in individual units.

There are near endless possible causes.
You need an electrician because:
1-Possible utility problem-partial loss of utility lateral or bad treansformer or connection failure
2-Partial loss of service entrance at metering or panel, disconnect or other
3-Blown fuse at service entrance panel or subfeed disconnect
4-Failed connection
5-Bad breaker
6-Local failure-opened circuit due to conductor termination failure
In short, anywhere there is a connection, a device or a current limiter of any type there may be a failure, or an open caused by a properly functioning safety device.
Note: The circuit open may not necessarily be in the ungrounded [hot] conductor

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Why do I need an electrical permit?

The homeowner just didn't want a permit!

The following text is a note sent today to the homeowner who refuses to have a permit and inspection:

"Thank you for considering providing an opportunity to be of service.

I can appreciate your position regarding the coercive nature of the requirements set forth, nor do I disapprove of your views in the least.
Even so, licensing and permit processes are established in the tenor of offering a guarantee of, at worst, minimally qualified personnel providing, at the least, minimally adequate code compliant installations.
The establishment and adoption of these standards by the municipality authorizes substantial penalties for both the owner and installer should they elect to evade the permit process, if discovered.
This system is intended to secure the safety and peace of mind of yourself and your family.
If an unfortunate situation resulting in a loss should develop from improper wiring, an unlicensed installer may not be insured and your own insurance may reject a claim.

Unfortunately, as a licensed electrical contractor, I cannot lightly overlook the impact of these obligations and the potential consequences.
Though you would be paying the fees, I will be the party interacting with the township.

Please feel free to call if I may be of any assistance.

Best regards


Robert Wilber
Electrical Services
142 Cambridge Road
King of Prussia, PA 19406
PA Home Improvement Contractor Registration # PA057101
Philadelphia License # 3516 16765
Licensed Philadelphia electrician"


Circuit breaker for the refrigerator keeps tripping

Don't just reset tripping breakers!

I received an inquiry today from someone with a tripping breaker.

After power outage circuit breaker for the refrigerator keep tripping

Define "power outage"
Was the whole neighborhood out?
...just YOUR house?
...just the fridge?
Did the breaker trip during the outage?
...or after power was restored?
...or was it the cause of the outage?
Does the breaker trip if everything is unplugged from the circuit?

Why do you keep resetting the breaker if you haven't isolated the cause?

A circuit breaker is NOT a repair device.
Continuously resetting the circuit breaker and closing it on a fault is not going to fix the fault! ...but it might start a fire! It is like continually striking a match in the same place!

If you can't determine the cause call a qualified electrician. If you live in the Philadelphia area call a licensed Philadelphia electrician!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Philadelphia electrical violations transfer with sale

Licensed Philadelphia PA electrician learns undiscovered historic L&I electrical violations pass through sale to new owner.

I just received a call from a property owner in Philadelphia.
He owns a small rental property. His family members live in the building, but he also has non-family tenants. They decided to stop paying their rent, so they filed a complaint with the Department of Licenses and Inspections. [You see, regardless of how long tenants haven't paid rent, an owner can't get an eviction order if the property is in violation of ANY aspect of the building and occupancy codes, including having illegally rented an unlicensed apartment to the tenants!]

What a nightmare!

Anyway, L&I comes and does what they are required to do, by law. Lo and behold there are violations!

The biggest problem? A previous owner had the electrical panels changed and several circuits installed ... but they had the electrical work performed by an unlicensed individual, with no Philadelphia electrical permit and no third-party underwriter's inspection.

It is apparent the materials involved in the work were not available at the time the house was originally built! ... and there is no inspection sticker at the panel location!

It doesn't matter that the work was done before the new owner purchased the property. The obviously illegal wiring has just now been revealed and the building is in violation. The new owner is subject to substantial DAILY fines until a permit is obtained and any defects in the illegal installation are corrected by a Philadelphia licensed electrician.


Licensed Philadelphia Electrician frightened by homeowners!


People never cease to amaze me!

I have been a licensed Philadelphia electrician for thirty of the thirty-five years I have worked as an electrician.

I have been told I am not a patient man. I don't think that just because I do not suffer fools gladly it means I am impatient!

I keep thinking "Now I have seen everything." ... and yet, I receive unending gospels of blatant ignorance and poor judgement!

I recently developed what I thought was a blown breaker in our family room. Upon further inspection I noticed that not only was the breaker for that room not triped but that there was no circuit wired to it at all! Further inspection revealed two wires conected to the above breaker (Arc fault) for a different room. The black wire I have determined is for the room associated with that breaker. The red wire however does not seem to associate with any other circuit in the house as it doesn't seem to matter if it is connected or not. I can only assume that that is the wire for the susspect circuit that is without power. All breakers are Square D homeline series and the house is wired with Romex (no pipe). I have checked the wiring from the pannel to the atic for physical damage and there is none. If my assumptions are wrong about the Red wire doubled up on the above breaker then I am just chasing my tail. I have connected this wire to the breaker for the faulty circuit and it has not made a difference. When the fault occured I was home and it acted just like a blown breaker. All the power for the family room was killed. This circuit also supplies power to the lights in two other rooms. I apparently have an open in the circuit and I can't seem to find it. I have metered the panel and I have 125VAC to all circuits in the panel. I have also metered most of the recepticals, light switches and fixtures and I have no power to any of them, not even residual. I have run out of ideas and I am quickly running out of patience. Our home is only 7 years old so it does not make sense that corrosian or a failed fixture is the problem. Any ieas you have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Let me apologize in advance, because you are about to be insulted.
You find a wire in your panel that is obviously intentionally NOT connected [you have not indicated that there was evidence that the conductor material failed and broke] and YOU GO AND ENERGIZE IT WITHOUT FINDING OUT WHERE IT GOES?


Now, to your electrical problem.
You said: "When the fault occured I was home and it acted just like a blown breaker. All the power for the family room was killed."
How do you know it was a "fault?" A fault is a very specific electrical condition. It describes the intentional or unintentional electrical connection between two conductors of differing potential. Is that indeed what occurred? Or did the circuit just go "dead?" Or do you mean that electrical devices just do not work at outlets on the circuit anymore?

You say there was no wire connected to the breaker labeled for the circuit that went out. I DON'T CARE WHAT THE MORON WHO WIRED YOUR HOUSE WROTE IN YOUR PANEL! IF THERE WAS NO WIRE CONNECTED, THAT IS NOT THE POWER SOURCE FOR THAT CIRCUIT!

You say you "metered" everything. Did you take voltage readings between the "hot" conductor and neutral? ...between the "hot" and ground? about the neutral and ground? about between any of the three conductors and the conductors in a known energized circuit? [You will need to make sure that you test to a circuit that is NOT arc-fault protected.]

What kind of "residual" voltage did you expect? Are there capacitors in the circuit? Do you think electricity pools at the lowest point like water?

You said: "Our home is only 7 years old so it does not make sense that corrosian or a failed fixture is the problem." Why doesn't that make sense? The fact is that, if all the circuit breakers are allowing power to their terminal screws and no other intentionally installed safety device intervenes, then the only remaining option is that the circuit is interrupted somewhere else DUE TO EQUIPMENT FAILURE!

1] the circuit feed conductor is removed from the breaker,
2] the circuit feed conductor is open somewhere in the circuit because
a] the conductor is cut [accidentally or intentionally],
b] the conductor is broken [overtight termination, staple, connector, clamp etc.],
c] a connection at a terminal screw or splice point burned up due to resistance at a loose joint,
3] the circuit neutral conductor is open because it is suffering from any of the same causes.

An unhappy fact: the device where the power interruption exists may be functioning properly. The feed-in connection may be intact. The feed-out connection may be damaged, burned, etc. - especially common in the case of receptacles connected with push-in "speed-wire" terminals.

Turn breakers on and off. The circuit with only one or two functioning devices is probably your culprit.

Draw out your house floor-plan and mark device locations. Map out the circuit. Look at what works and doesn't work.

Look at where the panel is. Think of the house without sheetrock. Consider John Glenn's story about being in a spaceship built by the lowest bidder. New houses are all lowest dollar installations. Wire and labor cost a contractor money. How would it have made sense to run the circuit conductors?

Your problem is at the beginning of the circuit, not the end!
You are more likely to be killed by 120 volts than any other voltage [120 volts creates the PERFECT fatal current through the human body's electrical resistance!]
This information is provided for the use of parties as they see fit!
I am not responsible for the application of this information by any party, including those lacking sufficient skill or knowledge to perform these steps safely and any hazard created is the SOLE responsibility of the user.

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