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Peninsula Lighting Electric Logooffice (650)255-0400
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fax (650) 204-9955
email info@penlightelectric.com

 

Peninsula Lighting & Electric Answers Questions

Frequently asked questions and their answers. Email us with any questions not in here & we will put them on the page:
Legend:
"code" = National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) National Electric Code (NEC)

  1. What type of electrical work does Peninsula Lighting & Electric do?

  2. What is your service area?

  3. May I get a list of references?

  4. What type of automation do you do?

  5. Why do so many contractors I call for a quote not show a real interest?

  6. How can I pick a good contractor?

  7. Why do I need a service upgrade and who determines the need?

  8. I have never lost all of my power due to an overload, so why am I still being told I need a new service?

  9. Why do my lights dim at random times, then go back to normal?

  10. Why do you charge for estimates?

  11. Why are your rates higher than others?

  12. What is one of the main problems you encounter when troubleshooting?

  13. What is a neutral (see within #12)?

  14. What is a shared neutral(see within #12)?

  15. What are your rates?

  16. Will you drive to my home or business for free and also work for free?

  17. Will you repair or replace any item you install in my home, for free ?

  18. We want the work done like you do it but for less money, will you recommend someone?

  19. How high should I mount my dining room chandelier?

  20. We are having an addition/remodel but will not be furnishing it right away, any suggestions?

  21. What makes one bulb better than another?

  22. What is the "color" of a bulb?

  23. What are the numbers associated with a bulb name?


1. What type of electrical work does Peninsula Lighting Electric do?

Peninsula Lighting & Electric performs all types of electrical work for homes and some commercial properties. Our focus is residential customers who require Electrical Excellence, a step up from the ordinary or average installation service. We prefer installing products from well established manufacturers and built with quality as a defining term of use. We couple these products with  attention to detail, and deliver a final package worthy of its surroundings - your home or office. And remember, anything electrical can be automated or integrated into a complete automation system, not just the lighting.

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2. What is your service area?

Peninsula Lighting & Electric enjoys working within San Mateo County and sometimes in San Francisco, most often in Atherton, Hillsborough, Los Altos Hills, Palo Alto, Portola Valley, Woodside,  and a few areas within the greater Bay area. We will work other places where Electrical Excellence is a requisite. Our time is valuable to us, as is the time of most everyone we work for, so we will bill for travel time, parking tickets in San Francisco, really, anything that costs us to perform your work.

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3. May I get a list of references?

Peninsula Lighting & Electric has never asked anyone for permission to use them as a reference, but we may start. All of our work has via word-of-mouth, so the people we work for know at least one other person on our list of clients.

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4. What type of automation do you do?

Anything that has a controllable feature is a candidate for an automation scheme. Peninsula Lighting & Electric typically  provides lighting automation with Litetouch or Lutron as the preferred systems. If you are going beyond lighting automation (audio/video, security, etc.). We like to work in conjunction with a prfoessional inegrator to insure a professionally designed, installed, and integrated system. Having others, with professional experience in their field, perform what they do best helps insure Electrical Excellence.

Peninsula Lighting &Electric also does control design/build for some of Rollamatic's more complex control schemes, and at times integrate this with Litetouch.

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5. Why do so many contractor's I call for a quote not show a real interest?

There are times when an individual has an idea or a concept but needs help finalizing the design. When a contractor is called and hears "I would like you to come out and look at a kitchen I am planning", it means there is still a lot of design work ahead. Peninsula Lighting & Electric likes to ask if there are drawings. If there are no drawings or design in place, it usually means we may spend a lot of my time providing input and helping make design decisions, time that many people do not seem to want to be charged for. If you want competent contractors to bid on your work, you need to have completed as much of the design work as possible, whether by yourself, a designer, or an architect . It may help you to review the California State Contractor's License Board page about what you need to do before getting a contractor involved. Or, give us a call! We will be more than happy to lend some guidance. If you would like to pay for design time, we will do design work.

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6. How can I pick a good contractor?

Call Peninsula Lighting & Electric! Another great way is by references or recommendations from friends. If someone you trust cannot recommend a contractor to you and you call a contractor, ask for a list of the last three jobs comparable to what you would like done. Absolutely go to the California State Contractor's License Board and check out their license number, verify the owner's name and insurance, and see if there are any unresolved complaints.

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7. Why do I need a service upgrade and who determines the need?

You will need a service upgrade as soon as the calculated load of your home exceeds the load rating of your service or when you begin tripping the main breaker due to overload. A calculated load only takes into a consideration a portion of your home's connected loads and a person's lifestyle may go beyond the calculation. Typically a competent electrician may make the initial determination, in that the calculations are based on existing code requirements. However, once you get into the service size of most custom homes, an engineer's stamped calculations is your greatest assurance of conformity and safety. Peninsula Lighting & Electric is able to do all of the initial calculations for you. If it becomes necessary, the information I gather and organize may then be used by an engineer to finalize. 

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8. I have never lost all of my power due to an overload, so why am I still being told I need a new service?

A loss of power or dimming lights due to overload is not always the primary problem with an undersized service. Undersized services can also cause a voltage drop to the extent electrically powered devices are damaged, such as motors in large appliances. If you ever notice your lights dimming momentarily when a motor is turned on, this may be an indication that your service is reaching or has exceeded its ability to provide power at a proper voltage level.

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9. Why do my lights dim at times, then go back to normal?

The voltage must drop for the lights to dim. Dimming may be an indication of the need for a service upgrade. However, there are times where the utility providing power is not providing it at the level necessary for your service needs, either due to undersized wires and/or a transformer being too far from your home. Some utilities will baulk at making the necessary upgrades until they have forced the home/business owner to make unnecessary upgrades to their equipment. Have Peninsula Lighting & Electric review your service before you proceed with any work you will have to pay for.

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10. Why do you charge for estimates?

Peninsula Lighting & Electric typically DOES NOT charge established clients for estimates. However, when we receive calls from people who do not have plans or designs, and who need further design help, we must recoup the cost of coming out or sending someone out. Very often the input I provide to such persons is then passed along to other electrical contractors who then use the information to perform the work with less effort on their part. I am not in a position where I need or want to spend money with little chance of being awarded a project, in essence paying to improve someone else's house. Therefore, I do charge a service fee to visit customers whose sole intent is to solicit ideas and potential costs. If you would like to save a little money, come to our office or email us, we will be glad to reply.

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11. Why are your rates higher than others?

Peninsula Lighting & Electric has found that our rates are only higher than those electrical contractors whose sole goal is to get in and out of a jobsite with a minimal amount of effort. Yes, they may save you money up front, but we are often asked to come in and make reparations to the electrical system after they have left your job. We have been here since 1985 and have an established clientele who understand that a professionally installed system takes time and requires quality materials, as well as wanting assurance of a safely operating home upon completion. Peninsula Lighting & Electric carries full bonding and liability. We are not interested in doing any work where the "cheapest" price is the main focus. Peninsula Lighting & Electric rates are actually less than many noted high-end electrical contractors.

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12. What is one of the main problems you encounter when troubleshooting?

One of the main problems starts with something initially allowed by the code and is subsequently compromised by inept electricians, landscapers, "do-it-yourselfers", handymen, etc; "shared neutrals". First of all, what is a neutral? It is using what the code defines as a grounded conductor, or the electrical wire (typically one of two, three (most often on a home), or four wires, with no insulation on it if overhead, from the utility to your home. It is attached to the ground, then all wires into your home that are common to this wire have a white insulation on them (neutral) or green (ground), or are bare (ground). The neutral makes a complete circuit, a path for the electricity to move on. Every 1/60th of a second the electricity flows in on one wire, through whatever you are turning on, then out on another, then reverses direction the next 1/60th of a second, etc.

The code allows for the neutral to be "shared", in that one neutral may be used to complete the circuit for one of each of the other wires coming into your home. This is "OK" if the code is strictly adhered to. However, what normally seems to take place is either someone comes along and "shares" it with circuits that should have their own neutral somewhere else in the house to complete something they are too lazy to bring the proper neutral to, or too hindered by what someone is willing to pay them.

A greater problem arises when you want to add a generator to your home but only want to feed certain circuits. ALL circuits sharing a neutral must be added to the loads in a panel fed from a generator, e.g, if you have two dishwashers on two separate circuits and they share a neutral, it is not safe and is a code violation to move only one of them into the generator fed panel. Peninsula Lighting & Electric has seen installations where the neutral stays in one panel and the "hots" come from the generator fed panel.

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15. WHAT ARE YOUR RATES?

 See Peninsula Lighting & Electric's RATE PAGE.

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16. Will you drive to my home or business for free and also work for free?

If I know you, most likely. Otherwise, probably not. See the rates FAQ.

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17. Will you repair or replace any item you install in my home, for free?

This is most often a "no", because people do not include it in their request for a bid. Please see #4 on the rates FAQ section of this page page, then review the CSLB site relative to warranties.  For someone that guarantees everything on earth, please go to http://www.cheapocontractors.org.

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18. We want the work done like you do it but for less money, will you recommend someone else?

Well, I cannot but you may wish to look for one at http://www.cheapocontractors.org.

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19. How high should I mount my chandelier?

There is a rule of thumb on chandelier installations over dining room tables:

To make sure that the dining area has plenty of illumination, mount the chandelier approximately 3 inches above the surface of the dining room table for every 1 foot of ceiling height.  For a nine foot ceiling, that would mean the fixture should rest roughly 27-30 inches above the table.” (http://www.simplychandeliers.com/dining-room-chandeliers.html ), but I only agree to an extent.

If the ceiling is less than 9’ then 24” is rather low, and as one approaches 20', well, maybe it gets a little too high. I have found that 30-32” is good for shorter height ceiling. As things move down or up it is often best is to sit down and measure from table top to  your eyes, then set the chandelier so it does not obstruct your vision of those you would like to look at while you talk. If you have taller friends (from the waist up), then add a tad. Does this not sound scientific?

When you get into homes with high ceilings, the 3” rule may diminish as well, then you almost have to hang the item and look at it before finalizing its installation.

So, considering hanging (or have hung for you) a mock-up, even a string with a large wad of paper on the end (or make it a cool project for the younger ones by having them make a semblance of a chandelier out of paper and/or cardboard), tape it to the ceiling and sit at the table. Move it ‘til you like it, then assemble the components of the chandelier that are required to hang it, like the chain, and make it so that the overall length accommodates the distance you chose.

To open and close chain links, you use two pairs of pliers and rags. I can easily do any or all of this, just let me know.

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20. We are having an addition/remodel but will not be furnishing it right away, any suggestions?

Higher and pay a competent planner/designer/architect. There is not much we may recommend electrically. Art work, furniture location, pathways, egress, and much more all play a part in lighting and power needs. PLAN the furnishings and wire with the plan in mind. We sometimes loop wires in walls and ceilings in the event changes are planned, like a Murphy beds are going in  - no known size and no  knowledge of what goes to each side - to allow for cutting in electrical outlets in the future. Minimally, it helps to have some idea as to what you think is going to go into a room.

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21. What makes one bulb better than another?

The CRI has the greatest impact on how "good" the bulb is. Actually, a lot of things come into play when just overall good is to be determined such as: cost, longevity, availability, impact on the environment, CRI. Every time the CRI (Color Rendition Index) is mentioned, most people immediately come back with, "oh, it is a warm white". The  "color"  of a lamp is not the CRI. CRI is how a lamp renders colors, so you want a great CRI over a bathroom vanity, in a closet or dressing room, or over a food preparation or display area. The best is 100.

Some of the best LED's are in the low 90's (nice), but they are few, most are in the 70's or 80's as is the case with most fluorescent lights. How can you tell? Ask the sales person. If they say it is warm white....go someplace else. Four foot fluorescents are sometimes the easiest, you may see a number like 735 or 835 or 741. The first number means the CRI is in the 70's (yuck- office hallway is ok) or 80's (office ok) and the color is 3500k or 4100k. The sun is 100, so are many halogens and incandescent lamps.

If you want to see the difference, take a suit or dress whose true color (not the temperature of steel) is not readily apparent and look at it under any fluorescent light, then take it outside on a sunny day.

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22. What is the "color" of a bulb??

All we ever seem to hear is "warm" or "cold", but there are so many different "colors. The color is what steel is at that given temperature designation. "warm" is often in the 2700 to 3500 degree realm, "cool" is around 4100, etc. There are all kinds of sites dealing with in-depth technical explanations with images, just do a search for Color Rendition Index. In this little forum, it is merely an introduction and to show we are very concerned with the lighting we provide our clients. Here is a great link for in-depth info: http://www.cmpco.com/YourBusiness/workingforyou/businesslighting/lightingfaqs.html#11_2

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23. What are he numbers associated with a bulb name?

Bulb diameters are measured in 1/8ths of an inch, so, pretty much when you see a R40, T12, etc. this is telling you they are 40/8 or 5", 12/8 or 1-1/2", etc., in diameter.

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