Frequently Asked Questions
- How Do I Know If An Electrician Is Properly Qualified?
- What is Knob and Tube Wiring?
- Electrical Permit – Is One Required?
- Can a Homeowner do their own electrical work?
- What’s Involved with an Electrical Service Upgrade?
- What’s the difference between a Red Seal electrician and a Master electrician?
- What’s the difference between GFCI and AFCI protection?
In BC, all electrical work is overseen by Technical Safety BC, a regulatory organization appointed by the provincial government. On their website, they keep a database of electricians who have the proper qualifications, licensing, insurance and bonding to conduct business in a safe and legal manner. You can find this database here: Find A Licensed Contractor, where you can search by a city, company name, or contractor license number. Any electrical 'contractor' not on this list is not conducting business legally.
Knob and tube is an early version of wiring and is still present in a lot of older homes. If your home was built in the 1940's or earlier, there is a good chance that it was wired with knob and tube which still may be present today. Knob and tube presents several issues: it is very old, the condition of the jacket on the conductors cannot be known without careful, thorough inspection. It does not carry any sort of bonding or grounding wire, which is considered a primary safety element of more modern wiring for many reasons. Many connections to light fixtures are made without boxes, the wires are strung through attics, meaning any dangers are exacerbated by proximity to wooden framing. While knob and tube can still be functional (indeed there are many homes where it is still being used), home insurance will be more expensive with knob and tube and the safety concerns are not worth the risk.
In BC, if you are employing a licensed contractor then yes, an electrical permit is legally required for any installation of electrical equipment, with minimal exceptions e.g.: an inspection. A permit protects the homeowner and the licensed contractor and ensures the work meets provincial electrical codes and standards. The cost of a permit is based on the price of the electrical work to be carried out. A licensed contractor is required to obtain a permit prior to the work being carried out and then submits photos and documentation of the work for Technical Safety BC (the BC Safety Authority) which is then reviewed by an electrical inspector.
Yes, provided it is in a single-family dwelling unit you occupy or intend to occupy, provided you obtain a Home owner’s permit from Technical Safety BC, and provided you possess sufficient knowledge of and comply with Canadian Electrical Code.
An electrical service upgrade means upgrading the total capacity of your electrical system to meet a greater potential demand. This involves upgrading the primary electrical components of your system, the meter, the main disconnect, main panel and internal service wiring and also involves a coordinated disconnection and reconnection of the electrical system with the local electrical utility supplier.
A Red Seal is a Canadian qualification of select trades that requires completion of a 4-year apprenticeship and passing a national exam. It is a lifetime qualification that ensures a worker meets the Canadian national standard.
Masters Certification is an additional level of qualification that is province-specific, pertaining to the differing amendments and regulations that provincial authorities make to the Canadian Electrical Code.
GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) is a level of protection required where there is a potential water hazard in the immediate vicinity of your electrical system. For example, GFCI protection is required for any outside receptacles, any receptacles near a bathroom or kitchen sink, and when powering a hot tub. It is designed to trip the power when it detects any leakage current that may be caused by electricity flowing through the water hazard. GFCI protection can be built into a receptacle, device or a breaker.
AFCI protection is a newer technology that detects small arc signatures on an electrical circuit. It was implemented first to protect bedroom receptacles to reduce the risk of electrical fires caused by dust collecting in the outlets. AFCI protection is now mandatory by code for most new 15a and 20a residential occupancy receptacles. AFCI protection can be built into a receptacles or breaker similiar to GFCI protection, but is commonly used at the breaker to protect the whole circuit.