Electrical Services (Podcast)

In this podcast, Tim Kent from N.E.T.R., Inc. talks about the electrical services provided by N.E.T.R.. He outlines common services such as upgrading and replacing electrical panels. Then, he talks about the whole home electrification trend and the importance of hiring a licensed, insured electrician

John Maher: Hi, I am John Maher and I’m here today with Tim Kent, the electrical field supervisor with N.E.T.R. a heating and cooling company in Massachusetts. And today we’re talking about electrical services. Welcome, Tim.

Tim Kent: Thank you. Thank you for having me, John.

N.E.T.R.’s Electrical Services for Residential Homes

John: Sure. Yeah. So Tim, we just want to give an overview of the types of electrical services that are offered by N.E.T.R. and other types of similar contractors, general contractors for heating and cooling like N.E.T.R.. What are some of the most common electrical services that you provide for residential homes?

Tim: So the most common [service] definitely has to do with their electrical panel or even their whole service. When we talk about the term their electrical service, that usually means the panel that everyone knows well. And then also the outside portion where the electrical meter is, basically things like getting upgrades or repairs to those two very important pieces of your home. They’re basically the equivalent to getting a replacement of your heating system or furnace or boiler. They’re the two most important parts of your electrical system.

We basically make sure, especially when installing our heat pumps, to make sure 1) your service is big enough, has enough power to actually run the new heat pumps that you’re installing in your home. And 2) also make sure it’s in good shape. No rust, no water has been in it, no mice or rodents have eaten away wires. Those are all common, especially over here in New England. So we try to make sure that that is basically all up to operating procedure and working well.

And then the other thing is your panel replacements. The common things that we see there are either panels that have been banned by the electrical code, there’s a couple of manufacturers that are still around in some houses today that even as little licensed electricians we’re not allowed to touch and work. It simply just has to be replaced. There’s no wiggle room, no work around. It was deemed dangerous.

Replacing Unsafe Electrical Panels

John: Okay. Yeah, I was going to ask why that would be. So it’s just been found to be a dangerous type of panel, so rather than trying to fix it or anything like that, it just has to be replaced.

Tim: Yeah, it’s basically known that the panels that we see have been known to cause fires is a big thing. Or they’re circuit breakers that are designed to protect your home and you, but they don’t operate how they should. And it’s probably been in place for well over a decade, even more now, two decades of just these brands, just they have to go. So it’s kind of important that we make sure to tell customers and educate them on getting rid of that and getting a new system or even a safe system in there.

Electrical Service Upgrades Vs. Panel Replacements

John: Now you also mentioned electrical service upgrades. So how is that different than a panel replacement?

Tim: A panel replacement will just be basically updating your panel, maybe giving it more room, more space to add more things, but it does not give it more power. A service upgrade gives it more power to operate. So a basic example of what we’ll see is a home that has 100 amps coming into the house and we want to upgrade it to 200 amps.

Back in the day, 100 amps used to be more than enough power, but obviously as we’ve gotten tech savvy, you have your toasters, your coffee makers, your heat pumps, car chargers, the demand that you need to run all of those have gone well up. So the 200 amps is now kind of the way to go. It’s basically the standard to operate all of those things without having your electrical system fail and not be able to operate the new things that you’ve added.

Other Common Electrical Services Provided by HVAC Companies

John: Okay. So besides the service upgrades and the panel replacement, what are some of the other common electrical services that you provide?

Tim: One of things that we’re seeing now is actually installing induction stoves and ovens. A lot of them are getting away from gas and basically the gas stoves and they want all electric. A lot of people that I’m finding, they just don’t either trust or want gas running throughout their house. They’d much rather have electric.

And basically we end up seeing a lot of those calls as well as of course the EV charger boom is going on. It’s been going on for a while now. So we do get a lot of calls for fixing or installing electric vehicle chargers and basically that comes along with upgrading the service if it’s not big enough to support it. So kind of all curtails into one.

Whole Home Surge Protection

John: What about whole home surge protection? Do you see more and more of that recently?

Tim: The code actually, the state of Massachusetts mandates if you actually change out a panel in any way or add a subpanel, you have to put whole home surge protector in. It’s becoming basically one of those just standard things that we do. We do offer it as well.

Basically for any heat pump that we install, we do have an option for a whole home surge protector to protect the heat pumps or the air conditioners that we are installing. But also it protects everything in your home, all your appliances, and we all know those can get very pricey very quickly if they all start failing or a surge happens.

One of the questions that I get asked a lot of is, where does the surge come from? How does it start and how will it affect me? So what a lot of people don’t know is most of the surges actually originate inside your own home. So you have an older dryer or an older stove and that’s starting to malfunction. You may not know it, but that can actually send a surge back to your electrical panel and cause damage to other parts of your home on your electrical system. They do come, yes, from the outside, from the power company, lightning storms, that does happen. But far more common is it happening in your own home.

Generator Systems

John: And then finally, generator systems is another service that you offer. What’s involved in that?

Tim: Generators are actually big during the winter when people start losing power, of course. So we’re a Generac authorized dealer and authorized service provider as well for any Generac generators that you may have. We basically offer the full electrical portion of the generator.

We don’t do the plumbing part yet. We’re working on getting plumbers in here to do the plumbing part, but we do basically the entire electrical procedure of that from talking to you, to sizing up the right size generator for your needs and all the way to installing, all the way to testing, and even yearly maintenance. We cover you all the way through everything, so you don’t really have to go anywhere else. Once it’s in place, you can use us for the maintenance and basically you have an authorized Generac dealer to do that.

Electrical Work for Installing Ductless HVAC Systems

John: Okay. Now you mentioned N.E.T.R. installing ductless heating and air conditioning systems or heat pumps. What’s involved in doing the electric work for those types of installations?

Tim: So the main part for that is getting power to the outside condenser unit. Sometimes it can be tricky. A lot of people have finished basements, so it’s hard to get the wire from the panel to where we need to get it for the condenser and the placement of the condenser always matters for us.

I always tell my guys if there’s a will, there’s a way. We’ll get that wire where it needs to go, but sometimes we’ll have to make some holes and get it through that way. Also, all the connections between the condenser and the condenser heads are all electrical connections to have them operate. So that is also another part that is done by electricians as well, or authorized HVAC technicians. And then basically we also have certain things from Mass Save and also upgrading thermostats and getting the smart thermostats in place. We do a lot of that too.

Why You Should Hire a Licensed, Insured Electrician

John: Okay. And why is it important to hire a licensed and insured electrician in order to do electrical work in your home?

Tim: That’s a good question. I’ve come across countless customers who have… we call them Joe Blow in a truck. Oh, he’s way cheaper than you. He’s a guy in a truck that shows up, you’re charging me $1,000 for this service, but he’s only charging me 150 bucks.

Well, I mean, yes, he can go cheaper, but there’s also a reason for that. The main reason is to make sure you’re hiring a qualified licensed electrician, or even a qualified company that’s fully insured. This is to protect the homeowner. That guy in a truck who you hired could do a job, maybe does it wrong, maybe does it good. If anything happens, you may never hear from him again, may never be able to get in touch with him. And yeah, you’re stuck with whatever he did.

With us, at N.E.T.R., if one of our systems fails or something goes wrong, you can call us. You know where to find us, we’ll be out to fix it. Also, for your homeowner’s insurance, it’s very important that you have a licensed electrician to install it because if something does happen, even if it’s an accident and ruled an accident, your homeowners insurance may not pay out for the fixes to your home because you had an unqualified person do the work at your house. I know a lot of states, especially Massachusetts, are very strict about that in making sure that you have a licensed technician and/or electrician doing the work in your home.

John: So if you go to install something yourself, change out your outlets, install a light or something like that and it goes wrong and you end up having a fire in your house, you might not get a payment from your insurance company because of that.

Tim: Exactly. With us, basically everything, we’re liable for the work in your home that we do, and the license kind of holds us accountable and makes you able to find us. That’s why getting permits pulled for work is important. Even if sometimes the wait times to get an inspector out there could be long, it is important for your homeowner’s insurance and to protect you.

N.E.T.R. will only send out licensed electricians to your home to do the work, so you don’t have to worry about any of that there. And we do pull permits for all of our condenser systems and work that we do as well.

The Whole Home Electrification Trend

John: Okay. Yeah, and more and more people are actually turning to electricity as a whole home solution for heating and cooling. And you mentioned induction stoves as well. They’re also charging electric vehicles. It’s not just running appliances and lights anymore, but we’re using electricity for almost everything in our homes. Talk a little bit about this whole home electrification trend and how N.E.T.R. can help with that.

Tim: So yeah, it’s going with the whole green energy, right? It started years ago with solar kind of getting introduced was the big thing. Now you basically drive down the street, you see solar panels on almost every roof. As things get more affordable, just like with heat pumps, heat pumps have been around for a while, a lot longer than people actually realize, but it’s becoming a big thing over here now with the increase in technology plus the incentives that are offered to get them.

But with whole home, I guess people are starting to get nervous about gas, getting gas in their home or oil is getting too expensive just to get it delivered to heat their home. It’s just being ridiculous. So a lot of them are cutting their losses where they’d get solar and then they’d install basically, like you said, a whole home electrification, which is basically the entire home.

All your appliances, everything that could be gas in your home now becomes electric. The benefit with solar is that it offsets the cost because we all know gas, yes, is cheaper than electric to heat your home, but when you include solar panels and stuff like that, that offsets the cost. So it makes it much more affordable for the homeowner to be able to do this. And they don’t have outstanding and large oil bills for filling their oil tanks.

It’s actually a new trend that Massachusetts has. They just passed a law that any new home that gets built has to be prepared for whole home electrification, which means that electricians have to prepare for car chargers by running the wires, prepare for solar by running pipes to the roof, prepare for electric stoves, even if they don’t want electric stoves, they still have to run the wire. So all of that in a new home has to be there by the building code of Massachusetts and I think it’s going to get adopted by more and more states down the line.

Electrical Challenges in New England Homes

John: Yeah, that’s really interesting. Are there any other challenges with working on homes here in New England in Massachusetts, whether it’s weather related or code things like you were just talking about?

Tim: So the biggest thing is the age of the homes here. They date back quite a bit and the wiring in them can be from the 1930s and on. There’s a lot of stuff. The challenge basically with that is certain wiring, it just may not be up for the task to do the newer things that you want, or even simply it has anything over time. It’s degraded over time, deteriorated and become kind of a hazard. We see that a lot.

Certain wiring styles from their beginning, just like anything they figured out… now they’ve figured out kind of… they started with one thing and then they realized that wasn’t really good and they’ve advanced it over the years, but the homes that we come across a lot of in New England are still left with that old wiring. It just hasn’t been updated. It’s been working fine, so there hasn’t been a need to.

But with us, when we start touching it and messing with it by our code, depending on what it is, we have to fix it. We have to update it. We can’t just mess with it or add something to your existing wiring system if our code says we can’t work with that wiring type or we can’t do it a certain way. There’s no easy workarounds that you can do just to bypass it. There will be people that could do that, but if you have a good licensed electrician who’s qualified, they won’t do that and they’ll inform you of the reasons why and what needs to be done.

Contact N.E.T.R. to Learn More

John: All right, well that’s really great information, Tim. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Tim: Thank you. No problem.

John: And for more information, you can visit the N.E.T.R. website at netrinc.com or call 781-933-NETR. That’s 781-933-6387.