Electrical – Is the Electrician trying to scam me


I own a home in California and was emailed by my property manager about an electrical problem with an outlet. The outlet was fixed according to the tenant but the repair man through the manager thinks there is still a problem. Just wanted to know if this sounds right or if I'm being scammed. This is the email:

"I installed a new outlet as needed in the upstairs guest bathroom. I also tested each of the bathroom GFI circuits and they are now operating properly. The old outlet failed on the inside and melted. The plastic covering on the wires were also meted. Because of that I also started checking some of the other circuits in the bedrooms. I'm extremely concerned based on the tests I did on a few random bedroom outlets. I found an amperage issue. Normal amperage is either 15 or 20 amps. The bedroom outlets that I tested were pulling 36-49 amps. This is very dangerous. I would need to test all of the outlets and switches in the home and outside the home to trace where the amperage issue starts. I will also need to go through the main electrical breakers one by one. The volts aren't an issue here, it's an electrical outlet, switch, breaker, or bad wires pulling a high level of amps. High amps like that will make the wires heat up and melt the plastic coating off. If that plastic coating is melted due to the wires heating up, it will allow the copper wires to touch each other and that can potentially cause a fire. Because I will need to open up each outlet and switch one by one and also test all the breakers. It will take several hours. The estimated cost of labor will be $340. If we need to replace more outlets or breakers or even wiring in the walls obviously the price will need to be revised to accommodate the cost of any new parts. Please let me know ASAP If you want me to proceed. I can move it to the top of my list because it's a life and safety issue. This issue is not only very dangerous, it can burn out any products that are plugged in to outlets, such as TVs, stereos, and any electronic devices. I told the tenants to unplug any high dollar items just to make sure nothing will get damaged due to a surge in amps. Again please let me know how to proceed as soon as you can. I'm afraid this problem may cause a fire. It also might be a good idea to replace all the smoke detector batteries if they haven't been done for a while. That would cost $50 in labor and $40 for all the 9v batteries. The cost of the batteries are high because due to the new law when detector batteries are changed, they need to be replaced with the 10 year batteries and the date of install marked on each one. If you go online you can check the pricing of the batteries. Unfortunately the required 10 year batteries are twice as much as the regular 9v batteries. "

Best Answer

Quote: "The bedroom outlets that I tested were pulling 36-49 amps."

Sounds fishy. Outlets do not pull any amps by themselves. Did this electrician plug in to the outlet with some kind of test load to draw this power? If not, the electrician is probably not honest or does not know their job. I was an electrician for about 10 years, granted that was 30 years ago but I have never heard of testing the "amps pulled by an outlet" since outlets do not "pull power" at all, only the load (your lamp, tv, or whatever) plugged into the outlet "pulls power."

Finding the breaker at the panel is easy:

This paragraph assumes you have only one breaker panel and is a good place to start if you don't happen to know. Plug a radio into one of the outlets in question and turn the volume up so you can hear it from the breaker panel. A lamp works also but you have to run back and forth to check if the lamp is on. Turn off all 15 and 20 amp breakers one at a time. You should hear the radio go silent when the proper breaker is turned off. If there is still power to the outlet(s) in question after all 15 and 20 amp breakers are off, then it would be logical that they are not wired properly and may well be wired to a higher amp breaker. Skip the next paragraph in that case.

If you found the breaker that controls the outlet(s) in question you can replace the breaker if you want to be sure there is no problem with the breaker.

If the outlets are not powered off after all the 15 and 20 amp breakers are off, then try the higher amp breakers one at a time until you find the guilty breaker. THEN, be sure you do not have a sub panel somewhere that is fed by that high amp breaker. If you do, then you need to start over with that breaker panel.

BTW, even if there is no "amps problem" you may still want to open all the outlets and check them if one had melted insulation. That is almost always caused by a poor connection or nicked wire. The outlet was likely not installed properly to start with.

Another reason the outlet may have failed, since the electrician claimed that it melted from the inside, is that a heater or other high draw appliance was plugged in loosely. That would cause the same problem as a bad connection to the outlet. In fact it would be a bad connection, just that it happens to be the plug, not in the wall wiring. If your outlets are worn out, that is, you feel little or no resistance when you plug something in, they are a fire waiting to happen when someone plugs a space heater in.