The Surge

I have been following a story about a local Deli owned by Mario Civera, my Mothers State Representative in the 164th district, which recently caught fire, allegedly by an electrical problem. The consensus is that Peco, (Exelon) was in some way to blame. As an electrician with almost thirty years experience, I can say that they may be right. But to a point. Seems that there have been many problems with underground transformers exploding in that area over the years, as well as power surges.

In Upper Darby Township, there are many homes and businesses that have outdated or inadequate electrical wiring. Residential homes for instance built before 1970 for the most part have no grounding conductor (the mouth of your three prong outlet) connected to it. “Knob and Tube”, “Knob and Nail” or “Old style romex” are in almost every home in Drexel Hill. Many homes have no ground rod installed and connected to their electrical service. No lightning arrestor, no “Whole Home” surge protector.

Did Civera’s Deli have a Surge Protector that may have helped drain off a high voltage surge from a Mal functioning transformer? Probably not. Where I live (Westbrook Park) if I were to remove my cold water and earth ground and rely on the transformer ‘s neutral my house would probably catch fire. Think I’m kidding? A few years ago my neighbor was renovating his home and called me to come over and find out why every time he used a drill to mix drywall compound, the lights would dim to almost nothing.

What I found out is that the plumber removed the cold water ground to his electrical service. Even with a ground rod installed (there is clay under our homes) he had no return path to the transformer. He called Peco, and a technician came over later on that afternoon, checked out the homes electrical service, and told him that the problem was in the meter box. I told the tech that I was a licenced electrician and that the “problem” was in Peco’s transformer. He told me he would make note of it, and left. to this day I believe that the transformers “neutral” is not connected.

Bottom line? Go to your local hardware store and buy a receptacle tester that shows you an open ground, open neutral, reverse hot and neutral, and correct wiring. Get a local licenced electrician to inspect your home and install 5 items that may save you your home, and more importantly your life :

A ground rod
A lightning arrestor
A “Whole Home” single phase surge protector
GFCI receptacles where required
Smoke detectors where required

Cheers and Go EAGLES!

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