The Shocking Truth Troubleshooting Electrical Problems

Today, almost all residents of co-op and condo buildings are computer-knowledgeable. They can tell you how many ports your PC has, how many gigabytes are in the hard drive, how to set up a printer, and more.

When it comes to electric wiring, however, the situation changes.  Although apartment owners usually know where the circuit breakers are located or how to put in a power strip, electricity is a mystery to most people beyond that.

And little wonder. Electricity can be dangerous—ask anyone who’s had an electric shock (even a small one, as this writer once had when he foolishly tried to tighten a socket in a wall lamp with a pair of pliers when the lamp was still plugged in). That’s why there are many, many amateur computer professionals, but few amateur electricians. So, when it comes to troubleshooting electrical problems, it’s best to call in a licensed professional electrician or electrical contractor.

Old Buildings, Older Wires

In New York City, even though some buildings are over 100 years old, the average age of multi-family residential electrical systems is about 20 years old, according to Eli Nathan of Citiwide Communications in the Bronx, which does intercoms, roof alarms and card access systems as well as electrical wiring.

At one time, adds Emily Ettinger-Kron of Ettinger Engineering Associates in Manhattan, buildings in New York utilized direct current (DC). Beginning in the 1930s or thereabouts, residential building design in the city was changed to alternating current (AC). By now, with the exception of some elevators, almost all residential buildings have been changed over to AC.

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