Ask the Woodchucks: September 7, 2017

Question: The light bulb in the ceiling of my master bath shower is burned out. It is a 65w flood light bulb. It looks like a standard bulb, but shouldn’t it be some kind of special bulb because it can get wet in the shower?

Answer: There is a special bulb that is certified for wet areas that has thicker glass. A standard flood light bulb is designated BR30. The heat from this type of bulb could very well cause the bulb to shatter if water get on it, and rain glass down on you, ruining your shower. This thicker bulb is designated PAR30L. It is available at Menards as an LED bulb and probably at other hardware stores.

Even if the bulb in your shower is working, if it is in a fixture that does not have a lens covering the bulb, you should check to make sure it is a PAR30L bulb that is certified for wet areas.

Question: We moved into our Adler model home about a year ago. In mid July I got an urgent call from my wife interrupting my golf game, telling me that I had to rush home because the house was on fire. I rushed home to find that the street was blocked off by fire and police vehicles.

Fortunately, my wife used a garden hose to limit the damage. It Appears that a mouse shorted out the hot wire to the AC compressor. The circuit breaker didn’t cut out before the fire started. Experts feel the breaker at 50 amps was substantially overrated. The damage was limited to about $20,000, but could have been a total loss if no one was home.

Answer: There is a manufacturer’s label on the condenser unit for your air conditioner that has the model number, serial number, and the maximum circuit breaker, along with other specifications. The size of the air conditioner will dictate the breaker size. A 3½-ton air conditioner will require a larger breaker than a 2-ton air conditioner. The manufacturer’s label on my condenser unit calls for a maximum circuit breaker of 45 amp, as do two others I checked. 45 amp is not a common breaker so mine has a 50 amp breaker.

A mouse chewing into the power lead for your AC compressor may cause enough flash to ignite wiring and other materials starting a fire. This shorting of the wire may not have been long enough to trip the circuit breaker. Breakers are designed to be overload sensitive but not short circuit sensitive.

Before you even think about changing a breaker, be sure you fully understand the wire size required. A 50 amp breaker requires #6 wire while a 40 amp breaker requires #8 wire. If you are concerned we strongly recommend that you have a licensed electrician diagnose your unit and make any required changes; however, we do not think the houses in Sun City were improperly wired or had incorrect breakers installed.

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