Is the contractor wrong, or am I??

Discussion in 'Electrical and Wiring' started by David Newell, Oct 8, 2018.

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  1. Oct 8, 2018 #1

    David Newell

    David Newell

    David Newell

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    Greetings:

    Background

    I was an "early adapter" when it came to Solar Heating, and had a thermal "drain down" solar water heater installed in the early 90's. Then, about 10 years later, it was updated to a glycol heat-transfer system.

    All by the same contractor locally, with a C10 "general" and a ?? "solar" CSLB ticket.

    About 2 years ago, the same guy put in a replacement Rheem water heater, the prior one of which had sprung a small but irreparable leak . Just outside the warranty period of 10 years. The new one is a mere 6 years.

    So, towards the end of last winter, the backup electric heater failed. Presuming it was breakers, I lived thru a hot summer's provision of hot water, but the days are getting shorter, and I got off my lazy butt..
    and it's not the breakers! So it has to be in the supply armored Romex in the attic, of about 110 feet.

    Well, after my back operation, I ain't crawlin' 'round my attic....

    SO, since I'm in the process of getting solar electric panels installed, I figured I could sneak in the extra work for the water heater power supply on top of the $30K+ electric installation, with little extra cash outlay.

    So the guy bidding the job solar electric wanted to look at the panel, to see if there was space, (which there is), and he said
    "??Why are there two 30 amp ganged breakers feeding 12 gauge wires??"

    Well, those breakers are for the solar hot water back up mentioned above.
    and after seeing the other end, also 12 gauge..
    the fellow speculated that there was perhaps a heating event at a junction b ox, with a loosened wire nut
    causing one leg to be around 40 volts, at the water heater disconnect box .

    But, 4500/3380 is on the side of the tank,
    which I suppose is starting wattage, cold heater: and "running" when heated up...??
    So starting current draw is right at 20 1/2 amps.

    According to tables on-line,
    a 20 amp carry at 110' should require a 10 or even 8 gauge wire.

    1. I think the breakers should be 20 amp "slo-blo", to handle the start-up current,
    (IS there a 25 amp breaker??)

    2. All the wire should be heavier than 12 gauge

    3. Probably the problem is in the Jboxes in the attic.

    =========================

    SO:
    I called the contractor, 16 months after installation, and HE said
    "Dude, there's only 1 year warrantee..."

    My stating it had failed within a year, but I was to stupid to report it, elicited a yawn.

    I stated the facts of the matter, and he said

    "The house was permitted when it was built, and we just tied into what was there."
    "The codes may have changed, but they were what was there: you think we have X Ray vision?"


    Well, how about the mismatch between the 30 amps an the 12 gauge?
    "Like I said, not our job or responsibility."



    IMHO, I think a contractor has a duty to advise homeowners if something is not up to code,
    and if it is a safety issue, either refuse to install the appliance (or whatever): or insist on a change order.

    Further, i think the statute of limitations on an unsafe, faulty install is NOT limited to "one year",
    but 4 years if it is noted: and ten years if a fire or other hazard causes loss because of it.

    ==================

    I've told him what I think:
    I've sent references to codes I think apply:

    and I've said that I would pay for wire and circuit breakers if needed,
    but he needs to get the install corrected to current codes .


    I've given him a week to yea or nay,
    and then I will go to CSLB and file a complaint,
    get a forensic Electician to make repairs and take pictures,
    pay for that service,
    and commence trying for recovery from the contractor
    down the pay-a-lawyer route.

    (I've NEVER sued anyone..)

    ========================

    So anyway, if I'm FOS, please advise.

    I that a fair offer?

    Any other suggestions?

    Thanks to my friend Rich, who turned me on to this site.

    Regards,

    David
     
  2. Oct 8, 2018 #2

    nealtw

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    I think his responsibility for a mistake in wiring last for a long time or should. It starts up with 2 elements, all they had to do was disconnect the second one.
     
  3. Oct 8, 2018 #3

    bud16415

    bud16415

    bud16415

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    Sometimes it’s a matter of who is right and who is wrong and that’s an easy thing to see and a difficult thing to prove and enforcement is even harder.


    It sounds like you are correct and it sounds like a “reputable” contractor would take care of it. Clearly he is not reputable and perhaps he isn’t even a contractor by the sounds of it.


    By all means report him but don’t expect any action because of it. It will go in a file and when he gets enough he will change his business name and start again or however it gets done these days. Of course this is just my opinion.


    My years of life have programmed me that for the most part my last chance to complain is when the last dollar leaves my hand, and if it isn’t the last chance it is for sure the last easy chance I get.


    Most people around here live by word of mouth and doing quality work and taking care of customers. In bigger cities there is an ever expanding customer base and people pick from the top of the list. As a kid I asked my dad why so many companies in the yellow pages were AAA Plumbing etc. He said when you need a plumber you start at the top of the list. He told me to always start at the bottom of the list and get a better plumber.


    Good luck on the repairs. I will leave the technical advice to the pros who should be along shortly.
     
    Lifespeed likes this.
  4. Oct 8, 2018 #4

    hornetd

    hornetd

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    Was the installation inspected? Is the conductor size marked on the label that has the laboratory listing mark on it.

    The bad news is that it is seldom worth while to pay a lawyer; at $100.00 + per hour; to try to recover any loss that is not in the Multiple $1000 range. You could consider small claims court if the limit on claim will cover you loss.

    If I hadn't moved from Davis, California to Maryland many years ago I would come over and help you sort it out just to get back into alternative energy which I haven't had the opportunity to work with for decades.

    --
    Tom Horne
     
  5. Oct 8, 2018 #5

    Snoonyb

    Snoonyb

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    You may want to hold your water and do a cost benefit before you proceed.

    "I would pay for wire and circuit breakers if needed, but he needs to get the install corrected to current codes."

    He has no pre-requsite to "bring the installation to current codes", and at that, only to prevailing codes at the time of the installation.

    His expense would then only be labor and permit, so why not make the same offer to the new contractor, which by the way, would be a miniscual cost compared to an attorney, and that process.

    Then if you feel a lasting desire for satisfaction, file with the state contractors license board, who by the way, have subpoena powers.
     
  6. Oct 11, 2018 #6

    slownsteady

    slownsteady

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    I'm with Snooby on this one. If he took shortcuts the first time, why give him a second chance?
    And then post a negative review wherever he advertises online.
     
  7. Oct 11, 2018 #7

    WyrTwister

    WyrTwister

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    Most residential electric water heaters are around 4500 watts . At 240 VAC = 18.75 amps * 1.25 for continuous duty = 23.4375 amps . Thus # 10 AWG copper wire and 2 pole 30 amp circuit breaker . Slightly more if it has 5000 watt elements .

    All this is if the water does not use both the upper and lower element at the same time ( non simultaneous ) .

    As far as warranty , which is cheaper , a lawyer or an electrician ?

    Wyr
    God bless

     
  8. Oct 14, 2018 #8

    Mastercarpenty

    Mastercarpenty

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    I can see both sides, but the key here is that the same guy did the original wiring and the new WH install, so he had to know the wiring was inadequate. Code was violated the moment he hooked up the wiring, and regardless of any "warranty period" all work must meet code. As long as the repairs are done at the standard rate for that work in your area, he will have to pay you now, or pay you and your lawyer and the Court fees later on. He will pay now. Accept only payment in full and insist on cash or verified cashier's check only so he has no more room to be a weasel.

    Some lessons in this business come hard, but they are supposed to when you're as bad as he was at your job. None of us are perfect, but all of us can act responsibly.

    Phil
     
    nealtw likes this.
  9. Nov 17, 2018 #9

    David Newell

    David Newell

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    OK it just got resolved. Over the last few weeks he got very surly, even to the point of personal non-related matters being used by him in his lack of defense to assertions I was making. And I think he could not get out of the reality that it was he (his worker) who made the connection in the J Box between the sub-par copper 12 gauge, and the 8 gauge aluminum, with a "dry" twist-on. Which failed, melted, arced and blackened the inside of the plastic j box.

    He then said he would fix that connection, but I had to buy the copper 10-gauge, which he would install:
    and lowered his price to $500.

    I said I've already paid you,! By not collecting a "Risk" fee from him for his having generated a situation which gave rise to an accident, which could have been catastrophic to me if the consequence had been a house fire.

    So he paid to have a very good contractor, who works with/for him on some solar situations, come out and do the job. I was really impressed with the "kid", and I think I'm going to do some future business with him!

    So that turned out positive,
    and I even told the first guy that I would help him install a formal safety program, with all the balh blah "statement of safety policy", "mission statement," "training hiring protocols" etc.
    But he won't take me up on it.

    but i still have a question...
     
  10. Nov 17, 2018 #10

    David Newell

    David Newell

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    What is the assumed "scope of work" for a contractor called out to install a whatever?

    In the business I was in till I retired, (risk management and insurance) there was an assumption of risk for the contractors I dealt with, but most of them were remediation contractor, and they established "control perimeters", and were responsible for everything inside it.

    Seems to me that there should be a reasonable assumption that, unless the work contract specifically denies coverage for it- the reasonable expectation for an electrical installer would be for the circuit they are utilizing,
    though "hidden defect" would b e excluded entirely.

    So.. ?? how do you delineate and restrict your liability on a residential service job?
     
  11. Nov 17, 2018 #11

    Snoonyb

    Snoonyb

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    Code compliance.
     
  12. Nov 17, 2018 #12

    David Newell

    David Newell

    David Newell

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    Yeah, what do the codes say?
     
  13. Nov 18, 2018 #13

    Snoonyb

    Snoonyb

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    That depends upon the scope of the project.
     
  14. Nov 18, 2018 #14

    David Newell

    David Newell

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  15. Nov 18, 2018 #15

    Snoonyb

    Snoonyb

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    Whichever code that applies to any part of the scope of work.

    No one can protect anybody from an imagined or hypothetical.
     
  16. Nov 25, 2018 #16

    David Newell

    David Newell

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    Well, I'm likely beating a dead horse, but I'm not a contractor, though I've access to the codes, and can find no guidance to my question. Sure, the scope of work is well defined (usually) in commercial work, but when an electrical contractor has a work order with a homeowner saying (for instance) "install {new or replacement}
    {fill in the appliance}", is there no assumed "scope of work", including the adequacy of the circuit or other associated critical parameter? Sure, "competence" or other "general duty clause" would be expected, but that is a soft and fuzzy end point.

    Thank you!
     
  17. Nov 26, 2018 #17

    Snoonyb

    Snoonyb

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    "but when an electrical contractor has a work order with a homeowner saying (for instance) "install {new or replacement}
    {fill in the appliance}", is there no assumed "scope of work", including the adequacy of the circuit or other associated critical parameter? Sure, "competence" or other "general duty clause" would be expected, but that is a soft and fuzzy end point."

    Again you are asking for the particulars of an assumption.

    IE., a guess of an intent.

    Which, you can easily overcome, by simply creating an imagined specific project on a specifically detailed structure, which given your tendency too the hypothetical, will require some degree of clarification, in furtherance of the refinement.

    Why would, you, presume, there is no scope of work?

    Contractors, in the interest of self-preservation, generally, include a scope of work.
     
  18. Nov 26, 2018 #18

    bud16415

    bud16415

    bud16415

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    Any written or verbal agreement is a two way street. Any reputable contractor should want to provide a detailed scope of the work he will do to protect himself along with letting you know what will be done clearly in advance. He also doesn’t want a homeowner coming along later saying he’s not getting paid because he didn’t do something he didn’t plan on. When one gives you a vague scope he is leaving it open ended for a reason. He may intend to add in all kinds of extras as he goes and up charge you. Just the same way homeowners often keep thinking of other things they want done after the job starts and expect to have them included in the agreed price.


    Doing the contract work in advance makes the whole process go much smoother.
     
  19. Dec 10, 2018 #19

    David Newell

    David Newell

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    Thank you for the responses.

    Hereabouts, most individual entrepreneur-contractors
    do not provide anything except a bill for the work done:
    and I have been complicit in not insisting on one,
    or in providing a description of project expectations.


    I'm lazy: and have been sliding by on "friendly discourse"
    and a handshake.

    I won't allow that in the future.

    Strange to note that I would have provided "support" to clients
    to clean up their work documents, (when I actually worked for a living..)
    and avoid "innocent" assumptions of unintended liabilities:
    but I haven't been using these "good work practices "myself.
     
  20. Dec 10, 2018 #20

    Snoonyb

    Snoonyb

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    "Hereabouts, most individual entrepreneur-contractors do not provide anything except a bill for the work done:"

    Only if it's less than $500, because CA. has very specific enactments governing contractor behavior.
     

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