Becoming a little more energy efficient


Everyone has become a little bit more ‘green’ these days. Supermarkets don’t use plastic bags, electric cars are slowly building in popularity and recycling has become part of our day-to-day routines.

While some of these changes have felt seamless, they’re not exactly easy – and some require some effort.

The good news for us in the electrical world though – is that going green isn’t complicated or expensive. In fact, it saves you a lot of money. Here are some tips that can help you conserve energy, run a more efficient home and put some money back into your pocket in the form of savings.

Switching out your bulbs

Energy-saving bulbs is good for the environment, but will save you a ton of money, too. They use about 80% less energy on average and produces the same amount of light at a lower 13-18w set as a traditional 60w bulb would. That’s a pretty big difference!

Lights off, folks

Remember how annoyed you’d get when your parents would ask you to switch the lights off every time you left a room? Well, we hate to break it to you, but they were right. In fact, doing so over the course of a month can save the average home owner in upwards of 10% on their electrical bill.

Wash wisely

If there was every an appliance that sucked up an incomprehensible amount of electricity, it’s the dishwasher. Not only do the faucets need to run, but there’s a heater, dryer, filter, sucking the water in and out and even a computerized interface… it all uses a ton of electricity. Our advice is to use it more judiciously. Don’t run it every night –wait until it’s full, then use it. Also, it’s not a bad idea to make sure you’re washing what you can in the sink and rinsing off dirty dishes. It makes a huge difference when your washer doesn’t have to work so hard.

Lookout for the logo

Always be on the lookout for the Energy Saving Recommended logo or Energy Saver stickers. These appliances are specifically designed to run more efficiently and save you some cash. They may cost a little more up front, but they’ll save you a boatload of money between the purchase and the need of the appliances’ lifespan.

There are so many ways to save on both electricity and on your monthly bill. Just be smart about it. If you want to discover some other ways you might save more –call an electrician and they may be able to do an energy audit that can tell you what’s being used, at what clip it’s being used and what you can do to run a more efficient home.

Should you consider buying a generator?


One of the more interesting questions we frequently get is whether or not our customers should purchase a generator.

Believe it or not, this is timely, because the winter will be coming to an end sooner rather than later and with it will come the inevitable summer storms that knock power out, etc. And nothing stinks worse than being stuck in the dark for days at a time. Long story, short – now’s the time to discuss this.

That being said, while generators are a huge luxury for homeowners, they’re not ideal for every situation. Instead of telling you why you should or shouldn’t buy a generator, we’re going to instead give you the questions that you need to be asking yourself if you’re interested in purchasing one. That way, you can come to the best answer for yourself and your situation.

Let’s jump right in!

What runs on electricity in your home?

There are a lot of homes that are built to avoid power outages better than others. If your HVAC system, water heater, oven, stove and the like all run on natural gas, then you’re going to be fine if the power goes out. If they’re powered by electricity though, you’ll want to make sure you have those conveniences when the power goes out. Especially in the winter time when things get colder.

Do you have enough space?

While portable generators are ‘portable’ in a sense, they’re not that small. Some can be the size of a few car batteries while others can be as big as a 120 qt beverage cooler. When you aren’t using your generator, you’ll need a covered, safe space to keep it stored.

Additionally, you’ll need to remember to use them outside – which means you need to see if you’ve got enough space to run it. Generators give off carbon monoxide, so keeping them out of indoor settings is crucial. You must also keep them covered if it’s raining out as well, so be sure you have a tent handy or something to keep the generator under shelter once it’s outside doing it’s job. While you might have plenty of room for all of this in your home, if you live in a multi-family setting, you might not.

And last, but certainly not least – most generators run on fuel of some sort. Do you have a safe place where you can store it?

What’s essential?

Look, while things like the internet, TV and the like are nice to have – they’re not essential. When we say ‘essential’ we really mean it. We’re talking about the things keeping you alive. Things like medical equipment, respirators, and the like. If you have someone in your home who is dependent on these sorts of things to stay healthy – then absolutely, 100% buy a generator in case something occurs.

Consider the alternatives 

Ask yourself how you would deal with a multi-day outage. You can charge certain handheld devices with solar charges and power banks. You might be able to descend on the local café to give your phone a charge and grab a cup of coffee while you wait. You could keep cool in your car, or you could pack up for a hotel for a day or two or maybe go visit the in-laws. There are lots of ways to brave the proverbial storm.

That being said, if your in-laws are the absolute worst, you hate coffee, have a huge fridge full of steaks you can’t afford to see go bad, or more seriously – have a home business that you’re running – maybe owning a generator is your only option.

If you’re still unsure as to whether owning a home generator is right for you, then give us a call and we’d be happy to walk you through the process and determine whether it’s something that’s a good idea for your particular situation. Good luck!

Power Strips 101


While we’re becoming more ‘wireless’ than we’ve ever been, the devices that run our lives today all require electricity of some sort in order to function. As a result, we still need to plug things in. And what’s one of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to electrical safety?

Overloading power strips.

So let’s be real for a minute – we’ve all overloaded power strips. Admit it. It’s easy to do, it’s easy to convince yourself you can get away with it for a few minutes and it’s even easier to just forget about it and leave the device plugged in.

What isn’t easy – is dealing with the damage that can be caused by an overloaded board. Here are some safety tips from us on how you can protect yourself and your home for the dangers of overloading power strips.

Never piggyback

The piggyback method is a really bad idea that people have that overloads a power strip by plugging one plug in and then connecting another to create a longer chord. Truth is – every strip has a max current rating and that’s determined by the design and structure of the strip. It doesn’t account for the use of other adaptors or other strips. So when you add another strip to a strip – you are creating too much current and simultaneously creating an electrical fire hazard!

Overload protection

Most power strips have overload protection built it. It automatically interrupts power supplies and prevents excess electricity from damaging or exiting your power strip.

Mind your maintenance

In addition to not overloading your power strip, you should make sure it’s clean and maintained well. Be sure to keep it on its side so that dust doesn’t build up in unused or unwanted places on the strip. Also be sure to check the strip to make sure there’s no cracked covers, frayed wires, burn marks or discoloration. All those things could suggest your strip is old or entirely defective.

Keep your power strip ventilated

We’re not talking about keeping the strip cool so much as we’re asking you to keep them from overheating by stuffing them between couch cushions, furniture and the like. Make sure they have places to breathe. That way, you won’t have to worry about overload as much.

And finally

Make sure you’re not plugging in things that have a higher wattage than what your strip can hold. 90% of power strip related fires come from just that. Plug in the usual stuff – lamps, cell phones, etc – but when it comes to bigger ticket items like TV’s or air conditioners – keep those plugged into the wall directly.

 

If you need help ensuring a safer electrical outlay in your home, give us a call today and we’ll be happy to provide you with a free inspection! See you again soon!

 

Halloween electrical safety


One of everyone’s favorite holidays is Halloween. Not only are the costumes, kids and candy a lot of fun – but man oh man, do people get into their decorations! In a time where it seems like everything is stressful – it’s the one holiday that doesn’t require us to plan extensively, cook, clean or buy expensive stuff for others. It’s all about having fun.

That being said – in our world – it’s an interesting time because it’s one of the two big holidays where people tend to use a ton of electricity and unfortunately – that can lead to some safety concerns. If you’re going all out with your Halloween decorations, we have some tips for you today that will help you stay safe this season.

Check your decorations

As you wade through boxes of plastic skeletons, hands and other boo-factor helter-skelter, be sure you check them for any issues. Not only will it put a damper on your display, but someone could get hurt or you could even cause a fire. Check the chords, the bulbs and look for any signs of wear and tear.

Test everything once before you set up

Before you lay out your grand display, we suggest that you check each of your ornaments – particularly the ones that use electricity – to make sure that they work, gage distance and the like. Reacquaint yourself with your outlets and make sure you’re not overextending yourself with the amount of electricity you’ll be using or the length of chord you’ll be using.

Check your exterior lighting

This has less to do with your display and everything to do with simply being safe. Kids get awful enthusiastic and if you’re into the season, you’ll inevitably be anticipating an entire horde of little monsters descending on your home to get their candy. Make sure their pathways are lighted and that there’s a clear, safe pathway to your door.

When you leave, lights out

While we’re all proud of our displays and the purpose of them is to simply show off and spread some happiness, it’s important that you turn them off when you’re not home. Not only will you save a boatload on your electrical bill; but even if you’ve checked all your safety boxes, unexplained fires can still occur. Turn it off when you’re out and err on the side of safety.

 

Above all else this year, have fun! Halloween is a blast! Good luck!

All about tripping your circuit breakers


We’ve all done it at one point or another – we’re busy performing some task in a particular area of our home and then all of a sudden the lights go out! Everything else is on in the house, but your area’s tapped! Congratulations, you’ve tripped a circuit breaker.

 

Your circuit breakers are safety devices that make sure that the electrical system in your house doesn’t overheat or catch fire. When you trip a breaker, you can easily turn things back on by resetting it – but it’s important to make sure you know why the breaker tripped to begin with. Chances are, it could be nothing – but it also could be something serious.

 

That’s what today’s blog is all about – what to do when you trip a breaker. Let’s jump right in!

 

What caused the breaker to trip?

 

Usually, circuit breakers trip for one of the following four reasons:

 

Circuit overload – If too many appliances are being used at once on one, single circuit, chances are they’re drawing more power than the circuit can handle. This causes the circuit to overheat and trip the breaker.

 

Short circuit – When a hot wire touches a neutral one – the current flows between the two at a fast speed – which in turn causes overheating and a tripped breaker.

 

Ground fault – Very similar to a short circuit, ground faults occur when hot wires cross-ground wires OR touches a rounded junction box. When that happens, there’s too much current, the circuit overheats and trips the breaker.

 

Faulty appliances – Sometimes a tripped breaker has nothing to do with the system and instead – is 100% due to an appliance that’s drawing too much power.

 

Why it happened

 

Most tipped breakers happen due to overloads, so it’s always important to reconsider what it was you were doing when the lights went out. Were you running an appliance? Using a vacuum cleaner? Chances are, if it was an appliance that draws a fair amount of power, than it’s a good indication as to why the breaker tripped.

 

Air conditioners and furnaces can also trip breakers, so if you weren’t using an appliance, those should be your next stops. Especially if one of them turned on right before the breaker tripped – then you might have your culprit.

 

That being said – if it’s a short circuit or a ground fault – it could be a more serious problem. Check outlets for sparks and or scorch marks and be sure to keep your nose peeled for any burning odors. Even if you aren’t seeing these signs – if you are repeatedly tripping the same breaker, then it’s best to have an electrician come out and make sure everything’s ok.

 

If your appliance is the problem, then it’s time to get it either fixed or replaced. A telltale sign the appliance might be at fault is the amount of heat it’s giving off- particularly in it’s chord. Also if it’s sparking, smells like melted plastic or is smoking – then, well – you’ve probably found your problem.

Electrical panels and circuit breakers are just like anything else – they don’t last forever and older models can fall well short of meeting the demands of today’s appliances. As such, it’s a good idea to have a pro come in every year or so and give your breaker box a look to make sure it’s working properly and make any repairs as necessary. If you need your system evaluated, give us a call and we’ll come and inspect. Good luck!

Electrical safety at work


When we think ‘electrical safety’ we mostly think of the things in and around our home. After all, those are where the things and places most important to us are located.

That being said – we tend to use the most electrical items at work, not at home. Whether it’s devices, computers, lights, you name it – the chances are you’re spending more time around electricity at work than at home and being safe there is just as important as being safe in your own dwelling.

Today, we’re going to discuss some safety tips for you to consider in the workplace and what you can do to make sure you avoid an accident at all costs. Let’s jump right in!

Be aware of your workspace

If you’re working at a desk there’s a few things to consider. First, make sure you’re not overloading outlets and always using grounded connections. Make sure you don’t have power strips connected to other power strips and the like. Make sure you’re not running over wires with your chair or that you’re not sitting next to any that might be frayed or ripped up. All of these could be potentially dangerous.

Have a workplace safety plan 

Every workplace should have (but many don’t) an electrical workplace safety plan. Check with yours to see if they have one and if they don’t – be sure to press them on it. This should include awareness of electrical hazards and how employees can be self-directed when it comes to identifying potential problem areas. It should include things like risk evaluation and how to recognize hazards. Most importantly – it should have safe work procedures, tools and if necessary – protective equipment on hand for you.

Prevention usually begins with proper planning- so make sure your workplace has one in place.

Be aware of yourself and your surroundings

This really falls under the ‘use common sense’ clause of your contract! Don’t use anything with electricity near water. Be careful of your coffee and drinks. And most important of all – don’t ignore warning signs! If something doesn’t feel right, feels excessively warm or you smell something burning – alert someone and get help immediately!

Depending on where you work, you might have potential hazards all around you. Be mindful, be conscious of what’s happening and what the potential for risk might be for a given action. Above all else – have a plan! Good luck and stay safe!

Teaching your kids about electricity


Children are curious creatures. After all, that’s what growing up is all about. The unknown holds many secrets for children’s need for experimenting is often how they process information the best.

The problem comes from the fact that most kids have a hard time recognizing and distinguishing between what’s harmless and what’s dangerous. And when it comes to electrical safety, there’s a lot they need to know and in many cases don’t. That’s what we’re here to talk about today – and that’s how you communicate with your kids about electrical safety.

Start early

As soon as your child is mature enough to understand, it’s a good idea to start teaching safety. Kids are very impressionable, especially early on in life, so starting young and teaching them what they can and cannot touch will help engrain that behavior inside them for the rest of their life.

Repeat yourself often

Ever hear that phrase ‘in one ear and out the other?’ That can be kids, sometimes. They are learning and growing at such a high rate that it’s hard for information to truly sink in sometimes. Because of this, you’ll need to repeat instructions, lessons and the like. Don’t make talking about electrical safety a one-time thing.

Communicate openly 

With kids, it’s always good to have more of a discussion than a lesson. Openly communicating with your child makes the conversation more interesting to them and as a result, they’re more likely to retain the information. They’ll be curious and maybe even excited if you go about explaining things the right way. And don’t be alarmed when they ask a ton of questions – that’s a GOOD thing!

Visual aids are a must

You don’t need to make full-blown demonstrations, but point to things and objects. Take them out and if they’re safe – let children handle them. The more your child knows and thinks about appliances, outlets and wires, the less likely it is that they will fall victim to an electrical accident.

When it comes to safety in general, nothing is more important than the health and well being of our kids. Take the time, explain things to them carefully and let them process it all. You’ll be surprised with just how quickly they take to things!

What to do when the lights go out


Nothing feels worse than when the power goes out. Dealing with it can be both annoying and obnoxious – but the most important thing to do is learn how to stay safe. This month’s post will discuss some of the things you need to be mindful of when the power goes out. Let’s jump right in!

Know a reliable source of information

When the lights are off, you’re going to need to know the who, what, where, when, why and how of the outage. How long will it last? How many people are effected? Who’s going to be in charge of fixing the grid issue – etc. Once you’ve got an idea of what’s going on, it will give you a good idea as to how to respond from there on out.

Turn off all your appliances

One thing you want to make sure you do when there’s a power outage is to shut down your power supply altogether. While there isn’t a better feeling in the world than when your power comes back on – the initial surge can be very dangerous to your appliances and could possibly damage them. If your appliances are older or not in the best of shape, they could even become fire hazards. Trust us – you’ll know when the power is back on – just play it safe. Head down to the basement and flip your main breaker just in case.

Be mindful of the temperature

When your power goes out, you’ll lose your HVAC. As such – if it’s hot out, you won’t have AC and if it’s cold out, you won’t have heat. Especially in situations where it’s chilly out, we recommend bundling up and wearing an extra layer of clothing. If it’s hot out, be sure to drink plenty of (safe) drinking water and try to find ways to stay cool.

Always be prepared

The best thing you can do when the power goes out is to prepare before it goes out. That means having fresh batteries handy, some bottled water, flashlights that are in good, working order and canned food just in case. Also be sure to have a first aid kit handy. It also doesn’t hurt to have a generator, which in spite of the early up front investment – can be a big relief during periods where the power is out for a lengthy period of time.

 

What surge protectors actually do


Poll a random person on what a surge protector does and your answers will likely be limited to ‘enables me to plug in a lot of stuff’ and ‘saves my important electronics from getting fried’.

While those things are important and surge protectors are absolutely used for those two things – its important to have a full understanding of not only their capabilities, but also what happens when they go to work.

Today’s blog – is about exactly that. Let’s jump right in!

Transient voltage

Transient voltage usually happens due to a lightning strike or some sort of malfunction in your electronics around the exterior of your home, but it also happens inside your home as well. In fact, it happens more than you think.

Ever notice when an air conditioner comes on and you lights dim and flicker? Or when you use a hair dryer or a microwave? This happens because these appliances use so much energy that it creates a tiny surge whenever it activates. Over time, these repeated surges adversely impact the lifespan of other sensitive electronic devices plugged in throughout the rest of your home. So not only do surge protectors protect against external threats, but they help protect against internal threats as well.

Diversions 

The average American home has voltage that’s set to flow at about 120 volts. When power surges happen, the voltage limit is exceeded and some sort of damage takes place. How bad the damage is usually depends on the length and intensity of the surge, itself.

Surge protectors limit this damage by diverting excess voltage into your home’s grounding line. So for example, if you’re looking at a three-pronged plug, it’s the round prong on the bottom that connects into your home’s grounding line and protects both you and your electronics from excessive electronic shock.

Metal Oxide Varistor or MOV’s

What the heck is that you might be asking. Most surge protectors get help from something called an MOV. Basically, the MOV serves as a go-between for the protector’s hot wire and its grounding wire.

What MOV’s do is make adjustments to incoming voltage that’s either too low or too high. When it’s too high, the MOV redirects the excess voltage and evens out the electricity. When it’s too low, it kicks things up a notch. Think of it as the bouncer of your surge protector. It makes sure everyone’s safe, everyone’s having a good time and that nothing gets out of control. 

Surge protectors are a vital part of your home’s ability to function – and it’s not JUST because they protect you from surges. They extend the lifespan of your devices, help control the flow of electricity to and from your devices and protects you from both internal and external threats to your electrical system.

For more information on how you can keep your home safer or how a layered surge protection system such as a whole-home surge protector – give us a call today!

Why do my bulbs keep blowing?


Ask any electrician on earth – and they’ll tell you that one of the most common complaints they receive from customers is that their light bulbs burn out or blow out much faster than they expected; and of course – it’s always at the worst time.
Here are some reasons your light bulbs might be blowing and what you can do about it.

Your bulbs are cheap

Hey, we’re not calling you a cheapskate because everyone’s looking for a deal – but cheap bulbs – like every other thing that is cheap – are cheap for a reason. They have poor filaments and they’re made from bad materials. That’s how they keep costs low. It’s just like cheap batteries and cheap steno paper. They work up to a point and fail. For a few extra cents, you’ll experience fewer blowouts.

Ceiling fans going kablooey

Ceiling fan bulbs blow out faster than most other bulbs – and there are two primary reasons for that. First, the vibration and motion from the fan damages the filament in the bulb – which reduces lifespan. Second, the heat from the bulb usually has a hard time escaping the fan because the glass enclosure is so small. So that means the bulb will heat up and die.

Halogen, huh? 

Just like ceiling fan bulbs, halogen bulbs don’t do well with heat. The problem is – they, themselves get really hot, really quick. If the bulbs haven’t been installed correctly – or there’s material like a pest next or roofing materials covering the fitting – the bulbs will likely blow faster.

Incandescent bulbs blowing out

Simply put, these blow out faster than the new, more modern LED bulbs. We’d love to sugar coat it – but really there’s no reason to not switch over entirely to LED’s. Just ditch these bulbs.

LED isn’t working, either

LED’s are designed to last a long time. If they’re blowing, you either bought cheap LED bulbs or they weren’t fitted properly which means they’re overheating.

Of course, if you’ve tried to replace blown bulbs with quality new light bulbs then we recommend calling a pro, as the problem is likely deeper. It could be a problem wit the fitting, wiring, power supply, overloads and the like. So if your bulbs won’t work, simply call your electrician.