We proudly share some tips to help you get the most from your electrical experience. Feel free to call us to discuss any of the material below.
Each year many Americans are injured in and around their homes. Unsafe conditions such as overloaded circuits and damaged insulation as well as the misuse of extension cords and electrical products create fire hazards and may result in electrocutions.
Take a few minutes to look for and correct electrical safety hazards in your home. It does not take too long to check the insulation on a cord, move an appliance away from water, check for correct wattage light bulbs or install a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter). Invest your time. It could prevent an electrical safety hazard and save lives.
Studies of residential electrical fires show that the majority of serious fires could have been prevented. The conditions that caused the fires probably would have been detected by an electrical inspection.
Most problems are not detected or corrected because most homes do not have inspections. In a number of cases investigated by CPSC, homes ranging from 40 to 100 years old had not been inspected since they were built.
A safety inspection should be performed by a qualified electrical or licensed electrical inspector. To insure the electrical safety of your home, your electrical inspection should be up-to-date and defects corrected.
There are no hard-and-fast rules about frequency of inspection but here are some suggestions: To determine when your electrical system was last inspected, examine the door and cover of your electrical panel(s). The panel should contain a label or tag with a date, a signature, or intials on it.
If there is more than one date, the most recent one should be the date of the last inspection. DO NOT remove the service-panel cover. This is a job for a qualified electrician.
Circuit Breaker Panel Potential Electrical Hazards and Their Symptoms
Power Outages fuses need replacement or circuit breakers need resetting frequently
Overrated Panel electrical panel contains fuses or circuit breakers rated at higher currents than the ampacity (current capacity) of their branch circuits, sometimes called "overamped" or "overfused"
Dim/Flickering Lights dim or the size of your television picture LIGHTS shrink often
Arcs or Sparks bright light flashes or showers of sparks anywhere in your electrical system
Sizzles/Buzzes unusual sounds from the electrical system
Overheating parts of your electrical system, such as switch plates, wall outlet covers, cords and plugs may be warm. These should never be hot-painful to touch, or discolored from heat
Permanently using extensions to extend the home wiring system for a long period
Installed instead of being used temporarily to connect some items
Appliances with a cord too short to reach the wall outlet
Loose Plugs attachment plugs that wobble or pull out of a wall outlet easily
Damaged cut, broken or cracked insulation
If your last inspection was 40 or more years ago, inspection is overdue 10-40 years. Inspection is advisable, especially if substantial electrical loads (high-wattage appliances, lights and wall outlets or extension cords) have been added or if some of the warning signs discussed are present. Less than 10 years ago, inspection may not be needed, unless some of the warning signs described are present or temporary wiring has been added.
You may live in an area that is not served by state or local electrical inspectors, so that no inspection record will be found on your electrical panel. In that case, use the age of the house as a guide to the probable need for an inspection.
Appliance Power Budget
Circuits can only handle a specified total wattage of all the electrical products connected to that circuit. If too much wattage is plugged into a circuit, serious electrical problems can result. Here is a guide to knowing what a circuit can handle:
Find the nameplate on each appliance indicating its power (watts) rating. Add up the total watts for appliances that you may use at the same time on the same branch circuit.
Hair Dryer - 1400 watts
Iron - 1000 watts
Portable Heater - 1200 watts
Vacuum Cleaner - 600 watts
Deep Fat Fryer - 1300 watts
Portable Fan - 150 watts
Most home lighting and wall outlet branch circuits may carry as much as 1500 watts (15 ampere branch); Some kitchen circuits, as much as 2000 watts (20 ampere)
Choosing an Electrical Contractor
Wiremasters obviously would like to be the contractor of choice. However, we want you to feel perfectly comfortable with your decision. So with that said, we are providing guidelines to ensure that you indeed select the right electrician for the job (us!)
Electrical repairs are an investment. You want to get the job done right the first time. Before you spend your money, spend time learning how to evaluate electrical contractors. All contractors are not alike, and NECA (National Electrical Contractors Association) recommends that you prequalify electrical contractors to get the job done right the first time. The following guidelines will help you select a professional:
- Check for a permanent place of business, telephone number, tax identification number and, where applicable, a business license.
- Don't hesitate to ask an electrical contractor for proof of insurance. In fact, insist on seeing copies of his liability coverage and workers' compensation certificates. (U.S. workers' compensation laws vary by state. Consult your state's laws to determine workers' compensation insurance requirements.) Make sure the coverages are in effect through the duration of the job. Many homeowners have been dragged into litigation involving uninsured electrical contractors. Also, if a contractor is not properly insured, you may be liable for accidents that occur on your property.
- Check to see if the electrical contractor is properly licensed or bonded. Some states have specific licensing requirements, and others do not. Your state's Department of Professional Regulation or Licensing Board will have this information.
- Look for a company with a proven track record that offers client references and a list of completed projects. Call these clients to find out whether they were satisfied.
- Insist on a detailed, written proposal and examine it for complete descriptions of the work and specifications, including approximate starting and completion dates and payment procedures.
- Have the contractor list the electrical manufacturers with which his firm is a licensed or approved applicator. Most electrical systems require special application expertise to achieve lasting quality.
- Have the contractor explain his project supervision and quality-control procedures. Request the name of the person who will be in charge of your project, how many workers will be required and estimated completion time.
- Check to see if the contractor is a member of any regional or national industry associations, such as NECA. Being a member of industry associations demonstrates a commitment to professionalism.
- Call your local Better Business Bureau or Department of Professional Regulation to check for possible complaints filed against the contractor.
- Carefully read and understand any electrical warranties offered, and watch for provisions that would void it.
- Choose a company committed to worker safety and education. Ask the contractor what type of safety training he provides for his workers and what industry education programs they have attended. The best electrical contractor is only as good as the workers who install the electrical system.
- Keep a healthy skepticism about the lowest bid. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many fly-by-night contractors' below-cost bids seem attractive, but these contractors often are uninsured and perform substandard work. Remember, price is only one of the criteria for selecting an electrical contractor. Professionalism, experience and quality workmanship also should weigh heavily in your decision.
How To Reduce Vampire Power
Vampire power, phantom loads, idling standby current, and wall warts all basically refer to the same thing: electronic devices with two sharp, pointy teeth that latch into your wall sockets and use electricity all day, all night, whether on or "off," whether charging batteries or not. These devices include TV's, VCR's, DVD players, answering machines, iPods, cell phones, stereos, laptops, desktops, anything with a remote, anything with a charger, anything with a clock display.
Top 10 ways for you to fight the vampires
- Unplug your devices. It's as simple as that. Pull TV/computer/stereo/etc power cords out of the outlet. If they're not in use or if they're totally unneccesary (are you really going to ever use that VCR player again?), unplug.
- Reduce your demand. Sure, electronic gizmos are fun. But do you really need 2 TVs for one room? If the answer is yes, then at least follow number 6's advice!
- Use the other off switch. Many devices also have an 'off' switch in the back. For example, most computers come with one 'soft' power switch on the front, which takes it from standby to on. Separately, there is usually a real 'on/off' switch located in the back on the power supply (near where the power cord goes in).
- Plug your devices and chargers into a power strip. And when you're not using those devices, turn off your power strip.
- Remove chargers from the wall when you're not charging. Your cell phone charger, iPod charger, laptop charger, etc. keeps drawing electricity even if your phone/Ipod/laptop/etc isn't charging. So if your phone says "Charge Complete" (or worse, isn't even attached to your charger), pull out the charger.
- If you're in the market for new electronics, buy Energy Star qualified. Energy Star takes standby power into account and their qualified devices draw less than the average when in their "off" mode. Some of their best electronic items include cordless phones and audio equipment.
- Get a cell phone that tells you to unplug it. Nokia announced in May 2007 that it will be rolling out new phones with audible alerts (they say, "Battery is full, please unplug the charger.") This feature will first appear in models 1200, 1208 and 1650 (they will most likely start in Europe).
- For your various computer accessories, try a smart strip. These work really well when it's not feasible to be constantly unplugging your devices. Check out the Isole Plug Load Control. This power strip saves energy by monitoring occupancy. The Smart Strip Power Strip monitors power differences between computers and peripherals. This way, when you shut down your computer, the Smart Strip automatically shuts off the accessories. The Mini Power Minder also works by communicating between your computer and your accessory.
- To learn about the power consumption of your electronics, look into a Kill-A-Watt. This device will tell you about the efficiency of your electronics, whether turned on or "off." It can actually be kind of fun (and definitely enlightening) to run around your house and see how much juice each piece of equipment takes, in both and and standby mode. You'll likely be surprised. (If you want something a little more hardcore, try Watts Up?).
- If you're up for a whole house project, check out GreenSwitch, a wireless home energy control system that let's you cut off power to your various electronics quite easily.
||Silver Stake (or what to do)|
||73.97 W when on and idle (21.13 W when asleep and 2.84 when off)
- If you're going away for a short period of time, make sure you hibernate your computer, instead of leaving it on
- If you're going away for a good while, TURN IT OFF (and better yet, switch off the surge protector/power strip)
||44.28 W when on and charging (and down to 4.42 W with just the power supply plugged in)
- Pretty similar to a desk top. Make sure to unplug the power supply when you're done.
|DVR and digital cable combo
||44.63 W when not recording with the TV off...but still a whole 43.46 W even when it's turned off by remote
||When it's off with the door closed, it'll use about 3W (with the door open, you're looking at 25.79 W and when you're cooking...a whole 1433 W)
- Don't leave it cooking with nothing in there. That'd just be silly.
- Close the door.
- Unplug it.
|Cell phone charger
||When you're phone is plugged in but fully charged, you're drawing 2.24 W (and when the charger alone is stuck in the wall you're down to 0.14 W)
- Don't leave your phone "charging" when it's not charging
- Unplug it.
Basics of vampire power
Most people think that when you turn something off, it actually turns off. Most people assume that it stops drawing power. Unfortunately, that's not true in the case of most electric devices. Most of them just hover in standby mode, waiting for you to 'turn on' the power again.
A 1999 study in New Zealand conducted by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority indicated that 40% of microwave ovens used more electricity to power the clock and the keypad over the course of the year than actually heating food. Big screen TV's (and their respective cable boxes and satellites) up to 30 watts when off. A computer left turned on can potentially draw as much current as a refrigerator. And what about those chargers? Even when your cell phone (or other battery operated device) isn't charging, even if it's not even plugged in, it's still drawing power. It may even add as much as 10% to your energy bill.
This is bad news for your wallet and bad news for the environment. Studies conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimate that standby power consumption in the US accounts for 5% of all residential power consumption. That means Americans spend more than $3.5 billion annually on wasted power. It also means that our standby power is responsible for 27 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that globally standby power is responsible for 1% of carbon dioxide emissions (to contextualize that number, it is estimated that 2-3% of CO2 emissions are from air travel). And let's be honest. Those numbers are probably growing given the affinity many of us have for new gadgets and fancy appliances.
Electrical Wiring Causes A Third Of All Electrical House Fires
Do you have a Zinsco panel?
Is your circuit breaker over thirty years old?
Do you have a fuse box instead of circuit breakers?
Is the circuit breaker panel warm or even hot to the touch?
Do you have an aluminum wired home?
Are there obvious burn marks or sparking around your panel?
Do you have an FPE panel?
If you said yes to any of the questions above, you could be at risk of an electrical fire.
Call Wiremasters today to install a safe, reliable circuit panel.
If you have an old FPE or Zinsco electric panel you and your family could be in danger and you wouldn't even know it! Call Wiremasters now to have your circuit breakers inspected!
34% of All House Fires Are Caused By...
A full one-third of home destroying fires are caused by faulty electrical outlets and old wiring. In less than a minute, a spark can grow into an unmanageable flame - putting you, your family, and a lifetime of precious memories at risk.
Don't be caught by surprise. For a full evaluation of your home wiring system, give us a call today. This may be the most valuable phone call you ever make.