Electrical Tips & Advice (4)
Whether you're giving your home a complete makeover, or just planning on upgrading your fixtures or appliances within your living quarters, it's a great time to also consider upgrading your electrical system.
Do you have receptacle outlets overburdened by multi-plug strips? Are your lamps and fixtures connected to extension cords? Does every three-prong plug need a two-prong adapter? These and other warning signs indicate a real need for electrical improvements. Here are a few points to consider:
1. Is your service adequate? Many older homes still operate with outdated 60-amp electrical service, and sometimes with just a few fuses or circuit breakers to protect the entire system. Newer homes often have 100-amp service panels, but even this minimum requirement set by many current codes may fall short of your present or future needs. Consider upgrading service to 200 amps.
2. Is your service sized for extra demand? If you're installing a major electrical appliance, like an electric wall oven, a microwave oven, a double-wide refrigerator or central air-conditioning, think about the additional power it may need. While a salesman or installer might tell you that your system can handle the load, be smart and ask your electrician for a second opinion.
Electricians often install 14-AWG wiring during renovations, which is adequate for most home uses. But heavier 12-AWG copper wire is a better choice because it's more energy-efficient and you won't have to upgrade all over again if you install appliances or fixtures with greater electrical loads. The cost difference for upgrading to 12-AWG copper wire is minimal. If you're adding a room extension or building a new home, it's a good idea to install 12-AWG wire (or larger, depending on the needs of each circuit).
3. Consider special electrical needs. Different rooms in a home serve different purposes—an important consideration when you're planning improvements, especially where electrical work is involved. Family rooms, home offices and home theaters generally need more circuits, more outlets, and built-in or plug-in power-surge protection. Outlets in kitchens, baths, garages and outdoor areas require ground-fault circuit interrupters, or GFCIs. And you don't have to wait for a major renovation to add protection—you can install many safety devices yourself, such as outlet caps, switch guards and wire shields in nurseries and children's playrooms.
Home electrical fires account for over 50,000 fires in the US each year. The Electrical Safety Foundation International reports that electrical fires cause more than 500 deaths, 1,400 injuries, and over a billion dollars in property damage. Older homes are particularly at risk. Because over half of the homes in the United States were built before 1973, this is a real concern.
To ensure your home is meeting the current electrical code in your area, call an MR Plumbing electrician. They will help identify the common culprits of electrical fires that may be hidden in your home’s electrical system.
Some of these dangers include:
Knob and Tube Wiring
This type of wiring was used from the 1800’s to the 1930’s in homes. Wires are run through ceramic tubes (or knobs) to prevent contact with wood framing. However, this type of wiring is now considered a fire hazard because it is not a grounded system. If your home has knob and tube wiring, it is highly recommended that you have your home re-wired.
When any electricity is unintentionally released from home wiring or cords, it is known as an arc fault. Arc faults can be especially dangerous because the electricity released can cause the surrounding material to catch fire.
Common causes of arc faults:
Pinched wires – From a chair sitting on an extension cord or wires bent sharply
Overheated wires or cords – Too many lights or appliances connected to one circuit (your fuse box or circuit breaker should trip)
Improper electrical connections – Loose connections in an electrical light switch or outlet
Pierced wires – Nails and screws can sometimes pierce wiring hidden behind walls
Damaged wires or cords – Caused by rodents, age and heat
No Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters
Any electrical outlets that could come into contact with water should have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) installed. These outlets improve safety by constantly monitoring the flow of electricity in and out of the circuit.
If the returning current differs even a small amount (like from coming in contact with water), the GFCI will shut of the electric current. This helps prevent deadly electric shocks and electrocution.
For maximum safety install GFCIs in bathrooms, the kitchen, laundry room, outside and anywhere else an outlet could come in contact with water.
Another risk in older homes is aluminum wiring. A national survey conducted by Franklin Research Institute showed that homes built before 1972, and wired with aluminum, are 55 times more likely to have one or more wire connections at outlets reach “Fire Hazard Conditions”1 than homes wired with copper.
A shortage of copper in the mid 1960s caused builders to increase the use of aluminum wire in residential electrical distribution systems from the few large-power circuits (i.e., for electric clothes dryers and ranges), to general purpose 15- and 20-ampere-rated circuits. Homes built before 1965 are unlikely to have aluminum branch circuit wiring.
Unfortunately, failing aluminum-wired connections seldom provide easily detected warning signs. Aluminum-wired connections and splices have been reported to fail and overheat without any prior indications or problems.
Around one-third of the homes in the U.S. are over 50 years old, and older homes are statistically at higher risk of electrical fires. The main reason older homes can be more dangerous is many were built with electrical systems which are no longer safe. Deterioration due to aging, improper installation and modification, a lack of modern safety devices, combined with today's electrical intensive households all combine to increase the risk of electrical fires.
By understanding what outdated wiring looks like, you can learn of your home is at greater risk. Depending on the age of the home, you will find one of three kinds of wiring.
Grounded Electrical SystemsHomes built in the 1940s through the present will have grounded electrical systems. Grounding is a critical safety feature that is designed to reduce the chance of shock or electrocution in the event of a short circuit. Grounding wires are connected directly to the earth through a metal grounding rod or a cold water pipe. Should a short circuit or an overload occur, any extra electricity will find its way along the grounding wire to the earth.
Aluminum WiringAs the price of copper soared, aluminum wiring became more common in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of the receptacles and switched of the time we not designed to work with aluminum wire, resulting in bad fitting connections and a greater risk of fire. If your home has aluminum wiring that was installed in the 1960s or 70s have M/R Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning & Electrical perform a safety inspection to ensure it is safe and up to code.
Knob & Tube WiringThe earliest type of wiring found in homes built in the 1800s through the 1930s, knob and tube wiring is an open air system that uses ceramic knobs to keep wires away from combustible framing. These suspended wires were directed through ceramic tubes to prevent contact with the wood framing and starting a fire. Knob and tube wiring is a fire hazard because it's not grounded and is more exposed to damage from old and faulty modification.
Have questions about your home's wiring? Call M/R Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning & Electrical, we're here to help.
Never Feel Powerless Again With a Safe, Reliable Residential Standby Generator
With an aging power infrastructure and increasing severe weather related to climate change, many Chicago area homeowners are discovering the benefits of a standby generators to keep their homes safe and comfortable during prolonged periods without power.
Today's backup generators are quiet, efficient and reliable. They offer the convenience of auto start and practically indefinite run time. When the power fails, a standby generator switches on - automatically - powering your home 24/7. With a standby generator you can maintain everyday necessities like heating, cooling, refrigeration and lighting and more.
Permanent or Portable Generator?
A portable generator needs to be rolled out from the storage, filled with gas or hooked up to a natural gas line, manually started, and connected to your loads. In contrast, a permanent generator starts automatically because it's connected to both the house wiring and your home's gas line. It can detect a power outage, isolate your designated circuits from the grid, and start powering your home instantly.
Whole house standby generators offer power levels greater than portable generators, ranging from 5 kilowatts up into hundreds of kilowatts. This makes them a good choice for sustained power outages. While the initial cost of a permanent generator is higher than a portable generator, a whole house generator will increase your home's value.
When the power is restored, portable generators need to be turned off manually. A permanent generator will connect you back to the utility power and turn itself off automatically. You don't even have to be home.
This recent installation of a Kohler natural gas standby generator shows how clean and compact today's home generators are. Like a central air conditioner they are installed on a slab near the utility hook up and take up very little space.
Choosing a Residential Generator
Aside from wattage, consider the duration of time you may need emergency power and the fuel source. By selecting which appliances and lighting you want to maintain during a power outage, you can estimate the power requirements of the backup circuits and select a generator that will maintain the wattage for your needs.
Residential generators can run on both natural gas and LP (propane). Your installer will do a simple field adjustment to convert the unit to your available fuel source. A whole house generator will be permanently installed in a location that provides easy access to your home's electric and fuel supply and that minimizes the risk of exhaust fumes entering the home.
Have backup power generator questions? The experts at M/R Plumbing can help you select the best residential generator to fit your family's needs.
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