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Electrical Tips & Advice

Electrical Tips & Advice (15)

Wednesday, 21 February 2024 16:02

Can a Generator Power My Entire Home?

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With prolonged power outages becoming more common many year round, many Chicagoland area homeowners are considering installing a standby generator to protect their property and avoid the inconvenience and discomfort of extended outages. One of the most common questions we hear is: Can a generator power a whole house? Here's what to condsider:

What Is a Standby Generator?

Unlike portable generators, they're permanently installed and connected to a transfer switch to automatically supply power to your home when the grid fails. Because they require no intervention and switch over immediately, standby generators are increasingly popular for providing a reliable power source during outages. 

Sizing Your Standby Generator

Yes, a standby generator can power a whole house... provided it's correctly sized and installed. Choosing the right size generator for your needs is crucial. While it's best to have a certified electrician make the final calculations, here's a simple guide:

List Your Essentials
Identify the appliances and systems you need during an outage (e.g., refrigerator, HVAC, lights, EV charger).

Calculate Your Power Needs
Add up the wattage of these essentials. Most homes require a generator between 5,000 to 20,000 watts to cover basic needs.

Consider Total Coverage
For total home coverage, you'll likely need a generator on the higher end of this range, especially if you have high-power appliances.

Factors to Consider

Peak vs. Running Wattage
Appliances often require more power at startup. Ensure your generator can handle these peaks.

Fuel Type
Standby generators typically run on natural gas or propane. Consider availability and cost in your area.

Location and Installation
Professional installation is critical for safety and compliance with local codes.

You Can Rely on MR Plumbing Heating Air Electrical

MR Plumbing Heating Air Electrical, we specialize in helping Chicagoland area homeowners find the perfect standby generator. Our team provides tailored solutions, ensuring you get a generator that not only powers your entire house but also suits your specific needs.

Thursday, 18 January 2024 17:39

Understanding Generator Transfer Switches

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What they are and why every homeowner with a generator needs one.

When power outages strike communities in the Chicagoland area, having a backup generator can be a lifesaver. You will not only be able to keep the lights on, you can also power your heating and air conditioning, refrigerator and other essential appliances.

But to harness a generator's full potential and ensure safety, you need a crucial component: the generator transfer switch. If you're new to the world of backup power or are considering investing in a generator for your home, MR Plumbing Heating Air Electrical  will walk you through the basics of generator transfer switches.

What is a Generator Transfer Switch?

A generator transfer switch is an electrical device that allows you to safely connect a generator to your home's electrical system. Instead of running extension cords from your generator to your appliances, a transfer switch provides a direct link to your home's electrical panel.

Why Do You Need One?

The primary reason is safety. Connecting a generator directly to your home's wiring without a transfer switch can "backfeed" electricity into the power lines, posing a severe risk to utility workers and neighbors. A transfer switch prevents this dangerous backfeed.

The second reason is convenience. With a transfer switch, you can power hardwired appliances like your furnace, well pump, or home security system, which can't be powered with extension cords.

Another advantage of transfer switches is efficiency. Because a transfer switch interfaces with your service panel, it allow you to manage which circuits in your home are powered, helping you maximize the efficiency of your generator.

Types of Transfer Switches

There are primarily two types:

Manual Transfer Switch

As the name implies, it requires you to manually switch the power source from the utility to the generator. It's more affordable but requires manual intervention during power outages.

Automatic Transfer Switch

This type detects when utility power is lost and automatically switches to generator power, then switches back when utility power is restored. It's more convenient but comes at a higher cost. A standby generator will employ this type of transfer switch.

How to Choose the Right Transfer Switch

When selecting a transfer switch, you will need to consider:

Generator Size: It essential that the switch be rated to handle the generator's power output.
Number of Circuits: Decide how many circuits in your home you want to power during an outage.

Type of Appliances: Some sensitive electronics may require specific types of switches.

Local Regulations and Installation

In many areas, installation must be done by a licensed electrician. An electrician will obtain any necessary permits and will follow local regulations before installing a transfer switch.  Proper installation ensures safety and compliance with local codes.

Chicagoland Transfer Switch Installation

A generator transfer switch is an essential component for anyone looking to use a backup generator for their home. It ensures safety, convenience, and efficient use of your generator during power outages. If you're considering setting up a backup power system in Chicagoland, MR Plumbing Heating Air Electrical can help. We take the time to learn about your backup power needs, access your current electrical system and provide cost-effective solutions for safe, reliable backup power.
Tuesday, 17 October 2023 17:33

Why Install a Whole-House Surge Protector?

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Whole House Surge Protector

If there's one thing we've learned in our years of providing electrical services in the Chicagoland area, it's this: surge protection isn’t just a good idea; it's a necessity. In this post, we will explore the reasons every home needs a whole-home surge protector, and why it's worth the investment.

1. Today's Dependency on Electronics

Today, our homes are filled with a myriad of electronic gadgets - from the smart appliances in the kitchen to high-end electronics in the living room, and the laptops and tablets we use for work and play. All these devices rely heavily on electricity, and any sudden spike can damage their intricate internal components. A surge protector acts as a shield, ensuring your devices are safe from these unexpected electrical surges.

2. Electrical Surges Are More Common Than You Think

Many believe that electrical surges only occur during thunderstorms. But did you know that roughly 80% of electrical surges are generated internally, often due to appliances like air conditioners and refrigerators cycling on and off? It's true. These minor surges might not cause immediate damage but, over time, they can wear down the performance and lifespan of your electronic devices.

3. The Cost of Replacement is High

Imagine losing your brand-new 8K TV or that gaming console you saved up for, just because of an unexpected electrical spike. The cost of replacing these electronics is much higher than investing in a whole-home surge protector. It's a small price to pay for peace of mind.

4. Comprehensive Home Protection

Whole-house surge protectors offer a blanket of protection, not just for your electronics but for your entire electrical system. They protect against external surges, like those from lightning, ensuring your wiring and outlets remain intact and safe.

5. Protecting Priceless Data

For many of us, our computers are more than just tools or entertainment devices; they're repositories of precious memories in the form of photos, videos, and personal documents. A sudden surge can result in data loss. By having a surge protector, you're safeguarding those irreplaceable memories.

While some homeowner's insurance policies may cover the loss of equipment, they cannot restore your lost data.

6. Surge Protection Is Installed at the Electrical Panel

With advancements in technology, whole-home surge protectors have become both more effective and easier to integrate into your home. We recommend and install units that best fit the unique needs of each Chicagoland home.

Trust MR Plumbing Heating Air Electrical to Keep Your Home Safe

If you're in the Chicagoland area and need expert advice or installation assistance, our friendly team of experienced electricians are here to help. We will ensure your home is safe, surge-free, and powered for the future.
Thursday, 22 June 2023 20:48

Should Two-Prong Outlets Be Updated?

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Two-Prong Outlets

While 3-prong grounded outlets have been required in the electrical code for over 50 years, it's not uncommon for older homes in the greater Lynchburg area to still have two-prong outlets.

What Is Electrical Grounding?

Grounding is a way of allowing excess electricity a safe route from an appliance back to the ground by way of an electrical panel. Electrical grounding is needed if there is a fault in the wiring system, such as a short circuit, to allow electricity to safely exit to the ground without causing harm to anyone in contact with the electrical appliance.

Are Your Outlets Really Grounded?

In some cases two-prong outlets are replaced with three-prong outlets, but without the necessary rewiring to add a ground. This is often done to make it more convenient to use three-prong outlets, but it does not provide the safety benefits of a grounded outlet. A lack of grounding can be identified by using a plug-in circuit tester.  

According to the National Electrical Code when a grounded type outlet is installed a new ground wire must also be installed by a licensed electrician.  There is an exception to this rule when the outlet is protected with a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI).

One of the hazardous situations where an ungrounded outlet can be unsafe is when using a surge protector, such as the outlet strips commonly used to protect computers. When a power surge is detected by the surge protector, it needs the ground wire to redirect the surge until it can trip. Without the ground wire the surge protector will destroy the sensitive electronics that it is meant to protect.

If your home has two-prong outlets and older wiring, play it safe and have MR Plumbing Heating Air Electrical & Electrical upgrade your wiring and outlets to protect your family and your home.
Wednesday, 22 March 2023 17:16

Electrical Arc Faults

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The National Fire Protection Association reports that every year around 50,000 fires in the U.S. are caused by some kind of electrical failure or malfunction. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 50% of electrical fires could be prevented by using Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs).

What Is An Arc Fault?

When an electrical device or wiring becomes damaged, overheated or over-stressed it increases the chances of an electrical arc. For example, a wire behind a wall may become damaged when a nail is driven through the drywall, or an electrical cord may become worn out from repeated use, causing the insulation to crack and the wires inside to make contact.

Other causes of arc faults include:
  • Loose or improper connections, such as electrical wires to outlets or switches
  • Frayed appliance or extension cords
  • Pinched or pierced wire insulation
  • Cracked wire insulation caused by age, heat, or repeated bending
  • Overloaded wires or cords
  • Damaged or malfunctioning appliances
  • Rodent damage to electrical wiring
It's important to ensure your home's electrical system is kept in good working order by preventing any of the conditions above from occurring and repairing any damage as soon as it's found.

Arc-Fault Circuit Interupter

There are several kinds of arc-fault prevention devices found in homes, they include:

AFCI Receptacles

These are outlets that are installed in bathrooms, kitchens, garages and other areas of the home where water is more likely to come into contact with electrical devices. They
have a reset and a test button. AFCI receptacles provide
protection for downstream wire and appliances.

Branch/Feeded AFCI Breaker

This is the original AFCI breaker that was required starting in 1999 to meet the National Electrical Code (NEC). They provide improved fire protection by tripping when a parallel arc is detected between hot and neutral conductors.

Combination AFCI's

Branch/Feeder AFCI breakers were phased out starting in 2008 and replaced with Combination Type AFCIs. They work similarly, but offer enhanced fire protection by detecting lower level series arching in both branch circuits and power cords.
Wednesday, 22 February 2023 20:46

Fixing Common Light Fixture Problems

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Fixing Common Light Fixture Problems

If you have a light fixture that's failed or not working correctly, and you have tried replacing the the light bulb or adjusting the light bulb socket, there a few other things you can check to try to solve the problem.

1. Loose Switch Wiring
One of the most common problems with light fixtures is a loose wire connection at the switch. Constant switching on and off can loosen the connection. Turn the power of at the breaker panel, remove the switch cover, then tighten any loose wires. If you're concerned about the connections, have MR Plumbing Heating Air Electrical inspect the wiring.

If the light switch is working fine and the lights still flicker, have MR Plumbing Heating Air Electrical check the electrical wiring for problems.

2. Bad Switch Contacts
If the bulb flickers on and off, it could be caused by switch contacts that are worn out. If you can hear a sizzling or crackling sound when the switch is flipped, the contacts are bad. The switch should be replaced.

3. Recessed Lighting Randomly Going On and Off
Are your recessed lighting fixtures randomly going on and off? The most most common cause is overheating. Recessed lights are equipped with a safety limit switch to prevent overheating by turing the fixture off automatically when heat reaches an unsafe level.

Check that the bulb in the fixture has the correct wattage and install a lower wattage bulb if needed. Also look for insulation that may be packed too tightly around the fixture, trapping heat. If the problem persists after trying the above steps, call MR Plumbing Heating Air Electrical to inspect the lights. They may have a faulty limit switch or other problem.

4. Faulty Light Socket Tab
If you look inside a light socket you will see a brass tab that presses up against the base of the light bulb when the bulb is screwed in. Screwing bulbs in too tightly can cause the tab to become bent down too far, preventing a solid contact with the base of the light bulb. This can cause electricity to arc, damaging the contact point on the light bulb, causing it to fail prematurely.

To fix the problem shut the power off to the fixture at the breaker panel, or if it's a plug-in fixture, un-plug it from the wall. Next, gently bend the socket tab upwards slightly with a needle-nose pliers so it is not flat against the bottom of the socket, about a quarter of an inch will work.

5. Incompatible Dimmer Switches
If you have upgraded your light fixtures from older incandescent bulbs to LEDs it's important to use dimmer switches that are compatible with LEDs. Older dimmer switches were designed for use with standard incandescent bulbs only, and if you use CFL or LED bulbs it can damage the circuitry of the bulb, causing it to wear out prematurely.

Wednesday, 14 July 2021 14:33

Electrical Warning Signs You Shouldn't Ignore

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Electrical Warning Signs

We don't often think about electrical glitches around the home, but these little electrical issues can be a real hazard, causing house fires and electrical shock.

Here are some of the most common electrical warning signs that could signal a more serious problem with your home's electrical system.

1. Circuit Breakers That Repeatedly Trip

A tripped circuit is a sign that the breaker is working correctly to prevent an overload. However, if a breaker is repeatedly tripping, it could be a sign that there is too large an electrical load on the circuit. In most cases resetting the breaker restores power, but in some cases the breaker cannot be reset, and it keeps tripping. Never attempt to press a breaker if it won't reset, you're likely to start an electrical fire. If a breaker refuses to reset on the first try, leave it off and call an electrician.

2. Lights That Flicker Or Turn Off Unexpectedly

In some cases this is just a loose light bulb. However, it could also be a sign of a loose wiring connection or a light fixture that has worn out and is in need of replacement. Turn off the power to the fixture and investigate the supply wiring and the fixture itself. A qualified electrician should inspect the wiring and test the circuit breaker to ensure it's operating safely.

3. Outlet Face plates That Are Warm To The Touch

Heat is a symptom of resistance caused by excessive electrical load operating on an outlet, improperly sized wiring or a loose electrical connection. Note that It's common for dimmer switches to be warm. Unless the face plate itself is actually too hot to touch, a warm dimmer switch or dial is not a sign of a problem in most cases.

4. Loose Switches and Outlets

Loose switches or outlet that are not properly mounted to the electrical box could cause overheating and a short circuit. Shut off power to the switch or outlet, remove the faceplate and ensure that it is securely attached to the stud.

5.  GFCI Outlets That Trip Repeatedly

If an appliance or tool repeatedly trips a GFCI, try plugging it into another GFCI outlet. If it keeps tripping the circuit, the appliance or tool may be the problem. If it works, the ground fault or GFCI outlet receptacle is likely defective and should be replaced.
Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality

Do you find that you're opening windows in a bathroom that gets too hot and steamy? Does your kitchen get so smokey it sets off your smoke alarms? Does your living room have high ceilings that make it too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. The solution to all these problems is improved ventilation.

Fans play an important role in maintaining a comfortable, healthy indoor environment. They remove odors and excess humidity, help your central heating and cooling system work more efficiently and provide evaporative cooling.

Whole-House Fans

Whole house fans are designed to circulate air throughout a home's ductwork. It is sometimes confused with an attic ventilator fan (see below), which exhausts hot air from the attic to the outside through an opening in the roof. In some cases, a whole house fan can take the place of a home's air conditioning system by circulating air during times of the year when it's not too hot, particularly when combined with ceiling fans.

Bathroom Exhaust Fans

A bathroom exhaust fan is designed to remove stale, humid air from bathrooms, laundry rooms and other enclosed spaces with high humidity. They improve air quality and reduce the likelihood of mold and mildew growth. Bathroom fans are also helpful in laundry rooms, where clothes washers and driers can generate a lot of heat and humidity in enclosed spaces.

When installing any kind of exhaust fan it's important to ensure that the fan is ducted to the exterior of the house and not into the attic.

Attic Fans

Most attics are not connected to a home's ventilation system for heating and cooling. An attic fan, also called an attic ventilator, regulates the heat level of a home's attic by exhausting hot air, which in turn helps your home's heating and cooling system work more efficiently. They are usually controlled by a thermostat that automatically turns the fan off and on, or less frequently they are controlled by a manual switch. An attic fan can be gable mounted or roof mounted.

Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans are a popular choice for improving airflow in rooms, as well as serving as lighting fixtures and enhancing room decor. While a ceiling fan doesn't actually lower the temperature, it circulates the conditioned air where it's needed most and provides evaporative cooling.

Have fan questions? Give MR Plumbing a call. We install all types of ventilation fans.

Electrical Warning Signs - When to Call an Electrician

Home electrical inspection

Electrical problems often go unnoticed until there is a significant problem, such as a short circuit, a tripped breaker, or in the worst case, an electrical fire. By paying attention to the warning signs of an outdated or malfunctioning electrical system, and calling an electrician before major problems occur, you can ensure your home will be safe from electrical hazards such as fires and accidental electrocution.

1. Electrical Service Panel
A common problem with older homes is an undersized service panel. The electrical needs of a 1950s household were quite different from today's households. An undersize service panel will not only limit a home's functionality, it can cause safety problems. At minimum, the panel should be rated for 200-amps.

2. Worn Out Wiring
Fiberglass-insulated wiring is commonly found in older homes and can fray over time, exposing the wire and increasing the odds of a malfunciton. Check where the wires pass through the walls and ceiling joists, these are the most common problem areas.

3. Ungrounded Circuits
Even if electrical receptacles have a ground prong a plug-in voltage tester should be used to make sure they are in fact grounded. The plug-in tester will also alert you if the polarity is wrong or if the circuit has other wiring problems like a lost neutral or a lost feed. All two-prong circuits should be upgraded to three-prong grounded outlets.

4. Dimming of Flickering Lights
Check for lights that are dim or blinking. Dimming bulbs are often a sign that there are voltage changes occurring in the circuit. A licensed electrician should inspect the circuit for loose wiring or other issues.

5. Loose Wire Connections
Inspect junction boxes to ensure the wiring is well connected. Don't touch the wiring, just inspect it. If you find potential problems, turn off the breaker and call an electrician.

6. Smoke Detectors
Smoke detectors are required on every floor of the house. If the detectors are not working, install new 9-volt batteries and re-test them to ensure they are functioning.

7. GFCI Receptacles
GFCI receptacles should be installed in areas where electrical appliances are more likely to come in contact with water, such as bathrooms, kitchens, garages, and outside of the home.

8. Burn Marks
Look for signs of burning or scorching around receptacles, light switches and light fixtures. If scorch marks are visible, the circuit experienced a short at some time. Ensure that the circuit was properly repaired or the broken receptacle or switch was professionally repaired.

9. Inadequate Electrical Circuits
If you're replying on extension cords to plug in appliances, or are frequently resetting tripped breakers, it's a sign that your electrical system is not adequate for your electrical needs. Have your electrician install additional outlets and upgrade you electrical panel to match your needs.

Need a professional electrical inspection? Call MR Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Electric. We're here to help.
Tuesday, 19 January 2021 15:25

Electrical Outlet Upgrades For the Home

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Electrical Outlet Upgrades For the Home

GFCI Electrical Outlet

A typical American home has around 80 electrical outlets. While the most common type of receptacle is a two-plug, 3-prong rated at 15 amp, 125 volts, there are dozens of outlet types available. Most electrical outlet upgrades are made for safety and convenience, here are some of the most common.

GFCI (Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter) Outlets

One of the most important electrical safety devices, a Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter is designed to detect a ground fault that could lead to electrocution. For example, if a hairdryer were to accidentally fall into a bathtub full of water the GFCI would immediately detect the change in current and cut the power, preventing electrocution. GFCI outlets are required by the electrical code to be installed in high-risk locations such as bathrooms.

AFCI (Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter) Outlets

Often used in combination with a GFCI, arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) receptacles use a circuit breaker to detect electric arcing. When an electrical arc condition is detected, it cuts power to prevent overheating, which could cause an electrical fire. AFCI outlets are required by the electrical code and should be installed by a qualified electrician.

Switch/Outlet Combos Receptacles

In most cases, adding an additional switch or outlet to an existing electrical box is simple and no additional wiring is needed.  

20 Amp, 250 Volt Outlets

These heavy duty receptacles are used where large appliances like electric ranges are located, or in garages or workshop where power equipment like table saws and other heavy duty equipment are used.

USB Outlets

Having a USB port built in to outlets can be a nice convenience in home offices and other locations where smart phones, digital assistants, tablets and other devices are used. USB outlets eliminate the need for bulky adapters while freeing up extra outlets.

Recessed Outlets

Recessed outlets are perfect for walls where furniture or appliances will be located in tight spaces. They are commonly installed behind refrigerators, washer and dryers, and wall mounted cabinet microwaves.

Tamper-Resistant Receptacles (TRR)

If you have young kids in your household tamper-resistant receptacles are an essential safety device. While cheap plastic outlet covers are popular, research has shown that kids as young as two years old can easily remove them. Tamper resistant outlets are just like an ordinary outlet, but include a built-in safety mechanism that prevents anything other than an electrical plug from being inserted and activating the current.

LED Night Light Outlets

LED night lights are a convenient accessory for the kids's room, hallways and bathrooms.  They can be used with a motion detector, or be set to light up when it's dark. They are inexpensive, use very little electricity and will last around 20 years.

Outdoor Outlets

Running extension cords around your yard and driveway isn't just a chore, it can be a safety hazard. Installing a few extra outdoor covered outlets solves the problem. If you decorate your home with holiday lights, you'll appreciate having outlets within easy reach.

These are just a few of the outlets available to add convenience and safety to your home. Call MR Plumbing Heating Air & Electrical today for help with all your electrical upgrade needs.
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