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Articles and Safety Tips

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Upgrade Your Electrical Panel

If you are contemplating a major remodel, the addition of a room or garage, or a new kitchen you might need to consider an electrical panel upgrade to accommodate this project. Don’t get caught up in a bad situation at the end of the job like so many others have done by not structurally allowing for an electrical upgrade before hand.

Thirty years ago and longer back, the average home was equipped with a minimal 60 amp electrical service usually connected to a screw-in fuse panel with two to six fuse blocks. The common set-up was a fuse block distributing power to a few electrical receptacle outlets and light fixtures and maybe 1 or 2 small appliance circuits, seems so primitive but true.

Just consider the fact, that we did not have all of the modern appliances back then. It was usually some basic lightning in each room and most people only had 1-television set and not much more than that in the way of electronics.

Air-conditioning, that was an extreme luxury and not built into all houses back then nor did we have computers, hair dryers, curling irons, well you get the picture and yes…. it was a very primitive way of living.

So when all of these modern electric conveniences are suddenly added to the electrical system of a home of this statue, it doesn’t take much to realize that you can cause an extreme electrical overload really fast!

In fact, the balancing of these older homes electrical needs were usually served by four to six, 15/20 amp screw-in fuses which are a far cry from the nearly 30 to 40 15/20ampere general lightning and receptacle circuits as demanded by today’s energy hungry households.

Twenty years ago the average new home was equipped with a nominal 100 amp electrical service and some of them used the latest in technology for electrical wiring devices. Fuses were no longer acceptable and the marvel and convenience of electrical circuit breakers eventually imposed.

Now the average home is equipped with up to a 200 amp electrical service with a distribution panel handling up to a total of 20 to 30 15/20 amp general lightning and receptacle circuits serving the overall electrical needs of just one home not including the small electrical appliances.

North American’s are electrical power hungry. Today, some central air conditioning systems consume more electrical power than an entire home did 30 years ago. A kitchen, in a new home, will usually be equipped with a number of receptacles capable of supplying more than 60 amps of readily available electrical power just to the counter tops and related appliances of a larger home, but simply adding receptacles does not increase the available power if they are looped from other receptacles. To get more power to a location the circuit should run directly from the distribution electrical panel.

Old style distribution panels, especially those with screw-in fuses are generally considered fire hazards. The contact between the base of the fuse and the buss bar oxidizes or charcoals from poor contact. In order for the current to continue to flow heat is generated. In many areas, Insurance Carriers will not renew homeowner insurance policies if the home is equipped with an electrical distribution panel of a screw-in style fuse box or brand name with a non U.L. approved listing.

If your current electrical service to your home is less than 100 amps, and/or if it has a distribution panel that uses screw in style fuses, you should consider replacing it as a top priority in any major renovation project.




Ten Ways to Cut Your San Francisco Electric Bill- We can HELP you

Consider these:

  1. Performing an energy audit: This will tell you how and when yo u use energy and where the wastage lies. You will be able to make an “energy savings plan” by pinpointing exactly how you can cut back on electrical energy consumption. Some ideas may be as simple as don’t leave the lights on or don’t run all of the appliances at one time or repair those leaky faucets which deplete the electric water heaters resources.
  2. Think about resetting the thermostat 5-10 degrees lower during the night. If you can do this for say approximately eight hours a day you will save 10% on electricity without sacrificing indoor air comfort. Insulate the home in winter by drawing shut the drapes.
  3. Check all insulation in the house. If you increase attic insulation to around 12 inches the electricity consumption will reduce by 20 percent, have plenty of installed insulation.
  4. Plant more trees around the house these will cool the house in summer and insulate the house in winter. Studies show that a green cover benefits in many ways.
  5. Have all electrical wiring and outlets checked. Check all electric appliances, breakers, and fuses.
  6. Fluorescent light fixtures and fluorescent bulbs are very energy efficient. They use 75% less energy than ordinary light bulbs. These have a longer life and contribute to great electrical energy savings.
  7. Use energy efficient appliances. These use less energy and believe it or not, a high efficiency refrigerator uses less electricity than a light bulb.
  8. When you are away even for a few hours or days you should turn off and unplug all electrical appliances and turn settings on the thermostat, water heater, and refrigerator to the lowest setting.
  9. Ensure that you use a water-saving shower head. Water heating costs for a family can be lowered by at least US $250 a year after installing a energy water-saving shower heads.
  10. Weatherize your home. This helps reduce heating bills by 20% and cooling by at least 10%. Even when building a home or decorating it use weather friendly materials—those that are not good conductors of heat and cold. Install energy saving windows and glass panes in the roof and in such a way that you use sunlight to light up the rooms during day light hours. Also, make an effort to switch off lights when leaving a room. Installed ceiling fans are helpful as well. Also, ensure that the filters in air conditioners and heaters are always cleaned and free of clogs and dust and have routine periodic air filter service. If you live an energy efficient lifestyle you will see the numbers on the energy bill actually reducing. The power to cut energy costs is well within your control. It is as simple as only washing full loads and to do that in cold water when possible. Use the hot wash option only for very dirty clothes. Cook food only just before you are ready to eat that way you can save reheating costs as well as refrigeration costs of storing the food. Turn the thermostat of the refrigerator to minimum in cold or cool weather. Switch off freezers if they are not in use. Small contributions can all add up to significant amounts of power saved. And, power saved means money in the bank. 



    Kitchen Lighting

    A variety of lighting fixtures can be used in a kitchen to optimize space utilization while being aesthetically appealing. One can choose from ceiling light fixtures, pendant light fixtures, recessed lighting fixtures and the like to light up different areas in the kitchen.

    Under cabinet lighting fixtures are very popular in kitchens. The use of such lighting fixtures ensures that a work area is well lighted directly by a light source being focused upon it. Under cabinet lighting fixtures are also known as under valence lighting and are used to light up counter tops and eating areas as needed.

    Pendant light fixtures are also frequently used to light kitchens. A large variety of pendant lighting fixtures in varying price ranges are available.

    On the other end of the scale, several specialty kitchen lighting fixtures are also widely available in the market. Varying eye-catching designs using several elements from new technological developments give a wide variety of options to consumers. More than one specialty lighting fixture can be installed in a kitchen and can then be operated from more than one single switch.

    Ceiling light fixtures are generally used in all kitchens to provide general illumination for the room. A bulb with high wattage used in a ceiling light fixture will do away with the need for any other lighting fixture in the kitchen and another great option for accomplishing this is fluorescent lighting.

    Those wanting to explore other lighting options can try small adjustable halogen lighting fixtures that can make any room take on a dramatic appeal.

    Kitchens are areas where families spend a lot of time. The lighting here should be warm but and the same time, should be sufficient enough to allow for work. Switches should be placed in easy to access areas like entrances so that one can light up a dark kitchen before entering it, for both safety and convenience.




    Hidden Electrical Hazards

    Shock hazards, safety and manufacturers warranty issues. If you live in an older house, you may be shocked literally, to discover that your “grounded” (three-pronged) electrical outlets are not really grounded, after all. This article describes why that’s a dangerous situation, how to tell if your outlets are really grounded, and what to do if they’re not. The electrical term, open ground, describes a situation, possibly where someone has installed a three-pronged outlet, but the electrical wiring cable serving that receptacle outlet (plug) still contains only two wires, a hot and a neutral, and no ground wire. The three-pronged (grounded style outlet) gives the mis-leading appearance of an upgrade, but the outlet is not really grounded. This unsafe wiring practice is wide-spread by many do-it “yourselfer’s” and is very, hazardously mis-leading and can be bad news for many reasons including voiding out your manufacturers warranties.

    Shock hazard

    This should be your first primary concern, and it’s a real one: a receptacle that is not properly grounded is a safety hazard to you and your family. A shock from an improperly grounded 120-volt outlet can cause serious injury, even death! And take note those receptacle “cheaters,” those little, grey three-hole plugs with the tab on them that you screw into the plate? They don’t work, and they can present a hazard to you and the equipment you plug into them!

    Warranty issues

    The following appliances require a grounded receptacle, for both safety and warranty reasons:

    • Refrigerators
    • Dishwashers
    • Washing Machines
    • Computers
    • Televisions
    • Any piece of equipment with a 3-pronged male-end plug

    Plugging any of this equipment into a receptacle that is not grounded can present a shock hazard, can ultimately cause damage to a product, and can void the product warranty.

    Computers have especially sensitive voltage requirements. Note that surge protectors will not work properly unless a proper ground is present. These appliances and pieces of equipment are not small investments; protect them by using only properly grounded outlets. Where necessary, call in a qualified electrician to run you a new wire and be assured a piece of mind.

    How to tell if your outlet is really grounded

    • You can buy a small, inexpensive, plug-in tester at your local home center or electrical supply store, generally speaking, they fairly reliable.
    • You could try cutting the electricity off at the breaker, pulling off your outlet cover and having a look, but you may or may not be able to see the cable feeding the outlet. The older the house, the more likely it is to be dark and dirty and hard to see behind the outlet cover. It might be necessary to unscrew and pull out the outlet. Note: this is not recommend as a beginner’s (DIY) project because of the safety hazards involved.
    • Why take chances? Hire San Francisco Electrical Experts. If you have any question whether your outlets are properly grounded – or for that matter, if you have any questions about your wiring or your breaker or fuse box – we come out and take a look.

    What to do if your outlet is not properly grounded

    If the tester gives you a negative reading, there may be other outlets in the house that aren’t grounded as well. We strongly recommend that you bring in a qualified electrician to assess the situation and make some valuable recommendations. The next steps could possibly involve running new electrical wire or a installing a complete electrical circuit.

    In some circumstances, the electrical code requires G.F.C.I. (ground fault circuit interrupter) protection (meaning the installation of a G.F.C.I. outlet) where there is no ground; however, the code has very specific requirements about how this must be done, including language that must be displayed prominently on the outlet cover. We do not recommend this as a beginner’s (DIY) project because of the potential safety hazards to you and your family, and the warranty issues with your electrical and electronic equipment, as discussed above.

    More about wiring in older houses

    • A good rule of thumb: If you see wire and it has fabric covering, by all means, have a qualified electrician check it out. This is usually an older, out of date style electrical cable.
    • The Consumer Product Safety Commission and Utility Companies recommend panel maintenance every three years. Generally, maintenance involves pulling the panel cover, inspecting all breakers and wiring, re-torquing connections, replacing breakers where necessary, and making recommendations about any further service that may be necessary or desirable. Routine electrical maintenance can avoid a lot of electrical problems and is highly recommended.

    For local homeowners with older electrical wiring, one option to increase overall safety, is to replace certain electrical breakers with an A.F.C.I. (arc fault circuit interrupter) style breaker. This is a “breaker with a brain” for fire protection technology that works just like a regular electrical circuit breaker but also electronically detects any type of arcing conditions. For new electrical construction and significant remodeling, the (A.F.C.I.) is now required for all circuits leading to bedrooms.