Remember when phones were referred to as “telephones “? If so, you may find some humor in my recent experience.
Like many families today, every member in ours uses a cell phone exclusively, the only exception being our three year old (and who knows how long that will last???). We gave our landline up years ago and only recently installed one to use in conjunction with our neighborhood gate.
Last weekend I was in our kitchen doing some baking with our three year old with our two teens busy on their cell phones (ironically) when we were alarmed to hear a strange ringing sound. Four sets of eyes turned to our phones in horror, respectively wondering how on earth our ring tones had changed. Our expressions changed from horror to bewilderment as we realized what was happening. That odd thing on the wall resembling a phone was ringing!
Now it became pretty humorous. I watched as my kids slowly approached it, my daughter’s finger extended, ready to run should it attack. Finally I gave in to giggles and shouted “Guys, you have to pick it up and press the button. Then speak!”
After that humorous scene, I began to think about the advantages of having a landline in your home. Firstly, they obviously offer a good history lesson in the archaic time before the iPhone. More importantly, landlines can be used in case of a power outage. The electricity needed for the phone to operate actually comes through the phone lines. Remember however, you need an older phone that plugs directly into (and only into) the phone jack and doesn’t require being plugged in.
This small additional monthly cost can actually pay off if the power is off for an extended period of time and you need to maintain communication with family or emergency services. So, in a real jam (i.e. when your smart phone dies), your good old landline will be there for you.
While summer lightening may put on an impressive show, it can also cause dangerous electrical surges. A direct lightening strike can cause fire and considerable damage but in most cases it’s the far less impressive events that cause damage. One way to protect your home from electrical surges caused by even minor weather events is to install a whole house surge protectors.
Surge protectors are installed in your electrical panel. They protect everything that is hard wired in your home such as fans, lights, switches, and smoke detectors. It also protects items such as appliances, electronics, and anything else you may have plugged it. It even protects your a/c unit and pool pump! Some homeowners will opt to install additional surge protectors on large items such as a/c units or specialized surge protectors for phone/coax lines and electronics as well. In general, additional surge protectors are not really necessary but may offer advantages when it comes to warranties. The lifetime warranty on the device we install offers additional peace of mind. If your surge protector is ever damaged (which usually means it did it’s job), the manufacturer will replace it free of charge.
For more information, see our post “Sunny Weather & Surges – the little known facts.”
Hurricane season is when homeowners are most likely to invest in a surge protector but it may surprise you to know that the hot, rainy months in Florida don’t necessarily pose the greatest incidence of damage due to surges.
The average home experiences up to 20 electrical surges per day. These may be caused by a number of reasons including something as simple as your electrical company working on the power lines.
Although inclement weather may make installing a surge protector a top priority, any time of year is the perfect time to make a small investment for big protection!
If you find your electrical wires have been run through plumbing pipe – that’s a pretty big red flag that you’re dealing with an amateur – not an electrician! There are big differences between plumbing and electrical pipe and a rookie mistake or careless use of improper materials can be very dangerous. Recently we’ve come across several cases in which a good meaning neighbor or friend installed pvc that cannot provide any protection for electrically wiring – posing a serious electrical hazard. No pun intended, but it’s quite shocking to see!
So, what’s the big deal? Here goes. Electrical pipe, which is gray, is rated for outdoor use because it is made to withstand ultraviolet exposure and is weatherproof. It will not crack or be otherwise damaged when exposed to the elements. This is extremely important as you want your electrical wires, especially those outside, to be very well protected. Even when indoors, using plumbing or other pipe to run electrical wires is dangerous and against National Electrical Code. Electrical pvc is very flexible and does not usually requires couplings as the flared ends allow it to be connected easily. This is unlike plumbing pvc, which is meant to withstand extreme pressure. Plumbing pipe (which is usually white) is rigid and often requires couples and cement.
Just as it’s imperative that you get the right man for the job, you also need the right tools and materials for the job – including the pipe!
In this photo, you see that an unknowing worker used plumbing pipe instead of electrical pipe – dangerous inside or out. It will all be removed and replaced to meet National Electrical Codes.
With so many people spending time outside with their holiday lights and finding their GFIs tripping, it’s natural that lots of questions about GFIs arise.
Firstly, what is a GFI and what is the purpose of them? The technical term is Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) although in the business it’s generally referred to simply as a GFI. There are three openings – the left slot which is the “neutral”, the right slot which is the “hot” and the hole beneath it which is the “ground”. In a nutshell, the GFI monitors the amount of current flowing from the hot to neutral and, if there is an imbalance, it trips. So, if you are outside using electricity in wet conditions, the GFI senses that the flow is imbalanced and that you are basically you’re about to become the middle man (not a good scenario) and trips in as little as 1/13 of a second – protecting you from a possibly fatal shock.
Understandably, it is code that exterior outlets are GFIs. They should have covers as well. If your GFI does trip, try resetting it. If necessary, let everything dry first before resetting. Although it may be an inconvenience to reset your breaker, remember that they have a very good reason for being around.
When you are looking for an electrician, make sure that the person you hire is a Florida State Certified Contractor. This is important for many reasons.
First of all, hiring someone who is not a certified contractor is illegal. This goes for large projects and small, such as installing ceiling fans or outlets. The person posing as or working as a contractor can face criminal charges and you can face hefty consequences as well, including fines. The last thing you want as a homeowner is someone being taken out of your home in handcuffs. Note however, that as a homeowner, you can complete any work in your own home. That is your right. As soon as you pay someone, it becomes illegal. Additionally, Certified Contractors carry Workman’s Compensation and Liability Insurance. You are liable if your property or someone else’s property is damaged or if any injuries occur (to anyone – neighbors, your family, etc.). Persons working illegally are not trained in National Electrical Codes and are not required to participate in ongoing training in their field, leading to substandard and even dangerous work. They are also unable to pull permits and the work cannot be inspected. You may even have your job shut down, leaving you with lots of unfinished business.
Your instinct may be to hire someone who claims to be able to complete a project at a great price, but the cost to fix the mistakes are far more costly in the long run. Unfortunately, when seriously dangerous conditions are created, there may be consequences to you and your family which you will never be able to repair.
Remember that while legitimate Electrical Contractors are regulated by the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulations, these individuals are not. Anything goes – with your property, your money, and most importantly, your safety.
When LEDs first emerged, it was thought that along with all of the other benefits of using them, they also did not attract bugs. Over time, it was found that while this has some truth to it, it isn’t completely the case. Bugs are attracted to UV rays. LEDs produce little of these, which is where some of the idea originated. LEDs also remain cool, however, the real issue is not heat but color. In general, bugs can’t see red but can see blue. That’s why those good old bug zappers were blue. So, if you’re having an issue with bugs, it’s probably time to switch to a colored LED bulb. Red is ideal, but may not mesh well with your decor. A soft orange or yellow bulb is best. They only use about 3 watts (great on energy usage) but aren’t extremely bright – they produce enough light for relaxing and maybe enjoying a meal outdoors but not necessarily for immersing yourself in heavy reading (the old paper books, not on the new fangled nicely light devices). So, if you’re looking for reducing pesky bugs, adding some nice ambiance on your patio, and lessening disruption of other wildlife, colored LEDs may be the way to go.
With all of the outages we’ve experienced lately, you may be considering purchasing a generator. There are a couple of things to consider before buying.
First of all, what do you plan on running? A small portable generator can handle the basics such as a refrigerator, microwave and a few lights. These generate about 3,000 – 4,000 watts and typically cost between $400 and $800. If you want to power a bit more, a 5,000 – 8,000 watt generator may be right for you. A generator that size will be able to handle everything a smaller generator can and some more items – such as a computer, portable heater, and more lighting. These typically cost about $500 – $1,000 for a portable generator. Go for a large portable and you can add on a small water heater, a/c, or similiar item that uses about 3,000 – 5,000 watts, giving you a total of about 10,000 watts to work with. Be prepared to pay $2,000 – $3,000. Larger stationary generators are also available if you would like the added power and are willing to pay the price, sometimes $10,000 or more.
Remember that generators can cause hazards, including carbon monoxide poisoning and electrocution, so be cautious in using them. Be sure that they are never used indoors or in an attached garage. These are just some tips – be sure to read up for safety information when dealing with generators.
Need some more help? Use this calculator to determine what size generator you need based upon your panel and what you would like to power. http://www.electricgeneratorsdirect.com/stories/46-How-to-Size-a-Home-Standby-Generator.html
It’s quick and simple. Visit the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations at https://www.myfloridalicense.com/wl11.asp?mode=0&SID= and do a quick search. Every State Certified Electrical Contractor will be able to provide you with a state contractor’s license number, which will begin with EC followed by 8 digits. Just enter the license number or the person’s name to search. If the person you are hiring is not able to provide you with a number to begin with, that is definitely a red flag.
Look for our article “Why I Should Hire a State Certified Contractor” to explore the benefits of doing so.
Many believe that surge protectors are especially essential in Florida, the lightening capital of the world, particularly during hurricane season when the number and intensity of storms increases. In fact, lightening a mile away can cause a surge. That alone is a very valid reason to have a surge protector installed in your home. What many homeowners don’t realize however, is that surges are a daily occurrence anyway, with most homes experiencing up to 20 or 30 surges a day. This can be due to work on power lines and other external factors unrelated to the weather.
So, what do surge protectors do anyway? Surge protectors are installed directly into your main panel and do two main things. First, they protect things that are hard-wired in your home, such as fans, outlets, and fixtures. Many people automatically think about the risk to electronics, appliances, and technological devices, overlooking some of the most important items in your home which are greatly relied upon – like your fans and outlets. The second thing that surge protectors do is lessen the intensity of the surge before it can get to things in your home, often to a level that things like your TV, computer, and appliances can handle.
There are many additional benefits to installing surge protectors. You generally get about 30% more life out of your appliances when a surge protector is installed and you may even get a discount on your homeowner’s insurance.
Do beware – in most cases, a surge protector is a surge protector. Some manufacturers will try to impress you with statistics and fancy jargon, but don’t be fooled into spending more on a product that is supposed to be the Superman of surge protectors. If you’re being asked to spend $600 or $700 or even thousands of dollars on a single surge protector in your panel, don’t be fooled. Do ask about the warranty however. You can opt to add additional surge protectors for your a/c, phone lines, etc., which will up the price tag but may be worth it for you. We will address that later.
When said and done, a small investment in a surge protector in your panel can save you thousands in damages and repairs down the road.