Archive for the Electrical Category

Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency with Technology

Posted in Around Your Home, Electrical, Energy Efficiency, Home Maintenance, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , , , on March 5, 2014 by Pat Hansen

Today’s home owners and buyers are looking for ways to incorporate home technologies that increase the long-term value of their house but also provide convenience, safety and comfort. Energy management is a highly-desired feature in both newly-built and existing homes, along with multi-zone heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems and lighting controls. Not only are these features easy-to-use, but they also provide energy-efficiency.

By incorporating the following technologies, home owners can save money on their utility bills:

  • Automated HVAC systems can maintain a more energy-efficient temperature while the home owners are away at work, but switch to a more comfortable temperature prior to their arrival home.  Zones can also be created to heat or cool only the areas most used by the occupants, keeping other areas, such as guest bedrooms, shut down until they are needed. They also can combat the problem of heat rising, keeping upper floors cooler in the summer without freezing the lower floors in a home. According to Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, programmable thermostats can save consumers about $180 per year in energy costs.Programmable Thermostat
  • Water heaters with a timer can be turned off when the occupants are traveling, then can turn on and begin heating the water in preparation for their return home. Tankless gas water heaters — which only activate when residents start to use hot water and immediately de-activate when they are done — are also a great option and can reduce water heating costs up to 35 percent annually.
  • Lighting can make up 10 to 20 percent of the total electrical usage of the home. Installing an automatic dimmer, which adjusts to the home owner’s needs based on time of day or occupancy, will lower electricity bills and increase the life expectancy of light bulbs.
  • Blinds and drapes can be programmed to close during the hottest part of the day to block out the sun; keeping the house cooler. In the colder winter months, they can open up to allow the sun in to warm the house, which helps regulate the room temperature.

By incorporating technologies that help make your home operate more efficiently, Energy Star estimates that home owners can save $200 to $400 annually on their energy bills.

This article is courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders.

Fire Safety for the Holidays

Posted in Around Your Home, Electrical, Holidays, Home Safety, Lifestyle with tags , , , on December 4, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Live TreeMore than 33 million American homes have a natural tree for the holidays (per the U.S. EPA). Nothing compares to the fragrant scent a natural tree provides. The scent and atmosphere provided by a natural Christmas tree brings back cherished memories of Christmases past.

Choosing a Christmas Tree

If you are cutting down your own tree at a Christmas tree farm, you know how fresh the tree is. If you choose a tree at a local Christmas tree lot or a nursery lot, you need to choose a fresh tree by looking for the greenest tree with the fewest brown needles; however, many shipped-to-lot trees have been colored prior to shipping. This is a common practice and will not negatively affect a tree’s freshness.

  • Perform the “drop test”. Raise the Christmas tree a few inches and drop it on the stump end. Fresh, green needles should not drop off. Take hold of a branch and lightly pull your hand toward you allowing the branch to slip through your fingers. Most, if not all of the needles, need to stay in place. The trunk should be sticky to the touch.
  • Tree BaseInspect the tree’s base. Make sure the “handle” (the first eight inches of the stump) is relatively straight. This part of the tree is extremely important when securing the tree in a stand.

Keeping your Christmas Tree Fresh: Water, Water, Water

  • Refresh the tree by making a straight cut, taking one inch off the bottom of the stump and immediately place in water. This will improve water uptake.
  • Place the tree in a stand that can hold at least 1 gallon of water. Expect the tree to take up additional water. Water the tree until water uptake stops.
  • Always keep the base of the tree in water. If the base dries out, resin will form over the cut end and the tree will dry out quickly. You don’t need to add anything to regular tap water. Research has shown that plain old water will keep a tree fresh; no additives are necessary.

Christmas Tree Fire Hazards:

  • Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not have lit candles near the tree. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
  • Inspect Christmas tree lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in insulation, broken or cracked sockets and excessive kinking or wear before putting them on the tree. Only use lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
  • Power, Surge ProtectorDo not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect lights to a power strip equipped with a circuit breaker and surge protection. If you are building a new home or remodeling, determine the most likely spot for your Christmas tree and install a switched outlet. No more crawling behind the tree to turn on Christmas tree lights!
  • Do not leave holiday lights on unattended or overnight.
  • All tree decorations should be non-flammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.

Christmas trees accounted for 230 fires between 2006-2010, resulting in 4 deaths, 21 injuries and more than $17.3 million in property damage (per the National Fire Protection Association). The most common causes of tree fires are shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles. Well-watered trees are not a problem; the drier the tree is, the more likely it is to catch on fire.

Follow these precautions and have a safe and happy holiday.

Know Your Home’s Electrical System

Posted in Around Your Home, Electrical with tags , , , on October 30, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Your home’s electrical system helps provide your family with heat and A/C to be comfortable, appliances to make everyday tasks easier, entertainment to enjoy together, and light to extend your quality time well into the dark hours. It’s important to know how your home’s electrical system works, and what could be the cause if something goes wrong.

The National Association of Home Builders’ MyHome Press has published a handbook for home owners, “Home Maintenance Made Easy,” and the excerpt below contains advice about the electrical system in your home and how to address any problems that may occur with it.

Circuit Breakers and Fuses

These devices protect the electrical wiring Electrical Paneland equipment in your home from overloading. They are the safety valves of your home’s electrical system. Breakers trip from overloads caused by plugging too many appliances into the circuit, or from a worn cord or defective appliance, starting an electric motor, or operating an appliance with a voltage requirement higher than what the circuit was designed to handle.

If a circuit trips repeatedly, unplug everything connected to it and reset it. If it stays on, one of the items you unplugged is defective and needs repair or replacement. If the circuit trips when nothing is connected to it, call an electrician as soon as possible.

Every house should have a master circuit breaker. It generally is located near the smaller circuit breakers. Tripping the master breaker cuts off electricity to the whole house. Circuit breakers may be reset by first switching the breaker to full off and then back to full on.

Ordinarily, small appliances that require personal attendance while operating may be plugged into any outlet. However, operating many small appliances or one large one on a single circuit can overload it. If this happens frequently, contact a licensed electrician to discuss whether your home needs additional wiring.

Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI)

Electrical OutletThe receptacles in your kitchen, bathrooms and outdoors should be equipped with GFCIs. These safety devices are commonly installed where small appliances (such as hair dryers) are used near sources of water, which can “ground” a person and electrocute him or her if the appliance malfunctions or is dropped into water. GFCIs cut the flow of electricity to the appliance within a fraction of a second if they detect a change in the flow of current to (and from) the appliance.

One GFCI breaker may control up to four outlets. If a breaker trips during normal use, an appliance may be at fault. You will need to investigate the problem.

Test your GFCI receptacles monthly by pressing the “test” button. This will trip the circuit. To return service, press “reset.”

For more home maintenance and safety advice, go to myhomepress.com for publications on current topics including social media, home design and more.

This article is courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders.

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