Category Archives: electrical appliances

Six Great Reasons to Use a Licensed Electrician

It’s tempting to hire a repair person to do the electrical work for that home improvement project. Heck, it seems like an easy job – why hire a more expensive electrical contractor when your repair person or Cousin Joe says he can do the work?

The saying “you get what you pay for” rings true when it comes to electrical work! Shoddy work can result in appliances not working properly, fuses and circuit breakers blowing, the need to rewire circuits and worst of all – fire hazards!

Here are six reasons why you should hire a licensed electrical contractor:

  1. We are licensed by the states of Maryland and Virginia, which have stringent training and experience standards. To become a master electrician (which I am in both states) you need up to seven years of experience and demonstrated skills.
  2. Licensed electricians in Maryland and Virginia are required to have a certain number of Continuing Educational Units (CEU’s) to renew their licenses. I take training from reputable local providers and read several trade publications every month to stay up to date.
  3. Because of our on-going training, we are up to date on city, county, and state electrical code Licensed contractors can pull permits and schedule the necessary inspections and approvals. The benefit of permits is that there’s no danger of having your project be out-of-code.
  4. We carry workers’ compensation as well as general liability and catastrophic event insurance. Your unlicensed Cousin Joe is not likely to have this insurance, which means YOU are liable for any injuries or damages on your property. It’s even possible your insurance company could deny claims.
  5. I am a factory-certified Generac generator technician, and, as required, I take training yearly to renew my technician certification.
  6. We’ve been in business for more than 15 years and have earned an excellent reputation in the communities we serve and the professional organizations to which we belong (the Frederick County and Mt. Airy Chambers of Commerce, Rotary Club, the Electric League of Maryland Inc., and the Electrical Generating Systems Association).

Contact Little Sparkie Electric for all your commercial, residential, and industrial electrical contracting and service needs!

Window Air Conditioners – Don’t Assume You Can Just Plug Them In!

 Before long, furnaces will be turned off, and air conditioners will be cranked up.  Here in the Mid-Atlantic region, with its long history, many homes and businesses have been around for years. Because they were built before central air was available, they rely on window air conditioners.  Window air conditioning units can actually be the most cost-effective and efficient way to cool down a space, without cooling the entire building.

AC Size and Requirements

The size and electrical requirements of a window AC unit are the most important factors in determining whether it will need a dedicated circuit.   Some units are 110/120 volts, but most of those that I run circuits for are 240 volts, which does require a special receptacle.

A note here – when installing a special circuit, HVAC contractors and electricians should work as a team.  The electrical specifications from the unit’s “spec sheet” should be shared between them, as communication is paramount.

How Large is Your Space?

The size of the room being cooled is another factor and includes not only the square footage but the ceiling height.  Double-height ceilings are a relatively recent phenomenon, and I’ve found that homes and businesses with high ceilings almost always have central climate control.

Consider Other Appliances

AC units require a lot of power, so they should not share a circuit with other appliances or other loads and equipment.  Refrigerators, computers, washing machines and water heaters are examples of power-hungry appliances.

What Can Happen if I Don’t Have a Needed Dedicated Circuit for Your AC Unit?

Failing to consider all the above factors can cause several problems:

First, circuits can overload.  A circuit is a loop through which electrical current flows to power electrical devices and equipment.  Different circuits are built to supply varying amounts of electric current, based on the devices that will use the circuit.

When something is connected to a circuit that requires more electricity than the circuit can supply, the circuit overloads, which causes the breaker for that circuit to trip, and everything on that circuit will shut down.

Also, watch for overfusing, which means that the circuit wiring is too small for the rating of the breaker protecting the circuit. For example, 14-gauge wire in a circuit should not be protected by any fuse or breaker rated higher than 15 amps. An overloaded circuit may not trip if it is over fused.

A break in a hot wire can cause a series arc, which will not trip a standard circuit breaker or blow an old-style screw shell fuse, but it can cause a fire.

Finally, don’t plug your AC unit into an extension cord.  An undersized extension cord can cause overheating of the cord, which is a fire hazard. A bad connection between the appliance plug and the cord, and/or between the cord and the receptacle it is plugged into, could also be a fire hazard. Extension cords are not recommended except as a very temporary fix until a new circuit can be installed.

If you have questions about your AC unit, please use our Contact Us to give us a shout!

Electrical Safety While Working from Home

Are you still working or spending more time at home? Be sure to always plug into power safely and ensure #electricalcords do not become tripping hazards. Never run cords under rugs, carpets, doors, or windows. Follow these electrical safety tips from the Electrical Safety Foundation International to keep you and your home safe from #electrical hazards.

Get the full details on this downloadable pdf.

Fire Prevention Week™ is October 4-10, 2020!

 

This year’s Fire Prevention Week’s campaign theme is “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!TMThe campaign’s goal is to educate everyone about the simple but important actions they can take to keep themselves, and those around them, safe in the kitchen.

Unattended cooking is the leading cause of fires in the kitchen.  Keep kids safe and avoid accidents and injuries by keeping them three feet away from the stove while you are cooking.

Other basic kitchen fire safety guidelines include:

  1. Keep appliances serviced, clean, and in good repair.
  2. Unplug electric appliances when not in use. This saves power by reducing the amount of energy a device consumes even when it’s not being used, and protects against overheating and power surges that can damage equipment.
  3. Install a smoke detector near, but not in the kitchen.
  4. Use caution when lighting the pilot light or burner on a gas stove.
  5. Don’t use metal in the microwave.
  6. Don’t overfill pots or pans with oil or grease.

Additional fire prevention guidelines include:

  • Avoid “over-fusing” circuits…the modern-day version of putting a penny in a screw-in fuse socket to keep the fuse from blowing. If a breaker is tripping, but will allow you to reset it, there is a problem on the circuit. It may be overloaded. Replacing the breaker with one of a higher amperage rating is a potential fire hazard. Enlist the help of a licensed electrician.
  • If your lights flicker, or appliances start working and then stop, whether they are plugged in or hardwired, or you hear crackling or sizzling noises at a switch, receptacle, or inside a wall…stop using the equipment, turn off the breaker, and call a licensed electrician. There may be arcing on the circuit, which is a potential fire hazard.

Fire Prevention Week is observed each year during the week of October 9th in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began on October 8, 1871, and caused devastating damage.

In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed Fire Prevention Week a national observance, making it the longest-running public health observance in our country. During Fire Prevention Week, children, adults, and teachers learn how to stay safe in case of a fire.

Firefighters provide lifesaving public education in an effort to drastically decrease casualties caused by fires.

When you need a trusted licensed Electrician, Call on Little Sparkie Electric!

 

 

Fire extinguisher

Ways to Keep Your Workers Safe

These days, when we speak of workplace safety, we usually think of personal protective equipment, like face masks, gloves, etc. and social distancing.

However, as employees gradually return to workplaces, we also need to protect them from fire, electrical hazards, dust explosions and accidents.

An important protection against workplace fires is fire extinguishers.  They need to be in a handy spot where they can put out or control a fire until the fire department arrives.  Fire extinguishers must have the seal of an independent testing laboratory, and be labelled with standard symbols for the kind of fires it can extinguish:

There are four classes of fire extinguishers – A, B, C and D – and each class can put out a different type of fire.

  • Class A extinguishers will put out fires in ordinary combustibles such as wood and paperFire extinguisher
  • Class B extinguishers are for use on flammable liquids like grease, gas and oil
  • Class C extinguishers are suitable for use only on electrically energized fires
  • Class D extinguishers are designed for use on flammable metals

Multipurpose extinguishers can be used on different types of fires and will be labeled with more than one class, like A-B, B-C
or A-B-C.

Extension cords can be another workplace hazard.  They’re fine for a lamp or small appliance, but they should be a temporary fix, because over time extension cords can deteriorate and become an electrical shock, fire, or tripping hazard.  For more extension cord safety rules, click here.

Depending on your business, anti-dust equipment is a must.  For example, coal, cement, asbestos, grain, flour, wood, metals leather, rubber, silica, and so on, can produce hazardous dusts. Concentrated dust can be combustible and cause fires or explosions. It can also be hard on your staff, causing rashes, asthma, eye and nose damage, and even cancer.

An exhaust ventilation system, dilution ventilation or vacuum can be used.  Protective equipment and clothing can also be used to keep your employees safe.

It’s easy to forget to unplug electrical equipment, but it’s also important to do, especially prior to a storm or heavy rain.  If you lose power during a storm or flood, switch off electrical equipment and then unplug it. Be sure to grab the plug and not the cord to prevent damage to the wiring.

And remember, before you enter a flooded business or home, have a licensed electrician and utility personnel check to make sure the building is safe from shock and electrocution risks.

 

 

NFPA urges home fire safety caution amid pandemic

As the public largely remains at home in response to COVID-19, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) urges added caution around home fire safety in the days and weeks ahead.

According to NFPA, cooking, heating, and electrical equipment are among the leading causes of home fires year-round. “We already see the majority of fires happening in homes,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy at NFPA. “As people spend much more time at home and engage in activities that significantly contribute to the home fire problem, it’s critical that they recognize where potential hazards exist and what they can do to prevent fires.”

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and is responsible for nearly half (49 percent) of all reported home fires involving cooking equipment.

Moreover, unattended cooking is the leading cause of home cooking fires, meaning that home cooking fires occur most often when people aren’t keeping a close eye on what they’re cooking.

“As many households are now dealing with unusual routines and out-of-the-ordinary circumstances, such as kids home from school and parents working from home, there’s greater potential for distracted cooking,” said Carli.

NFPA statistic show that heating equipment is the second-leading cause of home fires, resulting in an average of 52,050 home fires each year. Electrical distribution or lighting equipment is involved in an annual average of 35,100 home fires.

With everyone at home, people may be using the same space heateroutlets to charge phones, laptops and other digital equipment, which also presents a fire hazard.

With these concerns in mind, NFPA reminds the public to use best practices for staying fire-safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond:

Cooking

  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.
  • Make sure all handles are turned inward, away from where someone can grab a hot handle or tip a pan over.
  • Be on alert. If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, refrain from using the stove or stovetop.
  • If you have young children in your home, create a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet (1 meter) around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.

Heating

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three-feet (one meter) away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • Have a three-foot (one meter) “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
  • Install and maintain carbon monoxide (CO) alarms to avoid the risk of CO poisoning. If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company.

Electrical

  • When charging smartphones and other digital devices, only use the charging cord that came with the device.
  • Do not charge a device under your pillow, on your bed or on a couch.
  • Only use one heat-producing appliance (such as a coffee maker, toaster, space heater, etc.) plugged into a receptacle outlet at a time.
  • Major appliances (refrigerators, dryers, washers, stoves, air conditioners, microwave ovens, etc.) should be plugged directly into a wall receptacle outlet. Extension cords and plug strips should not be used.
  • Check electrical cords to make sure they are not running across doorways or under carpets. Extension cords are intended for temporary use.
  • Use a light bulb with the right number of watts. There should be a sticker that indicates the right number of watts.

In addition, smoke alarms should be located on every level of the home, in each bedroom, and near all sleeping areas. Test them monthly to make sure they’re working. NFPA also strongly encourages households develop and practice a home escape plan to ensure that everyone knows what to do in a fire and can escape quickly and safely.

(To this NFPA article we also would add that you should have one or two fire extinguishers in your home.)

For a wealth of NFPA resources and information on home fire safety, visit www.nfpa.org/Public-Education.

About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

Founded in 1896, NFPA is a global self-funded nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.. For more information, visit www.nfpa.org. All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed online for free at www.nfpa.org/freeaccess.

 

power strip

Receptacles shouldn’t become loose

Many people like the convenience of leaving appliances plugged in. We don’t unplug everything at our house either.

Anything with a power supply (computers and cell phone chargers are two examples) does draw a small amount of current even whencell phone charger the equipment is turned off, and these small draws can add up with more appliances and over time.

If a receptacle is backwired using its spring clamps, then plugging and unplugging appliances can loosen the contacts over time. When we install or replace receptacles, we don’t use spring clamps – we use the device’s screw terminals, and for this exact reason.

If the receptacle is wired properly, using the screw terminals with contact pads and/or looped wire ends, contact loosening will not happen provided the terminals are properly torqued and that the material in contact with the screw terminals is copper. Copper, like all metals, warms up when current is passed through it and expands slightly under normal use, but when the current is removed, the copper cools and the metal contracts to return to its original shape.

If the receptacle itself is loose in the wall, most likely the box is set back too far and/or the drywall hole is cut too large, and shims may be needed to hold the device firmly against its box. If the box is loose because it was improperly installed, it should be remounted or replaced.

If a receptacle has been painted over, paint can weaken the plastic face of the device. A properly wired, installed, and properly protected receptacle will not fall apart absent a manufacturing defect (fortunately these are rare).

Over time, the recessed spring steel blade contacts that hold a plug can lose their grip and the plug will feel loose. This wear is normal, and means it’s time to replace the receptacle. We usually see receptacle blade contacts start to feel looser after some 15 to 25 years. This is an average based on observation, and several factors are at play in how long a receptacle will properly hold a plug.

An alternative to plugging and unplugging cords is to use an outlet strip, which can be turned off when connected appliances are not in use, and which also provides some measure of surge protection. power stripPlease bear in mind though that an outlet strip does not increase the capacity of a circuit, it simply means more things can be plugged into it. But you can turn the strip’s switch on and off without disturbing the receptacle the strip is plugged into.

We are always happy to answer questions. Safety comes first in our business.

electrical appliance

Tips to Avoid Common Electrical Appliance Problems

We tend to take our electrical appliances for granted.  We put clothes in the washer, add detergent, push a few buttons, and presto – clean clothes!  The same goes for the dryer.  But that electrical appliancespower we’ve learned to depend on is also a potential source of problems.  According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, electrical malfunctions cause more than 50,000 mostly preventable building and home fires every year.

Here are five important electrical appliance tips:

  1. Give your appliances proper space for air circulation to avoid overheating.

Without proper air circulation, electrical equipment can overheat and become an electrical fire hazard, according to Constellation Energy.

Also, avoid electrical appliancerunning electrical equipment in enclosed cabinets. For best electrical safety, it’s also important to store flammable objects well away from all appliances and electronics. Pay close attention to your dryer, whether gas or electric, as it needs to be at least a foot from the wall to function safely. Also remember to regularly clean out the dryer’s lint trap.

2. Unplug your unused appliances to reduce potential risks.

One of the simplest safety tips is also the easiest to forget: unplug appliances that are not being used, says Constellation. This saves power by reducing the amount of energy a device consumes even when it’s not being used, and protects against overheating and power surges that can damage equipment.

3. Keep electrical devices and outlets away from water.

Water and electricity don’t mix!  Keep electrical equipment dry and away from water to prevent equipment damage and shock hazards.  Keep your hands dry when using electrical equipment, and keep equipment away from flower pots, aquariums, sinks, showers, and so on. Have GFCI protection installed if it isn’t already there and moisture is likely to be present.

4. Check that you’re using the correct wattage bulbs in appliances and fixtures.

Using the right bulbs can prevent common electrical problems. If a light fixture has no wattage listed, use 60-watt bulbs or less with incandescents and halogens, which are also incandescents.

For unmarked ceiling fixtures, use 25-watt bulbs. Remember that 90 percent of an incandescent bulb’s energy output is heat, and only 10 percent is light. Any issues are almost certainly the result of too much heat.

LED bulbs and CFLs consume less power, run cooler, and thus reduce the risks of overheating and potential fire hazards. You can get the same amount of light as an incandescent bulb of a given LED Light bulbwattage for far fewer watts, and thus less heat, with LEDs and CFLs. Check the packaging when buying bulbs, it should give the incandescent wattage and light output equivalent.

5. Avoid overfusing appliance and other circuits.

“Overfusing” means using a fuse or circuit breaker that is rated for more current than the circuit’s wires can safely carry. For example, most residential lighting circuits and some receptacle circuits use 14-gauge wire and are rated for 15 amps of current. For 15-amp circuits, there will be a “15” molded into the breaker handle or printed under the fuse glass. These circuits should not be supplied from a 20-amp (or even worse, a higher-rated) fuse or breaker.

Some residential receptacle circuits are required to use 12-gauge wire (heavier than 14-gauge) and are rated for 20 amps. Most commercial circuits start with 20 amps and go up from there. Larger appliance circuits, both commercial and residential, are usually handled differently.

If a circuit is overloaded, the fuse should blow or the breaker should trip. If you can replace the fuse or reset the breaker, the trouble is most likely an overload. Please consult a licensed electrician for advice and help.