Category Archives: electrical

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!

Ensure that your business or home is wired for the best connections

With so many people working virtually, and kids getting their classes online, it is more important than ever for your business or home to have structured wiring.

Structured wiring refers to a whole-office or home network of audio, video, data, telephone, television, or security signals. Structured wiring begins with a structured networking panel (SNP), which accepts cables from outside providers and distributes the signals directly to each office, area, or room. These direct lines are called “home runs” and they ensure the strongest possible connection and signal to each of your electronic devices.

In spite of what you may read online, this is not a DIY project. Hire a reputable, licensed electrician to design and install a comprehensive system that will meet all your needs. Many businesses are remodeling to adjust to the distancing and other requirements brought about by the coronavirus.  We can assist with the initial design to retrofit your business or home during your remodel. We can also fit a wiring system into an existing business.

“When I managed the Regus Business Center in Frederick, I had a customer that needed a remote TV TV_Studioset-up with special electrical connections in his office.

“I immediately recommended Little Sparkie Electric because I needed someone I could trust. It was a complex job that also required making connections to electrical boxes in other parts of the building and coordinating with the building manager.

“Catherine knew what she was doing – I didn’t have to worry about anything – she did a wonderful job for my client.” — Jean Wright, former General Manager, Regus Business Centers

Create ambiance with outdoor lighting

This is a great time of year to build that patio or deck and make it an enticing evening gathering spot with perfect lighting. If you have a restaurant, think dining al fresco.  As you plan your outdoor space, think about how the space will be used, and plan the lighting around that.  As you envision your lighting, remember the importance of light layering in getting the right effect, and being able to create spaces for different uses.

You want to get enough light but not overdo it. The trick to a well-lit patio is directing the light just where you need it and having the right controls.  Overhead lighting, be it string lights, outdoor pendants, or wall sconces, can create the ambiance of an Italian piazza, among other possibilities…which are almost endless.  If you plan to include fans, many outdoor fans also come with lights, or they can be added.

Consider low to the ground lighting for steps or curbs to focus light where it’s needed without glare.

Plan to hire a licensed electrician upfront to:

  • Check that your outdoor connections are safe and secure. You also may need to add additional outdoor receptacles or a dedicated circuit to your electrical panel, which should definitely be done by a licensed electrician.
  • Ensure proper installation that won’t overload existing circuits.
  • Recommend the most cost-efficient options.
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.

 

holiday lights

Don’t let your holiday sparkle fizzle

With the holidays fast approaching, homeowners and businesses will be decking the halls; often with strings of lights and lighted decorations. Those lights are glittering and cheerful, but they can also cause hazards if they’re plugged into extension cords!holiday lights

Before you untangle all of those light strings, consider that approximately 3,300 home fires originate in extension cords each year, killing 50 people and injuring 270 more, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI).

That’s because extension cords can overheat and cause fires when they’re used improperly. Keep these important tips from the ESFI and Little Sparkie Electric in mind to protect your home and workplace.

  • Don’t plug extension cords into one another.
  • Make sure extension cords are properly rated for their intended use, indoor or outdoor, and meet or exceed the power needs of the device being used.
  • Keep all outdoor extension cords clear of snow and standing water.
  • If used outdoors, cords should be GFCI-protected, either by plugging them into a GFCI-protected receptacle or by having GFCI protection themselves.
  • Do not overload extension cords. A circuit overload SHOULD trip the breaker or blow the fuse, but it isn’t guaranteed. If the breaker or fuse is rated higher than the circuit wiring, the circuit may not open in an overload.
  • Inspect cords for damage before you use them. Check for cracked or frayed sockets, loose Power stripsor bare wires, and loose connections. A break in a hot wire will not trip a standard circuit breaker or blow a fuse, and is thus a fire hazard.
  • This should be obvious, but do NOT nail or staple extension cords to walls or baseboards.
  • Do NOT run extension cords through walls, doorways, ceilings, or floors. If a cord is covered, heat can’t escape, which may result in a fire hazard.
  • Never use three-prong plugs with outlets that only have two slots. Again, this should be obvious, but never cut off the ground pin to force a fit, which could lead to electric shock.
  • Buy only cords that have been approved by an independent testing laboratory.
  • Do NOT use an extension cord or power strip with heaters or fans, which could cause cords to overheat and result in a fire.

Remember that extension cords should only be used on a temporary basis. They’re not intended as permanent household wiring, so put them away when the holiday decorations come down!

If you need additional outlets, always have a licensed electrician install them. This isn’t the time to be a DIYer! 

Integrated technology

Get ALL of your Technology Working Together!

Homes and businesses today rely on integrating technology, including phones, TVs, data men at workcabling, and electrical wiring.  In spite of what you may read online, a certified electrician is the best person to design and install a comprehensive system that will meet all of your needs.

We can step in upfront to assist with the initial design for your business, a tenant build-out, or your home. We can also fit a wiring system into an existing home or business.

An interesting recent project we did for a telescope observatory in Mt. Airy included running a 30-amp feeder out to a subpanel that we installed in the observatory and installing receptacle circuits in the dome according to the builder’s requirements. We also installed a second conduit for a Cat5e data communications wiring and installed jacks in the dome for the computer hookup.

“When I managed the Regus Business Center in Frederick I had a customer that needed a remote TV set-up with special electrical connections in his office.

 “I immediately recommended Little Sparkie Electric because I needed someone I could trust. It was a complex job that also required making connections to electrical boxes in other parts of the building and coordinating with the building manager.

“Catherine knew what she was doing – I didn’t have to worry about anything – she did a wonderful job for my client.”

— Jean Wright, former General Manager, Regus Business Centers

Our services include:

  • New construction, tenant fit-outs, remodeling, additions, basement finishing, bathrooms, kitchens – you name it!
  • Troubleshooting and repairs
  • Air conditioning/appliance circuits
  • Additional receptacles
  • Backup generators – installation, maintenance, and repair
  • Baseboard heaters
  • Basement wiring
  • Bathroom exhaust fans
  • Boiler circuits
  • Breaker replacements
  • Ceiling fans
  • Home theater systems
  • Move existing telephone jacks
  • Install new telephone or data jacks
  • Assist with television cabling services, such as cable TV or satellite service
  • Electric vehicle chargers
  • GFCI outlet replacement
  • Indoor residential and commercial lighting
  • Occupancy and motion sensors/lighting controls
  • Outdoor residential, commercial and parking lot lighting
  • See more

Let us know if we can assist you with any of your home or commercial electrical projects! [email protected] or 301-606-5181.

Outdoor lighting

Consider these lighting options to enhance your summer evenings

As twilight approaches and the air cools, it can be delightful to enjoy the outdoors on a beautifully lit outdoor patio and deck. But it’s important to get your lighting done right – not too bright – but enough to move about safely and enjoy your landscaping and/or guests.

The trick to getting a well-lit outdoor patio or deck is directing the light just where needed. Overhead lighting options can include sturdy string lights, lanterns, candlesOutdoor lighting and torches, landscape lighting and fire pits! Don’t forget dimmers to control the brightness of electric lighting.

Lowes recommends that you have a game plan for your lighting, and Little Sparkie Electric can help you create your plan. For a smaller area, you may want to create an intimate setting by grouping lanterns and candles. You can also add landscape lights to the patio perimeter and any pathways from the patio to the house.

If your yard gets direct sunlight, we may recommend solar landscape lights. Low-voltage or LED lights are other options. Deck and stair lights also add ground lights while adding extra safety.

If you have a larger space, you can use lighting to define the different areas. Outdoor outdoor lightsstring lights work great draped from a pergola or gazebo and create a fun party atmosphere. A fire pit provides warmth on a chilly night and a secondary place to gather. Use spotlights or floodlights to illuminate trees and shrubs, and to put the finishing touches on your outdoor retreat.

Hire a licensed electrician

No matter which option you choose, be sure to hire a licensed, experienced electrician for the job. Here’s why:

• To check that your outdoor connections are safe and secure. You also may need to add additional outdoor receptacles or a dedicated circuit to your electrical panel, which should definitely be done by a licensed electrician.

• To ensure proper installation that won’t overload the circuits of your home or business.

• An electrician can recommend the most cost-efficient options.

If you’re ready to install landscape lighting and would like help from an electrician, contact us to discuss some options or call 301-606- 5181.