Category Archives: Outdoor lighting

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.
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! 

Fall into these home safety tips

The days are noticeably shorter, and we’re seeing cool, crisp weather. Along with the colorful foliage and cooler season, it’s good to check your home to make sure it’s ready for winter.

Here are some smart fall safety tips to make now according to the safety experts at Underwriters Laboratories* and Safebee.

Before you turn your furnace on, check around it to make sure there’s nothing flammable near it.  It’s also a good idea to have your furnace inspected before winter. If you can, inspect it yourself to make sure the flame is blue, not yellow or orange which indicates possible contamination or clogging of the fuel inlet. Check the pipe from the furnace to the chimney to be sure it doesn’t have rust spots and isn’t disconnected at either end. If you have radiators, remove anything that’s sitting on top of them before the heat comes on.

Dress kids in light-colored clothing to help drivers see them on their way home from after-school activities. On Halloween, make sure your kids can be seen. Give them a flashlight and glowstick, and if their costume is dark, add some reflective stickers or tape. High-visibility vests with reflective tape are also a good idea.

Change smoke detector batteries when you set your clocks back. Smoke alarms most often fail to sound an alarm because of missing, dead or disconnected batteries. Replace the batteries twice a year when you change the clocks (or whenever the alarm “chirps,” indicating the battery is getting low). Also change the batteries in your CO detectors.

Remember also the Maryland state law, which may also be law in other states, that when you replace a smoke alarm you must replace it with a 10-year, sealed-battery type alarm. Combination smoke/CO alarms are also available, as are wireless devices that communicate with each other. These are useful if you have a combustion-type heat source, such as a propane heater. Check with your local fire department for further details.

Another fall safety tip is to practice your family fire escape plan before the weather gets too cold. Every family should have one, but just one in three American households do, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Having the plan is important, but it’s just as critical to practice it by conducting a home fire drill at least twice a year. Frightened kids may be tempted to hide under the bed or in a closet during a fire unless you teach them exactly how to escape.

Use space heaters safely. Remember to keep combustibles “three feet from the heat” or “a meter from the heater.” If you’re using a fuel-powered heater, open a door or window slightly to allow fresh air to circulate. Remember to turn off your heater when you leave the house and before you go to bed.

Diathermic oil-filled radiator-type space heaters pose less of a fire threat than those with open elements, but care should still be taken when using them.

Add motion sensor outdoor lighting around dark areas. Lighting discourages intruders and protects against falls. Motion sensor lights are most important around doors and near steps.

Clean leaves out of your gutters every week in the fall. When you do, make sure you’re using the right ladder for the job and using it properly. More than 90,000 people get emergency room treatment for ladder-related injuries every year. If the gutters are hard to reach, install a leaf guard to keep most of the leaves out.

Be sure to test your step on a ladder before you commit your weight to it. Don’t reach out past where it is comfortable or let go with both hands, and be sure the ladder is set on a firm and level surface.

Have your chimney inspected before you use your fireplace. If you use it every year, have the chimney cleaned annually to prevent a fire. If your chimney needs repair, don’t try to do it yourself; this is a job for a professional.

Additionally, the Electrical Safety Foundation International recommends that you use only weatherproof electrical devices for outside activities. Protect outdoor electrical devices from moisture. Also, with the wet summer we had, make sure electrical equipment that has been wet is inspected and reconditioned by a certified repair dealer.

*Underwriters Laboratories, an organization that has been around for more than 100 years, is a world leader in product safety testing and certification.


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.