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Light bulbs 101

Posted on January 6, 2015 at 1:36 PM Comments comments (120)
Recently, I have had several clients asking about light fixtures that are blowing light bulbs very quickly. Although there may be an issue with the socket in the fixture or transient voltages (spikes or surges) causing the failure, if there is no visible damage to the fixture it is most likely the bulb you are using. Specifically in the Louisville market our voltage (normally) runs at around 128 volts. You should be purchasing light bulbs that are rated at 130 volts. They cost a little ore but the filament is better and they will typically last much longer.  Also, with the new laws (slowly but surely) eliminating the use of standard incandescent filaments (like we've used since Edison) manufacturers were trying to increase production to stock up before the laws went into effect. After certain dates they were no longer allowed to product the bulbs but could sell whatever they had in their stock piles. Unfortunately, if you are purchasing incandescent lighting (my personal favorite) you are going to have a few more duds than normal. If you are over-tightening the bulb into the socket, you could also break the vacuum within the bulb. If the vacuum goes and oxygen is introduced the filament will not last. 
Be sure you are not over-sizing the type of bulbs you are using. There is a rating on the socket of your fixture (Max 60 watt, 75 watt etc.) this will also extend the life of your light bulbs and prevent overheating of the fixture and wires, which could potentially lead to fire. If you have purchased newer fixtures (recently) be sure to check the sockets closely. Many manufacturers have begun installing sockets that are rated only for the 13 watt CFL light bulbs. Although a standard incandescent lamp will fit in the socket, it is not rated for it and could lead to fixture damage and / or fire. 
As always if you have electrical concerns or questions, please consult a professional. If you have specific questions regarding this blog (or any other topic), please visit or Facebook page and post your questions. We will do our best to answer them. 

Receptacles: When should they be replaced?

Posted on January 28, 2014 at 2:14 PM Comments comments (142)
We all use them, everyday, usually multiple times a day. Whether its using an item that remains plugged in all the time, like a television or microwave, or plugging in a cell phone charger, tablet, or laptop computer at some point in the day it will make our lives a little easier. We sometimes take it for granted, but just cant live without the uninspiring receptacle. It has changed (a little) since it was first patented in 1904 with its two wire design but its use and need for replacement haven't really changed at all. 

A receptacle needs to be replaced when it becomes worn and the connections become loose. When a cord is plugged in, it should fit tightly, with the base of the cord holding firmly against the face of the receptacle. If the cord is sagging, or the weight of the cord begins to pull the prongs out of the receptacle, it is time to replace it. If it is not replaced the loose connection could arc, generating heat that could cause the receptacle to melt especially with a high load item like a space heater. An electrical arc (which burns hotter than the sun) can also cause a fire with just one spark igniting a nearby combustible material. 

Some receptacles should be replaced. For instance, if you are plugging in an appliance with a grounded cord end into a two wire receptacle with an adapter (like a refrigerator), you should consider replacing the receptacle. The refrigerator was designed to have an equipment ground. Although it will work without the ground, the adapter creates another fail point, adds weight to the cord end and moves it away from the connection, which may cause it to sag like the issue above. The ground is commonly used to bond the metal casing of the refrigerator (to prevent shock) and to protect the refrigerator from surges that may damage its components. You should seek the advice of a licensed electrician before replacing a two wire receptacle, because a two wire receptacle cannot just be replaced by a three wire type. If there is a suitable ground path present, the electrician can bond the receptacle to the box to complete a grounding path. NEVER bond the ground screw to the neutral to fake a grounding path. There are other acceptable methods listed in the National Electrical Code but providing a ground path is the best option for protecting the equipment and the people using it. Unless you need to plug in a three wire cord or your receptacle is damaged or worn, there is no reason to replace a two wire receptacle. Most of what we plug in today is manufactured with a two wire configuration and the manufacturers have designed it to function safely without the equipment grounding path. 

Another type of receptacle that should be replaced is any receptacle in a wet area (such as the kitchen counter or bath) on the exterior, in a garage, or unfinished basement that would require GFI protection, that is not currently protected. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters save lives. 

If you have children you could also consider replacing your existing receptacle with tamper resistant receptacles. This will eliminate the need for the protective inserts that can wear out the terminals inside the receptacle causing cords to sag. Tamper resistant type receptacles have shutters permanently installed to prevent a child from pushing anything into the device. Both shutters must open simultaneously for them to open. 


Why are my lights dimming or flickering?

Posted on January 27, 2014 at 12:29 PM Comments comments (6)
There are a number of reasons that the lights in your home could be flickering or dimming. Some of the reasons (for dimming) are common and not of major concern. However, flickering lights can be a sign of a serious problem in your home's wiring and a real threat to the safety of your family. This blog is for informational purposes only. If for any reason you believe you have an electrical issue, contact a licensed electrician immediately. 

Although we cannot cover every cause of flickering and dimming lights in this blog. I will try to cover the most common causes / solutions and the difference between a typical "brown down" (dimming) and flickering.

A browning down (dimming) of lights is caused by a reduction in voltage, usually due to a large load being introduced into to the electrical system. For instance, when your furnace kicks on (a motor load), the lights dim briefly. Or when you plug in the iron in your bedroom (a resistant heat load) the bedroom lights dim or "brown down". In an older home this is fairly common, because the original electrical system was not designed to carry the appliances we consider common today. If you have a home built in 1955, that electrician probably did not account for a microwave in your kitchen, a television and computer in every bedroom, etc. If the electrical system is wired and functioning properly, this type of brown down could be little more than an annoyance, because the breakers or fuses should prevent you from overloading the circuit and damaging the wiring. Usually, to eliminate this problem in an older home we would have to update or add circuits in the home to reduce the load on each circuit and account for high load items.

Dimming lights can be an issue in newer homes as well. Although modern appliances have been accounted for in newer homes and codes have changed to require adequate circuits for these higher loads; the wiring of rooms and the number of rooms put on each circuit is still pretty much at the discretion of the electrician wiring the home. In a very competitive new home market, some electricians may try to minimize the number of circuits they install to save costs. This can lead to a similar problem as in an older home, with the use of high load (mobile) appliances such as vacuum cleaners. Also, even if the electrician installed an adequate number of circuits in the home for general lighting and power, the placement of these breakers in the panel can affect the circuit. All of the larger load and appliance circuits should be installed at the top of the panel or nearest the main breaker / line side of the service panel. If a high load item is placed near the bottom of the panel, it will pull current through the buss of the panel. As the resistance passes through the buss it will affect the voltage on all of the breakers it passes by.

If you have an issue with dimming lights we can schedule an evaluation and recommend solutions to the problem.  

Flickering lights, meaning, actually coming on and off, on their own, a strobe affect or flashing, are almost always indicative of a loose connection and a potential life threatening situation. The connection could be loose anywhere along the circuit. If it is one or two rooms it is most likely in the switch, a nearby receptacle, a junction box or in the panel (breaker). If it is affecting multiple rooms it could be an issue with the main service coming to the home, the meter housing, or the main line or main breaker feeding the panel. If you have flickering lights you should contact a licensed electrician immediately and have the problem evaluated.      

Skilled Labor Dwindling While Construction Still Booms

Posted on August 14, 2013 at 9:57 AM Comments comments (4)
The construction industry is booming and labor to fill the positions for skilled trades is dwindling. Between the baby boomers retiring and a lack of young people entering the trades as a career choice the supply of labor is not keeping up with the demand. This will be good for those who are in this industry or choose to enter the trades. Supply and demand WILL, inevitably, drive the wages up with the prices. If you are thinking of a career change or know someone that is graduating high school but does not want to pursue college, now would be a good time to think about a trade.

If you or anyone you know is interested in a career in the electrical field, call Kenny Jewell today at 502.499.4191.