Contemporary Electric Blog

What You Should Know When Buying a Home

A home can still be the best investment an owner can buy for the long-term. Over the years, building codes have been raised to much higher standards. Part of the home purchase mortgage process is having an insurance policy in place. The insurance companies now require a certified contractor to perform a four-point inspection. This consists of the roof, plumbing, heating, and Air conditioning systems as well as the electrical system. If these elements are not up to safe acceptable standards, then you will be required to fix them without insurance, a mortgage, and the inspection will be at your expense. Your Winter Park electrician may be able to handle this inspection for you if you simply call and ask if they are qualified.

There are many things to look for when it comes to your roof. First, make sure that the roof still has it’s color, has not lost much granules, and has not cracked due to being dry and brittle. It is imperative that the plumbing does not have any leaks and all water pressure is at 100%. When it comes to the air and heating, there should be no broken ducts and air-flow should be consistent. All electrical outlets should have a 3-prong grounding system and the home should not have a Federal Pacific or Zinsco electrical panel or interior aluminum branch circuit wiring.

Changing out the electrical boxes in your home is not a major expense, but replacing the wiring can be a big financial commitment and should be done by a professional Winter Park electrician. If you have aluminum wiring your house was most likely built in the late 1960s to early 70s and will have a shallow pitch roof. The NEC allows copper modifications at the junction boxes where the electrical devices are, however, the insurance companies do not accept that. If you can find an insurance company that will cover you in that case, you will be paying about double what you should be.

In order to upgrade and rewire an existing home can be very expensive. After you have all of the boxes, devices, fixtures, and wiring removed and terminated, you must proceed with new boxes, fishing the wiring through the walls, snaking cables across the ceiling and opening up parts of the walls and ceiling. After all the wiring is complete, then you must repair and texture all of the drywall and paint. Again, this process can be very costly and time consuming, so keep this in mind and make sure that you do your due diligence ensuring that you know what to do when buying a home in Central Florida.

How to Maintain Your AC System

Understanding how to maintain your AC system is an important part of owning your Lake Mary home, as it can save you money in energy costs as well as increase the life of the system to help to avoid unnecessary repairs. A few easy steps can keep your system running at optimal performance. (more…)

Understanding Your Septic System

There are many homes throughout the country–both in rural areas and in neighborhoods–that do not have sewage lines available, so in-ground septic systems are installed. They are built by the plumbing contractor and follow strict, pre-engineered guidelines, according to state regulations and local building departments’ requirements. When installed properly and correctly maintained, they will work well and can last a lifetime. Use the following guidelines for understanding your septic system so that you can avoid costly and inconvenient repairs.

Septic systems may sound foreign and intimidating, but the process is fairly straightforward. The house’s main sewer line dumps into the tank, depositing the solids at the bottom while the grease and fats float to the top. Then the liquids spill out the top side into the drain field, allowing the liquids to percolate into the ground.

In order to keep the septic system in your Longwood home running properly, it is best to follow a few simple rules. You do not want to dump solid objects, grease, or fats into your toilets or sinks; do not use your disposal as a garbage dump (in fact, it’s best not to use it at all); and do not pour chemicals or bleach down the drain. The chemicals can interfere with the microbe bacteria breakdown process and cause a problem with your tank and drain field.

The industry recommends that you have your tank pumped out every 5 years (under proper use). After a while, the bottom of the tank builds up with sludge and the top is covered with a layer of floating, scummy debris. If there is an excessive buildup of debris, it will spill over into your drain field and create a non-porous coating, which will prevent the liquids from percolating into the soil. You’ll have no problem knowing when this has occurred, as you’ll notice the sewage will begin to back up into your toilets and into your shower basin. Usually the only cure for this is to dig up your drain field and install a new system. This is why properly using and maintaining your system is very important.

Also, keep trees and shrubs far away from your septic tank (the root systems can interfere) and do not drive across or build a structure over it. In the long run, having your own sewage system can save you a lot of money, but improperly using or maintaining it can cost you a lot of money.

Space Heater Safety

Space heaters are common household items and have been around for a very long time. They are made by many different manufacturers and come in a variety of models and sizes, serving many different purposes for consumers. Some of the types of space heaters are ceramic, infrared, radiant, heater blower, cyclone, convection, kerosene, natural gas, oil-filled electric radiator.

Initially, space heaters were designed for use as supplemental heat, but are primarily used as an alternative heat source altogether. The way they work best, however, is heating up an individual room and under the correct circumstances, using a space heater can be a very economic alternative for heating your Winter Park home.

A typical 1,500 square foot home has a 10,050-watt heater. A 2,500 square foot home typically has a 15,100-watt heater. Portable space heaters have variable settings, such as 500-, 1000-, and 1500-watts. In terms of cost, here is a breakdown of the dollars and cents per hour:

15,000 watts $1.95 per hour
10,000 watts $1.30 per hour
1,500 watts 19 cents per hour

For many people, during the day, only half of their home is in use and at night, for most people, only the bedrooms are in use. The central heater has to combat every cubic foot of available space in the home. Heat loss through the ceiling and temperature transfer through the walls, doors, and windows diminish the heat circulating through the house due to central heating. A space heater comes with the advantage of only having to heat the individual room.

Now that we have established the practicality and advantage of a space heater financially, let’s look at the safety concerns.

If a space heater is sold at a retail store in the United States, it is UL-approved and certified to be safe. If it is plugged into your house now, that is a different story. Portable heaters are primarily used in living rooms and bedrooms. The circuits in those rooms are 15A, which is 1800 watts. That is enough power, since the only other items on that circuit will be low wattage devices, such as televisions, stereos, lamps, and alarm clocks. There are minimum standards, however, that your house is wired to meet.

In many Ocoee homes, you will find low-grade receptacle devices and circuits wired in series. In addition, wires will be quick-stabbed in the back of the receptacle, which offers very little contact surface, which means the entire electric load goes through all of the receptacles on the circuit. Old, worn, and loose-fitting receptacles, as well as poor connections are terrible and heat that comes from these issues is potentially dangerous, even where an appliance is not plugged in to a receptacle on that circuit; the receptacle can still burn and possibly cause a fire.

Luckily, correcting the issue is not too complicated. All you must do to improve the safety of your home is change out the old receptacles for better quality models and change the series leads connections to a parallel circuit with copper pig tails, then connect the leads under the terminal screws. Once you’ve changed the circuit system from series to parallel and upgraded the actual parts of the circuit, you eliminate the potential hazards.

If any of these processes are out of your comfort zone, don’t hesitate to call a Winter Park electrician to offer assistance. Getting it done the right way is important for guaranteeing the safety of your home and understanding space heater safety can save you money on your monthly electric bill.

Understanding Your Electric Bill: Maitland Electrician

These days, most homes have all electric appliances and the power company charges per kilowatt hour based on the usage of those appliances. In a typical mid-sized, 3-bedroom home with 2 bathrooms, here is a list of most of the appliances and the wattage ratings* of each one:

  • Electric Furnace – 10,050 watts
  • Air Conditioner – 3,500 watts
  • Owen – 2,500 watts
  • Cook Top – 1,500 watts
  • Microwave-  1,000 watts
  • Refrigerator-  750 watts
  • Dishwasher-  1,500 watts
  • Garbage Disposal – 350 watts
  • Portable Oven – 1,500 watts
  • Deep Freezer – 750 watts
  • Water Heater – 3,500 watts
  • Washing Machine – 750 watts
  • Dryer – 3,500 watts
  • Portable Heater – 1,500 watts
  • Ceiling Fans – 250 watts
  • Television – 30 watts
  • Hair Dryer – 1,500 watts
  • Pool Pump – 1,500 watts
  • Typical Light Bulb – 60 watts

Now, here are some examples on how kilowatt hours are determined:

  1. A 10,000-watt furnace runs for 1 hour, you will pay for 10 kilowatt hours.
  2. A 3,500-watt A/C runs for 1 hour, you will pay 3.5 kilowatt hours.
  3.  A 100-watt light bulb will have to be on for 10 hours before you will pay for 1 kilowatt hour.
  4.  A 60-watt light bulb will have to on for 16.5 hours before you pay for a single kilowatt hour.

 

In Seminole County, Progress Energy (now known as Duke Energy) services most of the residents. Below, is their basic residential rate schedule structure based on kilowatt hour usage.

  • First 1000 kilowatts – 7.05 cents per KWH
  • Over 1000 kilowatts – 8.28 cents per KWH
  • Fuel Charge – 3.39 cents per KWH
  • Over 1000 kilowatts – 4.39 cents per KWH
  • Base Rate Effectively – 10.43 cents per KWH
  • Over 100 KWH – 12.67 cents per KWH

There is also a customer charge of $8.76 per month, then gross receipts tax and county utility taxes. Most of the homes in the mid-ranged size have electric bills in the $200-$300 range per month. Now, when you add up all of the charges for the average medium sized 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home, you are really paying 12 to 13 cents per kilowatt hour of electrical consumption.

Normally, heat-related appliances cost more than non-heat-related appliances. Other than your heat and air conditioner, most other appliances run in intermittent cycles or for a short use, like a toaster, coffee pot, or microwave. If it were to take 10 minutes to heat up your toast, then you can use that toaster 8 times before you pay for a single kilowatt hour at 12 cents.

These days, utility meters are more reliable, but if you want to read your meter, then you can find out the billing cycle and read it on the first and last day of the cycle to get the most accurate results for monthly consumption. Whether you take it upon yourself to look into your energy consumption or you simply call a qualified Maitland electrician to survey your home, it is important for you to know exactly how you can save money and understand your electric bill, saving money each month.

* The list of appliances and ratings may vary slightly depending upon the brand and settings.

Having Electrical Problems? Call a Winter Springs Electrician

There are many signs to determining if you are having any electrical problems in your home. Here are a few things you can look for:  full or partial loss of power; pool pump or water pump straining or making noise when starting up; bright, dim, or flickering lights; a burning odor; darkened or brown-coloring on switches, especially receptacle devices; warm or hot switches and receptacles; light bulbs burning out frequently; sizzling or popping sounds; experiencing any electrical shocks when touching all-metal appliances, your air handler or air condenser, refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, oven, cook top, microwave, water heater, washer, dyer, kitchen sink and faucets, and especially shower heads.

It is important for you to know these signs, because they are all indicators that you are having a problem in your home with either your switch and receptacle devices being loose or broken circuit connections, bad or worn breakers, or even burn damage. Your bus bar could even be loose or broken. Your main panel may be loose or burned, the lugs and meter base lugs could be damaged as well. Further still, your breakers might be bad or there could be overall poor service to your main grounding system. Diagnosing these issues in your home is your first step toward solving your electrical problems.

Understandably, these issues can be complicated and overwhelming for the average homeowner. Simply put, that is why you should call a Master Winter Springs electrician immediately if you are experiencing any of these issues. An experienced professional will know how to diagnose the problem quickly and efficiently and will be able to tell from your reports what the issue may be even before visiting your home, meaning a more effective visit. Once a professional electrician arrives to your home, it will simply be a matter of tracing and checking a few variables to ensure the safety of your electrical connections.

If you have any receptacles that seem loose or switches that feel floppy with no more snap, any of the appliances listed above that feel warm or hot, discolored or darkened, then it is important for you to replace them. A simple step today that can save you a lot of headaches tomorrow. Call your Winter Springs electrician today!

Repairing the Hot Water Heater

Hot water heaters are one of the many appliances in our home that we set and forget, yet rely on to work properly for many years. Until there is a problem, it is common to totally forget about the water heater, but when something does happen, the situation can become very overwhelming and probably requires the services of a quality plumber.

The life expectancy on a hot water heater according to the manufacturer will most likely be about 10 years, but these devices can last much longer depending on the usage and the environmental water conditions. When initially installed, the thermostat will generally be set to about 125 degrees, though this may range from 90 all the way to 150 degrees.

If the water in your Winter Springs home simply won’t heat up, check your circuit breaker, because you may not have any power going to the tank. If the water is warm, but not hot, one of the electrical components in the tank may be broken and you will need an electrician in Winter Springs to come service the hot water heater tank’s electrical elements. The heating device consists of two heating elements and two thermostats, the upper and the lower. The upper thermostat turns on the upper heating element until it reaches the desired temperature, set by the thermostat. Then, the power alternates to the lower thermostat and heating element. If one of these functions fail, you will only have a partially heated tank.

First, press the reset buttons on the thermostats and if that does not correct the problem, you will need a volt and amp meter to test the thermostats and heating elements. The thermostats snap in place and only require a Phillips screw driver for the electrical terminal connection. Removing the heating elements, however, will require a socket wrench to unscrew them. Before you begin to remove the thermostats, remember to turn off the power supplying the unit at the circuit breaker.

When replacing the heating elements, you must also turn off the water supply going to the house. Connect a garden hose to the tank’s drain valve, open up the pressure relief valve, and the closest sink’s cold water faucet, which will allow gravity to drain the water out of the tank. Once the water is completely drained, you can replace the heating elements from the tank. The parts can be found at a building supply store. However, if you don’t feel comfortable repairing the hot water heater yourself or you need to replace the entire tank, you should contact a professional to handle the water lines and fittings for the tank.

Learn how to handle other household electrical issues from my other blog posts, such as Your Generator: A Residential Backup Power System and always make sure your home is safe by knowing everything about your Smoke Detectors & Fire Extinguishers. Finally, with the holidays coming up fast, make sure you read this Early Holiday Lighting Guide.

Accent & Security Lighting

All Longwood homes have your basic exterior entry lighting that is sufficient for the purpose of lighting the front door area. With the relatively low cost of the fixtures and the wide array of designs, having a fixture that provides accent to the house adds to the home’s curb appeal and overall eye-value. Accent lighting enables you to highlight features on the house and highlight low landscaping and tall trees with illumination. Long sidewalks and driveways can also benefit from pathway lighting. These fixtures are available in high voltage, low voltage, and also solar-powered. The industry now offers a wider selection of styles and much better quality fixtures at much more affordable pricing. Now, there are even do-it-yourself kits for the home handyman.

Security lighting for area illumination is a good crime deterrent and can also add accent to your property and home. Lamp posts, in the front and back yard, and matching lantern lighting on the side of the house is just one example of what you can do to provide accent security combined with area lighting. These lanterns and lamp posts can be connected together on a photo cell, where they will come on at dusk and turn of again at dawn. The compact fluorescent bulbs that are available for these lighting fixtures can make it very inexpensive in terms of your electric bill.

Motion sensor lighting fixtures add an even higher level of security because they only activate and illuminate when something passes in front of them, which gives the element of surprise to a trespasser and draws attention to them. The newest and most exciting addition to the lighting market are the motion activated flood lights that swivel 180 degrees and follow the movement of a person. These are equipped with a chip that provides a digital recording of the movement when it is activated and can by downloaded to your computer for later viewing. Many of these are even available with an audible alarm warning.

Protecting and accenting your home with lighting is a cost-effective and simply way to offer more safety and security while highlighting your unique Longwood home. When you are ready to upgrade your exterior lighting, make sure you contact a Longwood electrician and find out the necessary specifications, cost factors, and all of your fixture options.

Fire Safety: Altamonte Springs Electrician

Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are absolutely necessary in your home. Both of which are as important, if not more important, than home insurance, but a whole lot less expensive. Smoke detectors are proven to save lives and fire extinguishers can reduce damage significantly.

There are regular smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and combination units with both functions. With electrical appliances, the regular smoke detectors are fine. However, with gas appliances, the smoke/carbon monoxide combination are the best for your home.

You can get direct-wired, battery-operated, or A/C-D/C, which would be better in case of a circuit loss or power failure. Years ago, smoke detectors were installed outside of bedrooms, but now the NFPA and NEC require them to be installed inside the bedroom and outside the bedroom. Also, all of the smoke detectors throughout your home should be interconnected, so if one alarm sounds, they all go off. The alarms are so loud that no matter where you are sleeping, you will be awakened. Typically, these devices are mounted on the ceiling or on the wall, 8 inches from the ceiling.

Occasionally, intermittent beeping will come from the smoke detectors. This is typically an indicator that the batteries are low and need to be replaced or there can be a build up of dust. An occasional chirp, however, can be a voltage fluctuation. The manufacturer and the NFPA recommend that you replace your smoke and/or carbon monoxide detectors every ten years. The devices are designed to have a shelf life and can cause an adverse reaction if used past their prime.

For older Altamonte Springs homes that do not have the necessary smoke detectors, a new circuit with the devices can be added or there are wireless, battery-operated models that will interconnect. For this type of installation, you’ll want to contact a licensed Altamonte Springs electrician.

Many fire extinguishers are placed in kitchens. There are many options, including small, decor-style cabinet mountings that can house a smaller-sized extinguisher. However, a large, whole-house fire extinguisher should be installed in the garage.

A fire can occur for many different reasons. Having the proper detection devices and fire extinguishers can save a life and your property. If you’re concerned about the devices, contact a Master Altamonte Springs electrician today to ensure the safety of your Altamonte Springs home.

Your Generator: A Residential Backup Power System

When it comes to generators, there are both portable and fixed-in-place house models, ranging in size from 5 kilowatt to 48 kilowatt generators, which means you can power up just the lights up to your entire house, depending on the size of the generator. Years ago, generators were not commonly used for providing power to Longwood homes. Portable generators were commonly used by Longwood electricians and contractors in remote locations, where electricity was not available for tools and temporary lighting. Now, in recent years where power has been lost multiple times for days and weeks on end to some people in rural areas, generators have become very popular.

In many cases, whole house, fixed-in-place generators with automatic starters, propane tanks, and transfer switches are much too costly and impractical. So, portable generators have become much more popular, but there are some concerns when it comes to safety, since these devices have a high accident rate. If installed correctly, it can work well and safely, so you need to be sure and call a professional Winter Park electrician to do the job.

For an average 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 1,500 square foot Longwood house, using a portable generator ranging from a 5 Kilowatt to 12 Kilowatt load can provide power for simple lighting all the way up to using appliances and the air conditioner unit. Now, that won’t provide enough power to use all of the appliances at once with smaller devices turned on, but you can run the lights, refrigerator, and a few other big-power appliances like the water heater and A/C. From there, you can alternate the other devices, like the range, dryer, and well pump by only running one or two at a time.

The key is having the generator installed by a master Longwood electrician to your exact needs. First and foremost, the correct size generator is key. Then, you will need the correct exterior W/P receptacle and the proper sized cord and connector. Also, a panel with a transfer switch that will provide power to the necessary circuits and turn power off to the house panel when the generator is in use; or an inter-locking safety device that will turn off the main power if you decide to back-feed the panel, is important for overall safety.

Having an understanding of what you are doing and how the generator works is critical so you don’t back feed the electrical meter and cause arcing if the power comes back or back-feeding a downed power line, which can cause injury or death to a repairman working on the main line.

When thinking about installing a generator, take the time to have a professional Longwood electrician design and install a backup system that can work effectively and safely. Remember, only use your portable generator in a dry and well ventilated area!

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