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28 Safety Tips for Your Labor Day

It’s time to get ready for the last vacation of the summer – that’s right, Labor Day is this weekend and whether you’re hosting a Labor Day party for family or friends or hitting the road for a road trip, there are several things you can do to stay safe:

Grilling Tips

  • Keep children and pets away from any type of open flame.
  • Position the grill so that it’s in a well-ventilated area and away from trees, bushes, the house, and anything else that can catch fire.
  • Always use long-handed utensils and wear protective, fire-resistant gear when grilling.
  • Follow the instructions in the grill’s owner’s manual.
  • Have a fire extinguisher ready to extinguish flames if they get out of control.
  • Never leave your grill unattended.

Electrical Tips

  • Don’t use electricity around water, including the pool, sprinklers, hot tub, etc.
  • Inspect your extension cords for frays or other damage before using them.
  • If you’re hosting a party, make sure your guests stay away from power lines or electrical transformers near your home.
  • Keep your power tools safely locked away in your garage or shed.

UV Tips

  • Always wear sunscreen with at least 30 SPF to protect your skin.
  • If you’re sensitive to sunburns, wear a hat and try your best to stay in the shade.
  • Stay hydrated – the sun can dehydrate you quickly.
  • Remember that UV rays bounce off of sand, concrete, and water.
  • If you do get burned, apply aloe to the burn on a regular basis.
  • Keep in mind the strongest UV index is between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Swimming Tips

  • Always swim with a buddy.
  • Check the weather before you decide to go in the pool, lake, or ocean.
  • Make sure children in or near the water are under supervision at all times and are nearby.
  • If you have a pool at your home, make sure it’s secured with barriers.
  • Never leave children unattended.
  • If it looks like rain, get out of the water as quickly as possible to avoid lightning strikes.

Road Trip Tips

  • Always have a first-aid kit and back-up food and water supplies in your trunk.
  • Before you leave, check your tire pressure and your fluids.
  • Never drive when you’re tired or if you’ve been drinking.
  • Make sure someone back home knows your destination, route, and itinerary.
  • Always wear your seatbelt.
  • Don’t text and drive. If you need to navigate, have a passenger do it for you.

What Happens During an Electrical Safety Inspection?

…And Why It’s Important

Do you know when your electrical system was last inspected for safety? Was it when you bought your home? Many times, this is the case – major systems are checked for safety when the home changes hands, but otherwise are only looked at when the homeowner notices a problem. Unfortunately, this is not the best path to take when it comes to electrical safety in your home.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, electrical fires account for $1 billion in property loss, 1,000 injuries, and 280 deaths in a year; these fires are caused by a mixture of system failures and avoidable misuse of electrical equipment.

When homes are inspected prior to sale, the home inspector reviews the overall safety of the home according to current codes. The two potential problems here are:

  1. Most home inspectors are not experts in each individual system, so they may not recognize all of the warning signs that a specialist looks for.
  2. Codes change frequently as new technology becomes available and data is compiled about potential risks and hazards.

Oliver’s trained electricians perform an electrical safety inspection that focuses on the safety and stability of your electrical system and identifies the most common warning signs of electrical fire hazards. We also look for ways that you can save money on your utility bills by eliminating so-called “vampire loads” and utilizing dimmers, timers, and energy efficient bulbs. Once the inspection is complete, the electrician gives a full report to the homeowner. If there are any suggestions for improvement, the electrician will prioritize them in terms of potential impact and any other factors that are unique to your situation.

To find out more about our electrical safety inspections, or to schedule an appointment, click here.


The Do’s and Don’ts of Christmas Lights

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One of the best parts of Christmas (in our opinion, at least) is the glow of Christmas lights on front porches, roofs, trees, and more. If you plan on hanging Christmas lights on or around your home this year, just remember these safety tips from our heating and cooling company:

Extension Cords

Do: Inspect your extension cords to make sure there is no damage.

Do: Use extension cords that are approved for outdoor use (if hanging your lights outside).

Don’t: Use extension cords that show signs of extreme wear such as frayed wires, split casing, or loose prongs.

Don’t: Use extension cords that are too short for your project. Buy one that’s the appropriate length.

Outlets

Do: Plug your Christmas lights into outlets that are grounded (ones that have three holes instead of just two).

Do: Use outlets that have GFCI receptacles. These are the outlets that have black and red “Reset” and “Test” buttons on them.

Don’t: Overload your breakers. Instead, use surge protectors if plugging in several strands of lights.

Do: Call Oliver if you experience any electrical issue that you can’t resolve yourself.

Bulbs

Do: Opt for LED light bulbs. They’re a little more expensive, but they use less energy and can save you more than 75% on your holiday energy bill.

Do: Make sure that if you’re hanging your lights outside that they’re labeled safe for outdoor use.

Don’t: Hang your lights without first checking that they’re working correctly and that they’re free from damage. Inspect them and plug them in first to make sure they’re good to go.

Tools

Do: Consider using electrical tape or insulated clips to hang your outdoor lights instead of nails and a hammer (which can damage your home).

Don’t: Hang outdoor lights in high places without supervision.

Do: Measure how many feet you want to cover with lights, then buy an extra strand of bulbs – it’s better to have too many than not enough.


Outdoor Electrical Safety for Your Memorial Day

electrical safety

Are you throwing a Memorial Day party this year? We know entertaining can be a lot of fun, but it can also be dangerous if you don’t prepare properly. Let the members of our electrical services staff give you a few tips to keep everyone safe this Memorial Day:

Don’t Use Water Around Electricity

This may sound pretty easy to avoid, but it’s not always. If there’s going to be an activity that involves water (say a sprinkler for the kids, perhaps), make sure it’s set up well away from any electrical outlets or wiring. If you have a pool or hot tub, remind swimmers to never touch an electrical appliance while they’re in the water. Also, make sure your outdoor outlets are weatherproofed and protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to protect you and your guests from electrical shock.

Stay Away from Power Sources

If there are power lines or an electrical transformer near your home (usually a green metal “box” mounted on a slab of cement), tell your guests to stay away from them. Even if the power lines or transformer is low voltage, you don’t want anyone mistakenly causing an accident.

Lock Up Power Tools

If you own any power tools that can be considered dangerous (drills, saws, blades, etc.), make sure they’re safely locked away in your garage, shed, or other secure area. The last thing you want is someone starting up a chainsaw at your Memorial Day party.

Inspect Lighting

At Oliver, we know parties don’t always end when the sun goes down – and if that’s the case, you’ll need some outdoor lighting. If you plan on setting up some outdoor lamps, inspect each lamp to make sure there is no damage. Also inspect their cords and any extension cords you’ll be using for damage. If you find cracks, splices, fraying, or other signs of trouble, replace the light source or cord.

Stay Safe During Storms

If you’re expecting a thunderstorm, unplug any electronic equipment before it starts to avoid power surges. If there are people in your pool or hot tub, have them get out and move away from the water. Also have everyone move away from the tallest object in the area, as lightning tends to strike tall objects first. Your best bet is to move everyone indoors and away from glass windows and doors.


7 Common Safety Hazards Around Your Home

safety hazards

Nothing feels better than the safety of your own home, but there are actually a wide array of hazards that could compromise your well-being. While you may think of children when it comes to safety hazards, individuals of any age can be affected. To keep you and your family safe, remember these risks and take actions to prevent them:

Fire Hazards

Believe it or not, there are fire hazards all over your home, and many of them are electrical. Our electrical repair specialists advise against overloading your electrical outlets. In fact, you should unplug any small appliances that are not in use. In addition, check all of your appliances on a regular basis for frayed or damaged cords that can lead to an electrical fire.

As far as other fire hazards, make sure you regularly clean out the lint in your dryer vent. Lint buildup can easily spark a fire. Also, always blow out candles when you’re not in the room, and never light them close to flammable materials.

Carbon Monoxide

Every year, around 200 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning. This gas is both colorless and odorless (hence the nickname “the silent killer”), and is often produced when fuel-burning appliances malfunction. These include fireplaces, portable generators, stoves, clothing dryers, and more. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, install detectors near bedrooms and in other places they can be easily heard if triggered. Also, never block the exhaust system of a fuel-burning appliance or try to repair one on your own. Instead, call a professional.

Sharp Objects

Make sure any sharp objects in your home are safely out of the reach of children and are properly protected. These include common kitchen items like knives, cheese graters, scissors, blender or food processor blades, skewers, corkscrews, and peelers. It also includes things in your garage or shed, such as rakes, shears, nails and screws, and saw blades.

Toxic Substances

Toxic substances can be harmful to not only children, but pets as well. Safely store things like paint, paint thinner, bleach, detergents, cleaners, pesticides, furniture polish, air fresheners, and other dangerous items in a locked cabinet or on a high shelf. Also be sure to keep them out of range of heat and flames.

Stoves

The number one reason a stove is dangerous is because it can potentially burn your family members, but in addition, an improperly installed stove can cause even bigger problems. If the stove wasn’t installed on a level surface, it has the potential to tip over and crush fingers or toes, and if a gas stove isn’t hooked up properly, it could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Outdoors

There are several different things outside that could lead to an injury. Staircases are a major culprit for falls, so make sure your stairs aren’t cracked, uneven, or missing pieces. Also make sure they’re well lit at nighttime and have a banister for balance.

While fun, swing sets can also pose a threat. Look for rusted pieces, splintered wood, and sharp objects. Also, if the swing set is old, consider reinforcing it to prevent parts of it collapsing.

In addition, if you have a pool, make sure there is a secure fence around it to prevent children from falling in and that any ladders that aren’t in use are removed.

Bathrooms

Even though it’s one of the smallest places in your home, your bathroom can be more dangerous than you may think. Bathtubs and showers can be very slippery when wet, and can therefore be a threat to family members of any age. Install grab bars for balance and anti-slip floor mats for grip. Your medicine cabinet should also be locked to prevent children and other members from accessing potentially dangerous medication. Things like nail polish, nail polish remover, hairspray, hair dyes, and mouthwash should also be out of reach.


10 Common Electrical FAQs

electric FAQ

At Oliver, we specialize in HVAC and plumbing services, but we also provide virtually any home electrical service as well. Whether it’s a specialty lighting project, television wiring issue, landscape lighting project, a need for surge protection, or some other type of electrical situation, we can have it done for you quickly and sufficiently.

The electrical world is full of questions; here are some common ones we’ve encountered:

Q: What’s the difference between a three-pronged plug and a two-pronged plug?

A: The third prong on a plug is a grounding prong. Two-prong receptacles do not have the same level of grounding as a three-prong device. The third grounding prong provides additional protection to the electrical system, the item plugged in, and you from electrical shock.

Q: What should I do if an appliance continuously blows a fuse?

A: First, make sure there are not too many appliances plugged into one circuit, as this can overload it. If it’s just one appliance, unplug it and either replace it or call us to repair it. You could also try connecting another appliance to the problematic receptacle. If it still shows signs of trouble, have the receptacle and or the circuit checked by our home electrical service experts.

Q: What’s the benefit of whole-house surge protection?

A: When you protect your whole house from power surges, you’ll protect all of the equipment in it instead of just one piece that’s plugged into a surge protector. This can come in especially handy if you use a lot of electronics or appliances.

 

Q: What’s the difference between a blown fuse and a blown circuit breaker?

A: When the electrical current that passes through a fuse exceeds the limit, it burns a hole in the thin strip of metal. This stops the flow of current and it means you have a blown a fuse. Fuses need to be replaced (not reset).

When the electrical current exceeds the limit through a circuit breaker, however, the breaker trip setting opens to stop the flow of current. Breakers are re-settable by flipping the handle on the face of the breaker.

 

Q: Are LED lights better than incandescent?

A: LED lights are more expensive to purchase than incandescent lights, but they’re more efficient (they’ll last 50,000 hours instead of 1,200 hours). They also have a lower annual operating cost, which is great for people trying to “go green.”

Q: Do I need a special electrical box to install a ceiling fan?

A: Yes. Because a ceiling fan is an active load that is heavier than most light fixtures, you need a special mounting box designed for this application. Saddle boxes are usually good for fans up to 35 pounds.

Q: What are low-voltage fixtures?

A: Low-voltage fixtures include a transformer to reduce voltage (say from 120 volts to 12 volts). The downside to low-voltage fixtures, however, can be higher installation costs. Also, transformers tend to create heat and mounting locations can be tricky.

 

Q: What does “grounding” mean?

A: When you use an electrical appliance, the current flows from your service panel to the device. A grounded wire gives the unused electrical current a safe way back to the service panel so there’s no danger in the event of a short circuit.

Q: What is a GFCI?

A: You may have seen an electrical outlet with a “test” and “reset” button in the middle – this is a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter). It automatically shuts off an electrical circuit when it detects that the current isn’t flowing correctly. It’s also used to reduce the risk of electrical shock from a receptacle located in damp locations and/or counter top areas.

Q: What does a fishy smell coming from my outlet mean?

A: If you notice a smell coming from your outlet or switch, there’s a good chance your receptacle could be damaged. Turn off the power immediately and call our home electrical service experts.


Portable Generators vs. Standby Generators

 

Generators Blog Header
Have yo
u ever lost power during a storm? If so, you know how frustrating it can be, between not being able to use your lights, worrying about food spoiling in the refrigerator, running out of hot water, and more. That’s why many homeowners opt to invest in a home generator. If you don’t already have one and are considering one, there are two main kinds: portable generators and standby generators. Here are some of their differences:

Movement

The main difference between a standby generator and a portable generator is their ability to be moved. Standby generators are installed permanently outside your home and hook up directly to it. Portable generators, on the other hand, are smaller and can be moved from location to location.

Power Source

Portable generators often run off of gasoline, which means you’ll have to manually fill the generator tank and refill it, if needed. Standby generators, on the other hand, often hook up to existing gas lines and run off of natural gas or propane.

Activation

Since a standby generator is hooked up to your home, it has a transfer switch that monitors your electrical power. Once you lose power, it will automatically click on in order to return power to your home. A portable generator, on the other hand, must be turned on and off manually.

Size & Noise

Because standby generators need to power your entire home, they’re much larger than portable generators (and therefore, cost more). However, they’re also quieter because they’re fully enclosed. Portable generators have exposed areas and are a little louder. Their sizes range between 1,000 watts and 15,000 watts while standby generators range between 8,000 watts and 45,000 watts. Usually, the larger the generator, the more expensive.

What They Power

Standby generators are also called “whole house” generators because when you lose electricity, they can power everything electrical in your home. This can come in handy for elderly individuals, those on oxygen respirators, or if you’re away from your home and can’t turn on a portable generator for backup electricity. Portable generators can power nearly anything electrical (including larger appliances like refrigerators), however, you’ll need to plug them directly into the generator.

Which One Is Right for You?

Which generator you choose depends on your budget, your need for electricity, and your location. If you’re in an area that experiences frequent power outages, you may want to consider installing a standby generator. However, if you’re not too worried about backup electricity, a portable generator should be fine.

Contact Oliver About A Generator For Your Home:

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