Category : electrical safety

Portable Generators vs. Standby Generators

 

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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.

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5 Home Electrical Repairs You Can Do Yourself

 

electrical fun factsAt Oliver, we know that some homeowners like to take things into their own hands, which is why we’ve listed a few home electrical repairs you can do yourself, if you have a basic knowledge of how electricity works. If not, our home electrical service experts can help you address and fix virtually any electrical problem you may be experiencing – simply give us a call and set up an appointment.

1. Fix a Loose Outlet

If your electrical outlet moves around in its box, it could loosen your electrical wires and create a safety hazard. To fix this, turn the power off and use a voltage tester to make sure no power is running to the outlet. When it’s safe, unscrew the cover plate and the outlet. When an outlet is recessed too deeply, you can add outlet shims (available at any home improvement store) to the screws until the outlet sits flush with your wall. After that, screw the outlet back into the box and replace the cover plate.

2. Find an Electrical Short

If you turn on an electrical appliance and you short out a circuit, reset the breaker and try the appliance again. If it happens again, you know it’s the appliance. If it happens when the appliance is unplugged, you most likely have a short in the wiring or the receptacle.

Disconnect any and all items that are cord- and plug-connected that can be easily removed. Then, try to turn the power on to the circuit to see if the short has been cleared. If all known devices are disconnected and the short is still present, make sure the power is completely turned off to the problem circuit by switching the breaker to the off position or by removing the fuse at the main electrical panel if not already done. You can double-check that it’s off by using an approved insulated volt/Ohm meter.

After that, remove the receptacle from the box using a pair of insulated pliers. Check each of the wires using the “Ohm” setting on the volt/Ohm Meter. Connect one lead of the testing meter to the black wire and the other to the white wire. When the meter reads ZERO or “OL,” there is potentially a dead short within the circuit wiring. This process should be repeated utilizing all three wires until all wires have been checked against one another.

You should read community between the white and green or white and the uninsulated wire (Ground). When you confirm the presence of community using the black wire, continue to remove the other receptacles, switches and/or light fixtures from the circuit where applicable. Continue to check the circuit using the Ohm meter after removing each device. Once the community reading has cleared you will have located the trouble.

Testing the wiring inside the electrical panel at the breaker connection is very dangerous and should be done only by a member of our electrical service team.

3. Repair an Extension Cord End

If you have a heavy-duty extension cord, you know they’re not cheap. Luckily, repairing a cord that has been cut or damaged near the plug is pretty simple. Start by cutting off the old plug, then cutting back the insulation jacket (do this by making a light, lengthwise incision, then score it gently until you can peel back the jacket). Strip each of the wires using a wire stripper and the right gauge, then twist each of the wires tightly. Screw them into the back of the plug (black wire to gold screw, white wire to silver screw, green wire to green screw). Close the plug and secure the wires depending on what type of plug you have.

If you have a cord that’s damaged in the middle, cut it in half and add new male and female ends to each half. This will turn your one damaged cord into two new cords.

4. Repair an Electric Stove

If you’ve turned your stove on lately and noticed that one of the burners isn’t heating up, it could mean several things: a bad burner, a faulty switch, or a bad socket connection. To find out what the problem is, first try switching out the burner with one that works. (Unplug the burner from the socket and plug the prongs of the other burner in.)

If that burner doesn’t work either, inspect the socket. If the socket looks corroded or charred, unplug your stove and replace the socket with a new one. Simply unscrew the socket from the stove, unscrew its wires, and connect the wires to the new socket. Then, just screw the new socket into the stove.

If your socket looks fine, it could be a faulty switch. To test it, you’ll need a multimeter tester. First, unplug your stove and find out where your infinite switch is located (many times it’s underneath the back panel). Turn on the burner in question and remove the wire from the H1 terminal. Set your multimeter to RX-1 and place the two probes on the H1 and H2 terminals. If the meter doesn’t change, you’ll need to replace your switch (or call our home electrical service team).

5. Fix a Dead Doorbell

If your doorbell doesn’t work, it could be because of the chime, the button, the transformer, or the wiring. First, detach the button from the wall and inspect the wires. If the wires look intact, clean away any debris and tighten the terminal screws. Also check for corrosion at the button and clean if necessary.

If this doesn’t work, detach the wires from the terminals. Hold each wire by its insulation, then gently touch the bare wires together. If they create a spark and the doorbell sounds, you need a new button. If they create a spark and the doorbell doesn’t sound, it may be the chime. If you get no spark, it may be the transformer.

To test the chime, use a multimeter tester to take a reading: set it to AC, then touch the probes to the “front” and “trans” terminals, then the “rear” and “trans” terminals. If you get a reading between 16 and 24 volts, power is reaching your chime, so it needs replaced.

If there is no power to the chime, test the transformer by removing the thin wires and touching the multitester probes to both terminals. If the reading is more than four volts below what the transformer’s output rating is, you need a new transformer.


The Plan to Modernize Our Energy Infrastructure

 

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Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden visited the city of Philadelphia to announce the plan to modernize the pipelines, waterways, wires, rails, and electric grids that make up our country’s energy infrastructure.

The plan, which stems from a study called the Quadrennial Energy Review, will focus on the distribution, storage, and transmission of crude oil, natural gas, and electricity. Many infrastructure systems around the U.S. (including the one in Philadelphia) are aging and because of this, they are having trouble keeping up with the change in climate, energy production, and cyber and physical threats.

The U.S. began increasing its oil and natural gas production in 2009 and since then, rails and waterways have become congested trying to transport these fuels. In addition, many fuel-carrying pipelines that were built in prior decades are prone to leaks and ruptures and our growing renewable energy sources are now more susceptible to cyber attacks.

To improve all of these issues, he Obama administration is proposing a cost of $3.5 billion over the course of 10 years in order to replace and restructure natural gas pipelines. The idea will be to offer states financial incentives to update their pipelines and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which would in turn, improve air quality and create jobs.

As far as the electrical grid goes, the administration is proposing $4 billion to modernize the electrical grid, and according to Philly.com, the energy department plans to partner with 17 chief utility executives in a program called Partnership for Energy Sector Climate Resilience to explore the ways we can potentially protect our electricity systems from extreme weather. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is also proposing a $72 million investment in new electrical infrastructures.

*This post is strictly to inform our customers regarding the latest in energy news. We at Oliver don’t offer a political opinion regarding the proposed measures. Any comments or questions about the proposal itself should be directed to our readers’ representatives.*


10 Facts About Home Fires

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Every year, the holidays are filled with baked goods, warm fires, holiday lights, and festive decorations – all of which can lead to a home fire. Last year alone, U.S. fire departments respond to over 350,000 home fires , many of which could have been prevented. This season, our heating repair company wants you to know the facts and take the time to protect you and your family.

1. Every year, home fires cause around 13,000 injuries, 2,500 deaths, and nearly $7 billion in damage.

2. Nearly 60% of home fires occur because of a lack of smoke alarms or smoke alarms that don’t work.

3. Texas, Pennsylvania, and California lead the nation in number of fire deaths.

4. Eighty percent of home fire deaths are caused by space heaters and wood stoves.

5. Of every five home fires, two begin in the kitchen.

6. Every year, smoking materials such as cigarettes and lighters cause over $500 million in property damage.

7. There are around 30 home fires reported every day that are caused by candles.

8. Nearly half of home electrical fires are the result of bad electrical distribution or wrongly placed lighting equipment.

9. On average, more male injuries and deaths occur from home fires than female injuries and deaths.

10. Cooking equipment is the number-one cause of home fires.

How to Prevent Them

First of all, it’s important to have a fire escape plan that the entire family understands, in case of an emergency. Home fires can be very dangerous and there are several things you can do to prevent them:

Don’t ever leave heat sources like candles, stoves, and space heaters unattended. Also, don’t leave them on overnight or while you sleep.

If you’re going to smoke, try to smoke outside. If you’re indoors, don’t leave smoking materials where children can access them and fully extinguish your cigarette or cigar before throwing it away.

Make sure your smoke detectors work. Replace the batteries every year to keep them in top condition.

*Sources: www.nfpa.org; www.usfa.fema.gov


Christmas Lights Done Right

It’s that time of year when no matter what neighborhood you drive through, you’ll see plenty of Christmas lights to celebrate the season. If you haven’t hung yours yet and are planning to, keep these tips in mind to stay safe and save energy:

LED bulbs

Though a bit more expensive than traditional Christmas lights, LED bulbs can save you up to 90% on your holiday electric bill.

Indoor/outdoor

If you’re buying Christmas lights for outside, make sure they are labeled “outdoor” or “indoor/outdoor”. If you use indoor lights outside and it rains or snows, you could short out the electricity in your house or even start an electrical fire. Make sure any extension cords you’re using are also approved for the outdoors.

When people are looking

Turn your Christmas lights on only when you know people will see them; running them during the day or in the middle of the night wastes energy and shortens the lifespan of the bulbs. The easiest way to do this is to put them on a timer so you don’t have to worry about remembering to turn them on or off.

Check for damages

Before you hang your lights, check each strand for frays or tears in the wires. Also check the bulbs for any cracks. Damaged lights can cause a fire when turned on and can even ignite nearby materials like curtains or wrapping paper.

Update large bulbs

If you use the larger strings of bulbs for your home and haven’t replaced them within the last 10 years, buy new ones (or consider switching to LED bulbs). Some older strands use nearly twice as much energy as the newer strands.

The right outlets

Plug your Christmas lights into ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets. These will make sure that the circuit will shut down if it experiences too much current and will help prevent fires.

Get rid of the hammer

If you’re hanging Christmas lights on the outside of your home or roof, ditch the hammer and nails and opt for electrical tape or insulated clips. They’re easy to use and won’t damage your home.

Measurements

Before you start stringing lights, measure the area you want to illuminate, then buy one extra strand of bulbs. Having a few too many bulbs will look better than a design that was stopped short.

Having trouble with your electrical outlets? We can help! Just contact our electrical service experts and we’ll solve your problem as soon as possible.


A message from the “Safety Elf”

DSC_5329Everyone has an Elf on the Shelf these days! We’ve got our own Elf here at Oliver, who keeps an eye on all the boys and girls to make sure everyone is staying safe! He just brought us this report from the North Pole, we hope it helps you this holiday season:

  • Keep the tree properly watered. A dry tree can catch fire with the heat from the lights.
  • Turn off the lights on the tree before going to bed or leaving the house.
    Blow out unattended candles. Candles are the number 1 cause of fires around the holidays.
  • When going out for Christmas parties leave a few house lights on to prevent a break in. Crime is high around the holidays so try not to leave a dark house for long periods of time.
  • If deep frying a turkey be sure to completely defrost the turkey before putting it into the fryer. A frozen turkey can cause a fire in seconds in a fryer.
  • Use proper GFCI outlets and be sure the ground plug is still intact in any and all cords especially when plugging in outside or near water.
  • Most rooms in homes are equipped with a 15 amp circuit at best. Do not overload any one outlet or one room circuit. Plug in lights at different spots in the house. Remember the other devices that are plugged in already such as your TV, lights, computer, etc.
  • Check the chimney condition and/or flue damper to make sure it is clear and will exhaust the fumes before lighting a fire.
  • Keep kids away from fire crackers on New Year’s Eve. Some have short fuses and will light off faster. The little black cat fireworks can do extensive damage if they explode in your hand.
  • Light off fire works in an open area not near any trees. Dry trees will catch fire.
  • If lighting off a lot of fireworks drag the garden hose to the area just in case.
  • Last but not least make sure the glass is full of milk and the plate is full of cookies for Santa Claus!

Christmas Lighting: The Merry & the Scary

We hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving break and enjoyed time with family and friends! I started my Christmas decorating over the weekend, which is always one of my favorite things to do (taking them down is another story). Our Electrical Services manager, Rodney, has some tips to share today about the Merry and the Scary of Christmas decorating:

Merry:
– Extension cords that are inspected before use, and have the newer style, thicker wire.
– Timers that save electricity by shutting your decorations off automatically during the day and late at night.
– Outdoor lights plugged into GFCI receptacles. Those are the ones with the little emergency button at the top, like you see in bathrooms or kitchens.

Scary:

– Old extension cords with thin wire, loose prongs, or other signs of overuse and damage -replace them!
– Overloaded receptacles and breakers. Use surge protectors if multiple cords will be going to a receptacle, and redistribute your lights if the breakers keep tripping. If redistribution doesn’t solve the problem, call the Oliver experts at 484-477-0461 for additional help.
– Outdoor timers that are exposed to the elements. Wrap plastic bags around them to prevent them tripping your GFCI receptacles when the weather gets wet!

We’re signing off today with one of my all-time favorite Christmas movie clips, chock-full of the Scary – the infamous Christmas house lighting from National Lampoon!