Archive for August 2016

Do I have a big enough breaker box for my home?

We often receive this question from our residential clients. Usually, there’s at least one underlying reason why we’re being asked about the size of their breaker box. So when we answer this question, we also make sure we are asking the homeowner the right questions to determine any problems and the solutions.

Since this is a common question, it’s helpful to share what we typically encounter when we work with electrical systems in Edmond and Oklahoma City.

Breaker box basics

Your breaker box is where various electrical circuits in your home meet. It distributes the electricity from your utility company to various electrical circuits throughout the home.

Some circuits are shared, liked the ones that connect all of the power outlets in your bedroom. Other circuits are dedicated to one item, like the one that powers your dryer.

The number of active circuits in your breaker box depends on several factors, including:

  • Age of your home
  • Size of your home
  • Number and size of appliances
  • Location and number of outlets

No two breakers boxes are alike.

Some breaker boxes are built for 10-20 electrical circuits, some for as many as 40 circuits. If you see a spot in your breaker box for a breaker that appears empty, this means you have open spaces in your breaker box to add new circuits. If every spot is filled, then you won’t be able to add circuits to this panel without upgrading your breaker box, and possibly even the electrical service you receive from your utility company.

Older homes were often built with 60 amp service capacity, and over time this evolved to 100 and eventually 200 amp services being standard. (An ampere measures the rate at which electric current flows.)

Some larger homes in Edmond and Oklahoma City today have a 400 amp electrical service. This is because of the increasing number of appliances and electronic devices in home today.

There’s a lot involved in upgrading your breaker box from a 100 amp box with 20 circuits to a 200 amp box with 40 circuits. You may have to coordinate with your utility company to increase the service on their end, which may include upsizing your electrical meter and possibly even some of the wiring bringing power into the property. You will also want to work with a knowledgeable and properly-licensed electrical contractor.

Signs you may need to have your electrical service upgraded:

  • Needing to add more electrical circuits, but there is no room in breaker box
  • Lights in the home are flickering, especially when larger appliances are running
  • Breakers are constantly tripping, meaning the circuit is overloaded

If you’re experiencing any of these problems, we’re happy to consult with you on solutions. We may be able to work with your existing setup, or we may recommend you upgrade your service or replace your existing breaker box with a larger one. We always provide a one year labor warranty on all breaker box and electrical service upgrades.

Improve security with outdoor sensor lights

Using outdoor sensor lights can improve the security of your property quickly and for a minimal investment. These sensors can detect when it’s dark outside and some can even detect motion in the area.

Utilizing a combination of these sensor types can help light key areas of the property and make your home less inviting for criminal activity.

Property crimes in Edmond and Oklahoma City have been on the rise. One of the main things criminals look for is an easy victim. A well-lit property utilizing motion and light sensors will often scare away potential criminals for a few different reasons.

Would-be burglars won’t have anywhere to hide. Utilizing spotlights around the property will ensure criminals cannot hide easily. If you can see them, you are in a much better position to defend yourself. This is an altercation you can be sure most burglars want to avoid.

These sensors don’t only sense motion, but can also be set to always come on when it’s dark. This can help you light certain areas of the property for safety, like areas near swimming pools, hot tubs, stairways, and decks.

If you’re out of town or out late, sensor lights will give your home the appearance that you are home even if you aren’t. They’ll turn on when it gets dark whether or not you’re home. That’s often an effective deterrent because burglars typically try to strike while the homeowner is away.

There’s an appropriate balance on the amount of lighting needed, of course. Your main goal should be visibility. Some lighting is too bright and can actually reduce visibility due to the stark contrast.

We recommend working with a reputable electrical contractor to install your outdoor security lights. You may even want to work with a security contractor to design something well-suited to your needs. Taking a proactive stance against crime may be all it takes to make your property a tougher target.

What to do if you lose power

We’ve received thousands of phone calls from clients over the years who’ve lost power to an area of their home or business. This can be stressful, especially when it’s extremely hot or cold outside.

But before you grab your cell phone and call out your electrician of choice, there are a few things you can check yourself that could save you time, energy, and money by avoiding an unnecessary service call.

If you’re comfortable checking these three things during a power outage, you could save yourself a lot of hassle down the road! Here’s what you can do during some of the most common causes of power outages.

Check your breaker box

Have you lost power to your entire home or business, or just one area? Or a couple areas? It’s always wise to check your breaker box first and make sure you don’t have any tripped breakers.

To reset a breaker, push it all the way to the “off” position, then flip it back fully to the “on” position. You may have to do this more than once, and you may have to press harder than you think to get it to the “off” position, and back to the “on” position.

Check with your power company for outages

Most of our clients are either OG&E or Edmond Electric customers. For both companies, you can check for power outages online. If you have a different utility provider or co-op, we recommend checking with them for their procedures. Many of them also have way to check for outages online.

You can check OG&E power outages here, and Edmond Electric power outages here. If your utility company is experiencing outages, an electrician will not be able to solve your problem.

Check for tripped GFI outlets

A GFI outlet is a type of outlet with a test and reset button. They’re designed to trip when a ground fault is sensed. With several outlets and sometimes even lighting attached to the same circuit, it can feel like you have lost power to an area of the home. We recommend making sure you don’t have any of these tripped before calling an electrician out to your home or business.

If you want more information about checking and resetting GFI outlets, this video may be helpful.

If checking your breaker box, local power outages, and your GFI outlets doesn’t resolve the situation, we are happy to send someone out and correct the issue. If you call, it’s always helpful if you can share details around the outage and what, if anything, was in use when it occurred.

Save energy and money this summer

With back-to-school expenses rapidly approaching, it’s a good time to save money where you can elsewhere!

Having newer appliances and replacing inefficient light bulbs with more efficient ones can help you save costs on energy. You don’t have to replace what you already have in your home to cut costs on energy, though.

Here are some tips for saving energy (and money!) around your house during summer and early fall.

  1. Wash your clothes in cooler water. There are several cold water detergent options and washing with cold water will save you a fair amount of energy. Your water heater will thank you!
  2. Keep your water heater set at 120 degrees. Speaking of your water heater, try setting the water temperature to 120 degrees or lower. That way, your heater won’t have to work so hard to heat up water. And anything hotter than 120 degrees is scalding to the touch.
  3. Change your dryer lint after each load. Believe it or not, that little bit of lint makes your dryer work harder, which means it uses more energy. Keeping your filter clean will also add to the longevity of your dryer.
  4. Close your blinds during they day and open them at night. This simple trick helps keep some of the heat out of your home during the day, and lets a little escape during the evening and overnight.
  5. Participate in SmartHours. If you’re an OG&E customer, they have a wonderful program where you can dial down your energy usage during peak hours for huge savings. We recommend looking into the program at their website. Contact OG&E with any questions about SmartHours.
  6. Adjust your pool’s settings. It’s a good idea to check with your pool service provider first on this. But in many homes, pool water is filtered more often than necessary. Scaling that down can save you energy.
  7. Have your heating and cooling system tuned up. In addition to regularly changing the air filters, we recommend having your air conditioner and furnace each serviced by a professional once a year. Systems running at peak efficiency will use less energy.
  8. Use a programmable thermostat. If you’re home and away at predictable times, a programmable thermostat can be an effective energy saving tool. Keeping your home a little warmer when you’re away in the summer can result in big savings. You can always pre-cool the home before you leave and have it start cooling again before you get home.
  9. Minimize indoor heat. Try to only run large appliances like the oven, stove, washer and dryer at night when it’s cooler. Keeping the ambient temperature indoors down will mean your AC has less work to do to keep the home cool.
  10. Fill up your fridge and freezer. Having more cold and frozen goods will keep the temperature cooler and allow less heat to escape when the door is open. Who wants leftovers?

These habits can help you save energy in your home, and many of them only require a one-time change to save you energy in the long run. And with lower energy bills, you’ll have more money to spend on back-to-school shopping—or wherever you want!

Does size really matter?

We tend to be a people of immediate gratification, where bigger is better. Even air conditioning systems are seeing a trend toward bigger and bigger units, whether or not they actually create a more comfortable home.

There’s a lot more to your home comfort than the size of your HVAC system. Your home’s air duct system is one important factor that’s often overlooked. Just like veins and arteries circulate blood to and from your heart, your air duct system circulates airflow throughout the home.

Oversized heating and cooling equipment, undersized ductwork

There are some fairly involved technical methods to determine the correct sizing of heating and cooling systems and ductwork. Judging by the homes we see time and time again in Edmond and Oklahoma City, contractors have largely stopped using these calculations, instead using estimates based on square footage.

These estimates are highly unreliable, leaving many homes built in the last 25 years with oversized HVAC equipment and undersized ductwork. According to some estimates, this is an issue in 70% of homes built in the last 25 years.

Comfort

Your air conditioner has two purposes: removing heat and controlling moisture. An oversized system may quickly cool down the home by removing the warm air, but won’t have long enough cooling cycles to adequately remove humidity.

That can make it feel like a swamp in your home! 75 degrees with 70% humidity isn’t very comfortable. Humidity can also lead to mold, and over time can warp the expensive woodwork in the home, including window and door frames and even your wood flooring.

Lifespan of equipment

Your central HVAC system (or systems) is likely one of the largest investments in your home. An improperly sized system is not running at peak efficiency, causing your equipment to age more quickly, requiring premature replacement.

Undersized duct work causes your system to work harder to circulate the air, which can lead to premature failure of your compressor and can potentially damage other parts of the heating and cooling system.

Having a system that’s too small can also be an issue, causing the system to run much more frequently, racking up huge utility bills in the process Constantly starting up and shutting down will shorten your system’s lifespan in the long run.

Assessment

We recommend having a trusted professional contractor assess your system’s performance, based on calculations for your home and scientific expertise—not general estimates based on square footage. A good contractor will evaluate your current system and duct work to measure the current level of airflow.

You should avoid a contractor who insists what you have now is perfectly fine without performing diagnostics. If a contractor insists upon using square footage as the baseline, you may want to find a different contractor.

And make sure the contractor you choose is willing to inspect your air duct system as well. We’ve been told many companies in the Edmond and Oklahoma City markets will not address issues with the duct system. This is like a heart surgeon telling you clogged arteries aren t a problem! Homes can lose as much as 50% of their system’s heating and cooling capacity due to insufficient or faulty duct systems.

You might even be able to save money on your next replacement by decreasing the size of the equipment. Who wouldn’t be interested in saving a little money and ending up with a system that is sized correctly, keeps you more comfortable, and will last longer?