House electric

Keywords: house electric
Description: Professionally developed home electrical wiring articles, tips, detailed wiring diagrams, videos and answers to your home electrical wiring questions.

Nothing says Christmas like a beautiful holiday light display.  However, with all the sparkling lights, lighted inflatables, and other temporary electrical installations that are part of the decorations, comes the inherent risk of taxing our home’s electrical system to power all of these displays. At the risk of sounding redundant, I can’t help but join the voices of reason that advocate keeping you and yours safe throughout the season. Keep the following tips in mind to ensure a very Merry Christmas, and a safe, prosperous and Happy New Year!

Before you start stringing lights on your house or on your Christmas tree, be sure to give your electrical decorations a good “once over” to check for any damage. Watch for broken or damaged sockets, bare wires and loose connections.  These are all potentially dangerous and could give you a shock or possibly start a fire.

Check your decorations for a label showing that they have been inspected and are certified by UL, CSA, or any accredited inspection agencies.  Always buy your decorations from reputable retailers – this goes for both on-site store locations and online purchases.

Before you start decorating take the time to “map out” your decorating plan, keeping in mind how many outlets are available and where they are located. Determine what loads are already on the circuits you plan to use.

Match the power requirements (amperage) of your electrical decorations with the amperage rating of the extension cords you may be using.  Ensure that the cord is rated equal to or higher than the connected load(s).

Take a good look around and always look UP before putting up any outside lights.  Watch for any overhead hazards, such as power, telephone, or cable TV lines.

Unplug or shut off decorations while handling and installing them, and unplug or shut off the breaker for electrical decorations before replacing bulbs or fuses.

Overloaded electrical outlets and circuits are a common cause of fires.  Add up the current requirements of the load you are connecting to the loads already on the particular circuit you are using.

Safety Tip #4:  Pay special attention to how many consecutive strings of lights you plug in together in a row.

Wattage loads can add up quickly. This is especially true with older incandescent Christmas lights.  Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on how many sets of lights can be plugged in together in a single string.

You may want to replace your incandescent bulbs with LED lamps, which use less energy and run cooler.

Safety Tip #5. Only use extension cords and electrical decorations for outdoor decorating that are approved for outdoor use.

Keep all extension cords and light strings out of snow and water.  Make sure spotlights used to illuminate decorations are well ventilated, protected from the elements where necessary, and are rated for outdoor use. Ensure that they cannot come in contact with flammable items. Again, use LED flood lamps if possible.

If possible, use wood or fiberglass ladders when decorating outdoors. Metal ladders conduct electricity so if you must use them, exercise extreme caution.

Do not support light strings in a way that might damage the cord’s insulation. Cords should never be pinched by furniture, forced into small spaces, placed under rugs, located near heat sources or attached by nails or staples.

Holiday Safety Tip #7: Make sure that all of your outdoor circuits are protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).

If you are using non-GFCI circuits, then purchase cords or devices that provide portable, in-line GFI protection. These can be bought at most home improvement stores or online retailer locations.

Turn off all turn off all indoor and outdoor electrical decorations before leaving home or going to sleep.

Look for tripping hazards like toys, wrapping paper, or boxes that could present a tripping hazard in a dark home. Keep combustibles such as wrapped presents and Christmas trees at least three feet from heat sources.

Dry trees can be a serious fire hazard. Take special care to trim a live tree with non-combustible decorations and low heat producing light strings (such as LEDs).

When purchasing a live tree, the fresher the better. Don’t purchase a tree that is already dry and losing needles. Cut off some of the tree trunk at the base to improve the ability of the tree to absorb water.

Holiday Safety Tip #10: Make certain that artificial trees are labeled fire retardant, or fire resistant.

Don’t use electrical decorations or light strings on artificial trees with metallic leaves or branch coverings. They can facilitate an electrical short circuit should they accidentally come into contact with live wires or broken bulbs.

Almost 50% of home decoration fires are caused by real candles according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). They make fake candles so realistic now that you almost have to touch them to confirm they are not a real flame!

If you insist on traditional, never leave a flame unattended. Keep burning candles within sight and away from combustible material such as other decorations, wrapping paper, and curtains or other window coverings. Candles burning on a wood mantle with a cedar wall behind are definitely a hazard (personal experience at a family Christmas gathering on this one!)

Place candles in locations where they cannot be knocked over. Never use lighted candles on a tree. Those days are past us now!

Safety Tip #12:  Stay in the kitchen when cooking. Unattended cooking equipment is the leading cause of home cooking fires according to the NFPA.

Once the holiday meal is ready, check that the stove and oven are turned off and other kitchen appliances are unplugged when leaving the kitchen area.

Christmas should be a time of joy, laughter, and quality time with family and friends.  Taking the time to follow all applicable safety rules will ensure that your holiday will be a safe one for you and your loved ones.

Here’s a terrific infographic from Creative Safety Supply that illustrates these and other great safety points.

Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving? As your neighbors to the north, Sandy and I celebrate Thanksgiving in October. Aside from the difference in dates, our celebrations are essentially the same. For most of us it means a large gathering of family and friends, and a bounteous meal of turkey and all the trimmings. Most often it is followed by football on television and for many of our U.S. friends, a jump on the Black Friday shopping events. But did you know that Thanksgiving is actually one of the most dangerous days of the year?

It may surprise you to learn that, according to the American Fire Protection Association (AFPA), Thanksgiving is the leading day of the year for home fires! The sad truth is that three times as many home fires happen on Thanksgiving Day, compared to any other day of the year.

With all of the activities taking place in the home, it is easy to get distracted. However, there are steps you can take to stay safe in the kitchen and ensure that your Thanksgiving is trouble free:

– Stay in the home when you are cooking your turkey and be sure to check it frequently. Make use of a timer if possible to remind you to check.

 – Keep children away from the stove while cooking. A distance of at least three feet away is recommended.

– NEVER try to fight a grease or electrical fire with water. Smother the fire with a pot lid and always use a fire extinguisher.

Turkey fryers pose an even greater risk of danger. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) actually discourages the use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers that immerse the turkey in hot oil.

– Only use an approved turkey fryer with a built-in thermostat so you can maintain the proper oil temperature.

– Make sure you have a fryer that cannot tip over. This is generally the major cause of most turkey fryer fires.

– Always fry OUTDOORS, and away from buildings and any combustible items. NEVER use a fryer indoors.

– Keep children, pets, and football throwing activities completely away from the area while frying!

– FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS on what size turkey you can use, how long it should be cooked and what type of oil is appropriate to use in your fryer.

– Make sure the turkey is COMPLETELY thawed and dry. Leave the bird unstuffed and while it may seem obvious, don’t forget to take out the bag of gizzards. Lower the turkey VERY SLOWLY into the hot oil.

– WEAR GLOVES that will protect you against the oil. Regular oven mittens just won’t cut it here!

So make this Thanksgiving a safe one and take the time to add the element of safety to your holiday!

Any other safety tips you could share? Feel free to share your experiences, thoughts or questions below.

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An Example of a Typical Installation Using LED Flex Strip (Triple Bright), and an Electronic, Dimmable Driver From Magnititude Lighting Converters

In this video project I take you through the installation of an LED tape light system of under cabinet lighting.  One of the most important considerations here is to use a good quality voltage driver. The tape light I chose is excellent, and provides very good light in a nice color spectrum; however it is very intense at full power (4.4 Watts/ft).  This is great for task lighting, but you would want to have the means to dim it down for other applications, such as accent lighting. That’s why I chose the E-series dimmable LED voltage driver from Magnitude Lighting Converters. The dimmer switch is the Diva series from Lutron.

As with most projects, safety and planning need to be the first steps. Under cabinet lighting can be tricky, especially making sure it is installed correctly, discreetly, and that it provides the desired effect of functional task and accent lighting.

Once I had a good investigative look at the situation, I determined how I would run my low voltage wire between the cabinet sections, and where and how I would get my power to feed the dimmer switch and the LED voltage driver. There were some fairly significant challenges, but for the most part, not too difficult of an installation.

The location I chose for the switch was in a 45 degree pony wall that separates the hallway from the open concept kitchen/dining room area.

A two-gang outlet with the switch for the existing lights above the island, and a 3-way switch for the dining area light are in that wall, and there was room to cut in a box to house the new Lutron Diva dimmer switch in the same stud space.

I had easy access to get my power from the supply for the island light switch, and just behind this wall is where I had a perfect location to hide the voltage driver in a corner dead space beside the first bank of cabinets. That’s where I started the low voltage run of strip lights and inter-connecting cable.

The biggest obstacle was a corner pantry separating the first and second bank of lighting. My pre-planning found that I had access from the basement in the utility room so I could fish cable down, over, and up on the other side of the pantry with my low voltage cable. It was a bit challenging as part of the fishing had to happen through the adjoining basement bedroom, and that had a finished drywall ceiling.

Once my installation was complete, I used some plastic surface raceway to hide my splices, and to cover access holes that I had to drill inside the cabinets to facilitate the installation.

This project turned out excellent, and the desired effect of brilliant task lighting and pleasing accent lighting was achieved.

Do you have any questions about under cabinet lighting or its installation? Feel free to share your experiences, thoughts or questions below.

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This is part two of the video series “Understanding Your Home’s Electrical System”. In this series I focus on every individual circuit within the home, starting at the main distribution panel and following that circuit to the end device(s) and outlets that are on that particular circuit. I discuss the breaker size and type, the amperage rating, voltage, number of poles, wire size and type. We open up each outlet to inspect the connections, see if we have any potential problems, and repair anything that I feel might need to be corrected. Part One of the series examined the Main Breaker Panel.

In the following video I examine the circuit that feeds the washing machine. It is a standard 20A circuit breaker, 120V, single pole breaker. The cable used is a #12 (AWG), two-conductor NMD-90 cable (standard Romex or Loomex), run from the panel through the wood-framed structure to the laundry area/rear entry of the home.

Upon opening up this outlet, which is a 15-20A/125V simplex T-slot receptacle, I find a few issues that could, under the right circumstance, present a problem. It’s something that I’ve observed on a few different outlets throughout our home over the past few years.

The terminations made on the white neutral (silver), and the ground (green) terminals are made incorrectly. Not that they didn’t connect the wires to the correct terminals, but it is how the connection was made. The wire is wrapped around the terminal screw in a counter-clockwise direction, and then tightened down. As you can clearly see in the video, the copper conductor is pushed out and way from the screw terminal instead of pulled in and around the screw as it would be if it was in a clockwise direction.

I also discovered a nick in the copper wire on the neutral. This creates a weak point in the wire, and if manipulated or bent back and forth a few times, the wire can easily break off. This demonstrates the need to be very careful when stripping the insulation from the wire.

I’m sure I will find more potential issues as we move through the various circuits throughout the home. I did not do the wiring on this house, so this is a great exercise to expose and mitigate any potential issues for me in the future, and is a great practical learning tool for you the viewer!

Have you experienced any issues with the washing machine circuit in your home? Feel free to share your experiences, thoughts or questions below.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel. By subscribing, you will be the first to know when a new video in this series is ready for viewing, as well as any other video content uploaded to the channel and to the website.

When taking on any home electrical repairs, or tackling a small electrical project, the more you know about the system you are working on, the better prepared you are to complete the task.

When I started in the electrical trade back in 1981, my journeyman was instructing me on some of the basic tasks involved in wiring a house. After being told what spool of cable to use, and to pull it in from point A to point B, we moved on to learning how to “cut in” the cables (installing the cables in the outlet boxes and making the required splices). I was told things like:

Instructions like these had to be repeated for every outlet box. After about a few hours of this, I asked him to explain not only what splices to make, but why? I wanted to know the bigger picture. To understand how an electrical circuit works meant that soon I could figure out for myself what splices needed to be made in each box without him having to show me every time.

That’s why I felt a need to create a new series of videos – to help you understand the big picture that is the entire electrical system in a typical home.

I’m going to start with the main distribution panel. The individual videos that follow will trace each and every circuit in my panel from the beginning to the end device (s) that is fed from that circuit breaker. The goal is to give you a solid understanding of the entire system, and should something go wrong, you will have a better idea of where to look for a problem, and what needs to be done to correct it.

In this, the first of the series, I’m going to explain the nerve center of your electrical system, the main service entrance and panel. This is where the electricity from the utility supply enters your house, and is then distributed to the individual circuits throughout the home.

I have observed over the years that many of my website and YouTube visitors are quite willing to learn about and delve into problems or projects involving various outlets (light fixtures and switches for example), but if it involves the main panel, many will back off. This can be, and usually is a good thing.

However, knowledge is power (no pun intended), and if you understand that scary monster known as the service panel, there really isn’t anything to be afraid of. The key is to work safely, and the basic rule of safe work around electricity is to turn off the power! Same goes for the main panel.

In most cases, your home has a combination service panel that has a main breaker. When you shut off this main breaker, it disconnects the power going into the distribution section of the panel, where all the branch circuit breakers are. If you arrange for an alternate source of good lighting in advance, it’s really not scary at all!

The power comes to your home through a power meter, and then to your main breaker. This part you should never touch. This is energized from a main distribution transformer, and can only be shut off by contacting your service provider.

The main breaker controls the power to the buss bars in the distribution section of the panel. The branch circuit breakers connect to the buss bars, and then feed the power through to the load terminal, and you connect the hot wire(s) (black and/or red) for the branch circuits to the load terminals of the breakers. The neutral (white) conductors for the branch circuits connect to a common neutral buss bar, and the ground (grounding, earthing) (green or bare) wires connect to ground lugs or bars that are common to the panel case or frame.

What is your comfort level with the main panel in your home? Feel free to share your experiences, thoughts or questions below.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel. By subscribing, you will be the first to know when a new video in this series is ready for viewing, as well as any other video content uploaded to the channel and to the website.

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