DIY Electrical Mistakes

By Krush Content,

avoid electrical mistakes with Mister Sparky's helpful tips

Many homeowners like to go the do-it-yourself (DIY) route when it comes to smaller projects around their homes. When you’re not a professionally trained electrician, it’s easy to overlook little mistakes, and with electricity, little mistakes can be dangerous, even deadly.  We’ve listed five of the most common home DIY electrical mistakes and how to safely avoid them.

Making Connections Outside Electrical Boxes

You always want to avoid connecting wires outside of electrical boxes. Junction boxes protect the connections from accidental damage and help contain sparks and heat from a loose connection or short circuit. Where connections aren’t contained in an electrical box, install a box, and then reconnect the wires inside it.

Cutting Wires Too Short

Common DIY electrical mistakes include trimming wires too short.A common DIY electrical mistake involves cutting electrical wires too short. When wires are cut too short, they make connections difficult, and poor connections can be quite dangerous. Leave the wires long enough to protrude at least three inches from the electrical box. If you run into short wires, there’s an easy fix. Simply add six-inch extensions onto the existing wires. You can find wire connectors that are easy to install at hardware stores and home centers.

Leaving Plastic-Sheathed Cable Unprotected

It’s easy to damage plastic-sheathed cable that’s left exposed between framing members.  For that reason, the National Electrical Code requires cable to be protected in these areas. Cable is especially vulnerable when it’s run over or under wall or ceiling framing.

Protect exposed plastic-sheathed cable by nailing or screwing a 1-1/2-inch thick board alongside the cable.  You don’t have to staple the cable to the board. If you’re running wire along a wall, use metal conduit.

Poor Support for Outlets and Switches

Loose switches or outlets can look bad, and worse yet, they’re dangerous. Loosely connected outlets can move around, causing the wires to loosen from the terminals. Loose wires can then arc and overheat, creating a potential fire hazard.A Mister Sparky Electrician works to install a three-slot receptacle.

Loose outlets can be fixed by shimmying under the screws to create a tight connection to the box. Special spacers can be found at home centers and hardware stores. Other options include small washers or a coil of wire wrapped around the screw.  While you’re back there, be sure to add some insulation.

Installing a Three-Slot receptacle without a Ground Wire

If you have two-slot outlets, it’s tempting to replace them with three-slot outlets so you can plug in three-prong plugs. But don’t do this unless you’re sure there’s a ground wire available. Use a tester to see if your outlet is grounded. A series of lights indicates whether the outlet is wired correctly or what fault exists. These testers are readily available at home centers and hardware stores.

If you discover a three-slot outlet in an ungrounded box, the easiest fix is to simply replace it with a two-slot outlet. If you have a dead outlet, you can try to to trouble-shoot it, or call Mister Sparky! Remember, if you ever feel unsure during a DIY electrical project, the professionals at Mister Sparky will be there to assist you!

Mister Sparky Electrician NWA, America’s On-Time Electrician in Bella Vista, Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale and Fayetteville services the Northwest Arkansas area with a team of licensed electricians. In addition to flickering lights, some of the electrician services provided by the company include electrical outlet/switch repair, ceiling fan installation, lighting installation, aluminum wiring repair, landscape lighting installation and home electrical inspections.

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How To Avoid House Fires In Your Home

By Krush Content,

Make sure your home is safe with Mister Sparky NWA

Today we launch the first in a new blog series designed to help you prevent common electrical hazards, with tips and advice to better protect you and your family.  In the first of the series, we look at the best ways to avoid the worst of electrical disasters: house fires.

The Overloaded Outlet

An overloaded circuit can increase the risk of house fires.Electrical outlets are a common necessity in our everyday lives. The bad thing about that is when two outlets become five, and five become eight you end up with something like the picture featured. At any given moment, there are about 120 volts of electricity flowing through an American home, and from the looks of things, there are about 119 flowing through this one outlet.  This is a recipe for disaster.

An estimated 5,300 house fires are caused by overloaded outlets annually. It’s easy to look at this picture and think “That’s not me,” and you’re probably right, but it takes a lot less than that this to overload a circuit. At what point does an outlet become truly overloaded and unsafe?

Circuit breakers and fuses protect against overload by regulating current.  Most circuit breakers and fuses regulate at 15 or 20 amps. You should never use more than 8% of that total.

How do we know when we’re in range?  Figuring out how much one outlet can handle is just a matter of some basic math.  Use this formula to make a determination:

p/e = i

In simpler terms, this translates to: wattage divided by voltage equals amps.

You can figure out the wattage of each device by checking the manufacturer’s information or by simply Googling the product name and the word “wattage,”  then add the figures together.

If you’re using 2,000 watts of power with your holiday lights and other decorations, you divide that 2,000 watts by the volts in your house (usually 120). You should come up with 16.6 amps of current usage. With a 20-amp electrical outlet, you’re using around 80% of the available current, which is the maximum you should use per circuit.

If the math isn’t working out for your home, it may be time to install additional outlets. Call Mister Sparky NWA to find out more!

Fireplace Safety

A poorly maintained fireplace can increase the risk of house fires.Physics 101 folks, hot air rises (ideally out of an unblocked chimney!).  When the chimney is obstructed, or the opening of your fireplace is blocked, the hot air will get trapped in confined spaces of the chimney and then your house. This can lead to a house full of smoke and more often than not, house fires.

For your safety and that of your loved ones, neighbors, and the world at large, keep your chimneys and other airways unblocked and clean. Check out more fireplace safety tips here.

Exposed Wiring

House fires are often caused by faulty electrical wiring. Home inspectors check electrical panels, but are not allowed to open up walls and ceilings, so problems like exposed wiring often go unnoticed. If they’re not up to code, are missing labels, or aren’t up to capacity, you will have to address the issues. Exposed, spliced or taped wires need to be fixed as soon as possible. You will need to hire an electrician for these jobs. If you see anything like the picture, contact Mister Sparky Northwest Arkansas today!

Mister Sparky Electrician NWA, America’s On-Time Electrician in Bella Vista, Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale and Fayetteville services the Northwest Arkansas area with a team of licensed electricians. In addition to flickering lights, some of the electrician services provided by the company include electrical outlet/switch repair, ceiling fan installation, lighting installation, aluminum wiring repair, landscape lighting installation and home electrical inspections.

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Summer Savings on Your Electric Bill

By Krush Content,

Save some money on your energy bill with Mister Sparky NWA

July in Arkansas means burgers on the grill, fireworks at night, and flip-flops by the pool. It also means sky-high electric bills.  The good news is that it doesn’t have to; with a few simple, convenient household changes, you can see big savings on your monthly energy bills. Here are some summer savings tips from Mister Sparky NWA:

Open Every Vent

Summer savings tip: Closing vents in your home can strain your air conditioner and drive your energy bill up.Some homeowners believe that closing vents can reduce energy consumption by preventing the need to cool or heat a particular room. This is a myth.  Closing vents will actually raise your energy costs.  Opening every vent ensures that your air conditioner won’t struggle to keep your home cool or be kept running after its reached its target temperature.

Go With the Flow

Maintaining the right temperature in your home is often a matter of simple airflow.  When it’s hot, air rises to the highest portions of your house. Standing fans can help circulate the air upwards faster so that the room can be rid of the hot air more easily. This reduces the workload and power consumption of your air conditioner and keeps rooms cooler.

Cool Down Your Dirty Laundry

It’s widely known that washing your clothes in cold water will reduce energy costs.  What’s not as well-known is just how much.  According to LG Electronics, heating the water in the wash drum accounts for about 90% of the energy your machine uses. Your dryer manages to consume even more energy.  If weather and space allow, you may opt to hang-dry your clothes. If this isn’t an option, you can still make your drying more efficient by not overfilling your dryer. If there’s little room for movement in the dryer, the hot air won’t be able to circulate and you may have to run the dryer a second time. Leave at least 25% of the dryer unfilled so there’s room for movement, and even more if you’re drying large bed sheets or blankets.

The Nighttime Is the Right Time

Sometimes saving money is simply a matter of timing.  Most utility companies offer discounts for usage during non-peak hours, usually beginning at 8:00 pm.  If you can time your dishwashing and laundry loads to be done in the evening, you can see significant summer savings in the long run. You can even put suitable appliances on an outlet timer (most cost $10 or less) so that they’ll remember for you.

Rest easy with Mister Sparky's summer savings tips.

Throw Cold Water On the Problem

There’s no getting around the fact that dishwashers require a certain amount of heat to adequately clean your pots and pans, but if you watch your wash cycle, you can cut down on hot water use and still have crystal clear dishes. Rinsing agents like Jet Dry will prevent water spots just as easily as hot water, and while washing the dishes might require heat, drying them does not. Most dishwashers allow you to disable the heated-dry stage of the cycle. Air-drying your dishes will produce significant long term summer savings.

Mister Sparky Electrician NWA, America’s On-Time Electrician in Bella Vista, Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale and Fayetteville services the Northwest Arkansas area with a team of licensed electricians. In addition to flickering lights, some of the electrician services provided by the company include electrical outlet/switch repair, ceiling fan installation, lighting installation, aluminum wiring repair, landscape lighting installation and home electrical inspections.

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