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Two Prong Electrical Outlet Safety

By Springdale Electrician,

two prong and three prong

Three Prong vs. Two Prong Electrical Outlet

We’ve all noticed the obvious difference between a two prong electrical outlet and a three prong electrical outlet.  But many have never stopped to consider why they’re different and what the difference might mean for your home.  The answer is quite a bit.

The main difference between a two prong electrical outlet and a three prong electrical outlet is that a three prong outlet has a ground wire, while a two prong outlet doesn’t.A two prong electrical outlet should be replaced with a three prong electrical outlet

What Is A Ground Wire?

Every outlet has a hot and neutral slot. Your hot slot delivers electricity to the outlet, and the neutral slot sends electricity back to the main electrical panel. However, both wires are designed to only handle a certain amount of volts (usually 120 volts). A ground wire is basically a safety wire that directs any surges of excess electricity to the ground to protect your electrical work from getting fried.

The ground wire aids the hot and neutral wires in case they receive more electricity than they’re designed to handle (i.e. from plugging in too many appliances.) Without a ground wire, they can deliver an electrical shock, heat up and cause a fire or damage the plugged in appliances.

Appliance cords and extension cords with three prong plugs provide a ground for the cord and often serve as the grounding path for the appliance itself. You may notice that some appliances and power tools only have two prong cords. This is usually because the appliance is designed to be adequately insulated (often called “double insulated“). In newer equipment, double insulated cords are designed to remove the chance of being shocked by the tool if it were to short. That being said, if the appliance or tool is old, it may not be double insulated even though it has a two prong cord.

What About Adaptors?

Three prong adaptor for a two prong electrical outlet are unsafeA popular solution to limited plug-in space is to use an adaptor on an outlet, but they aren’t as safe as you might think. If you are using a three prong adapter over top of an older two prong electrical outlet, it is not grounded and could shock you or cause a surge in your electrical work. Some of these adaptors come equipped with a little metal tab that is meant to be screwed into the outlet cover as a form of grounding, but hardly ever work properly because a plastic box interferes with the pathway of electricity. At the end of the day, you’re ultimately better off converting the outlets to three prong ones!

Now, if you have a three prong adaptor over top of three prong outlet that typically is ok as long as you don’t put too many volts in the outlet.

Do It Yourself?

If your home was built before 1962, there is a good chance you have two-prong outlets. You can change them to three prongs to make them grounded, but the process is a little complicated and involves multiple steps. If you are trying to DIY your outlets, make sure you understand how to:

  1. Turn off the power to the outlets
  2. Use a circuit tester
  3. Disconnect the old outlet
  4. Add extension “pigtail” wires
  5. Measure amperage (15 amp = 14 gauge, etc.)
  6. Identify line terminals

A Simpler Option

Even after all that, if your home is grounded, but some of your outlets are not, a trained, licensed electrician is still recommended to ensure the safest modifications.

Call Mister Sparky to set up your appointment to convert your two prong electrical outlet to three prong 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, electrical wiring repair, landscape lighting installation and home electrical inspections.

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Electrical Trivia from Mister Sparky NWA

By Springdale Electrician,

Mister Sparky Electrician NWA working on an electrical panel repair.

How Much Do You Know?

Electricity is everywhere.  How much do you know about the invisible energy that lights up the world? Check out Mister Sparky NWA’s trivia questions to find out!(answers below)

Question #1: Which American company consumes the highest percentage of the world’s energy?

  1. General Motors
  2. ExxonMobil
  3. Google
  4. Dow

Question #2: Halogen lamps should always be kept away from?

  1. Curtains
  2. Clothing
  3. Combustible materials
  4. All of the above

Question #3: Which state consumes the most amount of electricity per household?

  1. California
  2. New York
  3. Wyoming
  4. Louisiana

Question #4: Approximately what percentage of a light bulb’s energy is consumed by generating heat?

  1. 10
  2. 25
  3. 50
  4. 90

Question #5: Which home appliance consumes the most electricity?

  1. Water heater
  2. Refrigerator
  3. Television
  4. Personal Computers

Question #6: Approximately how much money is lost in the U.S. due to Inefficient appliances, drafty windows and doors, poor insulation, and other fixable energy wasters?

  1. $300 Million
  2. $3 Billion
  3. $30 Billion
  4. $300 Billion

Question #7: How much voltage is needed to injure a person?

  1. 120 volts or more
  2. 240 volts or more
  3. 300 volts or more
  4. Any voltage

Question #8: What’s the most cost-effective source of renewable energy for use at home?

  1. Wind
  2. Biomass
  3. Solar
  4. Hydroelectric

Mister Sparky with Customer.

 

Answers:

  1. (Google uses enough energy to continuously power 200’000 homes)
  2. (All of the above—Halogen floor lamps operate at much higher temperatures than a standard incandescent light bulb. Never place a halogen floor lamp where it could come in contact with draperies, clothing or other combustible materials)
  3. D (The average Louisiana resident consumes 15,270 kilowatt hours per year)
  4. D (Incandescent lightbulbs create light by heating a filament inside the bulb and therefore generate a lot of heat. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), on the other hand, use about 80% less electricity than conventional bulbs and last up to 12 times as long)
  5. B (Refrigerators in the U.S. consume about the same energy as 25 large power plants produce each year)
  6. (This is more than the annual budget for the U.S. military)
  7. D (Any voltage from any source can cause serious injury to your or family. Call Mister Sparky NWA today to schedule your five-point safety inspection)
  8. (Solar power is the most inexpensive source of renewable energy for most homeowners and renters. Residential solar panel installation costs have dropped in recent years).

 

How did you do? Electricity is a strong source of power and should always be operated safely. If you need electrical work done in your home, call the experts at Mister Sparky NWA! We are ready to help and give you and your family peace of mind.

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, electrical wiring repair, landscape lighting installation and home electrical inspections.

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Mister Sparky’s National Fire Safety Month Tips

By Springdale Electrician,

get your smoke detector installed today with Mister Sparky NWA

October means Halloween, football, and beautiful foliage. It’s also National Fire Safety Month. On average, fires cause 3000 deaths and 15000 injuries in the US each year. According the CDC, children four and under are particularly susceptible to fire-related injuries and deaths. You can help your children understand the importance of fire safety through drills, talks and safety tips.

Here at Mister Sparky NWA, we want to remind you of the best ways to keep your home safe so that the fires in your home are confined to the chimney on chilly autumn nights. In honor of National Fire Safety Month, here are some of our tips for fire prevention and safety!

 

Your Safety Starts with Working Smoke Detectors

testing_smoke_alarm_Don’t wait for the batteries to run down on your smoke detector. Keep your family safe without relying on a low battery signal.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends changing batteries at least once a year and replacing smoke alarms every 10 years. With children in the house and for your own peace of mind, play it even safer and replace smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries at least twice a year.

Not only is it important to have working smoke detectors in your home, but it’s also important to have the correct amount to stay up to safety codes. Homes should have smoke detectors installed inside every bedroom, one outside of every sleeping area and one on every level of your home, including the basement. Make sure your home is up to code and call the experts at Mister Sparky to install them.

 

Set a Replacement Schedule

The easiest way to keep track of when to change the batteries is to follow the time change schedule. Replace the batteries with each Daylight Saving Time switch.

When you spring forward and fall backward, install new batteries in every smoke and carbon monoxide detector around your home. This will give your detectors fresh batteries twice a year and ready for the changing seasons.

The batteries you take out of the detectors can be used in your remote controls or child’s toys so you’re not throwing away batteries that may still have some life in them.

 

Set a Testing Schedule

It’s important to test each detector monthly. If this seems like a lot to keep track of, mark it on your smartphone’s calendar (or your family’s wall calendar) of the day for the next 12 months that you’ll be testing on.

A 2014 report from the NFPA said that nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths between 2007 and 2011 occurred because the homes had smoke alarms that didn’t work. In nearly half, the smoke alarm’s batteries were disconnected or missing and 24% had dead batteries. As tempting as it is to disconnect the battery when burnt toast sets it off, open windows to clear the room but leave your smoke detector alone.

By setting up a testing schedule, you’ll be able to verify the batteries are installed, connectors are working properly and the alarm is loud enough. Mark your calendar and stick to your testing schedule.

 

Don’t Forget Hardwired Smoke Detectors

hardwired smoke detectorIf your house has a security system, you may have hardwired smoke detectors that are tied into your system. Most alarm companies recommend you test your burglar alarm once a month. This is a good time to test your alarm system’s smoke detector too.

Ask your alarm company for recommendations on how to test your particular smoke detector. Be sure your system is in “test mode” before you set the alarm off. Otherwise, the fire and police departments may show up at your house thinking you have an emergency.

 

Review Your Home Fire Safety Plan During National Fire Safety Month

Run through your family’s fire safety plan at least twice a year when you’re changing the batteries. Or review monthly when you’re testing your detectors. If you don’t have one in place, print out Mister Sparky’s Home Safety Checklist and Fire Plan document now!

Hold home fire drills to make sure everyone in your family knows how to get out of the house in case there’s a fire.

Reminding your kids about your family’s fire safety tips ensures they know exactly what to do if an alarm ever goes off. Reviewing the drills is especially helpful for younger children who need their memories refreshed more often.

 

 

Fire safety is very important to review and stay up to date with. Keep your family safe with these simple steps and remember to call the electrical professionals at Mister Sparky if you’re ever unsure about something or need something installed like a new smoke detector.

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, electrical wiring repair, landscape lighting installation and home electrical inspections.

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DIY Electrical Mistakes

By Springdale Electrician,

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

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.

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, electrical wiring repair, landscape lighting installation and home electrical inspections.

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How To Avoid Electrical House Fires

By Springdale Electrician,

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: electrical house fires.

The Overloaded Outlet

Electrical outlets are a common necessity in our everyday lives. When two outlets become five, and five become eight, you end up with something like the featured picture, and  . 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 that .

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 do outlets become overloaded enough to start electrical house fires?

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 Electrician NWA to find out more!

Fireplace Safety

air can escape from your fireplace if the flue is openPhysics 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

Electrical 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 Electrician 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, electrical wiring repair, landscape lighting installation and home electrical inspections.

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