ICE CO. SPOTLIGHT

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Frequently Asked Electrical Questions

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Frequently Asked Electrical Questions

 

Do I need to worry if the dimmer on the light in my dining room is hot to the touch? 

Don’t worry about it unless it’s uncomfortably hot or you hear a buzzing sound. Smelling plastic burning or noticing your lights flickering should also be an indicator that you want to have a specialist take a look. 

 

Do I need to worry about outlets that don’t work?

It sounds overly simple, but a lot of us overlook wall switches—particularly if we’ve just moved into a home. Try a little test. Plug a small lamp into a working outlet and unplug it with the switch still on. Then plug it into the outlet that isn’t working. Look for wall switches in the room (there may be more than one). Try turning the wall switch on.  You may find the answer to your problem (and don’t be embarrassed—we’ve all done this!). If there are no wall switches try all the other outlets in the room and if there’s no tripped circuit in your breaker box, you may need to have an electrician check to see if there’s a short somewhere in the system. 

 

I have light switches in my house that don’t appear to do anything.

In most occasions the switch does do something, it just isn’t obvious. Many light switches that do not appear to control anything control what is called a “switched outlet”. Switched outlets are sockets in a room in your house that are controlled by a wall switch. These sockets are designed so that a floor lamp can be plugged in and controlled by a wall switch. Most new homes are built with switched outlets as the lighting source because they are less expensive for the builder to install than an actual ceiling fixture.

 

A dimmer in my house is very hot to the touch. Should I be concerned?

A dimmer is nothing more than a small transformer that causes the light bulbs to dim by decreasing the voltage applied to them. As the dimmer decreases the amount of voltage going to the light bulbs, excess heat is generated and radiates from the switch via the switch plate. The heat that you feel is nothing to be concerned about unless you can smell plastic burning or notice the lights flickering.

 

I found a tripped circuit breaker in my electrical panel, but I cannot turn it back on.

There are a few possibilities here. The first is that the circuit breaker has simply tripped, and needs to be reset. To reset a circuit breaker, the switch must be set completely to the “off” position until you feel a “click”; once the switch has been set to off, set the switch back to the “on” position. If it returns to the “on” position without tripping again, the circuit breaker has been successfully reset. If the circuit breaker will not reset and trips when the switch is set to the “on” position, there may be a short circuit or overload on that circuit. If the circuit breaker cannot be reset, please be sure to call a licensed electrician to evaluate the problem.

 

Why do my lights dim when I switch on a vacuum cleaner?

Like your refrigerator, dishwasher, or washing machine, your vacuum cleaner features an electric motor. While running, an electric motor consumes a steady amount of electrical current. However, when starting, an electric motor consumes approximately seven times the current that it would normally consume while running steadily. Take for example a vacuum cleaner that consumes five amps while the vacuum is running steadily. When you switch the vacuum “on”, that electric motor will consume approximately thirty-five amps of electricity until the motor has reached its operating speed. This creates a tremendous load on the circuit that the vacuum is plugged into, thus causing the lights to dim while the vacuum motor is accelerating to its operating speed. Once the operating speed is reached, the vacuum consumes less energy and does not cause the lights to dim.

 

What makes LEDs better than bulbs?

One of the biggest differences between LEDs and halogen light bulbs is their lifespan. LEDs can last up to 80,000 hours. Halogen light bulbs only last between 2,000 and 6,000 hours. Halogen bulbs also suffer what is termed as ‘catastrophic; failure, which essentially means they work until they don’t! And when the die they pop! LEDs on the other hand very slowly lose their light output, so even at 80,000 hours there will still be another 80,000 hours of light but just at a lower level. LED life spans are usually referenced as the L70% life. As the human eye can only detect light loss above 30%, LEDs are rated to this level; there is still plenty of light left but at ever diminishing level.


Light Up Your Holidays Safely

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Light Up Your Holidays Safely
 

Light up safely over the holidays:

  • Choose the right light for the job: light strings and other decorations are rated for indoor or outdoor use. Read the package instructions, and never exceed the recommended wattage.
  • Replace damaged electrical products (cords, plugs, ornaments).
  • Avoid plugging too many lights and decorations into an outlet. Overloaded circuits can overheat and start a fire. 
  • Use Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) outlets when plugging in outdoors
  • Buy holiday decorations that have the mark of an accredited certification agency on the package. 
  • Once the package is opened, remember to check for the appropriate approval sticker appearing on the cord for products incorporating light strings. 

Extension Cords/Plugs:

  • Avoid overloading circuits with plugs and extension cords—this can create overheating and result in a fire. Fuses that frequently blow and circuits that trip can indicate too many items are connected to the circuit.
  • Never remove the third prong on plugs—this "grounding pin" prevents shock in the event of electrical equipment failure.
  • Plug outdoor electrical decorations into Ground Fault (GFCI)-protected outlets.
  • Don't run extension cords under carpets, through doorways, or in places where they can be damaged by furniture 
  • Keep outdoor connections above-ground and out of puddles; don't run them across driveways and/or walkways.

Installing Decorations:

  • No more than three light strings can be safely connected together in most cases—read manufactures instructions for directions. 
  • Make sure bulbs don't touch supply cords, wires, cloth, paper, or any material that's not part of the light string.
  • Use the proper clips for securing lights and decorations. Staples and nails can damage electrical cords.
  • Check for overhead power lines before using a ladder to put up decorations, or when you're hanging lights or decorations on trees.
  • Holiday decorations aren't designed for year-round use and can deteriorate over time. Take them down when the holidays are over.

Remember to:

  • Watch that children don’t put electrical decorations or cords in their mouths.
  • Keep an eye on pets that may chew or damage electrical cords.
  • Turn off holiday lights and decorations when you leave the house or go to bed.

Daylight Saving Time

Friday, October 30, 2015

8. This Sunday, people across the country will set their clocks forward an hour, marking the start to Daylight Saving Time. But it hasn’t always happened on the second Sunday in March. The Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was implemented in 2007, added four weeks to Daylight Saving Time by changing it to start on the second Sunday in March and end on the first Sunday in November.

7. Often mistakenly called daylight savings time, its official name in the U.S. is Daylight Saving Time. In European countries, it is called Summer Time.

6. Ever wonder why we change our clocks? While some think it is to give farmers an extra hour of sunlight in the evenings during warmer months, Daylight Saving Time was seen as a means to help reduce electricity use in buildings.

5. Sometimes credited with inventing Daylight Saving Time, Benjamin Franklin -- the man who is known for the saying “Early to bed and early to rise …” -- did not actually suggest a change in time. Franklin’s connection to Daylight Saving Time comes from his 1784 satirical letter to the editor in the Journal de Paris in which he proposed that Parisians could save money on candles by waking up before their normal time of noon.

4. Depending on how you phrase the question, Daylight Saving Time is either credited to a New Zealand entomologist who proposed the idea in a 1895 paper or an Englishman who campaigned to get the British parliament to pass a Daylight Saving Bill in 1908. In the end, Germany was the first country to implement Daylight Saving Time in 1916 to conserve resources during World War I.

3. The U.S. adopted Daylight Saving Time towards the end of World War I and then again during World War II, but between 1945 and 1966, there was no federal law regulating it. This led to confusion between states, and in 1966 Congress passed the Uniform Time Act to establish uniform dates for observing Daylight Saving Time.

2. Not all states will change their clocks on Sunday. Hawaii and Arizona (excluding the Navajo Nation) along with the U.S. overseas territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands do not observe Daylight Saving Time.

1. How much energy does Daylight Saving Time save? In 2008, Energy Department experts studied the impact of the extended Daylight Saving Time on energy consumption in the U.S. and found that the extra four weeks of Daylight Saving Time saved about 0.5 percent in total electricity per day. While this might not sound like a lot, it adds up to electricity savings of 1.3 billion kilowatt-hours -- or the amount of electricity used by more than 100,000 households for an entire year. These electricity savings generally occur during a three- to five-hour period in the evening. To learn how you can save energy during Daylight Saving Time, visit Energy Saver.


What is an Arc Flash

Friday, October 23, 2015

What is Arc Flash?

An arc flash is an explosive burst of heat and light, caused by a sudden, uncontrolled electrical arc (or current passing through the air). Temperatures may reach as high as 35,000°F in just 1/1000 of a second, vaporizing metal, causing fatal burns, and generating a blast wave that can collapse workers’ lungs and rupture eardrums. Shrapnel, toxic gases, and intense UV rays can cause additional injuries. Arc flash accidents can kill in an instant, or cause a long, slow, and painful death. Even non-fatal injuries from an arc flash may require months or years of medical care and therapy.

What Happens in an Arc Flash?

An arc can begin whenever a conductive object gets too close to an exposed current source. Dropping tools, opening panels on deteriorated equipment, inserting or removing components from an energized system, and even a rodent infestation can provide an opportunity for an arc to begin.

If that arc has enough energy, it can continue to ionize the air around it. This ionization reduces the electrical resistance along the path of the arc, allowing the arc to draw even more current. As more and more energy flows through the arc, the process builds on itself, and in a moment the arc becomes an arc flash.

The primary source of injury in an arc flash is the burst of heat. Just like lightning, an arc flash releases an enormous amount of heat energy in a very short time. That heat also melts and vaporizes the materials around it, such as wiring and metal equipment panels, as well as drastically raising the temperature of the air nearby.

As this material heats up very quickly, it expands to create a pressure wave, just like thunder. That pressure wave can scatter the broken and melted fragments of equipment like a spray of bullets. Even after the immediate blast, the vaporized material can form a cloud of toxic vapor, mist, and dust. Arc flash is one of the more dramatic electrical accidents, and is often deadly where proper safety precautions have not been taken.

Steps for Arc Flash Safety

Preventing arc flash accidents or minimizing their impact requires a comprehensive safety program, involving both electrical workers and management. The following steps should be taken to ensure worker safety.

First, perform an electrical risk assessment. Use the guidelines in NFPA 70E and IEEE 1584 to identify and assess electrical shock and arc flash hazards throughout your facility.

Determine protective boundaries for electrical equipment. NFPA 70E recommends Limited and Restricted Approach Boundaries to protect workers from electric shock and a separate Arc Flash Boundary to protect them from burns in the event of an arc flash. Employees should keep outside these boundaries during ordinary work.

Identify equipment and components that present a significant risk of arc flash. The NFPA identifies the following types of frequently-affected equipment:

  • Switchboards
  • Panelboards
  • Industrial control panels
  • Meter socket enclosures
  • Motor control centers

Next, ensure all potential arc flash hazards are properly labeled. Warning labels that inform workers of potential hazards are a key part of arc flash prevention. The National Electric Code (NEC) Article 110.16 addresses arc flash protection, stating that affected equipment  ”shall be field marked to warn of potential arc flash hazards...." In addition, NFPA 70E requires that arc flash labels contain information specific to each piece of equipment, detailing the exact hazards that are present.

Pre-printed arc flash labels can be used, although pre-printed labels must be modified in the field to include the required information. A better option is to print custom arc flash labels on-site. Specialized software can track and organize the information for each label, such as available incident energy, approach distances, and required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Labels should be kept legible and up-to-date, since arc flash hazard levels can change any time your electrical system is modified.

Finally, make sure that workers are adequately trained. Any employees who will work on electrical equipment need to be aware of the dangers of arc flash, understand the warning labels and signs, and know how to select and use the appropriate PPE.


Energy Efficiency Month

Friday, October 09, 2015

October means football season, pumpkin lattes, Halloween costumes and many other fun seasonal changes. In September 1991, President George Bush declared October as National Energy Awareness Month, encouraging government and organizations to raise awareness of the importance of sustainably managing the nation’s energy resources.

Recognizing the significance of the energy-water nexus, the Department of Energy has chosen to dedicate this year’s campaign to promoting both energy and water conservation. As we recently discussed on our blog, energy and water are highly connected and there is ample opportunity to reduce waste of both resources.

Energy Efficiency Tips for Fall

During the fall, cold temperatures cause electricity bills to increase due to continuous use of heating systems, which account for 42 percent of residential energy use. It can be tempting to turn up the heat as temperatures drop, but consumption can be minimized by ensuring HVAC systems are properly maintained. Dirty filters can slow air flow, making the system work harder, wasting more energy. Air leaks and improper insulation can be another major source of heat loss. Consumers can reduce heating bills 20 percent by checking air leaks around walls, ceilings, windows, doors, fixtures, switches and electrical outlets.


Get Prepared for Fall

Thursday, September 17, 2015

It may be only September, but the leaves are changing here in Oregon. This has me thinking about all the things I need to do around the house to get ready before the cold weather settles in. Even if in your neck of the woods, you are still enjoying warm sunny weather (lucky you), you'll benefit from preparing for the winter weather that is only a few months away.

                      

1. Clean Out the Gutters

All the leaves and grime that you neglected while you were out swimming, hiking, or riding your bicycle this summer have built up in your gutters. If left full of debris, clogged gutters and drains can form ice dams that prevent your drainage systems from working properly. This can lead to water seeping into your home, which can lead to all sorts of issues and extra energy costs. Save yourself the hassle of repairing a leak by simply cleaning your gutters and drains now. When you do, run water through the gutters to check for misalignments that could also cause water damage.

2. Keep the Outside Air Out and the Inside Air In

Warm air will escape out of any cracks and can make your heating system work harder and cost you more to heat your home.  Use caulk to seal cracks and openings between stationary house components like a door frame and weather stripping to seal components that move like an operable window.

3. Show Some TLC to Your Furnace

Your furnace may be a distant memory since you last powered it on, but before the cold weather descends and you must reluctantly switch it on, give it some TLC. Clean your furnace annually each autumn. Sediment build-up can cause your system to work less efficiently or potentially become a fire-hazard. Cleaning your system and getting it inspected will reduce the risks.

During the winter try to change your filter regularly; a dirty filter will decrease air flow and energy-efficiency. And if your furnace is ready to be replaced, buy an energy-efficient model. It will save you money and energy each month!

4. Get Your Ducts in a Row

Your ducts are often times out of sight, out of mind, tucked away in the attic or basement, but a home with central heating can lose about 20% of the air that moves through the duct system. Make sure your ducts are in order by properly sealing and insulating them. Tightly sealed and insulated ducts can potentially reduce your annual energy bills by $120 or more! 


Smoke Detectors

Friday, September 04, 2015

Your smoke detector is arguably the most essential safety fixture in your home. However, a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report found that at least 5 million homes in the U.S. still don’t have smoke alarms. According to the NFPA, having a working smoke alarm cuts one’s chances of dying in a reported fire in half. But since most of us are so accustomed to this appliance, it becomes easy to take it for granted and remember how important it is to our security.

Obviously, your smoke alarm’s primary function is to notify you of any suspicious smoke inside your house. This includes anything from burnt cooking, improperly extinguished cigarettes/cigars (actually among one of the most common causes of fire), and electrical fires. Your alarm will sound at the first sign of trouble, hopefully notifying you of the fire before flames can spread to other parts of the house. Likewise, many electrical fires first take shape as a spark followed by smoldering wires. Your alarm will be able to give you some warning before the fire gets out of control, protecting you and your family.

To optimize your safety in the event of a fire, we recommend taking the following steps:

  • Install the proper number of smoke alarms for your home. In general, it is recommended to have an alarm on each floor of the house, in every bedroom, and outside every sleeping space.
  • Teach children about fire safety. Properly functioning smoke alarms are useless if no one knows how to react in the event of a fire. If you have kids in the home, teach them how to safely exit the house if a fire ignites. Remind them not to stop to grab any toys or belongings to bring with them, as this is many children’s first instinct.
  • Test your smoke alarms monthly. This can be effortlessly done by holding down the test button on the front of the alarm. You can also purchase spray cans of smoke detector test aerosol at the hardware store (just be sure to clean the test material out of the alarm afterwards so it doesn’t block the detectors in the future).
  • If you need to repair, replace, or install additional smoke alarms in your home, a qualified electrician is an excellent resource. They’ll make sure your alarm is installed and operating correctly so you can have peace of mind that your home is protected.

Bridge of the People

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tilikum Crossing
Bridge of the People

 

On September 10th, 2015, Portland officially welcomes its latest addition: Tilikum Crossing. The bridge links the city’s South Waterfront, home to an Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) campus and the Portland Aerial Tram, to the Central Eastside, known for visitor favorites like the Eastbank Esplanade and Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), plus some of the city’s best dining and nightlife.

 

 

The bridge contains 178 LED lights that power the display. TriMet will host a BridgePort beer garden (who also released a Tilikum Crossing IPA), food carts, a live broadcast of music to accompany the show and the best view in town. TriMet will host a BridgePort beer garden, food carts, a live broadcast of music to accompany the show and the best view in town.

The Tilikum Crossing, otherwise known as the Bridge of the People, is set to open to the public September 12. It will be the nation’s only multi-model bridge that won’t allow private motor vehicles, and will instead serve as an exclusive crossing for the lightrail, buses, bikers and pedestrians.

The lighting system, which is a part of the public art program for the soon-to-be-opened MAX Orange Line, is timed with the currents of the Willamette River through a computer system that pulls real-time data directly from the U.S. Geological Survey river monitor located near the Morrison Bridge.

 


“Tillicum Bridge = Bridge of the People (in the native language). To honor those who loved this place first and those that still do.”

“To honor Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest who used this word to name a friend, or refer to the common people.”

“This is a people’s bridge (not a car bridge) in more ways than one. This name also ties us to the past and present through this Northwest Native American word.”

“Relates back to the original heritage of the state and its first people. Dignified name.”

“A beautiful name bridging past People, families and traditions with those of the present and the future of those who will come.”

 

Get a Preview here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKS4dchb5hU


Why You Need an Electrician

Friday, August 14, 2015

Electrical contractors are crucial to any new build of commercial or residential premises. They can also be incredibly helpful when looking to renovate an existing building, where your expertise is not that skilled. You may feel that you are capable of performing smaller tasks, but where electrics are concerned it is far better being safe than sorry.

Electricians are trained professionals who understand how dangerous the work can be, and how important it is to stick to the strict guidelines. When you are performing any work within your home that involves electrics, you need to consider if you should hire electrical contractors. There are smaller tasks that you may be able to perform with confidence; however, larger jobs may need an expert.

Many people try to do an electrician’s job themselves, which will often lead to problems further down the line. Therefore, making the decision early on in the project to hire contractors will save you both time and money. If you have found that you are in too deep and do not understand what you are doing, you need to hire a professional electrician. They will be able to notify you of the problem and instruct you how to make it better.

Hiring the professionals to carry out the electrical work within your home or business will ensure that everything is done safely. Electricians will be able to install all electrical components around your home. Plugins, ceiling fans, security lighting, light switches and wiring in appliances can all be done with ease. You will be surprised how easy the electricians will make it look; however, they are trained to do their job.

There are many common issues and problems with the wiring in homes all over the world, and typically these issues have arisen from the wrong people performing the tasks. By hiring qualified and experienced electricians, you will be guaranteeing that your home is safe. They will be able to rectify any existing issues, and ensure that all new work is carried out in the correct manner.

 

If you have been having problems for a while, they will source the issue and fix it correctly. Performing jobs around your home and business may seem like a good idea, and you may think that you are saving money, but you should call an electrician the moment that you begin to find problems with the wiring in your home.


Extension Cord Safety

Friday, August 07, 2015

Before you set up summer projects, read there helpful tips on how to safely keep your extension cords!!

Stay out of the water

– Never run an extension cord through water or snow.

– Be especially careful if using them near water sources, like pools, sprinklers, hot tubs, ponds, or streams.

– If you are using multiple extension cords, wrap the connection tightly with electrical tape – this helps prevent moisture from leaking in and keeps them from pulling apart.

Stay out of the way

– Make sure cords are not in the way of foot traffic.

– Do not let the extension cords dangle off furniture or anywhere they can snag someone’s foot.

Keep them cool

The passage of electricity generates heat, and that heat needs to escape. Therefore:

– Keep extension cords uncovered when in use.

– Never run them through walls, ceilings, or floors.

– Unplug the cord immediately if it feels hot to the touch.

 

They are not permanent

– Extension cords are for temporary uses, like powering lights for an event or running a tool.

– They should never be used as a substitute for permanent wiring.

– If you need a permanent power supply, install mounted outlets instead.

Do not over-extend them

– A single extension cord should not be used to power more than one appliance.

– Plug extension cords directly into a three-prong mounted outlet.

– Multi-outlet extension cords should be used on their own; not plugged into another extension cord.

Not all extension cords are the same

– Check whether your cords are rated for indoor or outdoor use.

– Make sure the wattage allotment matches the tool you are using.

– Use extension cords with three-prong grounded plugs.

Store them properly

– When you are done using your extension cords, be sure to unplug them, coil them up and hang them properly indoors.

– Before each use, inspect your extension cords closely for exposed wires and cracks in the insulation – if you see those, it’s time for a new one.

Extension cord safety is easy to implement but also easy to ignore. By following these simple guidelines, you can keep yourself safe while completing all of your summer projects.

 



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