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Archive for June 2010

It Is Air Conditioner Season! An Electrical Safety Tip from McCurdy Electric

June 25, 2010

Air Conditioner season is upon us once again! Here is a summer safety tip to keep us all staying cool this summer.

 

An issue that I see frequently, in both homeowners and small business owners, is that they use extension cords for “permanent” or “fixed” installations. That is, an extension cord is plugged in to an outlet, ran behind some furniture or even underneath a rug, and then used to provide power to an electrical appliance such as an air conditioner.

 

Not to scare anyone, but this is a bad idea on a couple of levels:

 

1) Did you know that extension cords are only designed for temporary use? That’s right. An extension cord should never be used for a “fixed” installation. The National Electrical Code states that the manufacturer’s installation instructions must be followed – I guarantee you that it tells you in the instruction booklet of your new air conditioner to not use an extension cord with it.

 

2) The extension cord that you use may be undersized. That is, the physical size of the wire inside the cord may not be large enough to handle the large amount of power that an appliance like an air conditioner needs. If this is the case, the cord may become warm. So warm in fact that there is a very real risk for fire.

 

3) The cord is more than likely subject to physical damage. If the extension cord is run behind furniture, underneath a rug, or even just lying on the floor, it is subject to physical damage. For obvious reasons this is a potentially dangerous thing. Even a heavy-duty cord will become frayed and worn if subjected to enough abuse over time. A frayed or damaged cord should always be destroyed and disposed of, so that no one is able to use it in the future. No amount of electrical tape can satisfactorily repair an extension cord. A good rule of thumb is that if the cord doesn’t look like it originally did from the factory, it’s probably not good anymore.

 

4) It’s always best to have a dedicated circuit for large appliances such as your air conditioner. If you don’t have a receptacle outlet near your window-mounted air conditioner, or if the circuit breaker keeps tripping when you turn your AC on, you may want to have one installed.

 

McCurdy Electric offers a free visual safety inspection, with a written report, on every service call that we do. If you have any immediate questions about safety, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

Please offer your comments below, and stay cool!

A Homeowners Guide to Knob and Tube Wiring

June 11, 2010

Back in the late 1800s, a new craze was sweeping homeowners across the nation: electricity.

Electricity was made available in homes through a method called “knob and tube” wiring. For the era, this was great stuff. Nowadays it’s just plain old, and has a potential to be very real fire hazard – it should always be replaced whenever possible. Most insurance companies will not insure your home if it contains knob and tube wiring (or a fuse panel for that matter).

There are some key points that should be known:

What is this stuff anyway? Knob and Tube wiring, sometimes abbreviated K&T, was a standard wiring method that was implemented as far back as the 1880s, and was used up until the 1940s and 50s. It is called Knob and Tube, because the single-conductor wires are supported by cylindrical ceramic nailed-down knobs, and passed through studs or joists via ceramic tubes which helped to insulate the wires. Splices were usually made by soldering the wires together and then just wrapped up with cloth tape. These were left in “open air” without the splice being contained in an electrical box (a requirement today). Where conductors would enter a switch or outlet box, the wire would be protected with a cotton cloth covering saturated with asphalt, called “loom”.

      • As I mentioned above, many insurance companies will not insure a house that contains this type of wiring method (or even a fuse panel).
      • The National Electrical Code prohibits the use of insulation of any sort installed in walls or ceilings where Knob and Tube wiring exists. This is because of a potential fire hazard. If any sort of insulation comes into contact with the conductors, they can’t disperse heat properly as they were originally designed to.
      • The cloth-like or rubber insulation breaks down after time. This may cause the conductor to be bare and unprotected – a real shocker!
      • This old style of wiring was mainly used to power things such as electric lamps, not modern equipment such as air conditioners, refrigerators, computers, space heaters, etc.
      • A lot of times the “neutral” wire was switched instead of the “hot” wire. This dangerous practice is against modern electrical code, but was a common practice in the era of K&T.
      • There is no equipment grounding conductor with this type of wiring system. Grounding is arguably the most important part of a sound electrical system. A tell-tale sign that an electrical outlet might be fed with Knob & Tube is that the receptacle is only a “2-prong” version, missing the 3rd prong on the bottom which is for the grounding conductor.

The problems…

A bad situation: I have heard of a report of someone hanging a metal clothes hanger on an exposed piece of knob and tube wiring located in the ceiling in the basement. Then, when they went to grab the metal hanger while doing some laundry in their bare feet, they literally got quite a shock. Fortunately, the person was OK and just shaken up a bit. In the right set of circumstances, this could be a deadly situation.

What can be done? We are always glad to come out and consult with you about your options. Your expert team at McCurdy Electric can quickly diagnose, and if necessary, upgrade the antiquated wiring system to current safe code standards. The wiring method that we install will more than likely be installed for the next 100 years or more, just like the Knob & Tube has been. We have many years of experience working in the older New England homes that are still utilizing the old wiring methods, therefore, we already know what to look for.

Please feel free to ask us any questions you might have by either calling us or by leaving a comment below!

The 6 Benefits of Staying Connected

June 9, 2010

“Where were you the other night? I couldn’t get a hold of you – every time I tried to call you I just got disconnected after a few broken words…”

These days, it’s more important than ever to stay connected. Are you forced to move near a window or even step outside to place a call or retrieve voice mail on your mobile phone? Just imagine if you had to make that phone call in an emergency situation and couldn’t.

McCurdy Electric is a dealer for Wilson Electronics, a leading manufacturer of In-Building Wireless Amplifier systems. Check out this video from a news station in Pittsburgh – it focuses on just one Wilson Electronics product, but the principle is the same for their entire line of great products:

The benefits:

  • You are able to stay connected anywhere in your building. Without any direct connection to your phone, you will have no more dead zones. This system is truly “wire-less.”
  • Works with all major carriers. Whatever company you have your cell phone contract with, Wilson makes a system for you. You’re not just stuck with one company either – if you decide to switch carriers, the system will still continue to work for you.
  • Save money by cutting costs! We have a simple Wilson Electronics system installed at our office, like the one shown in the above video. We truly could not operate our business without it. In the past, our Electricians out in the field used to call the office land line when they had to contact us. That ate up valuable “minutes” very quickly, which our cell phone bill reflected. Now, we have a perfect signal everywhere in our office and they call us on our company cell phones, utilizing the phone-to-phone unlimited minutes included in our mobile contract.
  • Increased bandwidth and completely 3G and 4G compatible. You may not have the need for a wireless router once you have one of these systems installed. You can easily stream music, retrieve large files, and perform many other actions with ease. At our office, we can use our laptop anywhere in the building and the USB wireless adapter stays perfectly connected all the time.
  • Increased battery life. When your phone is struggling to stay connected to a cell tower, it eats up the battery. With up to 20 times the power of the cell phone alone, this system will certainly save you from plugging in your phone as frequently.
  • When we design and install the system, it’s guaranteed to work. We offer a free site analysis and design of the system, customized for your unique application.

This is one of those products that when you have it, you couldn’t imagine life without it.

I welcome your comments and questions below!