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The Difference Between a Smoke Alarm and a Fire Alarm System

April 20, 2015

fire smoke alarm

Fire alarms and smoke alarms save lives and you cannot afford to live or work without them. Though, there is universal confusion that fire alarms and smoke alarms are the same thing. In fact, they function very differently and as a result suited to different environments.

Smoke Alarms and Smoke Detectors

A smoke alarm or detection system is one, or more units mounted on the ceiling, as either stand-alone units or networked together in a system.

Components are activated when smoke and heat are present in proximity to the alarm. Temperature sensitive units respond to heat; those with photoelectric sensors respond to smoke particles in the air. Smoke detectors that use an ionization sensor depend on chemical reaction, to detect smoke caused by blazing fires. They are the most common and are fairly cheap.

When a stand-alone unit is set off, a fire alarm sound goes off. When one unit of a system is set off the whole system responds with an audio alarm. Inexpensive, stand-alone single units can be purchased for under $20.00 and are battery operated. A network of detectors can be either wired to 120V household electrical circuit and connected to other detectors throughout your home, or battery powered. Though, most units running on the home electrical system also have battery back-up in the event of power failure.

A fire alarm system is comprised of:

Detection devices - heat sensors, photoelectric sensors (for smoke) and ionization sensors (for chemical reaction).

Alarms- including audio and visual features; such as loud buzzing, ringing, and flashes of light.

A fire alarm control panel the main control unit of a system; connected to a central monitoring station at a home security company or a local fire department.

Manual signal boxes - the customary break glass, and pull switch boxes which are manually operated to signal a possible fire.

An emergency battery system which kicks on in the event of power failure.

Fire suppression components, such as a fire sprinkler system; engaged in the actual event of a fire.

Hire a Qualified Professional

A home or commercial fire alarm system requires the certified services of an electrician or fire alarm technician for installation and maintenance. For an estimate, or more information on smoke alarms, smoke detectors, and fire alarms call J.P. McCurdy Electrical Services 781-595-7074.

Bright Ideas for Updating Your Home Lighting

March 27, 2015

Lights Bright

Spring is the time of year when people seem instinctively ready to clean out, upgrade, and remodel their homes. Unfortunately, for a lot of people, home makeovers, or even individual room makeovers are not in their budget. Not to worry, McCurdy Electric has an inexpensive, yet very effectual idea for anyone in that situation, by upgrading your home lighting! Contemporary, more energy efficient light fixtures, and designs are great at lighting up your home to give it a fresh, bright look that fulfills your need to update your living space, but without the inflated price tag.

Home Lighting Upgrade Ideas

Consider these ideas for upgrading the lighting in your home. Furthermore, remember, when lighting up your home with new light fixtures, understand that even though the project may seem like an easy DIY, home lighting and its core wiring can create potential hazards if not installed by a licensed, professional, residential electrician.

Recessed Lighting

Are the lights in your home lighting the desired areas? Are there sections that you wish were brighter, or are there sections you wish were a little dimmer? This is a common predicament in homes with the old standby single light fixtures hanging in the center of the ceiling. It is also a general problem in kitchens and home offices, because the stationary central home lighting is ineffective at casting light where you need it and creating shadows where you don’t want them. Consider recessed lighting to highlight the areas you want to brighten or draw more attention to. This is also a great idea if you have a particular centerpiece or a work of art you want to highlight in a specific room.

Spruce It Up

Heavy, hanging lights, and ceiling fans can date a room and distract from the look. There are several different home lighting plans and more updated light fixtures you can use, depending on the look you have in mind. Yet again, recessed lighting removes visual obstruction from the ceiling and can actually make a room appear bigger and more open while focusing the light where you want it. Magnificent, striking chandeliers can also brighten and add attention and panache to a room.

Unconventional Placement

In some cases, lighting up your home means creating an uplifting and unexpected atmosphere by placing lights in unconventional places. Hanging a pendant lamp in a out-of-the-way reading nook, using bold and artistic light fixtures or casting soft or colored lights along walls to create attention and enjoyment without a great deal of expense.

Layered Light

By layering your home lighting, you can achieve all kinds of lighting goals. For example, overhead lighting can cast a glow over everything in a room quickly. Task lighting in the same room is focused on a particular section where you need to work or read. Accent lights are terrific for lighting up your home with special highlights focused on artwork, collectibles, or antiques.

Dimming

Dimmers are cost-effective, and highly recommended. Not only does this help you save energy by using less light when you don’t need it, but it makes mood lighting easy, as well. There are literally hundreds of ways to use dimmers with different light fixtures.

In conclusion, if you are eager to update your home’s look, try lighting up your home with new light fixtures for a reasonable, and multipurpose update! To talk about your home lighting needs with an experienced residential electrician call J.P. McCurdy Electrical Services today!

(781) 595-7074 * Em - info@mccurdyelectric.com * www.mccurdyelectric.com

 

Safety Issues with Knob and Tube Wiring

March 24, 2015

knob and tube wiring

Frequently, issues that happen with knob and tube wiring are due to old fittings wearing out, or from some non-standard changes that were made to the electric system by either the previous owner, or by an unprofessional, unlicensed electrician. This typically occurred when additional outlets were installed combining new Romex cable with old knob and tube wire, which is like putting a square peg into a round hole.


Knob and tube wiring also has rubber insulation, which creates additional safety issues. As time passes, rubber erodes, exposing copper wires to moisture in the air, which significantly increases the chance of a short circuit, or a fire.


Another problem with knob and tube wiring is it’s limitation with load demands. Frequently, homeowners in need of extra outlets would hire electrical contractors to add extra outlets to the existing knob and tube wires. These additions create the danger of overloading the electrical systems, especially with today’s power-intensive appliances and devices.

Problems Commonly Found During a Home Inspection

March 16, 2015

vic house

Home inspectors often come across electrical problems in the homes they inspect. For that reason, we’ve compiled a list of the most common electrical problems found during home inspections, so you know what to look for before making that final decision to buy, or not to buy.

Open Junction Boxes

Some electricians may cut corners in places where they think nobody will see, or become aware of. One of those corners is electrical junction boxes. These boxes are often necessary in an electrical installation. The corner they cut is the cover of the junction box, and the inside of the junction box is where electrical conductors are joined together. Now, if someone comes along and puts an object inside that open box, an object such as a screwdriver or finger, you can only imagine how dangerous it can be when sparks start to fly. This is an electrocution just waiting to happen.

Knob and Tube Wiring

Homes built prior to 1950, generally have what's known as knob and tube electrical wiring. Electricians no longer use this method to wire new houses, and it's generally believed to pose a hidden hazard to homeowners. Though you may be able to get financing for a home with knob and tube wiring, getting insurance for it may be difficult and the cost will possibly be more than double. If the knob and tube wiring is active, most insurance companies will require that it be removed before closing or 30 days after closing.

Double Taps

When two wires are placed under the same screw or lug in a panel, it is called a double tap. Two wires should not be installed under a single screw or lug unless the device is designed for that purpose. Some breakers are designed to accept more than one wire; the most common are certain Square D breakers. In the past, it was common to install more than one neutral or ground wire under a single screw on those buss bars, but today’s code requires a single wire per opening on the neutral and ground bus bars.

Open Knockouts

Service panels have areas that can be knocked out to allow a wire to be installed. A connector or bushing is installed to keep the wire from rubbing against the sharp metal of the panel. If these knockouts have been removed from the side of the panel or the front where the breakers are located, then a foreign object could be inserted into the opening, creating a shock hazard.

No GFCI and Ungrounded Outlets

Some common issues found in the branch circuits include ungrounded outlets and the lack of GFCI protection.

In the 1970s, GFCIs (ground fault circuit interrupters) were introduced. These outlets and breakers are designed to sense a very minute change in the current flow of the wires and will stop the power to the outlet or circuit if any change is detected. Originally they were only required at the exterior of the house by swimming pool equipment. Over the years, GFCI receptacles have been required in more locations such as garages, bathrooms, kitchens, etc..

Prior to the 1960s a two wire system was used to provide power to the outlets. A black wire and a white neutral wire were used to power two pronged outlets. It is common for DIYers to replace these two pronged outlets with three pronged outlets, giving the false sense of security that the outlet is grounded and safe for appliances with three pronged cords.

Reasons for an Electric Service Panel Upgrade

March 10, 2015

panel man

The importance of a working and compatible electrical service panel cannot be underestimated. If you are planning to re-model or renovate your home, by installing electrical equipment like lighting or ceiling fans, something that you should consider is the voltage capacity of your home’s electrical system. A deficient electrical panel cannot only damage sensitive electronic equipment over time, but can also increase the likelihood of electric shocks. In many cases, homeowners often ignore the benefits of an electrical panel upgrade, and instead choose to use multiple power strips and extension cords.

What does an upgrade offer

Before acknowledging the benefits of an electrical panel upgrade, it is important to note that in some cases, these upgrades may be considered legally required, depending on residential codes and regulations. An upgraded electrical panel increases the safety aspect, by reducing the possibility of short-circuiting and voltage overloads.


If you’re installing the latest electronic equipment like OLED TVs or smart refrigerators, an electrical panel upgrade can greatly improve the level of energy-efficiency that your home experiences. These devices often consume large amounts of electricity at unparalleled rates. The latest electrical service panels are able to manage and control the flow of electricity, reducing the risk of such electrical equipment short-circuiting or malfunctioning.


If you’re considering a panel upgrade, please contact J.P. McCurdy Electrical Services for a free estimate 781-595-7074.

What to Consider When Remodeling Your Kitchen

February 27, 2015

White Kitchen

Your kitchen is one of the busiest rooms in your home, and it's not just for cooking. It’s the nucleus of your home. You heat, you cool, you clean, you store, and you prepare.

Many homeowners choose to remodel their kitchens for the increased value to their homes, but also for the efficiency, and of course the aesthetics. If you’re remodeling a kitchen, one main concern will be installation of appropriate lighting and appliances. One of the things that you should consider is the rewiring of your kitchen, so be sure to take account of these electrical circuits:

Lighting Circuits

First off, you need the proper circuit to control lighting. One 15-amp circuit can handle all the hard-wired lighting for your kitchen. This includes recessed lighting, hanging fixtures, or under-cabinet lights. These small appliances draw little power, especially given today’s lighting technology, so you can install multiple lights on the single circuit.

Small Appliance Circuits

Kitchens are tantamount with small appliances. Coffee makers, toasters, can openers, blenders, food processors, crock pots, and the list goes on. These appliances don’t draw much power on their own, and seldom would you have them all plugged in and running at the same time. To have the capacity for these kitchen must haves, you’ll need two 20-amp branch circuits allowing each circuit to handle multiple outlets. The outlets need to be installed evenly and in easy to reach areas, so there’s no difficulty plugging in appliances.

Large Appliance Circuits

The large appliance circuits are dedicated to one piece of equipment that require higher voltages, and normally include:

  • The electric oven requires a 50-amp, 250-volt circuit
  • The dishwasher requires a 15-amp, 125-volt circuit
  • The refrigerator requires a dedicated 20-amp, 125-volt circuit
  • The microwave requires a 20-amp, 125-volt circuit
  • The garbage disposal requires a 15-amp, 20-volt circuit


The precise number of dedicated circuits will vary. For example, if you’re installing several electric ovens, you’ll need one for each oven.

When you're ready to remodel your kitchen, make sure to hire a licensed electrician. The last thing you want to happen, is to complete your kitchen and find out that you’re not able to use all of your lighting and appliances. These circuits, for lighting, small appliances, and larger appliances, will keep your kitchen running efficiently, and safely. For questions about kitchen wiring, or a free estimate, please call J. P. McCurdy Electrical Services at 781-595-7074.

Security Lighting Woes

January 21, 2015

House Light

Security lighting is a great way to protect your home from intruders, yet when they are not  working properly they can be a real headache! Malfunctioning security lights may stay on longer than they should, and not turn on when they should turn on, or face a number of other issues that stop them from working properly. Below is a list of the most common security lighting issues we've encountered.

They Won’t Turn Off

Motion sensor lights are intended to come on when they detect movement and shut off after a few minutes when movement stops. In some cases, motion stops and the lights stay on, generally as a result of a spike in current.

If your motion sensor lights won’t shut off, the first thing to do is check to see if the time interval has been changed. Most motion sensors let you set a length of time for the light to stay on, typically anywhere between 30 seconds to 10 minutes. If the interval has been changed and the lights are staying on too long, change it back to the time you desire.

If that doesn’t work, go outside during daylight, and see if there is anything in range of the motion detector that may be continuously moving, such as a flag. If you don’t see anything, try shutting the lights off at the breaker, then restarting them.

They Won’t Turn On

Lights that won’t shut off are unpleasant enough, but what about lights that won’t turn on? One common cause when this happens is that artificial light is coming in from another resource and is simulating daylight, and stopping the sensor from working properly. Try to find where that light source is coming from and change the direction of the sensor to avoid that artificial light source.

They Flicker

The fundamental issues behind constantly flickering lights vary depending on a number of factors, including whether the problem is only occurring with a single bulb or more than one at a time. If it’s only a single bulb, thoroughly check it to see if it’s secure in its fitting. If it is, try replacing it with a new bulb. If that doesn’t work, call an electrician.

They Don’t Work in Bad Weather

This one isn’t as common as the other issues, but in the past we’ve had customers whose security lights have been faulty when the weather was rainy, or snowy. This is ordinarily the result of low quality motion sensors, which can be unpredictable in extreme hot or cold weather.

Security lighting is generally reliable and will provide years of safety at low energy costs. But if your security lighting is giving you headaches, call McCurdy Electrical Services today!

 

The Future of Electricity

January 12, 2015

Solar Cells one

At McCurdy Electrical Services, we like to take a progressive look at how our electrical system works in this day and age. This is a particularly interesting subject in our world today, because there is a good chance that the ways that we produce, distribute and use electricity are on the edge of drastic change.

 Keeping up with these changes is important because if we're going to be performing electrical work and perhaps upgrading electrical wiring or installing new lighting we want to be able to educate our customers about the best technologies and those are always the ones that are as future proof as possible.

 It is crucial to know something about the future of electricity as an electrician, because without this information we are unable to help our customers make educated decisions about whether to upgrade electrical wiring, install solar panels, or make any other major electrical modifications and improvements to their homes and businesses.

This is why we are very much aware of the changes that may possibly be coming in the very near future. There is a sayings that is often used these days ‘off-the-grid’. This phrase typically suggests a home which produces all (or most of) its own power and is then able to exist without the standard electrical system that most of us depend on.

 In the future, this kind of redistribution of electricity production may become even more common, especially as we switch from concentrated fossil fuel energy sources to green energy sources.

 What does that mean for you the consumer? It means that equipping your home for this kind of upgrade to your electrical wiring and adding power production capacity can increase your self-sufficiency and your flexibility to future electric and energy shocks which may develop. It also means that you should look into tax and other incentives for these kinds of upgrades which are either in place or coming in the near future.

 

Smoke Alarm vs. Carbon Monoxide Alarm

December 19, 2014

Smoke Alarm Detector

Statistics show that 30% of smoke alarms in North America are not maintained. Smoke alarms (also called smoke detectors) have been in widespread use since the late 1960’s and in the last few decades are required in all new homes and in some cases fire codes have required retrofitting them into homes. Recognizing smoke alarms are a requirement in a home inspection, but how do you know if yours is working?

What is the Difference between a Smoke Alarm and a Carbon Monoxide Alarm?

Both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are important life saving devices in your home, but they behave in a totally different manner.

Smoke Alarm

The primary function of a smoke alarm is to detect the early stages of a fire in the home and to alert the residents while they still have time to get out safely. The dangers of not having a smoke alarm are burns, suffocation, both leading, in the worst case scenario, to death.

Carbon Monoxide Alarm

A CO alarm measures the amount of CO gas in the home’s air and alerts residents when the levels are too high. CO is colorless, odorless and has an increasing effect on health. The health hazard of not having a CO detector is dizziness, headaches, nausea, and in the worst case scenario, convulsions, and death.

Combination Alarm

This alarm, includes both a smoke and CO detector in one device.

Where does Carbon Monoxide come from?

Carbon Monoxide is an ordinary exhaust gas from burning fuels. It is created in our homes by furnaces, boilers, and hot water tanks as well as gas ovens, car exhaust, and gas fireplaces. CO gas spreads equally in homes so alarms need to be placed on all living areas and mainly near bedrooms.

A professional home Inspector will inspect venting on utility equipment, fireplaces, and kitchen cooking equipment as well as look for an air tight seal between the house and garage. Nevertheless, not all CO defects are visible in an inspection and CO can occur at any time due to a system failure. Having a CO detector in your home is an excellent way to protect yourself and your family from this colorless and odorless gas.

Why Does My Smoke Alarm Always Go off When I’m Cooking?

There are two common types of smoke detectors.

Ionization

This type of alarm uses an air ionization process to electrically measure smoke in the air. The earliest signs of fire are immediate and while this is possibly an annoyance near kitchens due to false alarms from burning food, it is a benefit near bedrooms when people need the most warning of a fire to get out safely.

Photoelectric

This type of alarm looks for smoke hovering in the air. If you are suffering from false alarms due to cooking, replace the smoke detector with one of these alarms. Some alarms also have a silence button to silence false alarms. Never remove the battery from a smoke alarm or you risk not having a working alarm in a real fire.

Where Do I Need to Install Smoke and CO Alarms?

Codes for this vary by municipality, but smoke alarms should be at minimum on every level of the home and outside of bedrooms. idyllically, they should also be in every bedroom.

At minimum, a CO detector should be located near bedrooms yet the best recommendation is to have one on every level of the home and in each bedroom. Since the best procedure is to have both a smoke and CO alarm in all bedrooms, this is simply done with a combination smoke/CO alarm in each bedroom.

Batteries and Life Cycle Replacement

30% of smoke alarms installed in residential properties are not maintained correctly and this is primarily due to unit age and battery life.

Every 10 Years

The measurement equipment in smoke alarms deteriorates over time and as a result, and they need to be replaced every 10 years. Alarms with square 9-volt batteries should have batteries changed annually. A good way to remember this is to do it with the changing of your clocks for daylight savings time. Many newer smoke alarms have incorporated 10-year batteries which make them maintenance free as long as they are replaced every 10 years. Some smoke alarms are hard wired to the home or an alarm system so they never need batteries; Nonetheless, the alarms themselves still need changing every 10 years.

Every 7 Years

CO detection equipment last only 7 years. 

These units are generally run at power outlets which don’t need batteries changed, but there are battery operated detectors which require batteries changed about every year.

If you are having a home inspection done, your home inspector should be looking for smoke detectors at each level of the home and outside of bedrooms. Unfortunately, home inspectors cannot open alarms to confirm the alarm age or battery quality so always plan to replace batteries on move in day. In addition, check the date stamp on the equipment at that time to see if it needs replacement. CO detectors may be portable and many occupants take them when they leave. If so, buy CO detectors for your new home and install them on move in day.

 

Where to Mount That New TV?

December 16, 2014

With the Super Bowl fast approaching, many of you sport fans may be thinking about purchasing a new TV, especially a larger model. Prices really do drop ahead of the Big Game. Big screens run 5 to 10 percent cheaper during the week leading up to the Super Bowl than they are in the previous three months.

Whichever team you're rooting for, the Super Bowl has become a great excuse to go shopping for a new TV. Once you get that huge new TV home, you may be contemplating where to mount it.

You may seek creative ways to incorporate a TV into a space. How do you include that big box in your everyday life without it overpowering the room?

TV Mounted One


Some people have both a living room and a family room, which allows a separate space for casual TV viewing and a more formal space for sitting or entertaining. However, many households need to squeeze that television into just one main living space and a common solution among renters or homeowners is to mount the television above the mantel.

Mounting the television over the fireplace establishes one focal point instead of two, so it’s a sensible solution for that reason, since furniture can be arranged around that singular viewing zone.

One thing homeowners must plan for when mounting a television above a fireplace is the location of wiring. An electrician can assist with that and where to place the equipment and speakers and in the clever hiding of unattractive wires.

TV Mounts


A sure way to achieve balance is to closely align the size of the television screen with the size of the fireplace box. The temperature is always a concern for any television mounted above a fireplace, so take precautionary measures with framing and Sheetrock ensure the heat to the flat screen doesn’t rise above 90 degrees.

Opting for a gray frame when making a purchase is one way to help the television recede into a lighter background. Incorporating software that will project landscapes or other soothing images when it’s not in use is a clever way to make the television mimic artwork.

How big should your TV be? The answer often varies when you ask women and men. Most men prefer larger screens, especially the sports fans!

The general rule of thumb is that the distance from the television screen and your viewing spot should be between two to three times its width. Ex: with a 32” screen, sit between 5 ½ and 8 feet (96”) away for the best entertainment experience.