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Smoke Alarm vs. Carbon Monoxide Alarm

December 19, 2018

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.


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.


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, 2018

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.

Winter Brings Increased Fire Dangers -- Does Your Home Pass the Fire Safety Test?

December 8, 2018


Fire House Fire

During the upcoming winter months accidental house fires remain a serious safety threat to homeowners and their families, but the main causes of home fires are clear and so are the ways to prevent them. The best way to avoid them is to first acknowledge their roots.

Cooking and Hot Oil

According to the National Fire Protection Association, unattended cooking causes 40 percent of house fires and 36 percent of fire-related injuries.

When a pot or pan overheats or splatters greases, it can take only seconds to cause a fire. It is a good idea to mount a fire extinguisher where everyone can find it in the event of a cooking fire. Never try to extinguish oil fires with water, as this will only spread the fire over walls and counter tops.

Stay in the kitchen when cooking. Even if you leave the kitchen for a short period of time, turn the stove off. Keep combustibles like oven mitts, dishtowels and paper towels away from heat sources.

Electrical and Appliances

Lighting related electrical fires can be prevented by not exceeding the maximum light bulb wattage for your lamps. Exceeding the maximum wattage may cause the light to generate too much heat, igniting the lampshade. Never place anything over a lamp, such as cloth or paper, because these can heat up and start a fire.

Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords and do not run cords under rugs or furniture. Extension cords are meant for temporary use only. If you find that you are permanently using an extension cord, have an electrician install another outlet.

If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord. Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker.

Fireplaces and Wood stoves

Inspect and clean wood stove pipes and chimneys often to check for damage or obstructions. Never burn trash, paper or green wood. Use a fireplace screen heavy enough to stop rolling logs and big enough to cover the entire opening of the fireplace to catch flying sparks. Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed.

Portable Space Heaters

These types of heaters are very dangerous because of their small size and the fact that they can be easily knocked over, or moved too close to walls, furniture or fabrics.

Keep combustible objects at least three feet away from portable heating devices. Check to make sure the portable heater has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over. Don’t use your heaters to dry shoes or clothes.

Most homeowners take the basic steps to protect against fires, but there are flammable sources in homes that are commonly overlooked. By identifying and removing these fire hazards you can effectively take steps to protect your family and property.

Smoke Alarms

Be sure the smoke alarm has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.

Test alarms at least monthly by pushing the test button.

Install smoke alarms following manufacturer’s instructions high on a wall or on a ceiling. Save manufacturer’s instructions for testing and maintenance.

Replace batteries in all smoke alarms at least once a year. If an alarm “chirps”, warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.

Replace all smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they are 10 year old or sooner if they do not respond properly.

Alarms that are hard-wired (and include battery backup) must be installed by a qualified electrician.

Working Fire Alarms Save Lives

December 4, 2018

Fire Alarm


Fire alarm systems are electronic devices used in commercial businesses and in some residences. These systems are designed to help minimize the number of lives lost to fire and smoke emergencies, and also to help protect property and buildings from fire damage. Fire alarms come in a variety of designs, and are installed based on the requirements of an individual building.


The need for fire alarm systems is determined by local building codes. In most residences and small commercial buildings, a system of smoke detectors is usually adequate for fire protection. For larger commercial structures, a fire alarm system is virtually always required, yet the design and scope of the system varies from region to region. During the project design phase, the project architect or mechanical engineer will review local building codes to determine compliance. If they determine that a fire alarm system is required, a system will be designed in agreement with the Standards of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). NFPA Standard 72 covers fire alarm design and installation in the US, and has been adjusted with only minimal alterations by most municipal governments.


A fire alarm system consists of a number of different components. The core of the system is the control panel, which contains monitoring and control devices that affect all other alarm components. The panel is powered by a dedicated power supply, and then supported by a backup battery power source in case of emergency. The system is triggered when a manual alarm pull is used, or when smoke or heat detectors detect signs of a fire. On activation, a system of alerts is put in motion to alert occupants of the fire. These may include strobe lights, horns, buzzers, or verbal evacuation signals.

Types of Systems

Fire alarm systems may also be manual or automatic. Manual systems are operated through the use of pull handles, which may be installed behind a sheet of protective glass to prevent tampering. Most manual systems can also be triggered manually by means of a switch or button on the panel. Automatic systems use technology to sense fire danger. They will often feature heat, smoke, or fire detectors placed on ceilings or walls. Certain detectors can even sense non-fire related emergencies, such as toxic gases or chemicals. NFPA 72 ordains how many of these detectors must be used, and where they should be placed.

Types of Alert Devices

By tradition, audio alerts were the customary type of notification device used with fire alarm systems. They featured a buzzing or ringing sound that alerted occupants to fire danger. When the American With Disabilities Act was established in 1990, fire alarm standards were changed to include both visual and audio notification. This was implemented to accommodate the nearly ten percent of Americans who are hearing impaired. Visual signals may include a red or white flashing light, and are ordinarily built into the same device as the audio speaker. Meanwhile, NFPA has discovered that typical audio alerts are becoming ineffectual. Instead of buzzers or bells, NFPA 72 now requires that voice evacuation systems are used. These devices are far more efficient for fast evacuations, and can clear a building much quicker by combining exit instructions with the conventional fire warnings.

Auxiliary Devices

When a fire alarm is triggered, the foremost response is an attempt to evacuate the building. Contingent on the location of fire, though, this is not always possible. To help protect lives and property, auxiliary devices are automatically set into action as fire alarm alerts are taking place. Initially, any smoke or fire doors that are being held open by magnetic holds are electronically released. This prompts the doors to automatically close and latch, preventing the spread of smoke or fire past these openings. After that, the alarm system motions air duct controls to the presence of smoke. When this transpires, duct dampers will shut and fans will cease operation, helping to stop the spread of smoke to occupied spaces.

Fire Alarm Inspection

Fire Alarm Systems are required by law to have a yearly inspection and testing performed (NFPA 72).

For further information, or to schedule an inspection or consultation, please contact McCurdy Electrical Services. Ph. 781-595-7074 | Em. info@mccurdyelectric.com | www.mccurdyelectric.com


Protect your Home from Ice and Snow Damage

October 15, 2018


Ice Dam


Past winters, heavy snow and ice buildup have caused an eruption of roofs to collapse throughout the homes in the Northeast. After a fresh snowfall roofs are snow-capped and look beautiful, and quite charming. However, don’t be fooled by the beauty. Snow contains a great amount of weight, and the weight rises enormously when rain, ice and sleet are added to the mix. Approximately two feet of snow on an average sized roof can be the equivalent of 19 tons according to experts. Consequently, all of this weight places a enormous amount of stress on your roof and weakens its structures. Furthermore, the melting of the mass of snow can cause water leakage, then can decay roofs, destroy insulation, flood attics, ruin gutters and damage the interior of your home.

Before trying to remove snow from your roof, consider that clearing a roof can be a hazardous chore. Think before you decide to go on the roof with a shovel in hand to attempt doing it yourself.  Most experts don’t support the idea of people climbing onto their roofs to remove the buildup, as the weight of a person may be just enough to trigger the roof to collapse. Additionally, taking the wrong step can easily send you sliding down your roof, putting your life in danger.

Another destructive winter hazard to consider is ice dams. With another frigid New England winter ahead of us, homeowners should be aware that icicles hanging from the gutters can mean trouble. This could be a sign of serious damage occurring due to ice dams.

An ice dam is a wall of ice that forms at the edge of the roof, usually at the gutters or soffit.  When it forms, the water backs behind the ice dam and creates a pool.  This pool of water can leak into your home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and other areas.

The good news is there is a safe solution to ice dams, roof snow, as well as frozen pipes, icy driveways, and walkways. A line of self-regulating and mineral insulated freeze protection products provides freeze protection for metal or plastic pipes, roof and gutter de-icing, and slab de-icing for commercial and residential applications.

All freeze protection products can be controlled using a variety of thermostats, controllers, sensors, and control panels.

For installation, or for further information about all freeze protection products, please contact McCurdy Electrical Services today. phone: 781-595-7074 * email: info@mccurdyelectric.com


Consider Attic Fan for Year-Round Savings

July 10, 2017

Attic Fan One

Want to keep your home cool in the hot, summer months without having to go broke in the process? Attic fans are a great, inexpensive way to make your air conditioner more efficient and considerably lower your utility bills. Attics can reach 150 degrees or more in the summer, especially in hot locations like Arizona or Florida. To lessen the heat you can install an attic fan, which will pull in the outside air and force out the hot attic air, lowering your air conditioning bill by 20% or more.

The Cost

The cost of an electrical fan and installation is comparatively inexpensive, and once installed requires almost no maintenance. Furthermore, over time, an attic fan will keep you from having to spend money on roof maintenance, as heat can damage your shingles. You may see asphalt shingles with curled-up corners or bulges, both signs of a too-hot attic.

An electrical fan kit can cost between $80 and $450, depending on the size, number of blades, quality, and noise level. On the other hand, if you’re looking to save on operation costs and prefer green energy, solar-powered fans are also available, and generally cost between $350 and $800. Hiring an electrician to install your attic fan is recommended.

It’s also recommended to choose a fan with a thermostat, a standard feature on most fans today, which you can set to go on and off at certain temperatures so that your fan will only run when needed.

Depending on the style of your roof, you may need to hire a professional roofer to install a ledge or mounting surface on which to place the fan. Otherwise, a hole may need to be made in your roof within which the fan is placed, and this needs to be appropriately insulated.

Cooling Tips

Proper insulation and ventilation is an important factor in keeping your home as cool as possible. Without proper insulation a great amount of cool air will escape and be lost, and hot air will seep into the rest of your home. In the winter the reverse effect will occur, raising your heating bills.

Ventilation is also important, for both warm and cold seasons. During cold months inadequate venting can lead to moisture buildup, which, if not able to escape, can rot the entire roof. In the summer months, the stagnant, hot air will have no place to escape and will dry out roof supports. You can increase ventilation by installing gable, soffit and other roof vents.


Reasons Why a Generator Is a Good Investment

June 19, 2017



As a culture, we have come to rely on electric power, so it can be inconvenient, or even dangerous, when that power goes out. Even though they’re not necessary in every situation, a generator can be a lifesaver in some situations.

Here are three reasons to consider buying one:

Ride out the storm

If you live in a storm-prone area of the country—along the coast, or in Tornado country, your power may go out more often and for longer periods of time. Or perhaps you are connected to an older section of the electrical grid, which makes you more vulnerable to power outages. A generator provides you peace of mind in these circumstances, and your investment will pay off more quickly if you find yourself using your generator several times a year.

Protect the essentials

Owning a generator is not just about keeping the lights, computers and TV’s on while the rest of the neighborhood makes do with flashlights. For those living in extreme climates with children or the elderly, an extended power outage can be dangerous. A generator can keep the interior temperature in the safe zone. If your power is off for several days, a generator will also keep your fridge and freezer cold so your food won’t spoil.

Stay in business

Food isn’t the only essential item you could lose in a power outage. With approximately 14 million home-based businesses in the U.S., there’s a good chance you have sensitive business or personal data stored at home on a computer. A generator helps protect you against data loss, and can keep you in business during an extended outage.

Owning a generator may not be for everyone, but if you are in one of the situations above, there are affordable options to keep you up and running even while the power is out. McCurdy Electric specializes in generator sales, installation, and maintenance. For more information, please call 781-595-7074.

Aging Home Electrical Safety

May 13, 2017

Brown House

The age of the wiring in an old home is not the only part of the electrical system that can fail or become unsafe. It is a system that has numerous workings that have different functions. Many of the comments that we hear seem to suggest there are some misconceptions about what the term “updated” implies when an aging house has had some recent electrical work.

 We see many real estate listings describing that the “electrical is completely updated.” What we usually find is the old fuse box has just been replaced with a circuit breaker panel. We also intermittently see property disclosure statements that say “old knob and tube wiring replaced.” Close examination often reveals that most of the easily accessible old wiring in the basement was replaced, but is then spliced into the old wiring, just before going up into the walls. It’s fairly common to find the knob and tube wiring still active throughout the rest of the house, with many safety concerns still imminent.

 Here are some of the most common problems that we find regarding aging electrical systems:

 Service Entry Cable

The line from the overhead wires to the meter and from the meter to the main panel has a protective sleeve that is always exposed to the elements. Older systems have a cloth covering that is often frayed or totally worn through. Some early vinyl sleeves crack and crumble when frequently exposed to direct sunlight. These conditions can allow water to enter the service cable, which then drains into the electrical equipment enclosures. Enough deterioration of the cable covering can expose the individual conductors inside to become damaged.

 Distribution Equipment

 Fuse boxes are a sign of an old electrical system. We don’t consider fuses to be inferior to circuit breakers. They are pretty reliable at doing their job. The problem is that when fused systems were common, there wasn't as many electrical devices in homes and fewer individual circuits were needed. These small panels are frequently stuffed with more circuits than they were designed for, creating unsafe conditions. When older small panels are stuffed full, there are often one or more subpanels added to accommodate the additional added circuits. We seldom find subpanels wired correctly.

 Branch Circuits

 In addition to knob and tube wiring, there can be issues with newer types of wiring. Early wiring did not have a ground conductor, just hot and neutral. Grounding wasn't required until the 1960's. Think of a grounding system as a safety net of the electrical system. Older wires have been exposed to potential damage and abrasion. Previous changes and remodeling could have caused damage to conductors and connections.

 Fixtures, Outlets and Switches

The frequent plugging in of all of our electrical and electronic devices eventually wears out the contacts in outlets. We sometimes discover that owners try to create the illusion of an updated electrical system by installing new three-slot, grounding type outlets in an ungrounded system. Switches are subject to wear and mechanical failure. Fixtures are regularly changed by homeowners with no professional electrician training and limited skills. These are just a few of the more common issues with a major system. This is when fails can cause severe injury, loss of property and life. The most important thing to contemplate is having the electrical system professionally inspected and any repairs, changes or updates performed by a very experienced, licensed electrician.

Wiring a Hot Tub or Spa

April 28, 2016

hot tub

The wiring of hot tubs and portable spas is a complex process to comprehend, particularly if you are unaware of the equipment and devices. There are a number of things to contemplate before having your hot tub or spa wired and the person you choose to perform the wiring needs to be reliable. In almost all jurisdictions, the wiring of a hot tub and spa must be completed by a licensed and insured electrical contractor.

Just in case you are not persuaded, here are a few reasons clarifying why the wiring cannot be performed by the owner or an unlicensed professional:

Wiring a hot tub could result in electrocution, if the wiring was performed incorrectly.

If the individual is a professional, but is unlicensed, they are virtually not responsible for any accidents or damages to your hot tub or spa during the wiring process.

Any unlicensed individual who attempts to perform the wiring without a license runs the risk of being fined, or sued for performing the job without a license.

Furthermore, unless you are planning to get your electrician’s license, there is really no reason to spend the time trying to figure it out.

The best advice we can give to a homeowner is do not do this yourself. It can be fatal if you make one wrong  move. Remember, when we're talking about water and electricity, they don't mix.  For hot tub and spa wiring experts call (781-595-7074) J.P. McCurdy Electrical Services for a free estimate and consultation. 

New AFCI Requirements for 2014’s National Electrical Code

April 3, 2016

House with Plug

Keeping electrical wiring up to date is a crucial part of home upkeep, but one that is often overlooked as much of a home’s electrical system are hidden in the walls. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) approximates that nearly 13% of home fires are electrical in derivation and about half have occurred from an electrical arc in the home’s wiring.

AFCI’s (Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupters) are devised to detect an electrical arc inside the wall and de-energize the circuit if it sees the fault striking repeatedly. Arc faults are different from other electrical surges, with a low current that doesn't trip the breaker, resulting in recurring arcs that melt the wire insulation and can cause fire. Installation of AFCI’s is especially important in older homes. As wiring ages, it’s more apt to have an arc.

AFCI’s are not new. They were first required in 1999 but were limited only to the wall outlets in bedrooms. NEC expanded in 2002 to include lights and switches in bedrooms. In 2008 the NEC expanded once again, requiring AFCIs in most rooms except the kitchen, bathroom, garage, laundry and exterior where GFCI’s (Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupters) were more common.

The 2014 requirements extend into the kitchen and laundry and more notably, require all AFCI outlets or circuit breakers to be “readily accessible.” This signifies that outlets hidden behind the refrigerator are no longer acceptable.

Homeowners should be knowledgeable of the new requirements as they will influence any modification in preparation for sale or remodel.  Any changes to branch circuit wiring will be subject to the new rules, even if you are simply adding one outlet or moving a can-light.

Regardless of the cost of upgrades, having AFCI’s in your home is like having an electrical inspector on-site at all times. AFCI’s detect bizarre electrical glitches that are undetectable by regular breakers and shut off that circuit. Last but not least the peace of mind that comes with safe wiring is immeasurable.