Avoiding Summer Electrical Issues
The Heat Goes On
Ah, yes, the summer season is upon us. It’s time for swimming, boating and, of course, firing up the bar-be-que. However, as we kick back and embrace the summer weather, the season also causes a lot of aggravation for homeowners, especially when it comes to all things electrical.
Let’s face it; the warmer weather can place extra strain on your electrical system, so with this in mind, let’s take a look at some common electrical issues and a few tips on what you can do to avoid them.
Are You Electric Mindful?
It’s a fact that continually running your air conditioner can eventually cause problems. However, there is no substitute if you want to keep cool, right? Wrong. By practicing electrical mindfulness, you can cut down on the energy drain in your home, allowing you to run you’re A/C for more extended periods of time without burning out your system. Here are a couple of tips to help ease electrical issues:
- Set your air conditioner thermostat for as high as is comfortable for you and your family. If you’re out of the house, leave the thermostat at a reasonable temperature so when you arrive back home, the time it takes for the system to cool down the home to your level of comfort is much shorter. According to the U.S Department of Energy, setting the thermostat at 78 degrees while you’re not at home will save you the most money on your energy bills.
- Replace central air conditioning filters monthly for the most efficient operation. The U.S. Department of Energy says that replacing a dirty filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by as much as 5 to 10 percent. Not only will it save you some cash on your energy bills, but it also can save on your heating and cooling system. A dirty filter will hamper your airflow, causing your system to work harder. This will cause wear and can trigger issues that possibly require costly repairs. Also, constant wear on your system will lower its lifespan. So, do yourself and your heating and air system a favor, don’t forget to change the filters! Many HVAC companies will offer a filter service, providing quality filters as well as installation services for those hard to reach screens. Just contact J&A South for additional filter services.
- Be sure to have any portable air conditioning units securely positioned, and cords tucked away. These are tripping hazards and could lead to either electrical shock or a heavy unit falling. It’s also important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on maintaining and servicing the unit to prevent damage to your home’s electrical system and personal injury.
- When it comes to cutting down on AC wear and tear, keeping your curtains and shades closed can make a big difference. While many people love to enjoy the bright and sunny days of summer, it’s best to avoid the hot rays of the sun when you’re indoors to help keep the temperatures in your home down. Not only will this allow your air conditioner to automatically cut down on operation time with a lower temperature reading, but it will also help you avoid feeling like you need to turn the AC on at all.
A/C Fact: At the Florida hospital where he works, Dr. John Gorrie builds an ice-making machine that uses compression to make buckets of ice and then blows air over them. He patents the idea in 1851, imagining his invention cooling buildings all over the world. But without any financial backing, his dream melts away.
Okay, so it’s a sweltering day, and you’ve got you’re A/C on full blast, the beer fridge is cooling down nicely, and the pool pump decides it’s time to kick on. Suddenly, everything grinds to a halt as the power trips out. A tripped circuit breaker is often a sign of an electrical overload. The switch will automatically cut off the electric current to prevent the wires from overheating and possibly causing a fire.
Circuit breakers serve the same function as older model fuse boxes and are generally located in the same areas of the home but are easier to reset. Also, unlike fuses, breakers can be used more than once.
Circuit breakers look like small light switches and are usually organized in rows of two to eight or more that run vertically or horizontally. When a breaker is tripped, the switch-shaped button is forced down, up, right or left, depending on how it was installed. You can quickly locate the affected breaker by running your hand along the row of breakers and determining the one that is out of line with the others. To reset it, press the switch to bring it in alignment with the rest.
Know when to call an electrician.
There are, however, specific scenarios that will require you to contact your electrical contractor.
- If you find that a particular switch in your circuit breaker is frequently tripping, this could be a sign that your wiring is faulty. By updating your wiring with the help of your electrician, you can improve the performance of your circuit breaker.
- If you see rust stains or corrosion on the panel or wiring, you likely have a moisture problem that needs addressing by a professional. Any source of water, whether humidity, a dripping faucet or water entering from a frayed main service wire, can do severe damage to an electrical panel. To avoid corrosion within the panel itself, any source of moisture must be removed.
Circuit Breaker Fact: Thomas Edison developed the idea for a circuit breaker in 1879, sketched different concepts in his scientific journals and patented the idea the same year. In 1900, Granville Woods improved upon the design and invented the automatic circuit breaker. Woods was a self-taught inventor who patented many ideas for the railroad industry. His fame stems from devising a way for a train station to communicate directly with train conductors. He became a challenge for Edison who thought that Woods was operating too close to his space of telegraphy. Edison sued Woods on the grounds of infringement but lost the case.
It Might Be the Aluminum
If your house was built between the 1950s and 1970s (which is so typical of many homes in the Pittsburgh area) and you don’t know or aren’t sure if there have been any electrical upgrades in that time, there’s a strong chance that you might have aluminum wiring. While that may not pose a huge electrical issue in and of itself, the fact is aluminum wiring hates climate changes. Consequently, it contracts in winter and expands in summer. Over time, continual expansion and contraction can cause issues like rusty or faulty wiring, and as you might expect, problems are going to occur when you use it the most – of course, in the summer.
If you suspect you have aluminum wiring or aren’t sure when you last had a re-wire, contact the professionals at J&A South Park. They’ll come around and take a look.
Power On, Power Off in Summer Storms
Although there is mostly pleasant weather, as we know, the hotter summer months can also bring with them their fair share of stormy weather and the potential for power surges and outages.
We have become so highly dependent upon electricity in our daily routine that a power outage is debilitating to many of us. From the pure loss of lighting to more pressing issues like our food spoiling and suffering with the indoor heat – the level of inconvenience experienced with the electricity goes out is immeasurable.
If and when you do experience a power outage, keep refrigerators and freezers closed, to keep food fresh. If the outage is prolonged, consider wrapping blankets around these appliances to provide extra insulation. Air conditioners should be turned off and do not turn them back on for several minutes after the restoration of power.
Your electricity supplier should be notified if you use life support equipment in your home. You will be given priority service.
Power surges can also occur because of lightning storms. If the surges are excessive, they can, over time, result in electrical fires. For this reason, you should turn off and unplug appliances and devices during a lightning storm.
If your area does happen to get its fair share of lightning storms, then it’s may be best to invest in the install of a whole home surge protector. It could save you thousands of dollars in the long term, especially when you have to start replacing expensive equipment due to problematic power surges.
Storm Fact: We look at clouds floating effortlessly through the sky and don’t think about the sheer amount of weight hanging above our heads. One cumulus cloud can weigh more than 1 million pounds. When it comes to a billowing thunderstorm, though, the weight can increase tremendously depending on how much rain it’s holding. We’re lucky the rain doesn’t all fall at once.
Be Careful Outside, Too
With summer comes plenty of outdoor activities. And with them comes a variety of circumstances where we need to be aware of our surroundings and the threat of potential electrical issues.
- Ensure all your outdoor electrical receptacles around the exterior of your home or tool shed are covered, clean and dry. This is especially important around pools, spas and other summer water activities. If water or dirt enters the outlet, it could result in electrical surges and shocks when the outlet is next used. Receptacle covers can be conveniently purchased at most home renovation stores.
- Keep all power cords, string lights and electrical devices at least 10 feet away from swimming pools, hot tubs or sprinklers. Summer can lend itself to a lot of splashing and water flying through the air. If water comes into contact with an electrical device, there is a high risk of electrical shock. Do your best to keep electrical devices at a distance from the pool and water fights. And never handle electrical devices when you are wet. In fact, if possible, use battery operated electrical devices outside.
- Use ground fault circuit interrupters for electrical devices used outside to help prevent electric shock injuries. Portable GFCIs require no tools to install and are available at prices ranging from $12 to $30.
- We’ve discussed this in previous blogs, but it cannot be overemphasized. Stay away from power lines with your body, toys, sticks or anything an electrical current could travel down. Power lines transport extremely high voltage electrical energy. Venturing too close to a power line can create an opportunity for the electricity to flow to your body or object, resulting in serious injury, even death. If you see a fallen power line, call 911 immediately.
Pool fact: Covering 30 acres, the pool at the Citystars Sharm El Sheik resort in Egypt is the biggest in the world. It took 21 days to fill and is the Guinness World Record holder.
Summer’s are Fleeting, Electrical Safety is Forever
Frozen treats, dips in the pool and air conditioning are what summers are made of, however, if you see any signs of a power struggle in your home, be sure to contact your electrician. Being proactive in the maintenance of your home’s electrical work will help to keep both your home cool and your appliances working properly, but most of all, it will keep your family safe from electrical accidents. Remember, by investing a little time (and a little money) now on maintaining your electrical infrastructure; you can really enjoy the rest of the summer without an (electrical) care in the world.