Electrical Services Category


Installing Light Fixtures: When You Need a Pro

Are installing light fixtures a DIY project or something better left to a qualified pro? In certain circumstances, simply replacing an existing fixture with another of the exact same type and wiring is doable yourself if you’re handy and follow basic electrical safety rules. In other cases, however, a trained professional is the better choice for installing light fixtures when certain variables make the job unsafe, or ancillary issues like recessing ceiling fixtures require the expertise of an experienced installer.

installing light fixturesHere are some typical instances where you need a pro:

  • Complex junction boxes

    While installation to simple three-wire light junction boxes can be safe if you take care to turn off the circuit breaker to the box, some junction boxes incorporate additional wiring connected to different circuits. Even if you shut off the circuit breaker that controls that specific light, you still risk serious electric shock if you accidentally contact wiring from a different circuit routed through the same junction box. A professional has the test equipment to sort out wiring inside complex junction boxes and do the job safely.

  • Incompatible fixtures

    Today’s new light fixtures may not be safe to connect to pre-1985 residential wiring which does not carry the proper rating. New fixtures display a warning label that specifies household wiring rated for at least 90 degrees Centigrade. Wiring in homes built before 1985 does not meet this specification. In this event, a qualified electrician will need to identify and recommend a different fixture that generates less heat or replace wiring to that circuit. Either way, it’s a job for a professional.

  • Recessed fixture issues

    Because light fixtures recessed into the ceiling may contact insulation installed in the attic floor, critical safety measures must be observed to eliminate the fire hazard. Not all fixtures are rated for insulation contact. Only certain low-temperature fixtures are safe for this purpose, and installation of shields, as well as other work in the attic, may also be required to ensure safety.

For a professional service installing light fixtures in your Cincinnati home, contact the electrical professionals at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.

 


Preventing Damage to Your Electrical System from Rodents

One of the frequent calls we get for electrical services in Cincinnati is for problems stemming from rodent electrical damage. Rats, mice and squirrels like to munch on electrical wiring routed through attics and inside wall voids. Experiments to formulate wire insulation that was distasteful to rodents have been largely unsuccessful. Therefore, most experts believe it’s not because rodents like the taste of wiring, but probably an instinct to sharpen their teeth.

Rodent Chewing Wiring Hazards

rodent electrical damageWhatever the reason, chewed wiring is no laughing matter. It can cause electrical outages and dangerous short circuits. It’s believed that rodent damage may be a major reason for house fires in which no other definite cause can be determined. To reduce the likelihood that you’ll need electrical services in Cincinnati to repair rodent damage to wiring, here are some suggestions to prevent it:

Tips to Prevent Rodent Damage to Wiring

  • Seal exterior holes and crevices that allow rodents into your attic or the interior of wall spaces. Typically, they enter to escape winter cold, then breed indoors. Depending on the size of the hole, spray foam insulation or masonry repair may be used to fill it. For large holes in drywall, the material will need to be patched.
  • Cut back tree limbs within 10 feet of your roof or the siding of your home. Squirrels can easily jump that far and rats are adept at leaping down from higher limbs that extend above the roof.
  • Inspect and clean attics and crawl spaces at regular intervals. Your occasional presence in these often neglected areas can discourage rodents from nesting. It also provides the opportunity to notice early signs of rodents before the population becomes very large.
  • Get a wiring evaluation by a professional. A qualified electrician knows the routing of house wiring and how to access and inspect all spans to check for telltale signs of rodent damage. Also make sure to inform an electrician of any electrical problems, like unexplained outages in parts of the house or tripped circuit breakers.

For electrical services in Cincinnati to deal with rodent damage to wiring, contact Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.


3 Things to Consider Before You Convert Your Garage

The decision to convert your garage could be motivated by any number of reasons: from installing a family recreation room or home theater, to creating an independent living space for another occupant such as an aging parent, to simply adding additional usable square footage to a home you’ve outgrown. A garage conversion is usually not a major building project—but it’s not a small DIY matter, either. A successful outcome depends on taking into account many factors before you finalize plans with qualified contractors. Here are three considerations to think about before you convert your garage:

convert your garageWhat About HVAC?

If your house has central heating and cooling, you may opt to extend the ductwork into the conversion. Conversely, you may go with an alternative such as a ductless mini-split heat pump to heat and cool the limited area without ductwork. Another HVAC-related item that must be considered early is insulation. If your existing garage isn’t insulated (many aren’t), insulation will be required inside wall voids and above the ceiling.

Plumbing and Electricity

If the conversion incorporates a bathroom and/or kitchen facilities, plumbing services including water supply lines and drain pipes must be considered early. Because drain pipes will usually be set into the existing slab, this must be one of the very first issues tackled when conversion work begins. Electrical wiring must also be routed through walls before they are covered, another item that must be properly sequenced in the overall conversion process in order to avoid conflicts.

Code Compliance

Specific steps are required in advance of construction and at the conclusion of the project to ensure compliance with local laws. Blueprints must be submitted for approval and a building permit issued before beginning work. In most locales, hiring a qualified building contractor as well as a licensed electrician, plumber and HVAC contractor are mandatory. After the work is completed, the entire project must be inspected by a building inspector and, if deficiencies are noted, they must be corrected before the structure is approved.

For professional services to convert your garage, contact Apollo Home.

 


The Latest in Surge Protection Technology

Power surges have always existed, but the need for effective surge protection is much greater than ever today. The reason is simply because the number of electronic devices in the home are greater than ever and those devices typically incorporate circuitry and microprocessors that are highly sensitive to voltage fluctuations. Power surges are transient spikes in voltage that usually last only a few millionths of a second but can permanently damage vulnerable electronics.

surge protectionSurges may result from sources like lightning strikes or spikes in voltage due to widespread events on the grid—such as when normal power is restored after a blackout. Power surges may also originate entirely within the house when a large appliance drawing high amounts of amperage switches on or when a malfunction such as a short circuit occurs. Effective home surge protection technology requires a two-tiered approach.

Service Entrance Protection

These are “whole house” surge protection devices installed by a professional electrician at your main electrical panel or at the meter. They constantly monitor incoming utility power to protect all devices in your home against power surges that occur on the grid. Today, a service entrance protection device typically includes connections for phone lines and cable TV and satellite dish lines, too, to guard against surges entering the house on these systems.

Point Of Use Protection

These are the familiar plug-in suppressors utilized to protect individual devices such as home entertainment technology, computers and network equipment like routers. A point of use surge suppressor protects only the single device plugged into it and offers no protection to other devices in the house.

You Need Both

For comprehensive surge protection, both types of suppressors should be utilized. Though service entrance protection safeguards grid power, it doesn’t protect against fluctuations that occur due to sources inside the house. For that, plug-ins are required. On the other hand, plug-ins alone are not rated to protect against severe surges from external sources like lightning or utility fluctuations, so service entrance protectors are necessary, as well.

For professional installation surge protection technology in your home, contact Apollo Home.

 


4 Ways to Stay Safe in a Power Outage

A power outage can be more than inconvenient. It also presents certain safety hazards. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the frequency of power outages has remained stable in the U.S. in recent years, but the average duration of each outage has gotten steadily longer. In other words, if the grid does go down, it may stay down for an extended time. So will your household electricity, including lights, HVAC, the refrigerator, communications technology and all other electrical circuits. Here are four important tips to stay safe during a power outage.

  • Hurricane SuppliesBe prepared. Take steps to deal with the loss of power before it happens. Put together a household emergency kit with flashlights, batteries and a portable radio as well as enough food and water for three days. (Don’t count on municipal water if the outage is widespread and lengthy.) Food in the refrigerator section should be safe for up to four hours while food in the freezer is generally safe for about 24 hours.
  • Take care with generators. If you own a portable generator, it must be moved a safe distance from the house during operation to avoid the danger of deadly carbon monoxide poisoning. If you use extension cords to connect to the generator, use cords rated for outside use and be careful of electrocution hazards in wet weather.
  • Stay warm in winter. Relocate everyone into a single room for more warmth and put on extra layers of clothes. Wrap children and yourself in blankets. Move around to increase body heat. Know where blankets and sleeping bags are stored for quick access.
  • Know when to leave. If the power outage is extended, it may be preferable to relocate to a municipal shelter or motel, or to relatives or friends in locations where power is still available. This is particularly true in cold weather conditions and/or where elderly persons or very young children are affected. Secure the house and be careful driving if traffic signals and street lights are out.

For more information about dealing with a power outage in your home, contact the licensed professionals at Apollo Home.


Tripped Breakers: Causes & Solutions

The on/off switches inside your breaker box are automatic circuit breakers. Invented to replace old-school fuses that had to be discarded when blown, when a circuit breaker “trips” (automatically switches to the off position) electrical power flowing to the circuit controlled by that breaker shuts off. A sign of a tripped breaker switch is when multiple electrical components plugged into different outlets lose power at the same time, or when a single major appliance is suddenly without electricity.

breaker boxHere are three common causes of a tripped circuit breaker:

Circuit Overload

Each circuit in your house is designed to handle a certain volume of electrical flow, measured in amps. When too many electrical devices are connected to one circuit, or when one device is malfunctioning and drawing excessive current, the affected circuit breaker will automatically shut off to protect the wiring as well as other devices. Shifting some devices to another circuit by plugging them into other outlets may redistribute the load and resolve the problem. If the breaker trips again, leave it off and call a qualified electrician immediately.

Short Circuit

When a hot (white) wire and a neutral (black) wire touch anywhere in a circuit, a short occurs that will cause the circuit breaker to trip. Inspect extension cords and power cords to all devices on the affected circuit looking for melting, frayed wiring or other conditions that could indicate a short. If you can’t identify any obvious cause, there may be a short in the internal wiring of the house that could be a fire hazard. Don’t continue to reset the circuit breaker. Contact an electrician.

Defective Breaker

Old circuit breakers sometimes become flaky and spontaneously trip due to wear and tear. An electrician can measure the current flow to isolate whether the problem is in the circuit or due to a worn-out breaker. Replacing a defective circuit breaker is a straightforward procedure for a qualified electrician but should be left to a professional for safety reasons.

For professional diagnosis and repair of tripped breakers inside your breaker box, contact Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.


Recessed Lighting: The Pros and Cons

During a home makeover, kitchen lighting is often on the agenda. Kitchens impose special lighting needs, quite different from a bedroom or a den. The brightness and temperature of the bulbs as well as the focus of the light are important in the cooking environment. Also, cleaning is often an issue as kitchens produce humidity, smoke and fumes that may accumulate on light fixtures and dim the illumination. In general, the choice of kitchen lights begins with a decision about whether to install recessed lighting or standard fixtures, particularly where new LED lights are desired.

shutterstock_60864787Here are some of the pros and cons of opting for recessed lighting in a kitchen:

Pros

  • Recessed fixtures emit light in a more focused area that concentrates lighting, usually the perfect choice for performing specific tasks such as food preparation and cooking.
  • Because the bulb is fully recessed into the housing, which is embedded in the ceiling, it’s less exposed to dust, smoke and humidity and requires less frequent cleaning.
  • Recessed lights provide an uncluttered look and don’t disturb the contour of the ceiling like external fixtures do. This clean, seamless appearance is particularly aesthetic in a kitchen environment. Once recessed lights are turned off, the fixtures almost seem to disappear.

Cons

  • Because the light fixture penetrates the ceiling, installation of recessed lights is generally more complicated than adding an external light fixture on the ceiling. Attention must be given to routing electrical wiring as well as the location of joists in the ceiling to properly place the lights.
  • For safety reasons, recessed lights that may come into contact with attic insulation above the ceiling must be specifically rated for that use.
  • Recessed lights are a permanent installation and not portable. If you sell the house and move, you can’t take them with you.
  • Certain ceiling materials such as ornamented plaster, concrete, or ceilings with a complex contour aren’t a good choice for installation of recessed lights.

Ask the professionals at Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing for more information about options for kitchen lighting.


Is Whole-House Surge Protection Necessary?

When thinking about options for an electrical wiring upgrade in your home, the issue of adequate surge suppression is an important consideration. Power surges are brief spikes in the electrical power entering your home. Though they occur in less than a blink of an eye, the intensity of increased voltage can damage electrical devices connected to your wiring. Inexpensive plug-in surge suppressors offer some protection. However, individual suppressors should be considered as a second layer of protection after a whole-house surge suppressor has been installed.

electrical wiring upgradeA whole-house surge protector installed by a qualified professional electrician at your main electrical panel continuously “sniffs” incoming electricity before it enters household circuits. If a surge is detected, the suppressor automatically diverts the dangerously high voltage to ground to protect all electrical appliances and devices. Here’s why whole-house protection is necessary:

  • Lightning strikes pose a major threat to expensive electrical components. In fact, lightning is the most frequent cause of damage to central air conditioners, requiring replacement of the entire unit. Lightning need not directly strike your house to inflict damage—a nearby strike can send an intense surge through power lines and into your home circuits. Plug-in suppressors alone are often insufficient to guard against a voltage spike caused by lightning. A whole-house suppressor instantly blocks the surge from entering home circuits to provide comprehensive lightning protection.
  • Other outside sources of power surges also require protection at the main electrical panel. These include voltage spikes that frequently occur when grid power is restored after a blackout, as well as surges due to downed power lines in a storm.
  • Individual plug-in suppressors can’t protect electronics that aren’t plugged in to begin with. Many expensive electrical devices, including major appliances like stoves, washers and dishwashers, as well as HVAC equipment including central A/C and furnace components, are hard-wired directly into your house electrical circuits. Only a whole-house suppressor that protects all circuits from surges originating outside the house can protect hard-wired devices.

For more details about an electrical wiring upgrade including the benefits of whole-house surge suppression, contact Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.

 


Avoiding Electrical Hazards from Holiday Decorations

It’s the season for home safety when using holiday lights or illuminated decorations. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, about two-thirds of Americans use indoor decorative lights and half of those put up outdoor lights or lit decorations, too. Additionally, ESFI statistics show that electrical fires and shock injuries spike this time of year. Here are a few safety tips to make sure the coming season is full of good cheer and not causing holiday electrical hazards in your home.

home safetyIndoor Decorations

  • Buy decorative electrical lights made by name-brand manufacturers and from reputable retail outlets.
  • Make sure the lights you purchase are approved by UL or other recognized consumer testing laboratory.
  • Don’t connect more than three strands of incandescent lights together into a single string.
  • Consider buying LED holiday lights—they draw less energy than incandescent bulbs and stay cooler.
  • Make sure light strings aren’t pinched by opening and closing of doors, crushed under heavy furniture or damaged by attaching to walls with staples or other restraints.
  • When decorating with lights indoors, plan your layout taking advantage of nearby outlets without using extension cords.
  • Always turn off all electrical decorations when leaving the house or going to bed.

Outdoor Decorations

  • All extension cords, lights and illuminated decorations should be rated for use outdoors.
  • Plug outdoor lights or decorations into ground fault-protected outlets (GFCI) to eliminate shock hazard in wet weather.
  • If your home doesn’t have GFCI outlets, portable adapters can be purchased and plugged into standard outlets.
  • Secure outdoor light strings so constant wind motion doesn’t break insulation and cause shorts.
  • Route extension cords and light strings so they won’t come in contact with standing water or snow on the ground.
  • If you utilize spotlights to illuminate decorations, make sure they are ventilated to prevent over-heating and not placed near flammable materials.
  • When installing outdoor electrical lights or decorations, use non-conductive wooden or fiberglass ladders, not metal.
  • Turn off outdoor decorations when leaving the house or going to bed.

Ask the pros at Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing for more tips about electrical home safety this holiday season.


Does Your Home Need a Bigger Breaker Box?

All homes either have a fuse or circuit breaker box into which all the wiring in the home runs. The purpose of the box is to house the fuses or circuit breakers that trip when the electrical load exceeds the circuit’s capacity. The fuse will burn out or the breaker will trip to prevent electrical fires.

breaker boxOlder homes are far more likely to need larger boxes, since decades ago, far fewer appliances and devices were in use than they are today. Now it’s not uncommon for homes to have multiple refrigerators or freezers, cooking appliances, hair dryers, and other high voltage appliances in use daily.

The Existing Box Is Full

Room air conditioners, refrigerators, and freezers may plug into a standard electrical outlet, but to be safe, they should be on a dedicated circuit. They may not run continuously, but when they share a circuit breaker with other outlets and switches, that particular circuit could be overloaded. If your existing box doesn’t have room, it’s less expensive and safer to replace the box with a larger one than it is to add another box, also called a subpanel.

Converting from gas appliances to electric is another common reason for adding more circuits to an existing box. Electric dryers, stoves, central air conditioners, and water heaters require their own circuit, since they draw considerable power.

A Burned Bus Bar

A bus bar in a circuit breaker box is a strip of copper or copper-aluminum alloy that may be damaged when the power load exceeds its capacity, from a power surge, or lightning strike. In order to use that circuit again, you’ll have to replace it with a new box. While it doesn’t necessarily require a larger box, it’s usually a good idea to increase the size to ensure that you’ll have room for expansion in the future.

The licensed electricians at Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing can help you determine whether you need a larger breaker box for your home. We’ve provided trusted home services for homeowners in the greater Cincinnati area since 1910.