Home Electrical Tips for a Safer Holiday Season

It’s that time of year that we all tend to channel our inner Clark Griswold and decorate the house with “thousands of twinkling lights”. But, decorators beware! According to the National Fire Protection Association, holiday lights and other decorative lighting with line voltage are involved in an estimated average of 160 home structure fires each year, causing an average of nine civilian deaths, 13 civilian injuries, and $9 million in direct property damage. Electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in two-thirds of those fires.  In addition, 12 percent of home candle fires occurred in December; which is 1.5 times the monthly average the rest of the year.

When planning and implementing your lighting design, keep these holiday lighting safety tips in mind to help reduce your risk of property damage, injury or death.

  • Unlike incandescent bulbs which generate most of their energy in heat, LEDs are cool to the touch—which also indicates greater energy-efficiency, not to mention safer for little hands!
  • LEDs are made with epoxy lenses, not glass and are much more durable.
  • When hanging lights outdoors, use a wooden or fiberglass ladder
  • Turn off all indoor and outdoor holiday lighting before leaving the house or going to bed.
  • Never drape anything over a light bulb or lamp shade.
  • Avoid using candles when possible. Consider using battery-operated candles in place of traditional candles.
  • Never leave an open flame unattended. Keep burning candles within sight.
  • Extinguish all candles before you leave the room or go to bed.
  • Place lighted candles away from combustible material and areas where they might be knocked over.
  • Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens.
  • Keep candles away from other decorations and wrapping paper.  Do not burn wrapping paper.

Keep these tips in mind and have a much merrier holiday season!

And as always, it’s a great idea to have an electrical safety inspection by your friends at Mister Sparky!

Source: Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI)

Tips to Save on Home Energy Use during the Holidays

Dreaming of a “Green” Christmas?

Tips to Save on Home Energy Use during the Holidays

  1. In the past, we have blogged about how you can keep your home safer during the holidays while decorating with lights. Of course, if you do decide to channel your inner Clark Griswold, then make sure you use LED holiday lights. On average, LED lights use about 90% less electricity than traditional decorative lights do. They’re not expensive either, so homeowners will actually save money in the long run by replacing the traditional lights they already have… not to mention you won’t spend all weekend untangling them!
  2. Timing is everything! If you’re like a lot of folks and love driving up to your home after work and gazing upon all of those beautiful twinkling lights, you don’t have to leave them on all day. Instead, put all your holiday lights on timers. One of the quickest ways to burn through your electricity usage is to leave your decorative lights on constantly. A timer will turn them on right when you want them on… and off before you go to bed without having to remember to do it yourself.
  3. Whether you have an electric heat pump or a natural gas furnace, you can save quite a bit of money by installing a programmable thermostat. Like the holiday light timer, installing a programmable thermostat will ensure that your heat isn’t running at full capacity when it doesn’t need to be. For example, when you’re at work during the day, a programmable thermostat will turn the heat down for you.
  4. If you go over the river and through the woods to visit Grandma during the holidays, make sure you unplug what are called “phantom” energy users before leaving town. Most electronics use energy if they’re plugged in, even if they’re not turned on. You can save energy by simply unplugging things like your TVs, computers, printers and DVD players before you leave town for the holidays. This can also prevent them from becoming damaged by a power surge while you’re gone too. Of course, the best way to avoid this is to invest in a surge protection solution for your home.
  5. Just like your thermostat, you can also save dollars by lowering your water heater temperature.Turning your water heater temperature down by just 10 degrees can save you approximately 3-5% in energy costs. So, changing it from 140 degrees to 120 degrees can save up to 10% of otherwise wasted energy. Not to mention that this could help prevent Uncle Charlie from howling out loud after accidentally scalding himself in the shower!

Take advantage of these energy-saving tips, and you should breathe a bit easier when those January bills roll in! For more information on how to make sure your home is as safe as it can be, especially when it comes to electricity, have the experts at Mister Sparky conduct a home safety inspection. It just might ensure your holidays are as enjoyable as they should be!

Light up your life… by adding lighting to your home in Aberdeen and surrounding areas

Let’s face it. A brighter outlook starts with a brighter environment. By lighting up the space around us, we feel more secure, safer, and more positive.

That brighter outlook can begin at home, literally, by adding lighting to spaces in your house that will modernize your living space, save energy, and enhance the value of your home.

Here are a few types of lighting that may be just the ticket to brighten things up a bit around the house:

Under-Cabinet Lights
Brighten up your kitchen or living room the subtle, mood-setting power of under-cabinet lighting. These lights help to illuminate any work space and are fully functional – as well as stylish. Depending on your needs, or room layout, these lights are typically easy to install.

Pendant Lights
These lights are typically used in areas such as the dining room or kitchen where you are looking to add direct lighting. But pendant lights can be used in any part of your home if they are positioned correctly.

Recessed Lighting
For a bit of a modern touch to your home the answer may be recessed lighting. Recessed lighting is ideal for entertainment rooms, dining rooms and great rooms – any space that might benefit from subtle, indirect lighting. In today’s homes, recessed lighting has become the fixture of choice for a variety of rooms.

Chandeliers are back in style and let you add add a bit of opulence to your foyer or entryway or great room. These light fixtures are ideal for high ceilings and large spaces. Modern chandeliers come in a variety of classic and contemporary designs and finishes like bright brass, rubbed bronze, or copper-colored styles.

Smart Lights
You control everything else with your smart phone… why not the lights in your home! This is a great choice when it comes to providing a safe solution if you need to enter a room or climb stairs and the switch is at the other end of the room or at the bottom of the steps. Some work with smart phones or with devices such as Siri or Alexa. Imagine being able to turn off lights in a room without having to go upstairs or holler at the kids to turn off the hall light!

Find out more about how you can brighten things up around your home with a call to Mister Sparky. We’ll help recommend the ideal lighting for your home and offer a safe and proper installation.

Holiday lights and the safety risks they bring

Holiday lights can brighten the season but they also present potential risk for fire and shock hazards. Holiday lights and other decorative lighting contribute to an estimated 150 home structure fires per year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in 64 percent of the fires.

Reduce the risk of fire and shock from holiday lights by taking these steps recommended by the Consumer Product Safety Commission:

  • Use indoor and outdoor lights that conform with safety standards and that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Use only lights that have plugs containing fuses.
  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
  • Ensure extension cords are rated for the intended use.
  • Forego electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
  • Check labels before using lights outdoors to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
  • Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles.
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples (not nails or tacks) to hold strings in place. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
  • Turn off all holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or tug on lights – this could cause stress on the connections that could create a fire hazard.
  • Plug outdoor electric lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to protect against electric shock. Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can also be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.

Follow these tips and make sure you have the brightest holiday season ever! For questions or concerns about your home and its electricity, call the experts at Mister Sparky or make an appointment here for a safety inspection.

Christmas Light Safety Tips

There are several things you need to do to ensure that your Christmas lights are safe before you hang them up.

  • Verify Proper Rating – Bargain lights aren’t a good deal if they pose a fire hazard. Only use lights that have been tested and rated by Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL). Strings of lights that have a safety rating are clearly marked, both on the packaging and with labels attached to the electrical cords.
  • Check for Fraying – When you remove your holiday lights from storage, check the cords to make sure they are not frayed or otherwise damaged. Hanging lights with damaged cords can lead to an electrical short. This can damage your other lights and holiday decorations, as well as potentially lead to a fire. If you discover damaged strings of lights, throw them away.
  • Use as Directed – There is a big difference between indoor holiday lights and outdoor holiday lights. Before hanging lights, make sure that you are using the fixtures only in the environment in which they were designed to be used.
  • Choose Locations Carefully – Avoid hanging holiday lights near any item that poses a potential fire hazard, such as candles, space heaters, fireplaces, etc. Make sure bulbs aren’t too close too loose paper or any other flammable materials.
  • Hang Carefully – Never use tacks, staples, or nails to hang up your holiday light display. Instead, use insulated holders designed especially for this purpose.

Once the Lights are in Place

Holiday light safety doesn’t end once the lights are up and ready to go.

  • Select Extension Cords Wisely – There’s a good chance that you are going to need extension cords to complete your holiday lighting display. Make sure you have a sufficient quantity and length of grounded extension cords for the amount of the lights you plan to use. Do not overload extension cords with more wattage than they are designed to accommodate. It’s also important to verify that any extension cords you are planning to use outside are rated for exterior use.
  • Place Extension Cords Properly – Make sure that cords are placed so as to avoid posing a tripping hazard. Verify that they are not pulled taut, so there isn’t an elevated risk of them pulling over your Christmas tree or other decorations.
  • Turn Lights Off When Away – Do not leave holiday lights on when your house is unattended or when everyone in the home is asleep. In the event that a problem develops with your light display, it’s essential that someone be on hand and alert to react quickly to avoid damage, a serious fire, and injuries.
  • Bulb Replacement – When bulbs burn out, it’s important to replace them right away. It’s dangerous to have light strings plugged in with empty sockets. Be sure that the replacement bulbs you select are the correct wattage.

May you and yours have a safe and wonderful Holiday Season!

Why your outdoor GFCI keeps tripping

Why your outdoor GFCI keeps tripping and ruining your Halloween display.

Nothing is more frustrating than when you go to the trouble of setting up the best Halloween display on the block… then you turn on the lights and your GFCI trips. It’s a downright spooky feeling!

A GFCI is one of the most common residential, commercial, and industrial safety devices. The most common types are single-phase electrical outlets used in households near water sources, such as in kitchens, bathrooms, and outdoor receptacles. They are there for your safety, so when one keeps tripping, it’s time to get it checked out.

Most likely, your outdoor GFCI outlet is tripping due to one of these problems:

  • There’s a ground fault somewhere in the circuit.
  • Moisture invaded the receptacle box.
  • The GFCI outlet is faulty.

So, how do you know which one is your problem? Don’t worry. We’ll show you how to determine what’s tripping your outdoor GFCI outlet and what you can do to fix it.

Just call the experts at Mister Sparky and let us take the scare out of your Halloween display frustration. Make an appointment or call 410-457-7297.



Use a qualified electrician to add outdoor lighting around your home

nightimeoutdoor lighting

You may have noticed that it’s not staying as light as late as it used to in the early evening… which means it’s time to think about outdoor lighting around your home. Lights along a pathway, above a garage or patio, or illuminating your front porch can not only add beauty to your home but it can make your home safer too.

The one thing we all know as northern Maryland’s electrical experts is how to always put safety first. The safety of our customers and their homes is our number one priority at Mister Sparky. So when you are considering adding outdoor lighting around your home, call us first at 410-457-7297.

By adding lighting to the exterior of your home, you are:

  1. Reducing the likelihood of accidents by illuminating pathways and porches, keeping both family and guests aware of what is around them at all times.
  2. Warding off potential thieves; burglars love a nice dark home with no lights around doors or windows as it minimizes the chances of them being detected by neighbors. Particularly, motion detection lights can scare off would-be intruders and provide peace of mind to homeowners.

And, of course, any time you add new lighting to your home, you are increasing the curb appeal and thus the potential value of your home. From the subtle style of a well-placed coach light above the garage to a flood light that shines over a pool area at night, make sure you hire a professional electrician to perform the work.

That will guarantee the job is done right and keep you safe from the dangers of electrocution. Have your home’s electrical system inspected by the highly-trained professionals at Mister Sparky. It’s easy and it might just save a life!

Visit our page on outdoor lighting for more information. Then schedule an appointment with your Mister Sparky electrician today!

Edison Bulbs Save Energy and Look Great

Whether you’re remodeling or simply updating any room, the type of lighting you choose is key to setting the right mood. If you’re ready to adopt a contemporary-retro look, consider Edison light bulbs and fixtures. Inspired by the look of Thomas Edison’s original invention, these bulbs create a unique ambient glow that brings century-old charm into even the most modern residences. Use them in rubbed bronze fixtures for a nostalgic feel, and hang in globes above stone countertops to add an elegant touch. The possibilities are endless when you combine yesterday’s style with today’s designs.

Want to add this timeless look to your home? Let Mister Sparky install your new fixtures safely and beautifully.