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)

Outdoor Lighting Tips for a Fabulous Fall Patio

The Triple Play
Make sure to incorporate these three basic types of lighting for an amazing look: ambient, task, and accent. Ambient lighting can be achieved through hanging lights, post lights, and wall lights. Task lighting includes things like pathway lighting and security lighting. And you can get accent outdoor lighting with landscape kits and spotlights that really make an outdoor space unique!

Do the Math
First, figure out exactly how much lighting you need. To determine how much light a space requires, try this quick calculation: multiply the square footage of the area you want to light by 1.5 to get a rough estimate of the total wattage required. For example, 100 square feet of space would require 150 watts. Or call the pros at Mister Sparky and we will make sure that your home’s system can handle it.

Use LED lighting
LED lights use far less energy than halogen or incandescent bulbs. Plus, they are almost maintenance-free, so you won’t have to change bulbs very often!

Go subtle
Make sure you go with lighting that gives off a soft glow. Outdoor rooms, especially dining areas, benefit from subtle, indirect lighting that helps create a nice mood.

Size it Right
You want to make sure you don’t choose fixtures that are too large-scale. You should check the size and position of a fixture by using a paper template to determine exact placement before buying. For either the front porch or the back patio, the size of an outdoor wall light should be approximately one-third the height of the door. Also make sure you’re choosing sturdy lighting that’s weather resistant.

Inside perspective
Take a look at your outdoor space from inside your home. This can help you decide on which lighting to choose and how to place it around your yard or outdoor area.

Security matters
Outdoor lighting not only provides ambience, but it can also add a great deal of security to your home. Make sure all entry points around your home are well lit including garage doors. For added security, illuminate any sides of the house that might have shadows by using spotlights installed on your eaves or use wall lanterns at side doors and windows.

Remember, electricity is not something you should mess with yourself! If you need help with planning or installing your lighting, call on the professional electricians at Mister Sparky. Make an appointment today!

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.

The truth about LED light bulbs

What’s the deal with LED light bulbs?

LEDs are the most energy efficient light bulbs on the market, and thanks to increased demand and expanded manufacturing, their prices have dropped considerably in recent years. Most LED bulbs now cost less than $10, and smart shoppers can usually find them for less than $5 each.

That price may still seem steep to someone accustomed to buying incandescent bulbs for $1 each, but LEDs are built to last for more than 20 years!

Other LED light bulb benefits

The affordability of LEDs isn’t the only thing that has changed. The array of colors, styles and features has expanded substantially, giving homeowners more choices than ever in the lighting effects they can achieve in their homes.

Colors like “soft white” and “warm white” are popular because they replicate that warm feeling of an incandescent bulb, which is what many consumers missed most when they switched to CFL bulbs. Some bulbs are even capable of displaying multiple colors and can be controlled with a remote.

The most sophisticated LEDs are equipped with smart technology so that they can be controlled from anywhere with a smartphone or tablet. The apps used to control these lights are also some of the most user-friendly interfaces for setting up detailed lighting schedules.

How to choose an LED light bulb

Picking out LEDs isn’t too different from choosing among incandescent bulbs, but there are some other key differences.

An important one is that while LEDs are labeled in watts to offer an idea of their energy consumption, that rating doesn’t correlate directly with brightness as with incandescents. LED brightness is measured in lumens, which will range from about 400 to about 2500 in most bulbs. A 100 watt incandescent is equivalent to about 1600 lumens.

It’s also important to make careful decisions when choosing LEDs for use with dimmers. If your dimmer is more than a few years old, it’s likely to be incompatible with most LEDs, and you’ll need to pick out special dimmer-friendly bulbs. You could also replace your dimmers with modern, LED-friendly versions, which allow you to dim any LEDs.

If you need help redesigning your lighting scheme in your home, or have any questions related to energy savings or electric safety in your home, contact the professionals at Mister Sparky today!

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!

What Light Bulb should I use?

Ever have trouble deciding which bulb to buy? What lasts longer vs. what is more cost effective? Here are some answers:

If you have incandescent lights around, you’ll notice a tungsten filament inside the bulb that heats up to produce the desired light. The heated filament (around 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit) produces a warm, yellowish light.

Standard incandescent lights are very similar to the ones invented by Thomas Edison in the 1800s. Yet they are far from efficient, only converting around 5-10% of the energy they consume into light. The remaining 90% of the energy gets lost to heat. This may feel like an OK trade-off in the winter when you want heat in your home, but in the summer, your air conditioner will have work harder to dissipate the extra heat.

Halogen lights still use a tungsten filament, but it is surrounded by a small amount of halogen gas (contained in a quartz capsule). This allows the heat to be used more efficiently, producing a more whitish glow than standard incandescent bulbs. If you like the glow of incandescent lights but want a more energy-efficient bulb, consider halogen lights. They work great for task and accent lighting.

If you have any fluorescent lights in your home, they are probably in the garage or laundry room. You can recognize them easily by the long glass tube that houses the electric current and the distinctive buzzing sound they make when switched on.

While older fluorescent lights are known for humming and flickering, modern fluorescent lights can get rid of these unwanted inconsistencies. Depending on which type of fluorescent light you have and how it was installed, they can last anywhere from 5,000 to 25,000 hours and output 2-10 times as much light per watt as an incandescent light.

While fluorescent lights can create nice, warm color tones, keep in mind that they contain small amounts of mercury and should NEVER be thrown away in the trash. They are also very fragile and have been known to break easily.

Compact Fluorescent
You may have heard of CFLs in the past couple of years when referring to more energy-efficient light bulbs. CFL stands for compact fluorescent lamp (or light).

They were designed to replace standard incandescent lights due to their improved performance, lower costs, longer lifespans, and smaller sizes. Usually, when homeowners and businesses are looking for ways to reduce energy costs and improve the lighting in their indoor spaces, they turn to either CFLs or LEDs since they last longer and offer greater energy savings.

When CFLs first came out, consumers were confused about which CFL to buy since you had to find one that fit the wattage and pin configurations. Recently, however, light bulb manufacturers have improved their designs to give customers more choice and knowledge in selecting CFL replacements.

Light Emitting Diode (LED)
When people normally talk about improving the energy efficiency of their lighting, they are thinking of LEDs. For many years, LEDs were used for exit signs, appliances, and digital displays. Now, they can be used for anything from flashlights to Christmas lights.

If you don’t like replacing your light bulbs, replace them with energy-efficient LEDs. And if you don’t like the whitish color temperature of LEDs, look for warm white LEDs for a warmer glow. LEDs now come in a wide variety of colors, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find one that fits your needs. Phillips Hue is a popular LED option because you can change the color range easily with the same bulb.

Keep in mind that when shopping for LEDs, the wattage will be completely different from what you may be used to with incandescent. Since wattage measures how much energy the light bulb draws and not “brightness,” the replacement LED will have a much lower wattage for an equivalent brightness. Look for lumens and degrees Kelvin to determine light output.

Lumens measure light output.

Kelvin measures the color of the light, or color temperature. The higher the Kelvin number, the cooler the color; a lower Kelvin numbers translates to a warmer color.

Watts are standard units of power of electrical power.