Category Archives: Electric Upgrades

Do It Yourself Electrical Projects

Small Projects You Can Do Safely

Dimmer switch installation

The majority of homeowners refrain from do-it-yourself electrical repairs and upgrades, and for the most part, this is the right decision. However, there are a few simple projects that homeowners with the right tools, knowledge, and verification of local codes can absolutely tackle on their own. And if you are not confident trying them on your own, a licensed professional electrician will happily take care of it for you.

Turn Off the Power

Before you tackle any project, there is one thing you absolutely must do in order to ensure a safely completed project. SHUT OFF THE ELECTRICITY! If you are working on an appliance that can be unplugged, unplug it! If you are working on something that is wired into your house, like light switches or outlets, shut off the breaker! And if you aren’t sure you have shut off the right breaker, turn off the main power. After you are sure you have shut off the power to your project, check it again. The pride you feel in completing a project will be more than slightly dimmed if you find yourself in the hospital because you got electrocuted in the process.

Switching Switch Plates

The first and possibly simplest project you can undertake is changing out your switch plates and outlet covers. It may seem like a small thing, but changing the plain white covers with something more decorative and appropriate to your design style can make a huge change in your living area. And all this job requires is the new hardware and a screwdriver.

While you have the old switch plate removed, you can consider changing your switch itself. Maybe the switch has gone bad, or you want a new style of switch, or perhaps you want to install a dimmer. Determine what type of switch you are trying to replace. Single-pole switches control one light fixture from one switch location. Three-way switches control a single fixture from two switch locations, for example your basement light which can be controlled from the top of the stairs or right inside the door from the garage. Dimmer switches are available in each of these types of switch. Talk to the experts at a hardware store to make sure you have purchased the correct switches.

Changing Outlets

Changing the outlets is similar to changing a light switch. Again, you will need to make sure you have the correct type of outlet. Ungrounded outlets (with only two holes) are found most frequently in older houses. Grounded outlets are the three-holed outlets that we are most used to seeing. Ground-fault circuit interrupters (more commonly referred to as GFCI outlets) have a built in fault mechanism that detect electrical imbalance and are more typically found in moist areas like bathrooms, kitchens, and garages and workshops. It is important to remember, though, that if you need to upgrade your outlets from an ungrounded outlet to a grounded one, this becomes a more complicated project and it is recommended that you to call an electrician.

Light Fixtures and Ceiling Fans

Some more advanced projects that can be done yourself with the proper knowledge are changing existing light fixtures and installing ceiling fans. The challenge with these is to make sure that your fixtures are installed with a properly rated electrical junction box in the ceiling and the right hardware to keep the fixture safely on the ceiling and not falling on the people under it. If you are at all unsure about your skills at this project, the safest solution would be to call a licensed electrician.

Since there is one piece of advice that can’t be emphasized enough, it is again important to say SHUT OFF THE ELECTRICITY before you take on any of these projects. Good luck and be safe.

Is It Time To Upgrade Your Electrical Panel?

Upgrading Your Electrical Panel

The average Pittsburgh household’s energy use has increased significantly over the past several decades. This is due in part to the increase of electronic devices such as computers and printers, kitchen appliances designed for convenience, and the number of entertainment equipment in the average home. According to data from Electricity Local, residential electricity consumption in Pennsylvania averages 837 kWh/month, ranking 32nd in the nation.

With a number of older homes present in a city such as Pittsburgh, there are still houses that utilize the “older” electrical panels which make use of fuses as opposed to circuit breakers. If this is the case, it is essential to update the electrical panel by a licensed electrician, as these types of panels are considered a fire hazard, with many insurance companies refusing to insure the property.

Electric Panel

If you are considering adding onto your home, such as a patio/porch area or home addition, or are having a hot tub or air conditioning system which requires a lot of power, your current electrical panel may not provide sufficient energy to power these, which will cause your electrical needs to exceed your amp capacity, tripping your circuit breakers.

Even so, a circuit breaker panel that is more than ten years old may have difficulty meeting the increased demand for power in your home. As stated above, the average Pittsburgh household uses significantly more energy today than in the past, and the circuit panel can become overworked trying to keep up with your current electrical usage.

In addition, your electrical panel is a complex yet essential component of your household, and just like any device, particularly one that is used as frequently as it is, it will eventually require replacing. It is common in older electrical panels to have issues with corrosion, as well as mechanical wear in the breakers that can prevent them from properly tripping. If this is the case, there is the potential for igniting a fire, and it is crucial to have your electrical panel upgraded to provide for your current electrical needs.

Other common reasons for upgrading your electrical panel include:

  • Irreparable damage to existing electrical panel
  • Existing panel can no longer provide adequate power for electrical service upgrades
  • Additional outlets are installed throughout the property
  • Homeowners insurance requires an electrical panel replacement for liability reasons

If this is the case, it is important to contact a professional electrician. It is not recommended that installing an electrical panel be “Do-It-Yourself project. Any major electrical work that is done, whether it be for residential or commercial use, requires a licensed electrician, who has the knowledge and the experience to ensure that the new panel is matched to the needs of your property and presents no safety risks.

Hufnagel Electric, Pittsburgh’s, one of Pittsburgh area’s highest rated electrical contractors on Angie’s List, has the expertise to ensure that you receive the proper service for your electrical panel upgrade or replacement. Our commitment to quality and customer satisfaction means that we employ only experienced, licensed and trained electricians, to ensure that the job is done right the first time. If you are having problems with your current electrical panel, or feel that you may need an upgrade or replacement, contact us today for a free estimate.