Category Archives: Electrical Safety

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.

Summertime Electrical Safety Tips

Stay Safe During Summer Fun

Summertime is practically upon us. Most of our kids (and teachers) are counting down the days until school is out and three months of freedom begin. We spend out summer enjoying ourselves, indulging in outdoor activities like picnics and swimming. It is important to remember, though, that as we move our fun outdoors we have to be aware of the dangers summertime outdoor electricity can pose to us and our children. Check out these tips that can ensure that you have a fun, safe, and happy summer!

Remember that Electricity and Water Don’t Mix…Ever

Who doesn’t daydream about sitting in a lounge chair by the pool with a cool drink and some even cooler tunes? Your feet are up, your sunglasses are on, your friends and loved ones are splashing in the pool and, for that matter, splashing everything within a 10-foot perimeter of the pool deck! When you take your mini fridge outside to keep your sodas cool and not have to go all the way back into the kitchen for another, make sure that you have it plugged in far enough from any water sources (pool, sprinkler, hot tub) that the electrical connection can’t get wet. The same goes for bringing your radio outside for the tunes, or your blender for some cool frozen drinks. Not only should all of your outdoor outlets have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI), they must be weather-resistant GFCI receptacles. These receptacles are marked with a “WR”. Remember not to touch any outdoor appliances while you, yourself, are wet. No quicker way to dampen the spirits (pun intended) of your backyard party than an electrical accident. You have better things to do with your summer than ride in an ambulance!

Stay Away From Power Lines

Whether they are up on a pole, connected to your house, or lying on the ground, power lines are NOT your friend. Always assume that any and all power lines are live and dangerous. Don’t touch a power line…PERIOD. Don’t touch it with any part of your body, don’t touch it with a stick or a toy, don’t throw your tied-together shoes up there, DON’T TOUCH IT. Fly your kite in a wide open field away from power lines. Don’t climb trees that are too close to power lines. And while we are talking about climbing, don’t climb power poles or towers either. Why risk spending your glorious summer months in the hospital with serious electrical burns when you could simply…say it with me now…stay away from power lines.

Get Grounded

Using a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter can help prevent electrocutions and electrical shock injuries. Portable GFCIs are easy to install and require no tools. And they can be purchased at very reasonable prices ranging from $12 to $30. Electrical devices like GFCIs, electrical receptacles, switches, plugs, and outlets can be damaged if they get wet. It is important to replace any of these if they become very wet or submerged. Protect them by using outlet covers near outdoor water sources. According to the National Electric Code (NEC), all exterior receptacles must be enclosed with a heavy duty “in-use cover”. And while you’re at it, protect your home by making sure all of your indoor appliances are plugged into grounded outlets and not extension cords. And make sure you have GFCI outlets in all of your wet areas inside your home. Your bathroom, kitchen, basement, even your garage, can be very vulnerable to moisture in the outlets. Make sure you have a safe and secure home to retreat into when the heat outside gets to be too much. Ground it! Any electrical devices and appliances that will be near water sources, “you’re grounded!”

In the event that an electrical emergency does happen, know where your circuit breakers are, and know how to quickly and safely turn them off. If you have any questions about how to keep your family safe and happy during the fun summertime months, please call a certified electrician like the ones at Hufnagel Electric for sound expert advice. And above all, have a great summer!

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.