Category Archives: Electrical

4 Rules for Electrical Safety after a Flood 9/17

If your home or business is located in a floodplain or near a river in Washington State, and floodwaters run into your ground floor or crawlspace, there are several things to think about before cleaning up the mess. Here’s what you need to know to stay safe.
Everyone is in a hurry to get things back to normal after a disaster such as a flood. It seems Western Washington flooding has increased in severity in recent years due to climate change, but when it comes to electrical safety, it pays to step back and carefully evaluate things before moving ahead with any work. If your house has been severely damaged by floodwaters, here are some helpful hints to help keep you safe:

1. Never go into a flood-damaged basement or a crawlspace filled with water until the utility company, fire department, or a licensed electrician has disconnected the home’s electrical meter. Removing the meter from the socket is the only way the house can be completely disconnected from the grid. Even if you’ve lost power, you can still be electrocuted in a flooded basement if someone is running a generator nearby and back-feeding electricity into a storm damaged grid. You can’t count on a storm-damaged circuit breaker or disconnect switch to protect you. The only safe way is to remove the meter.

2. Once all of the water is pumped out and recovery efforts begin, keep in mind that all flooded electrical equipment is almost certainly damaged or irreparable. Very few things in a house are rated to survive water submersion, even for a short time. The following items will almost certainly need to be replaced:
Plastic-sheathed building wire (Romex), Armored cable (BX cable), Circuit panels, sub panels and circuit breakers, Fuse boxes and fuses, Switched disconnect boxes and switches, Outlet receptacles, Motors, Circuit boards, Non-submersible pumps, Blowers and fans, Lights, Heaters, Air conditioners, Furnaces and Boilers.
A licensed air conditioning or a heating/cooling contractor can advise you whether your heating or cooling equipment can be salvaged. It depends upon the type of equipment, the depth of the floodwaters, and the duration of submersion. Many people try to salvage appliances such as dehumidifiers, refrigerators, and freezers that have been in flooded basements, but they can be extremely dangerous to operate after they’ve been flooded.

3: Pay increased attention to grounding and bonding, and after the flood ask an electrician to conduct a thorough survey the system.
There are two aspects to every home’s electrical system: the parts designed to carry electrical current during normal operation, and the parts designed to carry current safely to ground should something go wrong. The latter is known as the home’s grounding and bonding system and it can be severely damaged by floodwaters. Only a licensed electrician is equipped and trained to evaluate the damage. All metal components of a home’s electrical system should be carefully and replaced if necessary. For example, metal electrical boxes that have been submerged may rust and the rust on the box prevents an adequate connection to the home’s grounding system.

4. Even after the building is fully disconnected from the grid, never go into a flooded building alone. Put on chest waders, and bring a bright flashlight that clips to your hat or your waders so you don’t have to carry it. But most importantly, have someone standing by in case you need help. Flooded buildings are dark, slippery, and disorienting. It’s easy to get hurt or even drown in one.

Smoke Alarms and Smoke Detectors in the Home

Smoke alarms can save lives. Smoke alarms that are properly installed and maintained properly play a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries. If there is a fire in your home, smoke spreads fast and you need smoke alarms to give you enough warning and time to get out. 

Here’s what everyone needs to know.

  • A closed door may slow the spread of smoke, heat and fire. Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room and outside each separate sleeping area. Install alarms on every level of the home. 
  • Smoke alarms should be interconnected. When one sounds, they all sound. 
  • Large homes may need extra smoke alarms.
  • Test your smoke alarms at least once a month. Press the test button to be sure the alarm is working.
  • There are two kinds of alarms. Ionization smoke alarms are quicker to warn about flaming fires. Photoelectric alarms are quicker to warn about smoldering fires. It is best to use of both types of alarms in the home.
  • When a smoke alarm sounds, get outside and stay outside.
  • Replace all smoke alarms in your home every 10 years.

 Facts and figures about smoke alarms

·         In 2009-2013, smoke alarms sounded in more than half (53%) of the home fires reported to U.S. fire departments.
·         Three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms (38%) or no working smoke alarms (21%).
·         No smoke alarms were present in almost two out of every five (38%) home fire deaths.  
·         The death rate per 100 reported home fires was more than twice as high in homes that did not have any working smoke alarms compared to the rate in homes with working smoke alarms (1.18 deaths vs. 0.53 deaths per 100 fires).
·         In fires in which the smoke alarms were present but did not operate, almost half (46%) of the smoke alarms had missing or disconnected batteries. 
·         Dead batteries caused one-quarter (24%) of the smoke alarm failures.

Please check out the National Fire Protection Association for more information.

Energy-Saving Projects to Take On This Spring

1) HVAC inspection/routine maintenance/tune up/change filter

Your HVAC system should be inspected by a professional twice a year.  See if you can find the original installer or check online for a factory recommended service company.  Spring is a great time to have an inspector come out but between inspections, replacing the air filter and inspecting the refrigerant lines can help conserve energy and keep your system in proper working order.

2) Bedroom

Even though you sleep most of the time you’re in there, it is still a very important room. During the hot months, many people turn the air conditioner way down so they can be comfortable at night. This wastes a lot of energy, and this is reflected in increased energy bills. That is where the ceiling fans can be a helpful addition.

Ceiling fans help circulate cool air in the summer by pushing cooled air downward.  In the winter, you can reverse the blade direction to push the cool air upward and mix with the warm air. By doing this, you’re able to be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter while saving some energy.

Quick energy saving tip: A ceiling fan cools people, but not the room itself. It’s only cooling the body, so leaving a fan on when you’re not in the room only wastes electricity.  You can save more energy if you remember to turn it off when leaving the room.

Another easy improvement is with lighting. Replace all your old incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs. They use less energy and last longer – saving on your electricity bills now and in your replacement budget later.

3) Attic

For a home improvement project that creates instant improvements to your energy efficiency, we recommend adding insulation in your attic. The energy savings you’ll experience depends on how much insulation is already in your attic and how old it is.

Insulation helps save energy because it acts as a barrier that keeps heat in during the winter and heat out during the summer. In order to maximize the efficiency of adding insulation, it’s best to air seal your attic to prevent air leaks first before adding the insulation. You can do this by caulking, sealing, and weather stripping all seams, cracks, and openings to the outside in your attic.

The main sources of air leaks in your attic are around the chimney flashing, all ducts, the attic entrance, any recessed lighting, and a dropped ceiling. Once the air leaks are filled, then it’s time to add the insulation. To determine if your home needs insulation, you can either hire a qualified home energy auditor who will do an entire home energy assessment for you or you can inspect it yourself. If you do decide to do the inspection yourself, you need to determine the following: Where your home needs to be insulated, the thickness and the R-value of your current insulation, and the type of insulation you already have.  The R-value is a measurement for insulation’s resistance to heat flow and the higher the value the greater the effectiveness.

4) Living Room

When I think of the living room, the first things that come to mind are comfort, emtertaining and electronics.  A simple way to help with your energy bills is to upgrade your electronics with models that have received the “Energy Star” rating, which most every new model on the market comes with. This labeling showcases devices that reduce energy consumption without reducing the quality of the product.

Quick energy saving tip: Remember to turn off lights and electronics when you’re not using them. Contrary to what you might expect, even in stand-by mode those items still consume electricity unless they are completely shut off.  If you are looking for less expensive options, just like in the bedroom, you can adopt the same tips for the living room as well. Use/install a ceiling fan and switch to LED lighting.

Home Electrical Safety Tips: Part II

Here are some other electrical danger signs to look out for:


Lights that flicker or that trip the circuit breaker

Cause: Loose wiring splice or a light fixture that’s worn out and needs to be replaced.

Solution: Cut power to the fixture and investigate the supply wiring and the fixture itself. Replace wire connectors with new professional-grade types. Replace the fixture if suspect.

Outlets with a faceplate that’s warm to the touch

Cause: An overly large electrical load operating on that outlet, undersized wiring or a loose electrical splice.   It is not unusual for dimmer switches, especially large ones, to be warm. Unless the switch face is actually too hot to touch, a warm dimmer is not a hazard in most cases.

Solution: Cut power and investigate. Look for a loose splice, melted connections, burnt insulation. Repair as necessary. Also, evaluate wattage of device; it may be too large relative to supply wiring. Move device to another circuit, preferably one served by a 20-amp circuit breaker and 12-gauge wire. If condition persists, contact an electrician.

Extension cords wrapped in electrical tape or with loose ends

Cause: Wear and tear has taken its toll on the cord.

Solution: Cut off damaged sections of cords; replace loose or damaged male/female ends. Replace severely damaged cords.

Wobbly switches or outlet receptacles

Cause: Device is improperly mounted to the electrical box or the box itself has come loose from the stud.

Solution: Cut power. Remove faceplate and tighten mounting screws. Occasionally, overly long screws will not fully seat. Shorten screws with an electrician’s multi-tool (a pair of pliers that strip wire, bend wire and cut screws). Reinstall device. Otherwise, tighten connection of box to framing.

Ceiling fans that slowly wobble

Cause: Fan is out of balance or may be installed on a box that’s not listed for supporting a fan.

Solution: Balance fan or cut power and reinstall fan, checking for loose, damaged or missing hardware. If necessary, replace box. Use a retrofit/old-work box rated for fan installation (note: These are not to be confused with old-work boxes or other electrical boxes not listed for fan installation. Specialized retrofit boxes rated for fans tend not to be common hardware-store or home-center items. Visit an electrical supply house or use a Web-based supplier.

GFCI outlets that trip repeatedly

Cause: A ground fault or a worn-out GFCI outlet receptacle.

Solution: Move appliance or tool to another GFCI and test. If GFCI trips, appliance or tool is suspect. If GFCI does not trip, electrical problems are likely. Cut power and investigate for damaged wire insulation, a loose splice or a small length of exposed wire making contact with a metal electrical box. If you don’t find wiring or splice problems, replace the GFCI. If condition persists, contact an electrician.

The beer fridge or extra freezer in the garage that occasionally gives you a small shock

Cause: Many an old refrigerator will have a tiny leakage current because of worn-out insulation on its internal wiring, especially if it has a defrost circuit. This phenomenon is well-known and can even be quite dangerous when the refrigerator is placed on an electrically conductive concrete floor, especially a floor that’s damp with condensation.

Solution: Replace the refrigerator with a new energy-conserving model.

Home Electrical Safety Tips: Part I

An estimated 25,900 residential building electrical fires were reported to fire departments within the United States each year. These fires caused an estimated 280 deaths, 1,125 injuries and $1.1 billion in property loss.  The leading factors contributing to the ignition of residential building electrical fires were other electrical failure, malfunction (41 percent), unspecified short-circuit arc (25 percent), and short-circuit arc from defective, worn insulation (12 percent).  Smoke alarms were present in 50 percent and automatic extinguishing systems were present in 2 percent of electrical fires that occurred in occupied residential buildings.  Remember to always have smoke detectors and make sure to test them monthly.  Here are some other things every home owner should know how to do:

Listen to your breaker

A breaker that trips immediately after it is reset is alerting you that there is an electrical problem.  Sometimes the breaker itself is to blame and in some cases there may just be too large of an electrical load operating on that circuit.  However it is more likely that the breaker is tripping because there is a severe electrical problem.  If you keep flipping that breaker, the fault may cause a panel fire.

Know when to fight and when to flee.

Firefighters recommend that if you have any doubt about fighting a fire, you’re best bet is to get out of the house as quickly as possible. Once you’re safely outside, call the fire department. If you decide that there’s a reasonable chance that you can fight a fire and win, then stand your ground, but don’t let the fire get between you and the exit.

Never throw water on an electrical fire.

Going for a water bucket or hose at the first sight of fire is natural, but not a good choice in the case of an electrical fire.  Water conducts electricity (this is why you don’t want to be in a lake during a lightning storm), so throwing water on the fire could cause it to get larger. Instead, use a chemical fire extinguisher that can be purchased at most hardware stores.

Use your fire extinguisher effectively.  The first thing to do is to make sure the fire extinguisher charge date has not expired.  If it has, either replace or recharge it immediately. 

Also follow the PASS method:

*Pull the fire extinguisher’s safety pin.

*Aim the extinguisher nozzle at the base of the fire.

*Squeeze the extinguisher’s handle.

*Sweep the extinguisher’s nozzle in a side-to-side motion until the flames are out.

The most important thing is to be safe and remember to call 911 because the fire department is always the best option when a fire occurs.

Get Prepared For Fall Unexpected Fall Weather

Wind Storms and Power Outages

wind storm

The Puget Sound Region gets some beautiful autumn weather well into late October.   However, the occasional wind storm can cause power outages in almost every part of King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties that can last from several days or even weeks.  An important step in getting ready for fall, is to prepare your generator for the inevitable fall wind storms that the Puget Sound Region should be used to by now. Get ready for power outages by inspecting your generator for corrosion, changing the oil, inspect/change the air filter, and filling the gas tank. A B&G electrical professional can provide a more thorough generator evaluation to ensure that you’re prepared for storm season. Regular maintenance ensures safe and reliable generator performance and provides safety if and when the power goes out.

Also remember to test your home’s GFCI outlets.  Use a “tester” from the local hardware store, or just plug in a lamp phone charger. If an outlet isn’t working, it may be a loose wire, or a sign of a bigger problem.  Plug in the electrical device and press the “Test” button on the front of the outlet between the top and bottom plug receiver. The lamp or device should turn off.  If the GFCI is working properly, the device should turn on again when you press the “Reset” button. If GFCI’s or other outlets do not appear to be working properly or if cords feel hot to the touch when you plug or unplug them, don’t hesitate to call B&G Electrical Contracting for a free estimate today!



Summertime Electrical Overload

Summer is a time to relax and enjoy the sun for people in the Puget Sound Region. But for your home’s electric system, summer is a very stressful time. Many residences run an air conditioner frequently to try and keep the heat to a comfortable level. When a lot of people run their air conditioners simultaneously, the electric grid and your home’s electric system can become stressed. This leads to blackouts, brownouts, and even fires and electric shocks. 


This summer, the B&G Property Maintenance and Electrical Contracting encourages you to do your part to keep our electric system stress-free. 

Be mindful of how you are using electricity and try to use electricity in off peak hours. Most electricity is demanded in the middle of the day. If you can hold off running your electricity until later in the evening, you can save money and ease electrical stress. Washing machines and dryers, the oven and the dish washer also use a lot of energy.

Have your air conditioner inspected and prepared for summer. An electrician should verify that your air conditioner is fit for the summer months, and it should be thoroughly cleaned before you run it.

Consider an electric inspection, especially if you live in an older home.  B&G’s qualified electrical staff can alert you to safety hazards and give you suggestions for improvements. 

Know the signs of electrical stress and safety hazards. If your lights flicker, electronics shut off, or circuits trip, you either have a problem with your home electrical system. If you are running any appliances that take lots of electricity, shut them off and unplug them from the outlet. If this problem continues, contact a qualified electrician for an inspection.

No matter the season or age of a home, residents should be vigilant and continually check for electrical hazards such as cracked or fraying electrical cords, overloaded outlets and circuits, and improper wattage light bulbs in lamps and light fixtures. Also, make sure smoke alarms are placed and functioning properly. 

Following simple steps and safe practices can not only keep you and your house protected from electrical hazards, but will also save money in the long run.

Important Information About Residential Knob and Tube Wiring; Part II

-Problems Associated with K&T Wiring-

•Unsafe modifications are far more common with K&T wiring than they are with Romex and other modern wiring systems. Part of the reason for this is that K&T is so old that more opportunity has existed for improper modifications.

•The insulation that envelopes the wiring is a fire hazard.

•It tends to stretch and sag over time.

•It lacks a grounding conductor. Grounding conductors reduce the chance of electrical fire and damage to sensitive equipment.

•In older systems, wiring is insulated with varnish and fiber materials that are susceptible to deterioration.

knob and tube VI

Compared with modern wiring insulation, K&T wiring is less resistant to damage.  K&T wiring insulated with cambric and asbestos is not rated for moisture exposure. Older systems contained insulation with additives that may oxidize copper wire. Bending the wires may cause insulation to crack and peel away. 

K&T wiring is often spliced with modern wiring incorrectly by amateurs. This is perhaps due to the ease by which K&T wiring is accessed.

knob and tube VII

-Building Insulation-

K&T wiring is designed to dissipate heat into free air, and insulation will disturb this process. Insulation around K&T wires will cause heat to build up, and this creates a fire hazard. The 2008 National Electrical Code (NEC) requires that this wiring system not be covered by insulation. Specifically, it states that this wiring system should not be in hollow spaces of walls, ceilings and attics where such spaces are insulated by loose, rolled or foamed-in-place insulating material that envelops the conductors.

Local jurisdictions may or may not adopt the NEC’s requirement. The California Electrical Code, for instance, allows insulation to be in contact with knob-and-tube wiring, provided that certain conditions are met, such as, but not limited to, the following:

•A licensed electrical contractor must certify that the system is safe.

•The certification must be filed with the local building department.

•Accessible areas where insulation covers the wiring must be posted with a warning sign. In some areas, this sign must be in Spanish and English.

•The insulation must be non-combustible and non-conductive.

•Normal requirements for insulation must be met.

-Knob and Tube Wiring on thermal insulation-

When K&T wiring was first introduced, common household electrical appliances were limited to little more than toasters, tea kettles, coffee percolators and clothes irons. The electrical requirements of mid- to late-20th century homes could not have been foreseen during the late 18th century, a time during which electricity was seen as a passing fad. Existing K&T systems are notorious for modifications made in an attempt to match the increasing amperage loads required by televisions, refrigerators, and a lot of other electric appliances. Many of these attempts were made by insufficiently trained handymen, rather than experienced electricians, whose work made the wiring system vulnerable to overloading.

knob and tube V

•Many homeowners adapted to the inadequate amperage of K&T wiring by installing fuses with resistances that were too high for the wiring. The result of this modification is that the fuses would not blow as often and the wiring would suffer heat damage due to excessive amperage loads.

•It is not uncommon for inspectors to find connections wrapped with masking tape or Scotch tape instead of electrical tape.

-K&T Wiring and Insurance-

Many insurance companies refuse to insure houses that have knob-and-tube wiring due to the risk of fire. Exceptions are sometimes made for houses where an electrical contractor has deemed the system to be safe.

-Advice for those with K&T wiring-

•Have the system evaluated by a qualified electrician. Only an expert can confirm that the system was installed and modified correctly.

•Do not run an excessive amount of appliances in the home, as this can cause a fire.

•Where the wiring is brittle or cracked, it should be replaced. Proper maintenance is crucial.

•K&T wiring should not be used in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms or outdoors. Wiring must be grounded in order to be used safely in these locations.

•Rewiring a house can take weeks and cost thousands of dollars, but unsafe wiring can cause fires, complicate estate transactions, and make insurers skittish.

•Homeowners should carefully consider their options before deciding whether to rewire their house.

•The homeowner or an electrician should carefully remove any insulation that is found surrounding K&T wires.

•Prospective home buyers should get an estimate of the cost of replacing K&T wiring. They can use this amount to negotiate a cheaper price for the house.

In summary, knob-and-tube wiring is likely to be a safety hazard due to improper modifications and the addition of building insulation. Inspectors need to be wary of this old system and be prepared to inform their clients about its potential dangers.

Important Information About Residential Knob and Tube Wiring; Part 1

Knob-and-tube or K&T wiring was an early standardized method of electrical wiring in buildings in common use in North America from about 1880 up until the 1970s. The system is considered obsolete and can be a safety hazard, although some of the fear associated with it is undeserved.

knob and tube III

-Facts About Knob and Tube Wiring-

•It is not inherently dangerous. The dangers from this system arise from its age, improper modifications, and situations where building insulation envelops the wires.

•It has no ground wire and thus cannot service any three-pronged appliances.

•While it is considered obsolete, there is no code that requires its complete removal.

•It is treated differently in different jurisdictions. In some areas, it must be removed at all accessible locations, while others merely require that it not be installed in new construction.

•It is not permitted in any new construction.

knob and tube II

-How Knob and Tube Wiring Works-           

K&T wiring consists of insulated copper conductors passing through lumber framing drill-holes via protective porcelain insulating tubes. They are supported along their length by nailed-down porcelain knobs. Where wires enter a wiring device, such as a lamp or switch, or were pulled into a wall, they are protected by flexible cloth or rubber insulation called “loom.”

knob and tube IV

-Advantages of Knob-and-Tube Wiring-

•K&T wiring has a higher ampacity than wiring systems of the same gauge. The reason for this is that the hot and neutral wires are separated from one another, usually by 4 to 6 inches, which allows the wires to readily dissipate heat into free air.

•K&T wires are less likely than Romex cables to be punctured by nails because K&T wires are held away from the framing.

•The porcelain components have an almost unlimited lifespan.

•The original installation of knob-and-tube wiring is often superior to that of modern Romex wiring. K&T wiring installation requires more skill to install than Romex and, for this reason, unskilled people rarely ever installed it.

knob and tube I

Electrical Safety Tips –

U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 47,820 reported home structure fires involving electrical failure or malfunction in 2007-2011. These fires resulted in 455 civilian deaths, 1,518 civilian injuries and $1.5 billion in direct property damage.
Replace or repair damaged or loose electrical cords. Avoid running extension cords across doorways or under carpets. In homes with small children, make sure your home has tamper-resistant (TR) receptacles. Consider having additional circuits or outlets added by a qualified electrician so you do not have to use extension cords. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for plugging an appliance into a receptacle outlet. Avoid overloading outlets. Plug only one high-wattage appliance into each receptacle outlet at a time. If outlets or switches feel warm, frequent problems with blowing fuses or tripping circuits, or flickering or dimming lights, call a qualified electrician. Place lamps on level surfaces, away from things that can burn and use bulbs that match the lamp’s recommended wattage. Make sure your home has ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in the kitchen bathroom(s), laundry, basement, and outdoor areas. Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) should be installed in your home to protect electrical outlets.