Category Archives: Electrical

Electrical Safety Tips – NFPA.org

Electrical safety should be on every homeowners mind.  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.  There are plenty of simple things you can do to prevent dangerous situations and keep your family safe.

Things you can do to prevent electrical accidents

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 and power strips. Plug only one high-wattage appliance into each receptacle outlet at a time and unplug them when not in use. 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.

Safety in and around your home should be a top priority.    While most home inspectors will find blatant errors in the electrical system, it is always a good idea to take it upon yourself to be aware of your homes electrical systems.

Kitchen Lighting Improvements

Improvements to your homes kitchen lighting can change the look of the most used room in the house.

 

Improvements such as brighter lights and well place cans or tracks, to under cabinet and accent lighting, an updated kitchen is only a flip of a light switch away.  So much time is spent in most kitchens that the home owner might just be used to how the light impacts food prep surfaces, dish washing and just hanging out.  Adding or changing can lights can brighten areas of your kitchen and change the look and feel to a more usable space or just something more relaxing.  A qualified electrician can check the house panel and find out what capacity is available and exactly what lighting design would work best within the space.   B&G works with interior designers and architects in order to create a scene that accentuates the look of the kitchen and creates a warm and inviting space to be shared with family or while entertaining.

IMG_1492B&G Electrical Contracting division provides FREE estimates to brighten up any kitchen with lighting design including under cabinet LED accent lights. Change the look of your counter tops with simple and cheap improvements that takes no time at all and will enlighten your kitchen work space.

The Benefits of Using Thermography and Thermal Imaging

Benefits of using Thermal Imaging

  • One can conduct inspections more efficiently
  • One can improve equipment maintenance and pinpoint problems quickly
  • Increase panel and system reliability
  • Less costly to maintain vacant spaces, landlord covered utilities and general property power needs.
  • Reduces environmental impact

Many common electrical and mechanical problems begin as an increase in temperature.  A thermal imager lets you easily detect them, without interruption to building or tenant operations.   By locating problems prior to failure, unscheduled outages and unplanned downtime is greatly reduced.

Thermal Imaging

Thermal Imaging Cameras

Thermal imaging cameras detect radiation in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum and produce images of that radiation, called thermograms.   The product B&G Electrical Contracting uses is from Fluke.

Applications

Thermal Imagers are most commonly used for inspecting the integrity of electrical systems because the test procedures are non-contact and can be performed quickly.  Electrical Thermography and Thermodynamics is qualitative which means it compares values to known conditions.  It is a very straightforward approach to discerning three phase systems, typical in all commercial properties, due to easily understood thermal signatures.    Our trained electrical technicians can inspect panel and power protection as preventive maintenance for any application in office, flex and retail properties. Our technicians will be able to see thermal signatures that indicate heat leaks in faulty thermal insulation and windows, and can use the results to improve the efficiency of heating and air-conditioning units as well.

Utility and Cost Savings

Utilities worldwide use infrared cameras to locate problems or to detect hot spots and other problems before they turn into costly failures and production downtime or dangerous electrical fires.   Poor or inadequate insulation, moisture, building envelope leaks, and substandard work are costly to residential and commercial building owners.   Electrical panel malfunctions and areas of high resistance can be both troublesome and destructive.   An infrared camera can help you quickly see where energy efficiency can be improved with utility cost savings as a direct result.

B&G Electrical Contracting offers this service to both commercial and residential clients and can provide piece of mind in an area most home and property owners don’t necessarily realize.

Tips to Get the Most from Your Home Electrical Inspection

Electrical Panel Information

Electrical panels and circuitry in Puget Sound Region homes tend to be ignored throughout the year.  A homeowner might only address electrical concerns after they are subject to short-circuits, blown fuses, failed lighting or even electrical burning smells.  A Whole Home Electrical Inspection is a must for any new home purchase as well as something any home could use after renovation, lighting or appliance upgrades or even updating an entertainment system.  As a homeowner, you may not be required by Washington State law to know the intricacies of your home’s electrical circuitry, but there are still some things that you should ask your electrical inspector when an inspection is being carried out.

Factors to keep in mind during an electrical inspection:

First, regardless of whether you are simply changing old electrical paneling, or conducting extensive renovations on your property, the first question you should ask your electrical inspector is whether your home’s electrical fittings are in compliance with building codes and regulations. If circuitry is in violation of these codes, you run the risk of getting into legal trouble.

Secondly, you should ensure that your electrical inspector pays close attention to safety.  Electrical panels and circuitry need to be properly insulated to reduce the risk of shocks. Moreover, paneling must never be placed next to areas that are damp or wet.  A good inspector will locate this condition instantly.

Understanding the current and voltage that flows through your electrical circuitry is also important.  Electrical appliances like air conditioners, washing machines and televisions consume significant amounts of electricity.  It falls under the homeowners responsibility to connect them to the right circuitry in order to avoid short-circuits, flipped breakers and constant voltage fluctuations.

Finally, once an electrical inspection has been carried out and repairs have been made, make sure to double-check that all of the home’s panels are working efficiently.  B&G Electrical Contracting can complete this process through Thermography by scanning the panel with a thermal imager. Our blog on Thermography, Emissivity, Infrared and General Thermal Imaging will be coming soon.   Once the inspection is complete, make sure that your inspector provides you with a comprehensive report of checks made, and any and all recommended repairs.

Is Installing A Backup Generator Cost Effective?

How much does it cost to install a backup generator?

Most modern households rely heavily upon electrical energy supply. The installation of a backup generator can deliver whole-house energy during a loss of power due to storms, general power outages and natural disasters.  It can also be designed to supply only necessary systems, like a refrigerator or electric heat, until electrical service is restored.

There are small, mid-sized and large generators available, and they work in the following ways:

  • Small to Mid-Sized will deliver 7-10 kW, and will be able to run a few basic household systems, but cannot sustain the needs of the entire home. These tend to need manual start and will average from $500 to $2500.
  • Mid-Sized to Large will deliver 12-20 kW, and will be able to function more effectively than a small system, but will not deliver the power needed for the entire home. This is a good option for those who need heating during cold weather situations. These will cost from $2000 to $4500.
  • Large Sized or ‘Whole Home’ will deliver 22-45 KW, and will be able to operate the entire home. These will usually be permanently in position and contained in protective “cases”. They are usually liquid cooled and can be permanently connected to the home. Many will come with installation fees of a few thousand dollars. These will cost from $5000 to $15000 and up.

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Cost breakdown

Installation of a backup generator is not considered a “DIY” project and it is not recommended that anyone but a licensed electrician perform the work. Typical installation can include:

  • Assessment of home energy needs to select suitable equipment (unless whole-house supplies are the goal). To understand the needs of the building the homeowner must do simple math that totals all appliances and household systems, and use the total kW figure to select the proper equipment;
  • Selection of equipment and list of installation requirements from contractor or supplier
  • Preparing site nearest to current electrical meter and power panel
  • Pouring of suitably sized concrete pad
  • Installation of fuel tank to feed generator throughout use. This must be done by a utility company and can rely on propane or diesel. The tank can be buried or positioned next to equipment, and professional connection is also usually required
  • new subpanel must be installed near the original electrical panel and an automatic transfer switch should be included as well
  • detailed plan of which appliances and electronic devices should be disconnected during use is necessary as well. Usually only the installer can indicate items such as televisions and computers that will be damaged by the fluctuating energy of the generator.
  • Provide electrical wiring and lighting to code – This is going to depend upon the amount of work required.  If the generator is located near the house panel with a suitable foundation, installation can be as little as $499 + tax.  This will include the transfer switch and attachment of any circuit(s) the need to be energized through the generator.

B&G Electrical Contracting is the Puget Sound’s best option for installing Backup Generators for residential use.  For more information or to set up a Free Estimate, please visit the Contact Us page at our website, www.bgmaintenance.com.

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Incandescent Bulb vs CFL Bulb vs LED Bulb Part II

Light Bulb Comparison

Let’s examine the three most popular light bulb options: Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent and LED.   We will look at the advantages and disadvantages, starting with Incandescent.

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Incandescent Light Bulb

An incandescent light bulb or lamp is an electric light which produces light with a wire filament heated to a high temperature by an electric current passing through it, until it glows.  The hot filament is protected from oxidation with a glass bulb that is filled with inert gas.  The light bulb is supplied with electric current by terminals or wires embedded in the glass. Most bulbs are used in a socket which provides mechanical support and electrical connections.

Incandescent bulbs are manufactured in a wide range of sizes, light output, and voltage ratings, from 1.5 volts to about 300 volts. They require no external regulating equipment, have low manufacturing costs, and work equally well on either alternating current or direct current. As a result, the incandescent lamp is widely used in household and commercial lighting, for portable lighting such as table lamps, car headlamps, and flashlights, and for decorative, holiday and advertising lighting.

Incandescent bulbs are much less efficient than most other types of electric lighting; incandescent bulbs convert less than 5% of the energy they use into visible light, with standard light bulbs averaging about 2.2%. The remaining energy is converted into heat. The luminous efficacy of a typical incandescent bulb is 16 lumens per watt, compared with 60 lm/W for a compact fluorescent bulb or 150 lm/W for some white LED lamps.  Incandescent bulbs typically have short lifetimes compared with other types of lighting; around 1,000 hours for home light bulbs versus typically 10,000 hours for compact fluorescents and 30,000 hours for lighting LEDs.

Incandescent bulbs are gradually being replaced in many applications by other types of electric light, such as fluorescent lampscompact fluorescent lamps (CFL), cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL), high-intensity discharge lamps, and light-emitting diode lamps (LED). Some jurisdictions, such as the European UnionChinaCanada and United States, are in the process of phasing out the use of incandescent light bulbs while others, including  Colombia,[6]MexicoCubaArgentinaBrazil or Australia,[7] have prohibited them already.

 

CFLs: Compact Fluorescent Lights

According to EnergyStar.gov, CFLs work differently than incandescent bulbs in that, instead of running an electric current through a wire filament, they drive an electric current through a tube that contains argon and mercury vapor. This process creates ultraviolet light that quickly translates into visible light, unlike incandescent lights which put off a warm glow.

The big difference between CFLs and incandescent bulbs is how much energy it takes to use them over time. CFLs use about 70% less energy than incandescent bulbs. They also last years longer than traditional bulbs, and only cost about a dollar more per bulb.

However, one of the biggest drawbacks of CFLs is that it takes a few moments for them to warm up and reach full brightness. That means they’re not ideal in spots where you want lots of light as soon as you flip the switch, such as a dark, steep basement stairway. They also cannot be used with a dimmer switch.

Plus, modern CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, which is very harmful to both your health and the environment. That means it’s bad news to break one (here’s how to clean it up safely if you do), and they shouldn’t be disposed of in your regular household trash (here’s how to recycle them).

LEDs: Light-Emitting Diodes

Light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, were for years most commonly found in small electronic displays, such as the clock on your cable box. Because the light emitted by each tiny LED is directional and fairly weak, household LED bulbs were on the fringe of mainstream technology just a few years ago.

According to the Lighting Research Center, LED light bulbs work by bringing together currents with a positive and negative charge to create energy released in the form of light. The result is a fast source of light that is reliable, instantaneous, and able to be dimmed.

What sets LEDs apart from incandescent bulbs and CFLs is just how long they can last.According to Consumer Reports, LED light bulbs can last anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 hours, or up to five times longer than any comparable bulb on the market.

But that combination of efficiency and durability has historically come at a cost. LEDs cost more money than CFLs and incandescent bulbs. The good news, however, is that their price has dropped considerably over the years.

Where once it was common to pay $50 or even $100 for an LED light bulb, they’re now available for about $8 a bulb on Amazon. IKEA sells its own 60W-equivalent LED light bulbs for just $5, and Home Depot is reportedly running a promotion in May that will discount Philips LED light bulbs to as low as $2.50 per bulb.

Despite concerns over mercury content and contamination issues, policy makers, manufacturers, and scientists are in agreement over the greater environmental and economic benefits of CFLs. When recycled properly, nearly every component of a fluorescent bulb can be separated and reused – even the mercury.

According to the EPA, electricity from coal-fired power plants is the main source of U.S. mercury emissions. By using CFL bulbs in place of incandescent, we can decrease the demand for coal-fired power and in doing so, significantly reduce the amount of mercury released into the environment.

Gymnasium Lighting Upgrade

B&G Electrical Contracting recently upgraded the lighting in a local Bellevue school’s gym from 250w Metal Halide lamps, to more energy efficient LED lamps.   The old Metal Halide lamps not only used 18,290 less kilowatt hours per year saving an estimated $1657.39 in utility costs, it also created a brighter sport court, assembly space and meeting area.   A feature the maintenance staff appreciates is that the lights turn on and off immediately and do not have the warm up time and constant hum of the Metal Halide fixture.   A project like this typically takes 4-5 years to pay for itself through energy savings, averaging around 18-20% ROI per year.

 

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Incandescent vs CFL vs LED Part I

Not too long ago light bulbs were light bulbs. No matter you had to spend, you really had only one choice when it came to interior and exterior lighting options for your home or business: Choose the wattage based on the fixtures wattage rating and head to the hardware store.

In recent years environmental awareness and technology has brought new material available to the public at reasonable prices.    CFL and LED bulbs are more readily available than ever and with a price point that drops quarterly.   Not only are these new options more energy efficient, they can also last years, or even decades longer than the standard incandescent light bulb.

Prices for LED bulbs started out extremely high, upwards of $100 at start.  They have since dropped considerably and are now in definite competition with all other types of bulbs out there.  Since there is a movement to discontinue incandescent bulbs by the year 2020, prices for newer and even more efficient LED bulbs will continue to drop.   B&G Electrical Contracting can provide free estimates for all projects to upgrade home and business lighting to a more efficient, cost effective, long lasting lighting solution.

Incandescent CFL LED
Approximate cost per bulb $1 $2 $8 or less
Average lifespan 1,200 hours 8,000 hours 25,000 hours
Watts used 60W 14W 10W
No. of bulbs needed for 25,000 hours of use 21 3 1
Total purchase price of bulbs over 23 years $21 $6 $8
Total cost of electricity used (25,000 hours at $0.12 per kWh) $180 $42 $30
Total operational cost over 23 years $201 $48 $38

How to Recycle Compact Fluorescent Lamps in Seattle, Bellevue and Kirkland  

Knowing how to properly dispose of compact fluorescent lamps in Western Washington is important if you or your company replaces bulbs and ballasts on a regular basis.  Compact fluorescent lamps, or CFL’s, are energy efficient light bulbs that contain very small amounts of mercury that could be harmful to the environment.   Due to the potential for contamination, the lamps cannot be put directly in your trash and should not be destroyed or broken. The King County web site has a page providing tips and information about the make-up and disposal of CFL bulbs, including the mercury content and other hazardous material they contain.

Below are some options when deciding how to dispose of lamps properly.

  • Drop off up to 10 bulbs per day, at no cost to you, at your local Household Hazardous Waste Facility. For a list of all locations and hours of operation please call the Household Hazards Line at 206-296-4692.
  • The Take It Back Network offers convenient, cost-effective and environmentally sound recycling options. A list of Take It Back Network recyclers who accept CFLs can be found here.
  • Many King County communities sponsor periodic residential recycling collection events. Restrictions may apply and quantities accepted may be limited.  Call or check out their website to confirm.
  • Recycle where you purchase your material. Contact your local home improvement retailers such as Home Depot or Lowes or even Bartell Drug’s stores around the region to see if they accept CFL tubes and bulbs for recycling.

 

Mercury in CFLs
CFL bulbs contain approximately 4 milligrams of mercury – about the amount that would fit on the tip of a ballpoint pen. This small but critical amount of mercury is what enables CFLs to operate up to 75% more efficiently than traditional incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.

Mercury is safely sealed within the bulb’s glass coating while intact and in use. Environmental contamination occurs when the bulbs break and mercury is released. Precipitation washes mercury into surrounding bodies of water where it is absorbed by naturally occurring bacteria and aquatic organisms. Mercury travels up the food chain as predatory fish consume smaller contaminated fish. Species at each successive level of the food chain consume higher concentrations of mercury because they are unable to eliminate toxins faster than they are consumed.

Humans are exposed to mercury almost entirely by eating contaminated fish and wildlife. Those most at risk are pregnant women and small children. Exposure to mercury can cause damage to the central nervous system and contribute to developmental disorders in children.

Despite concerns over mercury content and contamination issues, policy makers, manufacturers, and scientists are in agreement over the greater environmental and economic benefits of CFLs. When recycled properly, nearly every component of a fluorescent bulb can be separated and reused – even the mercury.

According to the EPA, electricity from coal-fired power plants is the main source of U.S. mercury emissions. By using CFL bulbs in place of incandescent, we can decrease the demand for coal-fired power and in doing so, significantly reduce the amount of mercury released into the environment.

Electrical Tip Of The Day – ‘Do I Need A Permit?’

There are always important questions to ask and a lot of confusion regarding build permits in Western Washington.  I was recently told by one of our clients that it would be nice to know how all this “permit business” actually applies.

From the City of Seattle web site:  “You need an electrical permit any time electrical wiring is installed, altered, extended, or connected to any electrical equipment. As long as the circuit wasn’t altered or changed, and met the code at the time of installation, you don’t need an electrical permit to replace:

  • Snap switches
  • Fuses
  • Lamp sockets
  • Receptacle outlets
  • Electric ranges
  • Cook tops
  • Wall heaters
  • Baseboard heaters

You may not need a permit for some residential and minimally-sized communications systems”.

Now, making that more specific to the electrical world.  We are typically required to pull an electrical permit and have an inspection as follows:

  • Whenever the electric service must be disconnected to do the work
  • Whenever the electrical meter must be pulled to do the work
  • When making alterations to service entrance equipment, typically including repairs
  • When performing total building remodels
  • When making changes of structural nature or “re-purposing ” of any occupancy
  • When more than 100′ of new wall is constructed or the construction process is structural in nature
  • New construction projects / new buildings / new build-outs (which can also require a State permit as well as a local one)

So who can pull a permit you ask?  It can work out a couple of ways.  A homeowner or property owner can usually pull a permit for any project they own.  In the case of an electrical contractor, the company doing the work must have current bonds in place and current licensing on file (if required) with the municipality or county issuing the permit in order to be able to make application.   As I have stated in earlier entries, do you homework when hiring an electrical contractor.  Make sure they are licensed and bonded in the. State of Washington.