Prevent Electrical Fires from Space Heaters

Space heater safety, electrical fires, whites electrical indianapolis Indiana, electrician

Space heaters are known for being a low-cost way to heat a space. However, they pose a risk of electrical fires if homeowners use them incorrectly.

Space heaters account for 25,000 residential fires every year and one-third of all winter house fires. In the past year, space heaters have caused over 300 deaths and over 6,000 hospital visits due to burns.

Recently, in March 2017, a space heater fire claimed the lives of a 91-year-old developer and his 87-year-old father-in-law. The space heater ignited an electrical fire because of an overloaded power strip. This is only one case out of hundreds of space heater fatalities.

House fires have different causes. However, when one is started by a space heater, it is due to the fact the unit is old, cheaply made, or not properly maintained or used. Homeowners should therefor prioritize researching space heaters because of the numerous types, sizes, and brands available.

If you are thinking of buying a space heater, first ask these questions: “Do I need it?” “Are there other alternatives?” “Am I trying to heat a small area or a room?” and “Is there a safe area to use it in the house?”

What to Look for When Buying a Space Heater

Purchasing a space heater may seem simple, but not knowing the important features and the correct types of heaters can be detrimental. When buying a space heater, look for the following:

  • Safety features such as: a protective grill, automatic thermostats with an automatic shutdown function if it over heats or turns over, and the UL (Underwriter Laboratory) Certified Mark.
  • Unvented should never be used inside the house, intended for a barn or in an open area
  • Vented are meant to be used in a house
  • Convection: heats entire room
  • Radiant: heats small surrounding area
  • Energy efficiency

Prices of space heaters range from $15 to hundreds of dollars. $15 heaters are tempting because they are inexpensive.  However, they will cost your family more if they cause a fire. An expensive heater can be deadly, too, if not properly maintained or misused.

Space Heater Safety Tips

  • Keep your space heater three feet away from any flammable material, including furniture, curtains, clothes, and rugs
  • Do not use extension cords to power your space heater
  • Keep the space heater on a flat solid surface
  • Shut off the heater if not in use
  • Do not use if power cord or wall heater feel hot to the touch
  • Don’t use if there are damaged power cords or exposed wires
  • Do not use around water
  • Frequently clean to remove dust

Before purchasing a space heater, call Whites Electrical to check or install smoke detectors. Whites Electrical is a full-residential and commercial electric-service company that offers outlet and switch replacement as well as frayed wire repair and more.

Surge Protectors: Protect Electronics from Voltage Spikes

Surge Protector - Voltage Spike - White's Electrical - Indianapolis, Indiana

Christmas is now past, and as the new year rolls in, it’s good to think about practical matters, such as protecting all the electronic equipment you just purchased. The reality is that every electronic device is at risk of damage through the very thing that powers it — electricity. Surge protectors can save your expensive electronics and appliances from electrical surges that will outright destroy the device or decrease its lifespan.

What is a Power Surge?

Voltage Spike - Surge Protector - White's Electrical - Indianapolis, IndianaA surge means that the electrical voltage (the pressure behind the electrons) suddenly increases in the circuit. Think of it like plumbing: the electrons are the water molecules, the voltage is the pressure behind the water, and the circuit is the plumbing system as a whole.

In a plumbing system, the more pressure there is behind the water, the faster the water moves through the pipes and out your faucet. Likewise, the more voltage there is in an electric circuit, the “faster” (or more violently) the electrons move; the electrons have more force.

During a power surge, the voltage spikes for a short time — thousandths or millionths of a second. The surge can carry tens of thousands of volts. That high voltage (“pressure”) will damage electronics.

A large voltage spike will fry circuit boards, crash hard drives, and ruin electrical equipment of any size. A spike can even damage equipment when the equipment is not powered on but just plugged in. Smaller spikes do permanent, sometimes invisible damage to electronics by degrading performance and shortening their lifespan.

What Causes Voltage Spikes

Voltage Spike - Lightning - Surge Protector - White's Electrical - Indianapolis, IndianaVoltage spikes occur when power suddenly drops and spikes. These drops and spikes occur for many reasons, both inside and outside the house.

Power outages are one source for voltage spikes. The spikes occur as electricity cuts out and then suddenly returns. 58 percent of blackouts occur due to nature, with 27 percent from severe weather, 20 percent from fallen trees, and 11 percent from animals.

Specific sources for spikes include:

  • Short circuits
  • Tripped circuit breakers
  • An appliance (such as dryers, air conditioners, etc.) turning on/off
  • Lightning storms (within a mile)
  • Damaged power lines
  • Winds that cause power lines to touch
  • Branches or animals that conduct energy between power lines
  • Rolling blackouts
  • A nearby factory suddenly increasing/decreasing power consumption

Surge Protectors vs. Power Strips vs. Circuit Breakers

Circuit Breaker - White's Electrical - Indianapolis, Indiana

Circuit Breaker

Before going further, you should understand that surge protectors should not be confused with power strips. Power strips simply extend an outlet to provide additional plug ins for devices. They do not protect devices from voltage spikes.

You also should not confuse surge protectors with circuit breakers. Circuit breakers stop the flow of electricity through your home’s circuits when the amperage — not the voltage — increases. Amperage refers to the electrical current flowing through a wire. (If voltage is the pressure in a plumbing system, amperage is the flow of water.) Problems that cause the amperage to increase typically include overloaded circuits (too many appliances pulling electricity in one circuit), short circuits, and ground faults.

True surge protectors work by keeping voltage spikes from reaching the electronics they protect. When a spike reaches a surge protector, the device redirects electricity to the ground wire, which then directs the electricity to the ground, away from the circuit.

Types of Surge Protectors

Whole-House Surge Protector - Voltage Spike - Surge Protector - White's Electrical - Indianapolis, Indiana

Whole-House Surge Protector

There are several kinds of surge protectors. Each protects your home at different levels and offers different levels of protection. Whole-home surge protectors are the first type. They’re located between the power grid and your home. They protect your home from voltage spikes originating outside your house.

The second type is a surge protector that provides whole house protection but which is located between your meter box and breaker box. It likewise protects your home from outside spikes.

The third type of surge protector is a point-of-use protector. These protectors are the kind you’re most likely familiar with. They are located between wall outlets and your devices, and they offer protection from voltage originating both inside and outside your home.

When choosing specific surge protectors, know that not all surge protectors are created equal. Different models deliver different levels of protection. You can learn how well a specific model will protect your electrical systems by looking at its rating, measured in Joules (a unit of energy). A quality point-of-use surge protector will provide at least 1,200 Joules of protection. To protect higher-end devices, we recommend you look for a surge protector that’s rated for at least 2,000 Joules.

Besides the Joules rating, also look at a unit’s voltage clamping. Voltage clamping refers to the voltage at which the surge protector begins directing electricity to the ground wire. We suggest looking for a device with voltage clamping of 400 volts or less.

Also worth considering is a UPS. UPS stands for universal power source. A UPS surge protector provides a battery backup if the power goes out. The battery allows for safe shutdown and data backup. This type of protector is useful for computers and equipment that requires a shutdown procedure in the workplace.

Replacing Surge Protectors

Surge Protector - Voltage Spike - Surge Protector - White's Electrical - Indianapolis, IndianaBecause surge protectors take the brunt of voltage spikes, they will not last forever. Whether a voltage spike damages a surge protector depends on how intense the spike is. The higher a surge protector’s Joule rating, the less likely a spike will damage it. But even small spikes will damage surge protectors over time.

Quality surge protectors have diagnostic lights that will let you know whether the surge protector can still offer protection or not. Depending on the model, a surge protector with diagnostic lights will tell you specific problems the unit encounters. Some protectors will also emit an audible sound when their components have been compromised.

If you own a surge protector without lights and which doesn’t emit a sound, you will want to replace it after a few voltage spikes to make sure the unit provides adequate protection.

It’s important to note, too, that your surge protector is as only as good as its grounding. Surge protectors work by shedding electricity. So, if your house does not have ground wiring, surge protectors cannot work. This is one among other reasons we suggest upgrading two-prong outlets in your home.

Surge Protector Cost

TV not working - Surge Protector - Voltage Spike - Surge Protector - White's Electrical - Indianapolis, IndianaIn 2016, insurers paid $825 million in lightning claims alone. Each of these claims averaged more than $7,500. Many of the claims, unfortunately, could have been avoided had the home or business owner installed adequate surge protectors.

These statistics highlight the cost of not protecting your electronics and appliances. Consider: a high-end surge protector costs less than $100 and can last years. A new Ultra HD TV costs hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

Also consider whole-house surge protectors. These units typically cost less than $300. Appliances they protect easily cost twice that, if not more.

If you want whole-house protection against voltage spikes that can cause thousands of dollars in damage, White’s Electrical can help. Our team of qualified, highly trained electricians can handle anything with electricity running through it, including your house. We’ll help keep your electronics safe. Contact us today with any of your electrical concerns.

2017 Recap: Electrical Device Recalls

Hoverboard - 2017 Recalls Electric Devices - White's Electrical - Indianapolis Indiana

During the past two decades, recalls of electronics and electric devices have steadily increased. 2017 was no different. Stricter regulations and easier reporting have forced manufacturers to stop on top of product safety.

Of all the electrical items recalled in 2017, the lithium-ion battery led the charts. The problems these batteries pose is consistent among manufacturers and products: the batteries overheat, catch fire, and (in some cases) explode. Eleven hoverboard manufacturers had to issue recalls because of these batteries; three computer manufacturers issued recalls; and one electric window covering manufacturer and electric skateboard manufacturer had to issue recalls.

Why all these lithium-ion batteries have failed is not because they’re a new technology. Lithium-ion batteries have been around for decades. Their failure has more to do with poor quality control, poorly designed circuitry, and manufacturers failing to cool the batteries, which are known to degrade in high temperatures. Recalls for lithium-ion batteries came scattered through the year.

The award for Impeccable Timing of a Recall goes to Nantucket Distributing. Nantucket issued a recall of its pre-lit, artificial Christmas tree on January 12. Conveniently, the recall came right after the 2016 holiday and post-Christmas discount shopping season ended.

We’ve put together a list of all electrical devices recalled in 2017. We’ve only included residential equipment in this list, so you will not find recalls for vehicles or medical devices here. We have also only included electrical products that have been recalled due to failure of their electrical system. Thus, we haven’t listed recalls such as Southwire’s Globe and Snow Globe stake lights. (The globes on these items refracted light, which could single or melt items in close proximity. Obviously, this posed a fire hazard.)

For a full list of items recalled in the United States of America, visit the website for the United States Product Safety Commission.

2017 Recalls for Electric Equipment

Cleaning Equipment

2017 Recalls Electric Devices - White's Electrical - Indianapolis Indiana

Dirt Devil Pet Vacuum

 

  • Vacuum Cleaners — Royal Appliance recalled 149,000 Dirt Devil Pet vacuums because the prongs in the electrical cord can detach and remain the outlet.

Electrical / Lighting

LectroFan Sound Machines - 2017 Recalls Electric Devices - White's Electrical - Indianapolis Indiana

LectroFan Sound Machine

  • Adaptors — Barns & Noble has recalled the casing on the power adaptor for its NOOK Tablet 7. The casing can crack when the adaptor is plugged in, which puts consumers at risk for electric shock. Power adaptors sold with LectroFan Sound Machines have also been recalled. ASTI issued the recall the adaptors’ casing can break when plugged in, exposing the prongs and posing an electrical shock hazard. In December, Netgear issued a recall for the power adaptors to its outdoor Arlo cameras. Water can leak into the “waterproof” connector and cause a short circuit, fire, melting, and overheating.
  • Batteries — Springs Window Fashions LLC recalled Zeus lithium batteries in some of the company’s motorized window coverings. The batteries overheat, leak, and discharge, posing fire and burn hazards.
2017 Recalls Electric Devices - White's Electrical - Indianapolis Indiana

Moonlight Soothers Nightlight

  • Nightlights — Skip Hop recalled its Moonlight & Melodies The problem is that the nightlights’ power adaptors can break, which poses the risk of shock. AM Conservation Group likewise recalled its Model 2017-G nightlights because they can overheat. In February, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts recalled its Happy Holidays! Mickey Mouse Nightlights. Liquid from the nightlight can leak from the nightlight and into the electrical outlet, which poses a fire hazard.
  • Outlet Converters — Ningbo Litesun Electric recalled its outlet converters, sold through Home Depot, because they reverse electrical polarity, which creates a risk of shock and fire.
  • Portable Generators — MWE Investments recalled its Westinghouse Portable Generators, as the generators can overheat, posing a fire hazard to consumers.

Electronics

  • Cellphone Batteries — Replacement batteries that FedEx Supply Chain used to refurbish Samsung Galaxy Note 4s can overheat. Apparently, some of the batteries FedEx used were counterfeit.
  • Clamp Meters — Digital clamp meters produced by Extech were recalled because they fail to provide accurate voltage readings.
2017 Recalls Electric Devices - White's Electrical - Indianapolis Indiana

Panasonic Lithium-Ion Battery for Sony Laptops

  • Laptop Batteries — Sony has continued its recall for Panasonic batteries used in Sony laptops because the lithium-ion batteries can overheat. In January, HP expanded a recall for lithium-ion batteries in HP and Compaq Notebook computers because the batteries overheat. Toshiba did the same earlier in the month for lithium-ion batteries used in laptops for the same reason.
  • Science Kits — Little Passports recalled Science Expeditions Northern Lights Kits. The battery packs overheat, posing a burn hazard.
  • Solar Panels — Bosch Solar Services recalled 28,000 roof-mounted solar panels because the panels overheat. SolarWorld recalled its Amphenol PV cable connectors, which it sold with solar panels. The connectors can develop cracks, which let moisture in and therefore threaten electrical shock.

Decorative

  • Christmas Trees — Nantucket Distributing issued a recall of its prelit, artificial Christmas tree because the fuse can overheat and blow, which poses a fire hazard.

Food and Water

  • Filtered Water Dispensers — Nestle Waters North America recalled its AccuPure floor standing filtered water dispenser. The units can overheat and smoke.
  • Food Dehydrators — Greenfield World Trade recalled its EZDRY Food Dehydrators because the units overheat.

Heating & Air Conditioning

  • Air Conditioners — Carrier, Bryant, and Fast have recalled certain Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner models because their power cords can overheat, which poses a fire hazard.
  • Air Handlers — Goodman has issued a recall for certain wall- and ceiling-mounting air handling units that are commonly installed in apartment or condominium units. The units’ disconnects may not disable the power, which puts people servicing the unit at risk of shock.
  • Furnaces — Goodman, Amana, and Daikin recalled 80 percent of their gas furnaces due to an electrical shock hazard.
2017 Recalls Electric Devices - White's Electrical - Indianapolis Indiana

Carrier and Greenspeed Heat Pumps

Household Accessories / Lighting

  • Door Chimes — Swann has recalled certain models of its wireless door chimes. The back cover can detach from the units, which exposes electrical parts that can shock users.
2017 Recalls Electric Devices - White's Electrical - Indianapolis Indiana

Curio Design’s Modular Light Kits and Bases

  • Lamps — Michaels has recalled three models of its Rock Salt Lamps because the cover grill can overheat and ignite, putting consumers at risk of electric shock and fire. A few days before Michaels issued their recall, Curio Design recalled about 1,500 modular light kits and bases. The lights can crack during assembly, and the bases have faulty wiring. West Elm recalled its Table Lamps because the wire running through the lamp can cut or fray the adjustable joint, putting consumers at risk of shock. Also, earlier in the year, Williams-Sonoma recalled its Rejuvenation Wall Sconces because the wiring in them can fray, posing a shock hazard.

Infant/Baby

  • Motion Seats — Fisher-Price recalled various models of its Soothing Motion Seats because the motor housing can overheat, posing a fire hazard.

Large Appliances

  • Dishwashers — BSH Home Appliances recalled 469,000 dishwashers because the power cords they produced overheat. The recall affects dishwashers from Bosch®, Gaggenau®, Jenn-Air®, Kenmore®, and Thermador®.
  • Stoves — Arçelik A.S. recalled its Blomberg and Summit electric range stoves. Due to incorrectly installed electrical system, the stove can become energized, which can shock or electrocute people. One death was reported due to this issue.

Outdoor

2017 Recalls - Electric Devices - White's Electrical - Indianapolis Indiana

Outxpro Mosquito Zapper LED

  • Bug Zappers — R & D Products recalled its Outxpro Mosquito Zapper LED light bulbs because the base of the LED bulb can separate from the connector, posing the risk of an electrical shock. The zappers were sold through Amazon.com.
  • Extension Cords — The Canadian Tire Corporation, Ltd., recalled certain of its Mastercraft brand outdoor extension cords. The manufacturer improperly installed the unit’s prongs on these cords, which can cause the female end of the electric outlet to spark.
  • Lawn Mowers — Hongkong Sun Rise Trading recalled its cordless electric lawn mowers because its electrical system can short circuit and catch fire.
  • Swimming Pool Motors — Nidec Motor recalled some of its programmable, variable-speed swimming pool motors because they are not properly grounded. The affected units have “Emerson” or “EcoTech EZ” printed on the control box.

Recreation/Relaxation

  • Adjustable Beds — Customatic Beds recalled its adjustable beds because the bed’s outlets were wired incorrectly. The units pose an electrical shock hazard.
  • E-Cigs — Firewood recalled its Firewood 4 vaporizers because the electrical system is not wired correctly, and an electrical short can occur, posing the risk of fire.
  • Handheld Massagers — HoMedics recalled their handheld massagers due to the fact that the massagers’ cords can break and pose electrical and burn hazards.
  • Lift Chairs — La-Z-Boy issued a recall for the power supply covers on certain lift chair models. The covers can become detached, which poses a risk of electric shock.

Safety Equipment

  • Fire Alarms — Honeywell International recalled its SWIFT® wireless gateway, which it sold with its fire alarm systems. The SWIFT® systems fail to communicate with the fire alarms, which means that the fire alarms might not go off if the system detects a fire.

Toys

  • Battery Chargers — Performance Designed Products recalled its XBOX ONE 2X Smart Chargers battery chargers for XBOX ONE game controllers. The battery chargers can overheat and damage the game controllers or burn consumers.
2017 Recalls Electric Devices - White's Electrical - Indianapolis Indiana

Sonic Smart Wheels Hoverboard

Four ways to Upgrade Two Prong Outlets

Two Prong Outlets - White's Electrical - Indianapolis

Between 1920 and 1960, tens of thousands of houses were built in the United States. Almost all of them had two prong outlets. Many of them still do. While the majority of Indiana’s houses were built in the 1990s, there are more than 8,600 currently for sale built between 1920 and 1960 in the Hoosier state. Many more off the market. If you live in a house with two prong outlets, you might want to consider an upgrade. You are at risk for more than inconvenience when you try and plug in your 21st century TV into one of these outlets.

Risks Associated With Two Prong Outlets

There are two risks associated with two prong outlets: electrocution and power surges. Both of these issues have to do with the fact that the wiring in two prong outlets isn’t grounded. In outlets built since 1962, U.S. electrical code has required all outlets be constructed with a ground wire. This ground wire protects electronics and people from electrical surges and faults by providing a pathway for extra energy to escape the house’s circuitry. When a fault or surge occurs with grounding, the energy travels through the ground wire to the electrical panel. There, it will trip the circuit breaker or blow a fuse, thereby shutting down the circuit before damage (hopefully) occurs. The energy then continues through the ground wire into the earth below the structure, where it dissipates harmlessly.

Without grounding, it’s also impossible to protect your electronics and appliances with surge protectors. Surge protectors work only if they are can connect to a ground wire. Without this wire, they offer no better protection for electronic devices than do multiprong outlets.

Two Prong Outlets are Not Up to Code

GFCI - Two Prong Outlets - White's Electrical - Indianapolis

GFCI Receptacle

Upgrading your home’s electrical system can cost between 5 and 15 percent of your home’s value — a price tag many people cannot afford. With this in mind, regulators determined that homeowners with two prong outlets need not upgrade them. However, that doesn’t mean they’re the safest option.

For more than 50 years, code has required all new construction have grounded, three prong outlets. More recently, U.S. electrical code has required that not only outlets be grounded but that outlets in areas with water present have a GFCI. A GFCI, short for ground-fault circuit interrupter, protects people from electrical shock by cutting off the circuit if a short circuit occurs. (A short circuit is when energy is directed out of the regular circuit pathway through a path with little or no resistance.) If that short circuit occurs because a person is being electrocuted, a GFCI can save their life.

No such protection is available with a two prong outlet.

Two Prong Outlets Suggest Other Problems

Murray fuse box - White's Electrical - Indianapolis, Indiana

Murray fuse box

Two prong outlets also raise flags about other electrical issues that may be present. Homes built before 1965 were built with 30- or 60-amp fuse panels. While 60-amp fuse panels were made with at least one 240-volt wire for larger appliances, 30-amp fuse panels only provide 120-volt wiring, and they are inadequate for modern household electrical needs.

60-amp fuse boxes are problematic because they, too, cannot handle well modern requirements upon electrical systems. In comparison, newly constructed homes today are built with 200-amp circuit breakers (the service panels that replaced fuse boxes).

When there is too much energy running through a wire, the wire heats up, putting the house at risk for fire. Too much energy (electricity) will also blow fuses. You will have to constantly replace if your fuse box’s amperage rating doesn’t meet your needs.

Another problem to be on guard for when two prong outlets are present is the lack of grounding in outlets that have three prongs. If a house has both two and three prong outlets, it means that the three prong outlets were installed for convenience and that they’re not actually grounded. It could also means that only part of your house’s electrical system is grounded.

You will want to test your outlets to find out whether they are grounded or not. If the three prong outlets are not grounded, regulations require that you label them with the words “No Equipment Ground.”

Four Ways to Upgrade 2 Prong Outlets

To upgrade your two prong outlets, you cannot simply add a three prong outlet. While this will solve the convenience issue, it will not solve the safety issue.

If you truly want to address your two prong outlets and make them safer, you have four options.

Option 1: Rewire Your Outlets

Your first, and best, option is to hire an electrician to rewire your house’s outlets and its electrical panel. If the expense is a concern, consider having your electrician rewire select outlets into which you will plug larger or more sensitive electronic devices, such as a computer or game counsel.

Note that this is not a project you can do yourself. Only a certified electrician has the expertise necessary to run a ground wire from the outlet to the service panel and then properly ground it.

Option 2: Ground Three Prong Outlets with the Metal Housing Box

Many two prong outlets were installed in metal boxes. While the circuitry itself wasn’t grounded, these individual boxes oftentimes were. If your house has two prong outlets with metal boxes, it is possible you can ground your outlets without overhauling the wiring.

To find out whether the metal housing is grounded, purchase a circuit tester. Insert one of the tester’s prongs into the hot slot (the shorter slot in the outlet). Put the other prong onto a screw holding the cover plate. If the tester lights up, it means the metal box is grounded.

If the box is grounded, you can install a three prong outlet and ground it by attaching it to the armored, or BX, cable in the back of the box.

Option 3: Install a GFCI at the Outlet

The third option to upgrade a two prong outlet is to replace it with a GFCI. While a GFCI will not protect your electronics from power surges, it will protect you from electrocution and short circuits. If you replace your ungrounded, two prong outlet with a GFCI, you must label it with “No Equipment Ground.”

Option 4: Install a GFCI at the Circuit Breaker

It’s also possible to replace your two prong receptacles with three prong ones and add a GFCI circuit breaker at the service panel. Doing this will likewise protect you from electrocution. If you do this, you will have to label outlets with “GFCI Protected, No Equipment Ground.”

Whatever you decide to do, we recommend having a certified electrician complete your electrical work. Safety is always a concern when working with electricity, and an expert will best take care of your home.

The Ultimate Holiday Lighting Safety List

Christmas Holiday Electrical Safety - White's Electrical Indianapolis Indiana LED Lights

The holiday season is upon us, and that means homeowner and renters around Indianapolis will soon dress their homes, inside and out, with lights. Light strands have grown safer over the years, but the inherent risk of fire and electrocution from these decorations still exist.

As Christmas approaches and you plug in electric decorations, keep in mind the hazards of these products. The U.S. Fire Administration reported between 2009 and 2013 that decorations alone caused an average of $13.4 million in property damage each year. In order to help you stay safe during the holidays, we at White’s Electrical have put together the ultimate holiday lighting safety list.

Do You Need New Lights?

Christmas Holiday Electrical Safety - White's Electrical Indianapolis Indiana LED Lights

  1. If you’re still using lights with incandescent bulbs, consider upgrading to lights with LED bulbs. LED bulbs pose many advantages over incandescent ones. In terms of safety, they do not produce as much heat, and therefore are far less likely to cause fires for this reason. LEDs also last up to 20 times longer than incandescent bulbs, so you’re less likely to experience problems with burnt out bulbs. The bulbs on LEDs are also less likely to break than those on incandescent bulbs because LED bulbs are made with an epoxy, while incandescent bulbs use glass. This means that if you keep your cords in good shape, your LED light strands will last you much longer than an incandescent light strand. Last, LED bulbs are also brighter than incandescent ones, so people can enjoy your holiday spirit all the more.
  2. Before buying light strands or other electric decorations, check for the safety compliance labels. Products should be marked with a symbol from Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL), Interlink (ETL), or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). These organizations make sure products comply with safety standards. Their seal means they have inspected and tested the product and approved it in terms of safety.

Before You String Up the Lights

Christmas Holiday Electrical Safety - White's Electrical Indianapolis Indiana LED Lights

  1. First, look over the light strands and check for broken or cracked sockets, loose connections, or frayed wires. If you come across damaged strands, throw them out. Frayed wires can easily transmit heat and electrical current and therefore cause fires or electrocution. Loose connection and cracked sockets are dangerous because they can easily deteriorate and expose live elements (parts with an electrical current) like wires.
  2. Read the manufacturer’s instructions and warnings before stringing up the lights. The manufacturer will include information about amperage and wattage, and it will provide information on how to properly use the lights. Make sure you follow these instructions to remain as safe as possible.

Striking a Cord with Safety

Christmas light electrical safety White's Electrical Indianapolis

Courtesy State Farm, “Holiday fire safety – Power strip overload”

Cords require their own section in this safety list, as misuse of these devices abound. Safety tips for electrical cords during the holidays include:

  • Plug outdoor lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). These interrupters disrupt electricity if a short occurs in the line (with your body possibly being the cause of the short). Portable outdoor GFCIs are available if your circuits aren’t protected with GFCIs.
  • Make sure the amperage of outdoor lighting meets the amperage of the cords you’re using. In other words, only use cords that can handle the load you’re putting on them.
  • Do not ever overload multiple plug outlets. Overloading an outlet produces considerable heat and can cause fires.
  • Similarly, never string multiple plug outlets together. Only ever plug these devices into an electrical receptacle in the wall.
  • Keep cords out of standing water and snow.
  • Only use extension cords outside that are approved for outdoor use.
  • Keep cords out of high-traffic areas so they don’t become frayed or worn. If they cross a walkway, make sure to protect them with a cord cover.
  • Likewise, do not place cords under rugs, carpets, through doors, or through windows. Do not place them in any place where they will be pinched and worn.
  • Remove leaves that collect on top of cords. When leaves dry out, they can easily catch fire.

While You String Up the Lights

Christmas Holiday Electrical Safety - White's Electrical Indianapolis Indiana LED Lights

Safety first: Don’t stand on metal ladders when handling live electrical wires.

  1. String up your lights before you plug them into an electrical outlet. This will help ensure you do not accidentally electrocute yourself if the light strand becomes damaged. If you have to replace bulbs at some point, make sure you unplug the cord again before doing so.
  2. Do not hang the lights in a way that damages the wires’ insulation. Don’t, for example, use push pins to hold up the wires.
  3. Stand on a wooden or fiberglass ladder while hanging lights. Metal ladders conduct electricity, so you are more at risk of electrocution while on one.
  4. Stay at least 10 feet away from power lines at all times.

Where to Safely Place Christmas Lights

Don’t let light bulbs rest on tree needles or branches, especially if you’re using incandescent lights and a natural tree. The heat from the bulbs may light the tree on fire. The National Fire Protection Association reports that between 2010-14 that Christmas tree fires caused $16.2 million in property damage every year, and the U.S. Fire Administration states that electrical problems caused a third of these fires.

Besides making sure bulbs don’t rest on the branches, make sure you keep the trees away from sources of heat, such as multiprong plugs, heat registers, and fires.

Once You’re Finished with the Lights

Christmas Holiday Electrical Safety - White's Electrical Indianapolis Indiana LED LightsBefore going to bed at the end of the night, make sure to unplug your Christmas lights. Practically, few people will see the lights through the night, so you will be wasting money. In terms of safety, turning off the lights will allow them and their surroundings time to cool after producing heat for several hours. You also want to be away in case a fire did begin in order to combat it or leave the premises.

Likewise, if you’re leaving your house, turn off your lights to eliminate the risk of a fire. If you still want your lights to turn on at night, hook them up to a timer.

How to Safely Dispose Broken LED Bulbs

How to safely dispose led bulbs white's electrical mooresville indianapolis greenwood indiana

LED bulbs are on track to replace CFLs as the lighting method of choice. They’re more energy efficient than CFLs, they last longer, and they don’t contain mercury — a poisonous heavy metal used to create CFL lightbulbs. However, although LEDs don’t contain mercury, they do contain other toxic substances, of which consumers are largely unaware. Because LEDs so have toxic substances, it’s important to know how to safely dispose of LED bulbs.

LEDs are a Good, Energy-Efficient Choice for Lighting

First, it’s important to note that LEDs are excellent choices for lighting. They’re 90 percent more efficient than incandescent light bulbs. That efficiency means homeowners who replace incandescent lights with LED bulbs will save on average $4 per year per bulb per year, which over the lifespan of a LED bulb amounts to $163 saved. And that’s with an estimated LED bulb price of $8.

But LEDs are much less expensive than they were even in recent years. 60-watt equivalent bulbs currently average between $1.50 and $2.50 per bulb on Amazon, making them very affordable.

How to safely dispose led bulbs white's electrical mooresville indianapolis greenwood indiana

LEDs also outshine their CFL cousins, literally. CFL bulbs, though still much more efficient than incandescent bulbs, consume more energy than LEDs. And they’re notorious for not shining at full brightness for several seconds after being switch on. Plus, homeowners cannot control these bulbs with dimmer switches, something they can do with LED lights.

Besides all this, although LEDs do contain toxins, aren’t by considered toxic by law, which means you can dispose of them at the landfill (although we encourage recycling).

LED bulbs are simply the best choice on the market for residential and commercial lighting needs, and no home- or business owner should shy away from installing them. Quite the opposite — they should be looking to retrofit their residence if they haven’t already.

Toxins in LED Lights

How to safely dispose led bulbs white's electrical mooresville indianapolis greenwood indiana

Going with LED lights for their benefits doesn’t mean ignoring safety. It’s well known that LEDs contain lead, arsenic, and other potentially harmful substances. A study published in 2010 in Environmental Science and Technology specifically identified low-intensity, red LEDs as most often containing the highest amount of toxic materials. The study identified white LEDs as having the last amount of lead but still containing nickel, another heavy metal.

Disposing of Broken LEDs

How to safely dispose led bulbs white's electrical mooresville indianapolis greenwood indiana

The study therefore suggests that people treat broken LEDs as hazardous materials. If an LED lightbulb breaks in your home or workplace:

  • Put on protective gloves and sweep up the LED pieces into a plastic bag using a stiff piece of cardboard (if you use a broom, consider disposing of the broom after using it).
  • Next, use sticky tape to pick up any small fragments left over. Put the tape with the fragments into the plastic bag.
  • When all the pieces are picked up, place the bag in a sealable container.

Because LEDs aren’t considered toxic by law, you can dispose of the fragments with other landfill materials. If you want to dispose of them in a more environmentally manner, contact your local municipal agency for instructions.

Municipal agencies in central Indiana include:

If your LED bulb has simply dimmed out (LEDs don’t burn out; they emit less light over time), you can either throw it away or recycle it at a local recycling center, via an online recycler, or with a local retailer who accepts LEDs.

If you’re looking to retrofit your business or otherwise want LED lighting, contact White’s Electrical to learn how we can meet your needs.

Electrical Mistakes in Indianapolis

Cable_closet White's Electrical Indianapolis Mooresville Indiana

Let’s be honest: contractors sometimes do shoddy work around Indianapolis. And homeowners in Johnson and Marion counties can’t always perform repairs well by themselves, no matter how many YouTube videos they watch. A lot of their poor work goes unnoticed until a home inspection reveals the mistakes… and dangers.

There’s a reason why fire and building codes are in place in Indiana and why people who purchase homes hire professional building inspectors. Electrical safety is important! Poor work can result in electrocution, fires, frustration, and power outages, among other problems.

There seems to be a trend to the types of mistakes (and plain bad work) that people in central Indiana make when working with a home electrical system. We’ve identified a number of electrical blunder trends and now present them to you.

Mistake No. 1: If only I had another plug …

extension cord nightmare Indianapolis Mooresville Indiana White's ElectricalExtension cords shouldn’t be used other than the way they’re intended. In other words, don’t use 3, 4, 5 … 10 cords to try and power all your blow dryers, trimmers, extra lighting, phone charger, etc. If you need more places to plug in, have a qualified electrician install some more outlets. Or charge up your phone in the other room.

Also, don’t use extension cords in place of permanent wiring. That means you don’t plug in a cord, run it through the wall, and plug in your lamp in the other room.

Mistake No. 2: Let’s break it down …

bad wiring fuse box Indianapolis Mooresville Indiana White's ElectricalElectrical breaker boxes and control panels tend to be another place where homeowners and less-than-reputable electricians in the Indianapolis area make electrical flubs. For one, electrical boxes aren’t toolboxes, nor are they cabinets. You should not store toxic chemicals or canned food next to your breakers. If you need extra storage space, install a cabinet.

Breaker boxes also tend to be locations for wiring nightmares: Uninsulated wires, unattached breaker switches, multiple splices per wire, lack of grounding – the list goes on. For some reason, poor electrical work tends to culminate around these boxes. Again, contact a good electrician to help you here. You don’t want to get electrocuted when the lights go out and you’re flipping breakers in the dark.

Breaker boxes also tend to attract mice and rats. The boxes provide a cozy nesting area. And because of the electricity flowing through it, it can be nice and warm. It’s not uncommon, therefore, for inspectors (or horrified homeowners) to find live or electrocuted vermin trapped in these boxes. Just make sure the panels are well sealed and that the back is flush against the wall. Remember, mice can get in cracks as small as ¼ inch.

Mistake No. 3: Electricity doesn’t travel through water … or does it?

bad wiring plumbing White's Electrical Mooresville Indianapolis IndianaCentral Indiana might not have any large lakes, but yes, electricity does travel through water. Although this fact is fairly well known in our region, certain Hoosiers tend to ignore it when installing electric cables, junction boxes, and breaker boxes. Why? Perhaps a pipe is in the way, or the pipe seems like it would make a good mount. Whatever the reasoning, it’s never a good idea to secure your breaker box to a water inlet pipe, nor should you hang your breaker box over the sump pit. You might also want to avoid resting a junction box on top of a cold water pipe.

Oh, and you might want to have an experienced electrician relocate that breaker box from above the sink in your bathroom.

And don’t ever put an electrical disconnect box under a working faucet.

Mistake No. 4: Ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin’ alive!

exposed cable Indianapolis Mooresville Indiana White's ElectricalWiring, in general, tends to get messy when a homeowner or bad electrician does the work. It’s not uncommon that they’ll run bare wires that they’ve stripped for one reason or another. These wires post a significant risk for electrocution and might cause fires.

Mistake No. 5: Thinking outside the box

Burned junction box Indianapolis Mooresville Indiana White's ElectricalJunction boxes are yet another place where local, do-it-yourself electricians fumble. They will sometimes replace junction boxes with cardboard (yes, cardboard). You should not do this. Some Hoosiers in central Indiana sometimes also replace the proper boxes with ammunition boxes. Yes, ammunition boxes are common in Indiana, but they aren’t meant for electrical applications. Nor should you use old, plastic oil cans. Those cans are meant for one purpose, and your electrical system certainly isn’t it.

Only use proper electrical equipment when working on your electrical system because the equipment is designed to function safely. (And – we’re surprised we even have to say it – it won’t get soggy, or burn.)

Junction boxes also tend to become rat’s nests of bad connections. No one should splice, say, five or six connections in one box. Doing so increases the risk of fire, and it creates an inefficient system as well.

Mistake No. 6: Call the … cable guy?

cables not run correctly Indianapolis Mooresville Indiana White's ElectricalLast, people who prefer doing it themselves will often incorrectly place cables. Perhaps “place” isn’t the proper word. They incorrectly route cables. Ventilation pipes, for example, are not the proper place to run cables. If the cable is too short, purchase a longer one. Don’t drill a shortcut through the ventilation shaft.

If you do, you might end up with more shorts than just your chord.

Sure, some of these blunders seem funny, but they do happen! And when they do, they can cause so very-not-so-funny incidents. White’s Electrical can help with any home or light commercial project you have and will help keep you safe from the flubs listed above. Call or contact us today with questions or to request a quote.

Leaves & Electrical Hazards

Dry Leaves Electrical Hazard Indianapolis White's Electrical

 

Autumn doesn’t official begin for another few weeks, but leaves are already turning here in central Indiana. Soon, the fall foliage will make its way to the ground, where – despite its beauty – could actually pose a hazard when it collects around electrical equipment.

After falling, leaves tend to dry out and collect in piles around the bases of homes, in gardens, and lawn furniture. While not only unsightly and attractive to insects and other pests, these piles pose a fire hazard if they collect around electrical equipment.

Cords, lights, and outlets sometimes give off a significant amount of heat energy. When dry leaves trap this heat, the heat can actually ignite the leaves, creating a fire that can quickly spread to your home or building.

Prevent Electrical Fires

To prevent fires, make sure to keep leaves away from electrical equipment. Rake dry leaves out of your yard, and remove leaves that collect around the base of your house or buildings. Also, do not run cords and cables through leaves. Make sure your cords and cables are free from obstructions.

More importantly, make sure to inspect the cords you’re using. Frayed or otherwise damaged cords are both a fire and shock risk. They can also be less efficient to use if they’re damaged and giving off lots of heat.

Other Sources of Electrical Fires

De-icing cables are another source that can ignite dry leaves. If your de-icing cables are activated and leaves are packed around them, the cables can potentially light the leaves on fire, which could quickly spread across your roof. If your home or business has de-icing cables, make sure to inspect them regularly and contact an electrician if they’re damaged or if you’re otherwise concerned.

Pine needles, sometimes called “Pine Straw” is sometimes used purposefully for landscaping, but can also pose a fire hazard. Fires have been linked to pine needles when they’re used for landscaping around the base of buildings. Pine needles ignite much more easily than hardwood mulch and burn faster, shooting up flames high enough to light siding on fire.

If you use pine needles for landscaping, never run cables or lights across it. Make sure your cables only run over nonflammable materials.

Schedule an Inspection

No matter how many leaves you’re battling this season, scheduling an electrical inspection is always a good idea. An Indianapolis licensed electrician can ensure your electrical system is ready for winter, and can make suggestions for proper maintenance. To schedule your inspection, call White’s Electrical today.

Electrical System Maintenance

Maintenance Program Electrical System White's Electrical Indianapolis

When the budget is tight, business owners are forced to decide where to cut costs. Oftentimes, they plan for only what’s pressing their attention at the moment: employee pay, utility bills, material costs — the bare essentials. What they sometimes forget or neglect is often a hidden necessity. Preventative maintenance for electrical systems is essential for so many business owners, yet it is often overlooked.

At first glance, their choice seems understandable. After all, no one wants to write a check for recurring maintenance. But by calling upon electricians for minimum maintenance or only for emergencies is a mistake. Not only do managers put employees at risk for accidents and the business at risk for lost productivity, but they risk spending more money than they would if they were to invest in properly maintaining their electrical systems.

Professionals Advocate Maintenance Programs for Electrical Systems

The National Fire Protection Association has for decades advocated businesses to maintain their electrical equipment. According to the NFPA:

“A well-administered Electrical Preventive Maintenance program reduces accidents, saves lives and minimizes costly breakdowns and unplanned outages. Impending troubles can be identified, and solutions applied, before they become major problems requiring more expensive, time-consuming solutions.” (NFPA 70B – 2013, Section 4.2.1)

An unmaintained electrical system is a liability managers cannot ignore. The NFPA isn’t the only organization to suggest this. In Maintenance Excellence, Optimizing Equipment Life Cycle Decisions, John Campbell shows that it costs three times as much for the same number of hours worked responding to electrical emergencies as it does maintaining electrical systems.

After study, he devised this formula for how much electrical work costs:

Planned electrical work = $1.00
Unplanned electrical work = $1.50
Emergency electrical work = $3.00

This means that every three hours of preventative work is equal to the cost for one hour of emergency work.

Maintaining Electrical Systems Saves Money

Spending more on maintenance rather than responding to problems on the backend results in money saved. For this reason, it really is best for businesses to hire electricians who can maintain systems full-time or to purchase a maintenance program from a local electrical company.

So, if you’re still unsure whether such a program will result in savings, consider conducting your own study. Gather financial records for the past five to ten years and compare costs for past electrical repairs without a program to the cost of a maintenance program. You can get a quote for a maintenance program by contacting an electrician in your area.

Safe Electrical Outlets for Your Home or Business

GFCI Tamper-Resistant outlet Indiana White's ElectricalElectrical safety is something we bring up often in our blogs, and for good reason! Being smart – and safe – when it comes to working with electricity is critical for any homeowner, business owner, or DIYer. Ensure safe electrical outlets are installed in your home or business.

Since 2008, the National Electrical Code has required all outlets at new installations be tamper proof. Sadly, each year 2,400 children in the United States are electrocuted, burned, or even killed by sticking items in electrical sockets.

To prevent accidental electrocution, several improvements have been made to make outlets safer for children and adults alike.

Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter

One improvement, invented in 1961, is the ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). You’ve likely seen a GFCI before — they’re the wall sockets with reset buttons on them. The National Electric Code requires they be installed in all new bathrooms, crawl spaces, kitchens, most outdoor receptacles, and unfinished basements.

GFCIs work by monitoring the difference between the current going into and out of an appliance. If that difference is greater than 5 milliamps, the GFCI shuts off the electrical flow. This difference in flow indicates a possible ground fault, meaning electricity is being directed through a source other than the wiring – that other source possibly being your body.

Tamper-Proof Wall Outlet

Another improvement is the tamper-resistant wall outlet. These are the outlets with spring-loaded shutters inside them that must be compressed at the same time to gain access to the electrical system. The National Electric Code not only requires these outlets at new and renovated homes but at other properties where children are likely present.

If you have children, are remodeling, or simply want to make your home or business safer, you should consider replacing any existing outlets, especially old, two-prong versions, with safer GFCI and tamper-proof versions.

There’s no reason your house’s electrical system should pose a hazard. If you’re concerned about your current wall outlets or electrical system in general, contact your local electrician to schedule an inspection.