Category Archives: Home Upgrades

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Outdoor Christmas lighting safety tips

Outdoor christmas lighting safety
Christmas light holders installed on gutters

Outdoor Christmas Lighting safety tips

Here are some outdoor christmas lighting safety tips for transforming your home into a christmas wonderland. Installing  christmas displays and lighting can be a lot of fun but at the same time pose some challenges on where to plug everything in. 

Christmas lighting decoration come with fuses typically built in to end of the lighting string. When to many strings are connected together this fuse will blow. Never cut out and bypass these fuses. The wiring for most Christmas lighting is very small unable to cary a big load.

Installing hard wired GFCI outlets in strategic locations will help make the installations easier and safer. Be sure to use outdoor rated Christmas lighting outdoors. The wiring coating is protected from UV light to keep it from deteroratiing from the sun. The wiring and the bulbs are designed to be in the rain.

GFCI protection

All exterior christmas lights should be plugged into an outlet that is GFCI protected. These outlets have a test/reset button built into the front of them or the circuit breaker has a test reset button on them.  Plugging your outdoor Christmas lights into them  prevents accidental electrocution from lighting that is damaged or gets damaged through normal wear and tear. GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupter.  A GFCI outlet monitors the imbalance between the hot and the neutral wires. Moister and or damaged cords will trip the sensors in them. If you do need to plug cords together to daisy chain them use cord covers.  Cord covers will cover the male and female connections of the cord helps prevent GFCI outlets from tripping when it rains.

Stapling Christmas lighting

Don’t use a staple gun to hang the wiring for your Christmas lights. This can damage the cordage for your decorations and expose bare conductors that can cause serious shock . Instead use Christmas lighting clips or hangers.

Installing Christmas lighting on a metal chain link fence is not recommended. If there is damage to extension cord or lighting it can make contact with the metal fencing and energize the fencing creating a shock hazard.

When the wiring to your your decorations starts to dry out and crack you should not plug them in. Instead replace them with updated decorations. 

 

How to Install a Ceiling Fan

Indoor ceiling fanHow to Install a Ceiling Fan

We all have seen ceiling fans and most of us have them in our homes, but how much do we know about ceiling fans? How do we know which ceiling fan is the right one for your installation?

History of the Ceiling Fan

According to wikipedia fans first appeared in the 1860’s and 1870’s in the United States originally powered by water utilizing a drive system with belts and pulleys. In 1882 Phillip Diehl, the same guy who first put an electric motor in a singer sewing machine, put an electric motor in a ceiling fan and later added the light kit.

Things to Consider When Buying a Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans have come a long way since then. There are many choices when it comes to installing ceiling fans and their accessories. When determining what type of ceiling fan to install consider the size of the room and how high the ceilings are.  Installing a 52 inch ceiling fan with 5 blades with a 4 to 5 inch down rod is comfortable for ceilings that are 8 foot high. 52 inches refers to the span across the fan blades. The down rod is used to lower the ceiling fan to a comfortable position when you have high ceilings. If you have a 10 foot tall ceiling an 18” down rod is usually the best choice for an extension.

Ceiling fans don’t really lower the temperature in the air. The breeze created by the  fan helps make the room feel more comfortable. This can allow you to raise the a/c thermometer by a couple of degrees which can help lower your electric bill.  Fans only need to run when there is someone in the room benefiting from them.  Energy star rated ceiling fans are a great investment. Most of them only utilize half of the electricity that a standard ceiling fan consumes.

Choosing the Right Ceiling Fan for Your Installation

outdoor ceiling fanChoosing the correct ceiling fan depends on the environment that it will be in. I have often seen indoor ceiling fans installed outdoors. With the humidity in Florida it doesn’t take long for the blades to start sagging. Outdoor ceiling fans come in a few options. Some ceiling fans are water or dust resistant and some are designed for wet locations where they can withstand direct rain. Paying a few extra bucks to get the appropriate ceiling fan will save you time and money in the future. 

Operating Your Ceiling Fan

Controlling the speed of the ceiling fan gives you options on how the room feels. Most fans have a 3 speed pull chain built in. The ceiling fan pull chains are typically easy to change out if they go bad. Some other options are the remote control kit for fans and the wall controller.

I usually don’t like to buy the fans with the remotes built into them. They can go bad then you would need to replace the entire fan. Typically sending a fan out for repair is not a good investment unless you have an expensive custom fan or a very expensive model.  

The forward – reverse feature on your ceiling fan that changes the direction the blades spin is used for different seasons. In the summer the forward position is the counter clock wise rotation. In the winter reverse direction to the clock wise rotation. Reversing the rotation of the fan will move the hot air above the ceiling fan down to the lower part of the room. To change direction first turn off your fan, look around the area that the pull chain is at and you will find a 2 position switch. Change the switch to opposite position and turn on the ceiling fan. Your ceiling fan should now be operating in the opposite direction.

Balancing Your Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans tend to make a lot of noise if they are out of balance. It will also decrease the life of the motor. To begin balancing a ceiling fan first wipe all the dust off of the fan. Then with the right screwdriver tighten all of the screws associated with the fan blades. Do a quick check and see if the problem has been resolved.

Dust and loose screws can have a large impact on the operation of your fan. If problem still continues use a measuring tape and measure from the ceiling to the blade tip and carefully spin the fan by hand rotating each blade past the measuring tape. You are checking that all the blades are at the same distance from the ceiling. If you find one of the blades has a different measurement, first see if the fan blade is straight.  If it is, you will need to carefully apply a small amount of pressure to the fan bracket that holds the fan blade until you are able to correct the distance from the ceiling.  

Once you have corrected the distance with the ceiling fan blades and you still have a balancing problem you will need to install a ceiling fan balancing kit. One is usually included with every ceiling fan at purchase and most home centers sell them as well.  

To begin installation pick a blade and install the “U” clip at the middle of the blade. Turn on the fan to the speed that causes the wobble. If no change in wobble move to the next blade. Once you have found the blade that the clip helps then move the clip up toward the tip in increments running the ceiling fan in between movements until you get the best performance.

Installing the balancing kit should not take more than 15 to 20 minutes and its a process of trial and error. If your fan continues to wobble you may want to call an electrician to make sure its installed to a proper Ceiling fan box or choose to replace it.

Corey Gomis with Brandon Electric Inc

USB wall outlet comparison for your home.

Install USB Wall Outlet

usb wall outlet

I was recently at one of the the big box stores for home repairs in Tampa. In the electrical section I noticed the selection of USB wall outlets (sometimes called USB charger receptacles). With most electronic gadgets utilizing USB connections, a USB Wall Outlet will probably find its way into our homes soon enough. So I thought I would do a little research on them and the different options that are available.

One of the advantages of using the duplex outlet with USB ports is that it can replace most outlets in your home and most of them are tamper proof. Tamper proof means that they are designed to make it difficult for a child to put a metal object in one of the power slots of the outlet. You should not have these installed in an outlet that is only a 2 prong. The 2 prong outlets are generally found in older homes. These outlets do not have the ground prong in them which means there is no ground wire connected to the outlet. A wall outlet with USB port should not be used to replace GFCI outlets. These are the outlets you find near your sinks that typically have a reset button on them. 

USB Wall Outlet Options

USB wall outlet

There is a large selection of USB wall outlets on the market with different choices. If you are having an existing outlet changed to a USB wall outlet I would recommend using the duplex charging outlet. Electrical code has requirements for outlet spacing for the walls in your home. Replacing an existing outlet with a duplex USB wall outlet keeps you within code. If you were to have your existing outlet replaced with a 4 or 6 port USB charging outlet those plates do not have space for an outlet so they would violate the code for outlet wall spacing. This is an important code that cuts down the use of extension cords in the home which can be a fire hazard.

Another option is to add wiring from an existing power outlet to a new box and then you can install any type of USB wall outlet.

Choosing a USB Wall Outlet

When choosing a wall outlet with USB ports you need to think about what you plan on plugging in. The outlet illustrated in the picture is a 3.1amp USB wall outlet. This will allow two iPads to be charged at one time. The lower the USB amperage means that it will charge slower or may not be compatible with certain devices. The 3.1 allows for 2 chargers to be plugged in at one time. Other choices of USB outlets have many different configurations. They also come in a few various colors like white, ivory, almond, dark brown and black.

I believe USB outlets are a great idea. They allow me to plug in 2 items for charging while allowing the outlet itself to remain open for electrical items and there is no need for the USB transformer plug.

Thanks,

Corey Gomis
Brandon Electric Inc