All posts by Corey

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. 


Check your smoke detectors

Maintaining and choosing smoke detectors

Maintaining and Choosing Smoke detectors 

According to wikipedia smoke detectors were first patented in 1890

The US National Fire Protection Association estimates that nearly two-thirds of deaths from home fires occur in properties without working smoke detectors


Maintenance on Smoke Alarms

canned smoke for testing smoke detectors
Canned smoke for testing smoke detectors

Change the batteries in your smoke detectors when you change your clocks. You should also look at the manufactures born on date. If your detector is more than 10 years old you should have it replaced. Vacuuming your photovoltaic smoke alarms well help in preventing false alarms from dust and bugs that get in them. Canned smoke is also available to test detectors that may be little out of reach.

Smoke Alarms have come a long way

Smoke alarms are now required in all new homes and buildings and are responsible for saving many lives. Going shopping for smoke detectors can lead to lots of choices. There are two major types of smoke alarms. Ionization and photovoltaic. Ionization smoke detectors are more sensitive to the flaming stage of fires than photovoltaic which are optical detectors.  Optical detectors are more sensitive to fires in the early smoldering stage. You can also buy smoke detectors that use both technologies. 

At least one Carbon monoxide detectors are now required with homes with attached garages. Carbon monoxide detectors can warn you from a cars exhaust and malfunctioning gas appliances. You can also buy smoke alarms that do both carbon and smoke.

Smoke alarms can also be purchase that are hardwired with battery backup or just battery back up. Hard wired is the best option this also allows you to interconnect them so that if one goes off they all go off.

Please do not remove or dismantle your smoke alarms if they start annoying you. Get them checked out by a professional. They could save your life.

When was the last time you checked your smoke detectors?

Smoke detectors save lives
Check your smoke detectors

LED Lighting For Your Home and Office

Installation of LED lighting in the home or office has become very common these past few years. We have seen the cost dramatically drop throughout the last couple of years making many installations more affordable.

The Early Days of LED Lighting

LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. A Wikipedia articles list 1962 as the earliest use. With recent developments and advances in LED we are now seeing it used in many applications in the home and office. LED is still more expensive than the typical light bulb or fluorescent lights and HID lighting but the energy consumption with the long life span makes it a worthy investment.

LED Lights Replacing Incandescent lights

As incandescente bulbs become phased out all over the world the use of LED lighting will go up and this should also help bring the price down. In 2007 congress passed a law on the phase out. The phase out has been picking up speed over the past few years and once existing supplies in the United states are used up the incandescent bulb will be hard to find. Manufacturing has already stopped in the U.S. for making incandescent bulbs.

The lifespan on many of the LED lighting  in many cases are 50,000 hrs  to even over 100,000hrs compared to a compact fluorescent lamp at around 10,000 hrs or an incandescent at 1,200 hrs.

Advantages and Disadvantages for LED Lighting

LED lighting although it has many advantages it also has some disadvantages. A surge protector is recommended for the LED driver that power the light source. Since the entire lighting components are made up using electronics their weakness is power surges and lightning. The LED also looses some of its luster over time and becomes a little dimmer.

LED lighting is also available in a wide variety of color temperatures. The color temperature is measured in Kelvins. A yellowish type light has a Kelvin of around 2700K and a white light is around 4000K. LED lighting is also dimmable but requires special dimmer.

The most common use of LED lighting in the home are for the recess can lighting and exterior security lighting. Many homes with recess can lights in the kitchen typically have 6 or 8 lights with either the incandescent or halogen lamps. This increases the temperature in the kitchen and causes more heat. Making it more uncomfortable for the person cooking and also causes the temperature to rise so the A/C has to work more. The LED retrofit kits snaps right into most recess can housings making it an easy transition and if you have an existing dimmer you need to change it out to an LED dimmer.

For outdoor security lighting LED lighting cast a nice bright light. This is also helpful for those security lights that are up high and hard to reach. The LED light will require less maintenance.

Government Incentives offered for LED Lighting

For the office the use of LED bulbs is a no brainer. Conversion kits are available for most 2×4 fluorescent fixtures. Replacement fixtures are also available as (1)led light panel. Fluorescent lighting in offices are usually on all day and produce heat. The savings for the conversion is big once you get passed the investment pay off. There are also tax incentives to convert office spaces by many power companies and government. Check with your CPA or government official on the rebates for your area.

Led lighting is here to stay. LED may cost a little more at the cash register but you will get your investment back in savings over time. Save those receipt from purchasing LED at your home centers. LED lighting can still have some issues so you may buy some that do not last as long as the manufacture list in those cases having the receipt will make it easy for a refund or exchange.

Have you begun replacing your incandescent lamps with LED bulbs?




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.


Corey Gomis
Brandon Electric Inc