Smoke Alarm Safety

An important step in protecting your home and keeping your family safe is making sure your smoke alarms are properly working. If you built your home today, current codes in North Carolina require smoke alarms in each sleeping room, outside each separate sleeping area near the bedrooms, and on each story of the home, including the basement. If you have a larger home, you may need additional smoke alarms.

Current standards also require that all smoke detectors are interconnected and hardwired. With a hard wired connected system, the activation of one alarm will active all alarms in the home. Each smoke alarm should have a backup power source in case of power interruption.

smoke detector

Maintaining And Replacing Smoke Detectors

Proper maintenance and replacement of your home’s alarms can reduce the risk for smoke alarm failure. Check each smoke detector monthly by pressing the test button on the outside of the case. If your alarm has replaceable batteries, the battery should be replaced once a year. Alarms with non-replaceable 10-year batteries are designed to remain effective up to 10 years. If the alarm with the 10 year battery chirps it is warning that the battery is low. In this case, you should replace the entire unit right away.

When doing home improvement projects, you should never paint, sticker, or decorate the alarm. This could keep the smoke detector from working.

Is It Time To Replace Your Smoke Alarm?

Smoke alarms have a limited life span. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that every alarm in your home be replaced after 10 years.  Not sure how old your smoke detector is? Remove the alarm from the ceiling and look on the back of the device for the manufacture date. If it is less than 10 years old and works properly during monthly tests, it’s ok to keep the alarm.

Alarms over 10 years old or alarms that don't work properly during a test (and new batteries do not correct the situation) then it is time to replace the alarm immediately. In older homes you may also want to consider adding additional smoke alarms to meet the current requirements. An electrician can ensure that any new alarms you install are hard wired and work properly with the rest of your smoke alarm system.

Electrical Home Inspections

Couple-looking-at-home

Ensure whole house comfort and peace of mind with an extended coverage plan from Central Carolina Air Conditioning. When you add whole house coverage to your Policy of Assurance you will receive on plumbing and one electrical inspection each year to ensure your plumbing and electrical systems are working properly.

Eight reasons to upgrade your home electrical panel

Electrical Panel Replacement

When is it time to replace your home’s electrical panel? If you are like many of us, you probably don’t think about your electrical panel unless you need to flip a circuit breaker. However, the electrical panel is an important part of your home’s electrical system. Here’s a quick list to help you decide if it’s time to think about replacing it.

1. Age: Electrical panels can last anywhere from 25 to 40 years. However, useful, safe operation can vary due to power surges, general use, and even manufacturer issues. To ensure your panel is operating as expected, an electrical inspection for your home is recommended once a year. If your panel has fuse technology instead of circuit breakers, that’s also a sign that it is probably time for an electrical panel replacement. Many insurance companies will charge a penalty if you have an outdated panel with fuses.

electrical panel labeled

2. Smell: If there is any kind of burning smell near your electrical panel, it is always better to have it inspected by a qualified technician to ensure that it is still operating safely. A qualified technician can advise you on repairs needed or let you know it's time for an electrical panel replacement.

3. Tripping Breakers: Circuit breakers are designed to turn off the flow of electricity on circuits that are drawing too much power. If breakers trip often, it could be a sign that you have an increased load and need to upgrade your panel.

4. Home Upgrades: Home improvement projects often include changes to the demand on the electrical system like adding new outlets or appliances. An increased electricity demand could be a reason to for an electrical panel replacement with additional circuits.

5. Heat: Electrical panels should not be warm to the touch. Heat coming from a panel could indicate an issue that needs to be inspected by a qualified technician immediately. The technician can do a complete inspection and advise if it is time for an electrical panel replacement.

6. Overall Condition- If you have a rusty electrical panel, it is an indication that your panel has come in contact with water. In addition to replacing your panel, you will also want to find the source of the water and address that issue as well.

7. Noise: If you hear buzzing or hissing sounds, it’s time for an inspection by a qualified professional. What could be a simple fix such as a bad wire or loose connection, if left unaddressed, can cause further damage to your panel. This could result in an electrical panel replacement and wiring replacement.

8. Flickering Lights- Do your lights flicker every time you vacuum your home? If you notice frequently flickering lights during daily activities around your home, it may mean it’s time for an upgrade to handle the increased power draw.

panel maintenance

Electrical Maintenance Inspection

At Central Carolina, we recommend an electrical inspection service once a year to ensure your home's electrical system is working as expected. In a Central Carolina electrical services inspection, you can expect us to check your panel and do an infra-red scan to look for hot spots. We will tighten all electrical connections. We inspect your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are in proper working order and within their useful lifespan. We will test your outlets and provide you with any recommendations for service to keep your home running and your power on.

What is an electrical panel?

The electrical panel is a metal box that contains all the electric circuits for a home. Often found in the garage or basement, the panel takes the electricity purchased from the power company and distributes it throughout the home to power lights, appliances, and electronics.

Different areas in the home, or even appliances, will have their own circuit in the electrical panel. These should be clearly labeled inside the panel to help with the management of electricity in your home.

Each circuit is controlled by either a fuse or a circuit breaker. Fuses, which look like tiny light bulbs, are typically found in older panels. In a panel with fuses, If the circuit is overloaded, the small wire inside the bulb will melt and that stops the electricity to that circuit. Then the fuses will have to be replaced manually.

Circuit breakers are more common in today’s homes. These look like switches inside the electrical panel. If a circuit becomes overloaded, the switch will flip to cut the power. Before flipping the switch back to the regular position, simply reduce the load on the circuit by unplugging the electronics or appliance that caused the breaker to flip.

As a rule of thumb, it is best to have your entire electrical system inspected once a year by a professional electrician. The electrician will check your electrical panel and advise you of any issues or concerns.

circuit-breaker-electric-panel-box-with-wires-in-a-5U7C3GP
panel maintenance

Electrical Maintenance Inspection

At Central Carolina, we recommend an electrical inspection service once a year to ensure your home's electrical system is working as expected. In a Central Carolina electrical services inspection, you can expect us to check your panel and do an infra-red scan to look for hot spots. We will tighten all electrical connections. We inspect your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are in proper working order and within their useful lifespan. We will test your outlets and provide you with any recommendations for service to keep your home running and your power on.

Exterior Lighting: A Quick Guide

Exterior lighting should make your home appear inviting and warm while complementing your existing décor. Slight changes in the amount of illumination, color and style, size, and mounting height can create a welcoming glow for your home. Does your back porch appear dark? Is your front entryway dull and uninviting? Spruce up your space with some updated exterior lighting!

Here’s what to consider and how to pick out the exterior lighting fixtures that will enhance your space.

1.       Illumination

The end goal of exterior lighting is to brighten a space without being overbearing – side yards, garages or driveways could use a brighter bulb or utility type fixture while the front door, porch, and back deck can often rely on smaller fixtures and softer, dimmer lighting. Since these are outdoor lighting fixtures, opting for longer-lasting LED bulbs is usually recommended.

2.       Color and Style

The color and size of your fixtures and lighting should coordinate with your existing style scheme to help improve the aesthetic. If you have brass fixtures or doorknobs use those elements with your light fixtures. If you have silver or platinum, coordinate that in your lighting scheme to create a more completed look.

3.       Size

Image of two exterior light fixtures on the front of a home

You want to strike a balance between a light that illuminates a good amount of space with a fixture arrangement that doesn’t dominate the entire exterior façade. A light that is too large can appear clunky and shrink the look of your house. Size choice may vary depending on the location. For instance, a side yard or driveway may need a larger light, whereas the lights at your front door should be smaller and ornate. A good rule of thumb for entryway fixtures, is to select a fixture that is approximately one-third or one-fourth the height of the front door.

4.       Mounting Height

The placement of a lighting fixture is also imperative. For most wall-mounted applications you want to display lights that are approximately eye-level. This is about 66 to 72 inches above the floor for most entries, front doors and garage-mounted lights.

Where to Display Outdoor Lights

In addition to the height, proper placement will create being the look together. Entryways and front doors should have two sconces or fixtures on each side. Covered deck lighting is dependent upon the size of the space. If possible, use larger fixtures like outdoor chandeliers to create a chic look if the space allows. Placement for a garage depends on the size and number of stalls. A one-car garage may only need a single fixture near the walkway, or a fixture on flanking both sides of the garage door. A two-car garage with two separate doors may look better with three lights – the left, center column, and right side of the garage front.

How to Choose Outdoor Lighting Fixtures for Your Home

In addition to all these considerations the type of light used can make or break your outside lighting goals.

Here are a few lighting types and some advice on when and where to use them:

  • Post lights: These are standalone, stately fixtures that can be used for illuminating walkways or marking a yard perimeter.
  • Outdoor wall sconces: These work well to flank the front door or light a side entry.
  • Outdoor chandelier: Light up an area by adding an element of elegance. These larger, more ornate fixtures could be used in a covered deck that has room to spare.
  • Outdoor table lamp: Best for patios or back porches, these lights can be moved, dimmed and changed out to create the perfect mood.

Adding to or updating your exterior lighting can go a long way toward enhancing your outdoor spaces. Decorating with matching fixtures outdoors will complement your home and create a welcoming glow to your yard.

For professional assistance from a licensed electrician, contact Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, and Electrical at 336.283.8485.

Color Temperature In Your Home

There are so many options for lighting that it can seem like a challenging task when you’re trying to make decisions for your home. Do you need lighting that is cool, neutral, warm, or changeable? It depends on how and where you’re using them, what kind of look and feel you’re trying to create and personal preference. First, consider the color temperature scale.

What is Color Temperature?

You’ll find that most LED lighting products are offered in a variety of color temperatures – they vary hues of white. Correlated color temperature, or ‘CCT’ is a term you’ll see used to describe how warm (yellow) or cool (blue) the color of light in an LED bulb or fixture appears. It works like the sun, and is easiest to explain that way.

As the day progresses, the sun changes color. Midday might be 6000K (Kelvin), or very bright bluish-white. Sunset may be 3000K with an amber light. Usually, Kelvin temperatures for residential lighting are between 2500K and 5000K.

Here’s another way to look at it:

“Warm” light = anything 3000K or lower.

“Cool” light = 4000K or above.

“Neutral” looks cool or warm depending on surrounding furnishings and other lighting close by.

Some task lighting like in a basement workshop or home office can often be useful at 4000K and above.

And of course, the choice is ultimately up to you!

Kelvin temperature can also help you decide which fixture is right in a room:

Warm light, ambient lighting = 2200-2700K.

Soft white light = 3000-3500K.

Bright white light (for kitchens, offices, workspaces and vanities) = 4500K.

Other things to consider

Look at the colors of your ceiling, walls and floor. If your home has mostly cool colors like blacks, greys, blues, greens, and crisp whites the best choice is a cool LED color temperature such as 3000K or 3500K.

If your home has mostly natural materials like hardwood floors, wood cabinets and furniture, and colors like browns, reds, and oranges then warmer white LEDs is the best choice.

Temperature Recommendations by Space

Typically, lighting works best in certain rooms for which they are used.

  • Create an inviting living room to relax in and for entertaining. Using a dimmer sets the right atmosphere for TV watching and movie nights. Suggested color temperature: 2700-3000K
  • Lighting that’s a balance between being inviting, and bright enough to see what you’re eating is what you want in the dining room. Installing a dimmer helps adjust to the perfect mood. Suggested color temperature: 2700K – 3000K
  • Bedrooms are the most intimate space in your home. Keeping lights low and warm allows you to relax and rest. Suggested color temperature: 2700-3000K
  • Bathrooms are cooler and brighter so they are functional for routines like applying makeup and shaving. A more soothing environment can be achieved with a dimmer. Suggested color temperature: 3000-4000K
  • Bright light in the kitchen is ideal for prepping food and reading recipes. But kitchens are so versatile, so the color temperature can vary. Decide what’s best based on your decor and any other lighting being used nearby. A fail-proof ‘neutral’ 3000K white will look great no matter what. Suggested color temperature: 2700-4000K
  • You’ll need bright, task-oriented lighting in  the office or garage. Suggested color temperature: 3000-5000K

Ideally, our lighting would change throughout the day, just like the sun. We can try to emulate this process with LED “tunable” fixtures and using dimmers whenever possible. Dimming can transform a space and give you more functionality. It will also save energy and extend the life of your light bulbs.

If you need professional assistance while on your color temperature journey, call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010.

Electrical Upgrades to Help Sell Your House

If you’re considering putting off upgrading the electrical in your home because you plan to put it on the market – think twice! It’s not a good idea to sell a home with questionable wiring and electrical. What should you replace? What can you leave for the buyer to fix? Let’s look at some electrical upgrades to help sell your house.

Electrical issues often deter potential buyers. Increasing your home’s curb appeal is always important. You need to see what’s behind the scenes that might send your potential buyer to another property. While you don’t want to spend a fortune on a home you’re selling, it is wise to learn when to update home wiring so you can get top dollar on your home sale.

These electrical upgrades will keep negotiations, price reductions/credits at a minimum, and above all, will help you get an offer near listing price.

Too Few Outlets

An outlet per room is not enough, and extension cords are dangerous. Each room should feature multiple outlets in convenient locations. For example, check for outlets next to the night stand, outside the front door, or in the bathroom.

Antiquated Electrical Delivery

Often, you’ll find that older homes are wired to receive 60-amps. Modern homes require 20-amps. If your home’s wiring is outdated, it will not support the number of electrical fixtures, appliances and electrical load for today’s homes.

Outdated Wiring

Wiring systems such as aluminum wiring, a leading cause of home fires, will have buyers and homeowner’s insurance companies running the other way. For safety and to manage the massive load of electronics in today’s homes, your whole home should have solid copper wire and adequate grounding.

Two-Prong (Ungrounded) Outlets

In today’s digital age, and for today’s home buyers, replace two-pronged plugs (and wiring). Outlets must be able to accept 3-prong plugs and be properly grounded. Buyers will not want to risk having their expensive gadgets getting fried.

Problematic Circuit Breaker Panels

All your home’s wiring should run through a circuit breaker panel. Any other type will stall the home sale, and affect the function and value of your home, and its insurability.

Missing GFCIsOutlets in the kitchen, bath, garage, basement, or other wet locations should be GFCI equipped

Water increases the risk of electric shock. Outlets in the kitchen, bath, garage, basement, or other wet locations should be GFCI equipped. GFCI outlets monitor electrical current. Therefore, when there is an imbalance, the outlet will disconnect power.

Now that you’ve assessed these electrical upgrades to help sell your house, do you need professional assistance? Contact Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010.

Light bulbs keep burning out? Here’s why.

Not only is it frustrating, but even worse, in some cases, it can mean there’s a fire hazard. Finding out why your light bulbs keep burning out too soon is crucial.

How long should bulbs last?

Incandescent bulbs should last for about a thousand hours. Compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs and LEDs (light-emitting diode) typically last much longer – about 10 thousand usage hours for CFLs and 25 thousand hours for LEDs. Still, if your bulb is burning out before it should, it’s time to find out why.

Why do my light bulbs keep burning out too soon?

There are many possible reasons, here are the main ones:Light bulb that is not working

  1. You may be using the wrong type of light bulb in a certain fixture.
  2. A bulb may be loose or incorrectly connected.
  3. The bulb’s power supply voltage may be too high.
  4. The dimmer switch may require a different bulb.
  5. Recessed lighting may be causing overheating in the insulation about it.
  6. Filaments in the bulb could be broken due to excessive vibrations.

Wrong bulb type

If a lamp is rated for 40 watts, placing a 1o0-watt bulb in the fixture creates excess heat. This can shorten the bulb’s life, and possibly even cause a fire to start. Always make sure the bulb’s wattage is not more than the fixture’s wattage recommendation. Another possible problem is that the bulb is not right for its location. LED bulbs are better to light fixtures that have frequent on/off usage throughout the day, but CFLs are not.

Loose bulbs

You may notice a bulb flickering if it is loose. Check to make sure that the bulb is correctly connected into the socket and if it’s loose, turn it until it’s snug. Ideally, the fixture’s tab and the bulb solder should be roughly the same size. This will create a good connection between them. If they are not, try switching light bulb brands.

Wrong power supply voltage

In the United States, 120-volt electrical outlets are standard in homes. Be sure that the light is connected to a standard outlet. If it is, use a multimeter to check if the reading is more than 120 volts. If you are having electrical supply issues, contact a licensed electrician right away.

Dimmer switch with incompatible bulb

Using CFL or LED bulbs can damage the bulb or circuitry in an older dimmer switch. Those were made to be used with incandescent bulbs. Be sure your dimmer switch and light bulb are compatible.

Recessed lighting overheating

“Can lights” hang inside the ceiling. Newer models may be designed to be in contact with insulation (IC-rated) and not cause any problems with overheating, but older recessed lighting fixtures can overheat. If they are not, this situation poses a fire risk. Be sure to install IC-rated fixtures so that they don’t overheat insulation.

Broken bulbs due to vibration

Excessive vibrations like ceiling fans or automatic garage doors can crack or prematurely cause incandescent bulbs to burn out. If the problem bulb is near an entrance, in a ceiling near heavy upstairs foot traffic, or in other places where there are vibrations you may want to switch to an LED bulb. They are better designed to handle vibrations.

If you’re concerned about your home’s electrical system, call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010.

Windowless bathroom? Add light for function and style

It’s not uncommon to have a windowless bathroom in many different sizes and styles of homes. Sometimes these bathrooms are used for guests, are only half bathrooms, or the layout of the house was built with the bathroom in the interior. A windowless bathroom doesn’t have to be dreary with only dim light. We will tell you how to light your windowless bathroom for function and style. Brighten things up, it can really make a difference!

Ambient & Task Lighting

If you bring in ambient light and task lighting into a bathroom with no windows you create a bright, functional space. Start with overhead lighting that’s bright and projects throughout the room. Add focused lighting directly over the vanity or mirror to make bathroom tasks like washing your face, applying make-up or shaving a breeze.

Light Bulbs

Knowing the lighting options you have will help you choose the best bulbs for the right location. Making a good decision is more than just choosing a high watt bulb. Light quality is based on a few factors so take a look at different options that are available.

For bathrooms there are two main types of bulbs available – you do not want to use a compact fluorescent light (CFL) in this space. You can use halogen incandescent or light emitting diodes (LEDs.) Many pros use LEDs for windowless bathrooms. Incandescent bulbs will work fine, but LEDs are much more energy efficient, lasting 25 percent longer than incandescent bulbs.

The measurement for bulb brightness is lumens. For a windowless bathroom, the ideal total lighting is 2,000 lumens at a minimum. Most household bulbs emit about 800 lumens, or the equivalent to a traditional 60 watt incandescent bulbs. A light fixture that is centered overhead and takes two or three bulbs will get you the lighting you need and makeup for not having natural light.

Color Options

Add light to a windowless bathroom

You also want to consider the color of the light you want to shine. Color temperature is measured in Kelvins. It rates the color or tone of light. All you need to know is lower color temperatures are warm tones – yellow to soft white – and higher temperatures indicate cool, bright light with blue undertones. Consider something in the 3000K to 4000K for general lighting in a windowless bathroom.

Also, the color rendering index (CRI) tells you how an object’s color appears under the bulb’s light when compared to how it appears in natural lighting. A higher value indicates a more true representation of color, like incandescent bulbs. For bathroom lighting look for a CRI of 90 or higher. This will work well for task lighting that provides light over the bathroom mirror. Try LED for optimal lighting for makeup application.

Light Fixtures

Many different types of light fixtures work well in bathrooms. If it’s a small space you may want to avoid low-hanging lights. Choose clear or white shades so the light shines through. Moisture accumulation is common in bathrooms, so recessed lighting may not be the best choice. It can allow moisture to escape into spaces above the ceiling.

If you are lighting a vanity sconces on each side of the mirror will minimize shadows from overhead lights and add an elegant touch. For a more contemporary look check out Hollywood style kits where globe sets or rope lights are placed all around the mirror.

Dimmer Switch

There may also be times you want to relax in lower light at the end of the day. Installing a dimmer switch to control the brightness for overhead lighting will allow you to adjust lighting. You can get a dimmer switch for all types of bulbs. Always check the dimmer’s label for information about what light bulb it’s compatible with.

If you need the assistance of a licensed electrician, call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010.