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.

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.

 

Electrical upgrades that add value and safety

Making electrical upgrades in your home can give you peace of mind that safety hazards are minimal and your electricity is reliable. You also want to add electrical features that add to your home’s value. Consider modern upgrades that make your home look and feel brand new and that are a positive investment to the home.

New wiring

Updated wiring is attractive to future potential homeowners and it gives you security knowing your home’s electrical system is safe and secure for many years to come. If you are considering an electrical project hire a professional for an evaluation.

Electrical panel

An electrical panel that is old and worn can contain damaged wiring. This can leave your home unprotected from fire hazards and cause an electric shock. If your home was built more than 30 years ago, it’s advisable to hedge your risk and upgrade your electrical panel.

More outlets

Broken outlets usually get all the attention, but if you are running a bunch of extension cords through your home it might be time to install additional outlets. Not having enough outlets is not only a hassle, it’s dangerous. Evaluate your home to identify where more outlets could improve safety and convenience.

Surge protection

Whole-home surge protection prevents the need for many individual surge protector strips attached to your electronics. Installing a single system to protect your home during a lightning storm or unexpected surge saves you worry and unsightliness of a bunch of extra wires.

Lighting under cabinets

Kitchen prep, cooking, cleaning and entertaining in the kitchen is better with under-cabinet lighting that include fixtures installed on the underside of cabinets. They make working in the kitchen easier by lighting countertop surfaces that are usually in the shadows. Also consider other rooms where you have cabinets such as the living room, bedroom and laundry room. This upgrade makes a huge difference in the look of a room with a warmer, more contemporary appeal.

Laundry room lighting

Most laundry spaces use 4-foot fluorescent tube lighting. When the light isn’t flickering or buzzing it’s still probably not serving you or the space well. Recessed lighting is a better option that fills the space with warm, comfortable light. Overall it’s directed well for the the tasks at hand.

Ceiling fans

Ceiling fans are one of the most-wanted decorative home features. They are extremely efficient and can save energy dollars in every season. In the winter, setting a ceiling fan to work in reverse draws down the warm air from the ceiling. In the summer, you reverse the direction to create a cooling effect. Ceiling fans are also an attractive addition in most rooms.

Landscape lightingLandscape lighting can add safety and value to your home

When considering electrical upgrades don’t forget the outdoors. Outdoor lighting creates a more inviting look and adds a layer of safety around your home. There are many types of landscape lighting options including up lights that are installed below a tree or structure and down lights installed at a high level to highlight objects below. Accent lights are another option to highlight a specific landscape feature, and path lights illuminate walkways or steps for safety and security purposes.

If your electrical upgrades require a professional, call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010.

Home Electrical Safety Checklist

Electricity is a modern convenience that most of us could not live without.  But along with the convenience, also comes some risk.  How much do you know about home electrical safety?  According to the National Fire Protection Association, “electrical failures or malfunctions were the second leading cause of U.S. home fires in 2012-2016.”  Below is a checklist to help ensure your home’s electrical safety.

Cords and plugs

  • Check all cords, plugs, surge protectors and extension cords for frayed casing, exposed wire or broken parts. Replace right away.It can be dangerous to overuse power strips and extension cords
  • Never run extension cords under carpets or over door thresholds.
  • Don’t use an extension cord as a permanent fixture. If you need additional outlets, contact a licensed electrician to install some wherever you require.
  • Do not overload one outlet with several high-wattage or heat-producing devices, for example a space heater or coffee maker.
  • Plugs should fit snugly into outlets. So, if yours do not, contact a licensed electrician.
  • Major appliances – washers, dryers, refrigerators, stoves, air conditioners, hot water heaters, etc. – should be plugged directly into a wall outlet. Do not use surge protectors, plug strips or extension cords.

Lighting

  • Only use light bulbs at or below the maximum wattage listed on your lamp or light.
  • Always place lamps on a flat, level surface and at least a foot from anything flammable like curtains.

Appliances

  • Place heat-producing appliances such as the toaster, heater and coffee maker away from flammable or combustible goods.
  • Unplug kitchen countertop and bathroom appliances when not in use.
  • Keep your kitchen exhaust fan clean and free of grease, lint and other blockages.
  • Never use a portable heater in the bathroom. The only safe options are a ceiling unit or strip heater placed up high.
  • If you use portable or space heaters, make sure they receive a seal of approval from a nationally-recognized testing laboratory.

Extra Safety Considerations

  • If you have young children, consider installing tamper-resistant electrical outlets. Always use a licensed electrician.
  • Ask a licensed electrician about installing arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) in your home. They are a special type of circuit breaker that shuts off the current when dangerous conditions arise.
  • Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are another type of circuit breaker, and these help reduce the risk of electric shock by switching off the circuit if it becomes hazardous. Most importantly, a licensed electrician should install GFCIs in your garage, basement, kitchen, bath and all outdoor outlets.
  • Test AFCIs and GFCIs at least once per month.
  • If you need to dig, always dial 811 to have your underground lines marked.

Contact a licensed electrician if you have any concerns about the electrical safety of your home or are planning home improvement projects.  Call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 1.800.461.3010.

Why an Electrical Safety Inspection is Important – and Lifesaving

Have you ever considered scheduling an electrical safety inspection for your home?  You don’t often think about your electricity working. It runs behind the scenes and gives you all the modern comforts you want in your home. However, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), electrical problems are the largest cause of property damage in home structure fires across the US.

In addition, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) identifies small appliances plugged into inadequate or improper wiring as the leading cause of accidental electrocutions.  These safety hazards can be easily addressed and prevented with an electrical home inspection.

What Is an Electrical Safety Inspection?

An electrical safety inspection gives a full examination of your entire electrical system.  This ensures that electrical wires, systems, and appliances meet legal safety standards.

When Do You Need an Electrical Safety Inspection?

There are specific times when homeowners should schedule an inspection of their home’s electrical system. The Electrical Safety Foundation recommends that homeowners make an appointment for one when:

  • Purchasing a home
  • A home is 40 years or older
  • Adding an appliance
  • A home has had a major renovation

Benefits of an Electrical Safety Inspection

An inspection is important for the safety of your home and everyone in it. Getting your home’s electrical system checked by a professional will offer you peace of mind. An inspection will:

  • Ensure the safe operation of electrical components in your home
  • Identify common electrical mistakes made by contractors and previous homeowners
  • Recognize outdated wiring
  • Identify electrical wiring and components that may have degraded over time
  • Spot oversized fuses or breakers that could lead to fire
  • Allow for the correction of fire and safety hazards
  • Help you save energy and reduce costs
  • Meet insurance risk assessment inspections requirements
  • Let you know the electrical in a new home is safe before you purchase it

Warning Signs

If you experience any of these warning signs call a licensed electrician right away:

  • You feel a tingling sensation when you touch a plug or light switch
  • Your circuit breaker flips frequently or fuses blow regularly
  • An appliance gives off a faint rubbery or burning smell
  • Your outlet plates are warm to the touch or discolored
  • An electrical appliance has been waterlogged or submerged in any liquid
  • An outlet sparks
  • Your lights dim or flicker

To schedule a safety inspection with a professional electrician, contact Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010.

Why Is My Electrical Outlet Not Working?

A common electrical problem that homeowners face is dead outlets. Dead outlets happen in almost every house and for a number of reasons regardless of the home’s age. Identify why an electrical outlet is not working so you can decide if you can fix it yourself or if you need a professional electrician to do the job.

Start with troubleshooting the electrical outlet that isn’t working. Here are some ways to identify the problem.

Flip the light switch

Yes, it seems too obvious. But, this is the first place to start troubleshooting. Some outlets are controlled by a switch on the wall. The purpose of this outlet is to allow you to plug in a lamp, turn it on, and then have the ability to control the lamp from the light switch. Try flipping a few switches to see if this makes outlet live again.

Plug in different items

Test the outlet by plugging in multiple other items to the electrical outlet not working. If none of the devices power up, you can move on to other troubleshooting techniques.

Reset GFCI outlet

GFCI Outlet

The law requires installation of a GFCI outlet (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) in any area of a home where there is a faucet or other water source near an outlet. This is designed to protect against electrocution, but it can be temperamental.  It will cut off the electricity in an area in response to a power surge. Make sure that there is no water in contact with your GFCI outlet before pressing the small rectangular “Reset” button.

If the power did return to the outlet after resetting the GFCI outlet, test

to see if other nearby outlets also lost power. If the other outlets are dead you’ll need to inspect the breaker panel.

Check circuit breaker panel

If the electricity cuts off in only a portion of the house, then a circuit breaker has been tripped. The circuit breaker is meant to detect excess current and stop the flow of power to different circuits in your home to prevent damage. If this occurs, unplug everything from the problem outlet and turn off all appliances in that area of the house to avoid overloading the circuit.

Go to your breaker panel, which is typically located in a utility room, garage or basement, and look at the different switches. Each breaker switch controls the power to a different circuit in the home. If a breaker flipped to the middle between “ON” and “OFF” then it has been triggered.  Flip it to the “OFF” side first, and then flip it to the “ON” side. That will reset the breaker. Go back to the problem outlet and test it again.

Check for short circuit

A short circuit occurs when the flow of electricity is obstructed. This could potentially lead to a fire. If the breaker flips again after you’ve reset it and you don’t have anything plugged in, then leave the breaker “OFF” and call an electrician.

Check connection of electrical wiring

Loose connecting wires can cause an outlet to not give off electricity. Make sure the breaker to the outlet is switched “OFF” and then remove the face plate from the outlet. Pull the outlet a few inches out from the outlet box and check to make sure the ends of the wires that attach to the outlet are securely fastened beneath the outlet screws.

The black wire attaches to the gold screw on the side of the outlet, and the white wire connects to the silver screw on the other side. A copper or green wire attaches to the bottom of the outlet. If any of the wires have come loose, reattach them by positioning the wire beneath the corresponding screw and then tighten the screw securely to hold it in place.

Replace the outlet

Although rare, the outlet might be faulty. An outlet can reach its useful life, burn out and quit functioning. Home wiring is complex and can be dangerous. Certified electricians are the best at locating signs of electrical problems at home. If the problem is still occurring, then call a professional.

Remember that electrical repairs can be dangerous, possibly resulting in shock, electrocution, or fire if you are unsure of what you’re doing.  Call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 1.800.461.3010 for professional assistance.

How to Pick a Ceiling Fan

In a previous post, we talked about using ceiling fans to circulate cool air in the summer. Fans are multi-functional and offer lots of benefits, so be sure and pick a ceiling fan with the features you need. You’ll enjoy energy savings, cooler spaces, and extra light (if you choose one with a light fixture).  They make your home more comfortable to the point that your thermostat can be adjusted 4-7 degrees lower!

How to pick a ceiling fan

Pick a ceiling fan that will provide aesthetic and practical benefits!

Here are some points to keep in mind as you pick a ceiling fan to meet your needs:

  • When it comes to the size of the fan, it’s best to choose the size that best matches with the square footage of the room.  Rooms that are less than 144 square feet should have a 42-inch fan. Rooms up to 225 square feet should have a 44-inch fan. If you are picking a fan for a room that’s up to 400 square feet, go with a 52-inch fan.
  • It’s important to choose the right blade size that doesn’t disrupt the purpose of the room that the fan is in. If you want to install a fan in your office, for instance, choose a fan with larger blades so the papers don’t get ruffled. They create a lower velocity and still keep the room cool. The number of blades will not make a difference in cooling the room.
  • Each fan should be carefully installed and follow basic guidelines. They should hang down 10-12 inches from the ceiling and 7-9 feet above the floor. Ceiling fans should always be 18-24 inches away from any walls.
  • Fans now come with many options and features.  If you want to use your fan on a frequent basis and save on your energy bills, then consider a fan that is easy to operate. Fans come with remote controls, noise level control, fan speed control, and the ability to dim or brighten the light.

Whether you have a fan that needs updating or want to install a new fan, it’s always best to have a professional take care of it.  Having a professional install your new fan will ensure that you get the manufacturer’s warranty and ensure the safety of your family. The mounting process is specific and includes precise mounting to a ceiling joist. Sometimes a mounting bracket is used instead of a ceiling joist, but both require proper alignment.

Call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical at 1-800-461-3010 to install your ceiling fans.