by Arpad

How to reset a GFCI outlet

January 25, 2013 in Electrical Safety, Wiring by Arpad

GFCI ResetGFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt), outlets are the usuaal way of implementing ground fault protection. This safety device breaks the circuit if some of the current fed into the load is not returning. These devices protect outlets that may come in contact with water. There is a Test and a Reset button on the device that allow the user to test if the protection works properlyas well as to turn it back on.

1. Disconnect all loads from the circuit in order to protect them as well as to make sure that the potential cause of the tripping is removed.
2. Press the button that says Reset (often colored red).
3. Connect the loads back and test if they function properly.

For more information go to the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) page.

by Arpad

RightPlug Technology

July 13, 2012 in Electrical Safety, Wiring by Arpad

Electric Plug with Information Tag

RightPlug Technology in Electrical Plug

RightPlug technology is a standardized way to embed information about a particular appliance into its own plug. This information can be read by a handheld device or an intelligent receptacle outlet. This allows manufacturers, warehouses, shipping companies, customs agents, etc. to identify the product and handle it more efficiently. It also allows the electrical system to read what to expect from the appliance under normal conditions (current, power usage) and alert the system if the actual values are out of the normal range.

 

RightPlug is a standard created by the RightPlug Alliance (a non-profit corporation in Illinois). The members of this organization hope to create a universally accepted way of coding the necessary information into inexpensive microchips based on an open standard. RightPlug digital encoding uses the IEC/ISO 14443 Standard for Proximity Identification Cards. The primary application of this standard is RFID technology widely used in identification and tracking of freight, digital payment cards and electronic ticketing. ISO14443 is a short range passive technology designed to work in the 0 to 10cm range.

 

A RightPlug encoding tag consists of a passive transponder chip based on the ISO14443B standard and a patch antenna assembled in a form factor that fits into electrical cord plugs. It does not require any power source. The antenna receives the signal that is basically a request to provide the information. The chip turns some of this energy into electricity powering the circuit and transmits the encoded information back using the antenna.

 

The information in these tags contains the code for the manufacturer, model number, and some other identifiers. This makes it possible to track and direct the appliances. It also enables the system to filter out counterfeit items that are potentially not manufactured to the required electrical safety standards and as such possibly dangerous.

 

The information in the tag can also contain data related to the maximum ratings of the expected electrical values. If an appliance would consume 2 Amps under normal conditions and all of a sudden it is pulling 5 Amps, it would be a clear indication that the device is faulty. When the appliance is plugged into an intelligent outlet the receptacle can measure the current. If the plug can also tell the outlet what is out of the ordinary, the outlet can make a decision that the appliance is faulty and disconnect the specific receptacle thus potentially avoiding any accidents (a person getting electrical shock, or starting a fire).

 

If these intelligent outlets are connected in a network, the system can alert a maintenance technician right away about a potential issue at a certain location. A decision making algorithm can even offer a diagnosis and possible solutions based on the measured values by the receptacle.

 

All these may sound futuristic and expensive. The RightPlug technology may not even be the winning standard at the end. The RFID tags are widely used already in other competing formats. However, safety certainly seems to increasingly overwrite concerns about cost. The decreased maintenance cost might even balance some of that out.

More about the RightPlug Alliance at http://www.rightplug.org/

by Arpad

Killer Power Surges & How To Fight Them

January 19, 2012 in Electrical Safety by Arpad

Whole House Surge Protector

Whole House Surge Protector

 Power surges sneak into your homes and businesses from the power line via your electrical outlets and attack your computers, TVs and appliances. If you are lucky, you only end up finding an unimportant file on your computer that cannot be opened. If you are less fortunate your new flat screen TV is dead.  What can you do to protect your valuables? A simple surge protector plugged in between the outlet and the device is a good and inexpensive start. However, in order to achieve full protection, you need to have layered surge suppression installed. If you chose the right manufacturer you even get a warranty in case something does happen.

 

Where do surges come from? They can be caused by power fluctuations on the utility line. 30% of power surges enter our homes and businesses through the power lines, telephone lines, and cable TV lines.  These are typically the largest and most damaging surges. 70% of surges are actually generated indoors by small equipment and appliances (AC, vacuum cleaner, etc.) turning on and off. These smaller power surges can wear down and shorten the life span of any piece of electronic equipment from the smallest chip in your coffee maker to your desk top computer. 

 

How to fight back? The most worthwhile investment to help protect your expensive electronic equipment is to install layered surge suppression.  This means a  main zone surge suppressor installed at the main power panel and individual plug-in surge suppressors at each pieces of your most expensive electronic equipment.

 

How to choose the right plug-in surge protector? A good quality plug-in surge protector is important to protect against those internally generated surges.  But most surge suppressors on the market will only protect against small surges and they are not designed to handle the large surges that come through the utility lines. Once these plug strips fail they do not provide further protection. Try to select products from reputable manufacturers who specialize in surge protection and provide a good warranty program.

 

Why have a main zone surge protection devices installed? The main zone surge protection is a surge protector devices installed at the breaker panel, incoming phone line and incoming cable TV line. It will protect the entire home against the large surges as well as extend the life of the plug-in surge protectors. However, the main zone package will not pick up those smaller internally generated surges. That is why for a full protection you need both main zone and plug in surge protectors installed forming a Whole House Layered Surge Protection System.

by Arpad

How to Child-Proof Your Home Electrically

January 19, 2012 in Electrical Safety by Arpad

One of the most exciting times in any parent’s life is when their baby starts crawling around. However, it comes with a lot of dangerous situations. It is not possible to watch 100% of the time. Sooner or later someone looks away. Therefore it is important to child-proof the home. One of the most important part of that is to make sure that the baby is protected from electrical shocks. You can find some useful tips below on how to achieve that.

Having a safe, baby-proof home is a continuous process. As your child grows, new experiences and new threats will abound. Always supervise children, even in the most carefully baby-proofed home. No matter how baby-proof a room is, unsupervised children have a knack for finding themselves in unsafe situations.

You can start by looking at the world through the baby’s eyes. Get down on your hands and knees and crawl around. What is it that they can reach? Those are the items you need to deal with primarily.

Soon after the precious moments when the baby arrives, we all have to start thinking about how to childproof our home. Most of us start buying gates, little foam pads etc. All scissors, knives, glassware gets hidden higher and higher places or in childproof drawers. When it comes to electrical safety most of us only thinks about putting little plastic plugs into the outlets. That is also the only thing that most companies, specializing in childproofing, offer.

Let’s see what actions can be taken in order to accommodate that little curious being in his or her new home. The recommendations covered her are all related to electrical systems.

Most of the plastic plugs are quite a hassle to take in and out of receptacles. Frequently people get tired of it and just leave the outlets unprotected. At one of my customer’s home the plug was so integrated into the outlet that the whole receptacle had to be replaced. A better solution is to install temper resistant outlets. These outlets are manufactured such a way that any object inserted into the whole can make contact with electricity only under special circumstances.

It is important to protect children with tamperproof outlets all throughout your home, as outlets are tempting toys for unsuspecting children.  Sticking fingers or foreign objects into sockets puts them at risk of being shocked or burned.

 

Tamper Resistant Outlets are standard wall outlets that feature a shutter mechanism that protects children from placing foreign objects into the vessel.  The outlet has a shutter system that is spring-loaded.  Electricity only flows when equal pressure is placed on both shutters, like when a plug is inserted.  When the outlet is not being used both shutters and openings will be closed.  Children tend to put keys, pens, paper clips, bobby pins and other small objects into the outlet this can cause an electrical shock that can lead to burning or scarring. 

See more on this topic in our blog: [Tamper Resistant Outlets]

 

Another group of dangerous items are electrical cords. Some babies love to chew on these wires that may carry electricity. Toddlers can easily trip over them. Kids can also tug on them so the appliance connected to this cord may fall on there head or cause some other problem. One approach may be to barricade these areas. A better approach, however, is to replace these appliances with solutions that do not require cords plugged into outlets.

 

Floor and desk lamps can be substituted by lighting fixtures installed on the wall or ceiling. Wall sconces are more useful for setting the ambiance in a room. Recessed lighting fixtures are the best choice in most cases. For general purpose lighting 5″ or 6″ recessed can light fixtures are recommended. They give a good overall illumination to every room. They are also considered stylish so it is not a solution that loses its usefulness in a few years, when the child gets older or the home gets sold. It actually increases the value of the house. Smaller recessed can lights can complement this system at certain areas. For example, installing a pair 3″ or 4″ recessed can lights above the crib may help with more specific activities around the baby. If positioned properly, they can also be used in the future as reading lamps above a bed or desk.

Regardless of the solution installing dimmer switches on all of these lighting circuits is highly recommended. It is invaluable to be able to dim the light intensity at night just to the right level that the baby does not fully wake up but one can still safely change the diaper. At the same time the light intensity can be increased to be very bright when it is really needed. For example, when a small object, which the baby can choke on, just accidentally fell into the crib.

 

Another device that is commonly found on the floor using cords is the fan. Ceiling fans are a great replacement for that. They not only provide a better air flow, but can be used as a light fixture as well. In addition, ceiling fans can lower your heating bill in the winter, if the fan is used in the reversed setting. When it comes to controlling the fan, it is recommended to have wall switches installed. Controlling ceiling fans may not be a tremendous inconvenience for adults, but kids have difficulties reaching the chain. Remote controls get lost many times and small children may swallow the batteries.

 

Humidifiers are also commonly used. They also pose dangers similar to the ones mentioned above. In addition, kids like to play with them, and the result is many times that the water gets spilled over the floor. As we all know water and electricity do not mix very well. Humidifiers can be installed into a central forced air system. A simpler solution is to install an outlet at a higher location and place to humidifier on the shelf.

 
by Arpad

Carbon Monoxide Detector Are Now Required in California

January 19, 2012 in Electrical Safety by Arpad

Fire Alarm with Carbon Monoxide Detector

Carbon Monoxide Detector

The California legislation enacted Senate Bill 183 to regulate the presence of Carbon Monoxide detectors in residential units. The bill has two parts to it.

The first part of the new law involves that as of July 1, 2011, Transfer Disclosure Statements (TD forms) include a line item regarding the presence or absence of a Carbon Monoxide detector in the same manner as Smoke Detectors, for all residential units that are sold. This applies to just about all types of occupancies from single family owner-occupied and rentals, to multi-family housing. If the property is being sold, it must now include a CO Detector if the dwelling has gas appliances, fireplaces, and/or attached garages as described below.  

The second part of the law enacts the Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010 which requires that all residential properties, not just those being sold, be equipped with a Carbon Monoxide detector when the property has a fossil fuel burning heater or appliance, fireplace, and/or an attached garage.  All single-family homes in structures with 1-4 units (owner or tenant occupied) must be equipped with a detector on or before July 1, 2011. 

All other multi-family residential units must be equipped with a detector on or before January 1, 2013, not just those being sold.

For rentals, the Carbon Monoxide detector must be operable at the time the tenant takes possession. A tenant is responsible for notifying the owner or owner’s agent if the tenant becomes aware of an inoperable or deficient carbon monoxide detector within his or her unit. The owner or owner’s agent must correct any reported deficiencies in the carbon monoxide detector and will not be in violation of this section for a deficient or inoperable carbon monoxide detector when he or she has not received notice of the deficiency or inoperability.

The bottom line is that ALL SINGLE FAMILY residential dwelling units as of July 1, 2011 must have a CO detector, even those that are not being sold. All other dwelling units (multi-family, dormitories, hotels, motels, etc) must have CO detectors installed by January 1, 2013.

Carbon Monoxide Detector Choices

Plug-in carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are easy to use, and you don’t need to worry about replacing batteries. One example is the First Alert CO615.This model has the highest accuracy ratings, and owners appreciate this detector’s clear … backlit display, which monitors current and peak CO levels. Another plus is that you can test or silence its alarm using a TV remote control within a 12-foot range. The First Alert CO615 also comes with two AA batteries that serve as a safety backup in the event of a power outage. Manufacturers say this CO detector should be replaced after the expiration of its five-year warranty.

Another type of CO sensor is battery operated only with the ability to place it anywhere. One of the best products of this kind is the Kidde KN-COPP-B. You have to be mindful of replacing the batteries, but this type of CO detector has one big advantage — you can place it wherever you need it, rather than being stuck with wherever your wall outlets are. Repeated reviews … praise this Kidde carbon monoxide detector’s digital display, which provides clear and constant CO readings. It also has a low-battery alert and versatile installation — it can even be set to operate on your kitchen table. A green LED light on the unit, which changes to red during alerts, glows to indicate it’s accurately working. The manufacturer recommends battery replacement every two years after the expiration of its five-year warranty.

A better way to go is a CO and smoke detector combo that have the ability to connect multiple detectors — that’s helpful if you have a large home and worry that you may not hear an alarm sounding in a distant part of your … home. For example you may want to hear when your kids are in danger. An example of this system is Kidde KN-COSM-B. Each unit is battery-powered, and they connect to each other by radio frequency. Experts say sensitivity is good with both CO and with smoke (this unit has a photoelectric fire sensor, which indicates the presence of a smoldering fire). One downside: This detector lacks a digital display, so you can’t be sure of the exact level of carbon monoxide present. However, many owners feel its programmable voice alert, which loudly announces the location of the danger, easily makes up for this. The unit’s manufacturer warranty is for five years, while its expected sensor life is six years.

The best system is when the CO and smoke detector combo is installed into a system where the detectors are wired together. In this case the detectors always connected to power. They have battery backup in case of a power outage. They are connected together so when one detects smoke the others start alerting the occupants as well. You do not have the problem of not being able to hear the alert. A CO and smoke alarm combo placed into one of these systems provides the best protection. Such a system has already been the law for years. Adding the CO monitoring to it requires minimal cost.

Expect to see this new inspection item in your home inspection report. Home inspectors will be required to report on the presence or absence of a working Carbon Monoxide detector just like they report on Smoke Detectors, and water heater strapping.

Home Buyers and Sellers will also see this new requirement on Transfer Disclosure Statements. In addition to Smoke Alarms and strapped water heaters, sellers will be required to disclose the presence or absence of a working Carbon Monoxide detector starting July 1, 2011.

Details of SB 183

This bill requires that Transfer Disclosure Statements (TDS Forms) include line items for Carbon Monoxide Detectors just like Smoke Detectors. This applies to homes intended for human occupancy that have a fossil fuel (gas or wood) burning appliance, fireplace, and/or an attached garage.

The remedy for failure to install a device is actual damages not to exceed $100, exclusive of any court costs and attorney’s fees. The Bill revises the statutory Real Estate Transfer Disclosure Statement to require the seller of a one-to-four residential property or manufactured home to make certain disclosures regarding carbon monoxide devices, smoke detectors, and water heaters, and requires the owner of a rental dwelling unit to maintain carbon monoxide devices in the unit (as of January 1, 2013).

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010

Details: As of July 1, 2011, Carbon Monoxide detectors will be REQUIRED in all houses (1 – 4 units) if they have any of the following:

  • Any gas appliances such as a gas stove, gas furnace, gas fireplace, gas water heater, etc.
  • A fireplace (even if it only burns wood, pellets, or any other material). 
  • An attached garage (even if there are no gas appliances in the house!). Cars continue to emit CO even after they are shut off.
  • ANY rental dwelling that meets the criteria listed above. Yes this means that if you own a house, condo, or townhouse that you rent to another human being, you are REQUIRED to install Carbon Monoxide detectors.
  • As of January 1, 2013, ALL multi-family dwellings including multi-family dwellings that meet the criteria listed above will be required to have Carbon Monoxide detectors. Even those that are not being sold will be required to have them just like smoke detectors.

Be sure the home you are buying or selling is safe. A qualified home inspector will provide the information you need to feel confident about your home buying decision. Don’t compromise when choosing a home inspector. Be sure to ask if they will check for this.