Throughout many of our blog posts, we have mentioned how various aspects of electrical systems need to meet “electrical code”. But what exactly does that mean? As professional electricians serving Fort Collins and Windsor, we are up to date on the National Electrical Code and its updates. While the code may not always affect your home, it’s may be useful to know what it is.
The National Electrical Code Breakdown
Despite its name, the NEC is not federal law and needs to be regionally adopted in order to be enforced. However, the code presents standards for “electrical safety in residential, commercial, and industrial occupancies”. National Fire Protection Agency develops the NEC as part of their National Fire Codes. It was first published in 1987 to codify well-known best practices and help cities avoid civil liability lawsuits. Its main goal, however, is to protect residents from negligent practices that would result in loss of life or property.
Because of its overarching influence, electricians will spend years apprenticing and practicing the NEC standards before acquiring their license. Not every requirement of the code is adopted by states or municipalities, however. That is the reason electricians need local licenses in order to practice their craft. The NFPA also offers certification programs for contractors to demonstrate their competency with the code.
The code itself is publicly available as a 1000-page book. But because of its size, a few experts will release summaries of the major changes made every three years. Updates and amendments are released every three years, though it may take a couple of years for states to adopt the newest version. Each version of the NEC covers everything from the installation of connections to requirements for communications systems. They also include an index and annexes for implementation.
Even though the code is publicly available, there are still mistakes commonly made. That’s why electrical inspections are so important. That’s also why you should hire a professional with a strong understanding of local codes. Best practices keep you, your family and your home safe.
There are a few reasons you may need to upgrade your electrical panel in your Fort Collins home. However, in order to understand why, you should know what the panel is. In order to help you make the best decision about your home’s electrical panel, here’s a quick overview and some tips. After all, an informed homeowner saves the most money.
What does the electrical panel do?
Your electrical panel is the main hub of all of the electricity that flows through your home. While your main power line goes through the meter box, your electrical panel is responsible for the distribution of electricity to smaller branch lines. Those branch lines are indicated by the switches on the panel – each going to an area or appliance that needs power. The breaker box houses the panel. Each panel should have labels to where the branches go and how many amps they can carry. This amp limit determines when the breaker switch will trip.
How do I know when to upgrade my electrical panel?
With the median home age in Fort Collins being 26 years, you may be living in a home with an older panel. That’s not automatically a bad thing, but there are things to watch for to know if you need an upgrade.
First, pay attention to how often the circuit breakers trip. If your breakers are tripping often, it may be a sign that your electrical panel is malfunctioning. If this continues for too long, the breaker may eventually stop tripping, which can lead to electrical shock or even an electrical fire.
Next, watch and listen. You should get your panel inspected as soon as possible if you notice the lights flickering and/or hear crackling sounds.
Better safe than sorry!
Any problems with your electricity should be inspected as soon as you notice them. However, you should call an electrician who will properly diagnose your issue and make appropriate recommendations. Chadwick Electric Services will never do unnecessary work just to make money. So call us today for your inspection at 970-457-4099.
One of the more stressful aspects of having a young child is making sure they’re safe at all times. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to preventing electrocution or burns: tamper-proof outlets. Childproofing your home is never simple, but we have some quick tips for older outlets and suggested improvements for your Fort Collins home.
While childproofing may seem obvious, there are still issues with safety across America. According to the National Fire Protection Association, “Each year, approximately 2,400 children suffer severe shock and burns when they stick items into the slots of electrical receptacles. It is estimated that there are six to 12 child fatalities a year related to this.” That’s around seven children a day, which is pretty scary.
To help you make sure your children are safe, here some answers to common questions.
When should you childproof?
Be as proactive about your child’s safety as possible. It’s never too early to make sure your outlets are child-proofed. The longer you wait, the less likely it is that you’ll get every outlet covered. Additionally, trying to childproof your home becomes more and more stressful as the idea of being a new parent sets in.
Crawl around your house, through every room, and check for outlets. There may be more than you ever expected, but it’s good to know how many you’re dealing with before you go to the store. It’s also good to know just how hazardous each room is for a crawling baby.
Next, decide what kind of tamper-resistant receptacles you need, and what you can afford. Some options are more expensive than others.
What receptacle should you use for your home?
There’s no simple answer to this question. However, we can at least break down what’s available. This way, you can make an informed decision that’s best for you and your family.
Electrical outlet caps
Mommy’s Helper Outlet Plugs
These are the classic caps that you likely had growing up. They’re little plastic covers that plug directly into your outlet and are really hard to take out – even for adults. That’s where the difficulty lies. For many parents, the difficulty of removing the cap means that you’re less likely to replace it on outlets you use often. They’re also easy to misplace, creating a choking hazard.
However, their affordability is what makes them so popular. For instance, you can buy a pack of 36 on Amazon for $2.99.
Electrical outlet covers
ZizHome Universal Electric Outlet Cover
If you’re looking for a more convenient option, outlet covers are fantastic. To install, you simply replace your old cover with this plate. You don’t need to get into the wiring in order to have this self-closing cover. To use the outlet, simply slide the cover over with the plug’s prongs and it snaps back when you’re done.
The major setback is that these are more expensive than the caps. But what you lose in cash you make up for in peace of mind. You can also use the covers for your most-used outlets and place caps on the ones you rarely use.
Electrical outlet deep covers
LectraLock Deep cover
For even more convenience that’s around the same price as the above cover, you can use this deep cover. It’s easy to install and easy for adult’s to remove–but not children. The great thing about this cover is that it prevents babies from pulling the plug out of the outlet.
The manufacturer, LectraLock, is also made in America.
Options for power cords and extension cords
If you need more protection beyond your standard outlets, Parent Guide has an excellent guide to what products to look for: https://parent.guide/how-to-baby-proof-everything-electrical/
What’s the best option for childproofing electrical outlets?
If you have an older home, you should consider upgrading your outlets to tamper-resistant receptacles. They have built-in shutters that make it incredibly difficult to insert anything other than a plug into the outlet.
Image courtesy of Electrical Safety Foundation International
These are now common in homes built from 2008 and on, but even in new homes, it’s smart to make sure your home has them. To tell the difference, look inside the vertical slots. If they’re open, you need to baby proof them using the above methods. If they’re filled in, you’re good to go. TR receptacles are relatively inexpensive, and the peace of mind is what you’re really paying for.
To upgrade the outlets in your Fort Collins or Windsor home with tamper-resistant receptacles, call us today at 970-457-4099.
Are you noticing an increase in how often your circuit breaker trips? Or maybe you’ve installed a new appliance and it keeps tripping its breaker. If either of those is the case, you may need to install or replace a dedicated circuit for your Fort Collins home.
What is a dedicated circuit?
A dedicated circuit is one with its own breaker for use with a single appliance. It’s separate from the main electrical circuit to prevent large appliances from overloading the circuits to which they’re connected.
The National Electrical Code requires that every critical-use appliance has its own dedicated circuit. However, for the most protection from overload, you should have dedicated circuits for every large appliance. These are generally appliances that use more than 20 amps of electricity.
Which appliances need dedicated circuits?
It’s important that you know how much electricity your appliances are using before you install them. Most larger appliances use at least 20 amps of power and most critical-use appliances will use 30 amps of power (water heaters, furnaces, central air units). Therefore, you should install a dedicated circuit before you have a problem.
These are the appliances that usually need a dedicated circuit:
- Electric ranges
- Garbage disposals
- Water heaters
- Heating and air conditioning units
- Garage door openers
- Sump pumps
- Water pumps
- Whirlpools, Jacuzzis, hot tubs, saunas
Upgrade your circuit breaker
Many older homes need to update their electrical wiring and install more dedicated circuits to handle modern appliances. You’ll know your home doesn’t have enough dedicated circuits if the circuit breaker is constantly tripping. If you don’t update your system, you run the risk of overloading your circuits enough to cause an electrical fire in your home.
Chadwick Services offers free inspections. Take advantage of our professional services to upgrade your system. Call us today 970-457-4099.
If you’re interested in reducing the costs associated with central heat, a space heater may be perfect for your Fort Collins home. By using a strategy called “zone heating,” you can turn your most-used rooms into comfortable spaces and reduce your thermostat. This reduces the amount of energy your home uses. However, you should know how to buy and use your space heater safely. We suggest that you call Chadwick Services to inspect your electrical system before plugging it in.
Before you buy your space heater
First, know how much space you’re heating. Indoor space heaters are measured by watts. Buying a heater that emits too much wattage may result in higher energy bills. Meanwhile, too little wattage won’t heat your space and may overheat. According to Sylvan, a general rule of thumb, “roughly 10 watts of heating power for every square foot of floor area in the room.”
For safety reasons, make sure the unit you’re looking at is Safety Certified by a company like UL, which independently tests for safety. Also, ensure the cord is heavy duty and long enough to reach the outlet. You can also buy units with safety features like tip-over, overheat, and touch protection.
Before you turn it on
When you get home, check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they’re functioning properly. Next, don’t place your space heater on any furniture and keep it at least three feet away from combustible furniture. This includes beds, sofas, window treatments, rugs, etc.
Keep the space heater away from water and establish a child and pet-free zone. Enforce the zone at all times and don’t allow anyone to operate the heater without proper training.
Make sure the space heater is securely plugged directly into the unit. You increase your chance of fires by using an extension cord or by running the unit’s cord under a rug. Regularly inspect the cord to make sure it’s not frayed, cracked, or broken.
Regular safety maintenance
In addition to checking the cord, make sure you turn your space heater off every time you leave the bed or go to bed. Don’t leave a space heater on overnight or when you’re not monitoring it. Some units come with a timer that will allow you to control when it’s on or off, but it’s a good idea to make sure it turns off.
As we discussed before, perform regular maintenance on your smoke and CO detectors.
Types of space heaters:
Now that you know how to use your space heater safely, here are the types you will likely choose from. A word of caution: never use a gas-powered heater indoors. Those should only be used in well-ventilated spaces.
Oil-filled space heaters are great for small rooms or for personal use. They’re usually portable and come with handles and wheels to move from room to room. The oil inside never needs to be replaced and they’re silent because they don’t use fans.
Ceramic space heaters are among the most common and use fan-forced air. They’re compact and are ideal for areas up to 150-square-feet.
Infrared space heaters are generally the most energy efficient. They’re great for personal use because they produce heat quickly and without a fan.
While you shouldn’t use these types of space heaters to heat your entire home or treat them as a long-term heating solution, they can be very useful and efficient in the winter months.
Inspect your wiring before installing a space heater by calling Chadwick Electric Services today.
Your family’s safety is probably your top priority, but are you doing everything possible to ensure that safety? Maybe one thing you’re missing is effective security lighting on the exterior of your home. Having a well-planned system will not only make you feel more secure, it’ll deter intruders from invading your space. Intruders don’t like the light. A well-lit exterior is the first line of defense for your family. To make sure you have the best outdoor security lighting system for your Fort Collins home, here are some tips to follow.
How to place your lights
Security lighting should be well thought-out and specific to your home’s architecture and landscape. The wrong placement or brightness could be the difference between an intruder running away and finding their way inside. First, make sure there won’t be any large blind spots. You can do this by placing more soft lighting versus a few bright spotlights. Softer lighting allows the light to dissipate more evenly across larger surface areas. Bright light is more concentrated, making it easier to create blind spots.
Next, make sure you secure all sides of your house. Most people just focus on the front and back yards, neglecting the other sides of their structures. This makes non-lit areas easy targets for intruders. For infrequently used sides, install motion or heat sensitive lights to scare intruders. For high-traffic areas, you can install lighting that complements your home.
Once you’ve decided where your lights should be, you need to figure out how to place them. The higher your security lights, the better. However, they should all be facing downward and you need to make sure they’ll emit the right amount of light. Lights placed too high with not enough brightness won’t scare anyone off–you may not even notice the light. Lights placed too low with too much illumination will create blind spots.
You also want your lights facing down for a reason. Too much glare in your neighbors’ eyes will deter them from looking at your house when the lights turn on. This means they won’t look to notice an intruder. You need them to see what’s going on in your yard, especially if it’s on a side of the house you can’t see.
Lights are also placed high to deter tampering. Hardwiring your security lights is a great option, but it’s not always feasible. For that reason, you need to make sure that the wiring is hard to access. You can also use solar options for areas that get a good amount of sun during the day. Also, make sure your power box has its own security light, just in case.
Finally, make sure you use white or clear bulbs for your security lighting. Color bulbs are perfect for accenting or adding some fun elements to your landscaping, but should not be used for security. They make it too hard to clearly see what set off the motion sensor.
Security lighting maintenance
Once you’ve installed the perfect security lighting system, you need to make sure it does its job – all the time. Changing burnt-out bulbs immediately is incredibly important. So is cleaning off dust and other debris on a regular basis. The best approach to this is establishing a routine that’s easy to follow. For example, checking all of the bulbs and wiping off the lights at the beginning of every month. Yes, every month. You also want to check the wiring and photocells if you have solar lights, as well as trim any trees or shrubs that make it difficult to see out your windows.
A final note: You should not rely on security lighting alone for safety. A well-rounded exterior lighting system is one of the best ways to deter intruders. This includes having permanent and motion sensor lighting that work together. Having a front porch light is important as is having lights above every entrance. Put these lights on timers for added security when you’re not home.
You need a professional electrician to install hard-wired security lighting, so call Chadwick Electric Services today for your Fort Collins or Windsor home.
In the winter months, you’re going to be spending a lot of time indoors, which is a good thing unless your smoke alarms and/or carbon monoxide detectors are malfunctioning. In order to ensure that your family will stay safe, regular smoke alarm and CO detector maintenance is incredibly important.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there are more than a million fires every year and an average of 3,000 deaths related to fires. The CDC also reports that each year, more than 400 deaths result from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning not linked to fires. These deaths are all avoidable with working detection systems in place. The National Fire Protection Agency tells us that the death rate is doubled in homes without working smoke alarms, so protect your family and follow these tips to keep your family safe.
Maintenance Tips for Your Smoke Alarm and CO Detector
- Check the batteries every six months by testing the detector. Change the batteries at least once a year. If it’s chirping, change the batteries right away. If you have a 10-year battery in your detector, replace the entire device immediately.
- Test the system once a month. Press the test button on your device to verify that it’s functioning properly. This will also get you and your family familiar with the sound of the alarm.
- Dust the unit on a monthly basis to remove debris and grease from its exterior. Give it a more thorough clean twice a year by using a vacuum attachment. This will get the dust buildup and cobwebs out of the interior.
- Check your manufacturer’s instructions for expiration dates and be prepared to replace your unit as the date approaches.
Additional Safety Tips
- In the case of a fire or carbon monoxide emergency, create and practice a home escape plan. These won’t necessarily match each other. For most CO alarms, you may be able to call for help from an open window, but you need to get far from your home in the case of a house fire.
- To avoid CO buildup, clear any snow from your vents for the stove, furnace, dryer, and fireplace after snowstorms.
- The NFPA suggests having the smoke alarms throughout your house interconnected. This may be a task for a professional electrician.
If you need any assistance installing or replacing the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in your Fort Collins home, please contact us immediately. Don’t let your family go a day without the proper safety precautions. Call us today: 970-457-4099
Don’t worry. We understand that you really want to save money by tackling your electric problem on your own. But are you setting yourself up for even higher costs and safety risks if you don’t hire a qualified, licensed electrician? Chances are, you are. Hiring a reliable and local company like Chadwick Services for your Northern Colorado electric service will save you time, money, and headaches. Here’s why.
- Licensing: We are licensed by the State of Colorado, which means we have proven that we have trained the required number of hours, receive ongoing training, know all state codes and regulations, and make safety our number one priority.
- Permits: Before your project begins, you know that all necessary permits will be pulled to ensure quality and safety.
Inspections: When you have the proper permit for your electrical service, you can guarantee the job is up to code. If anything’s amiss, we fix it for you. Simple as that.
Insurance: Not only is Chadwick Electric fully insured and bonded, we can help you avoid any fights over your home insurance that may result from do-it-yourself electrical projects.
Safety: As we mentioned earlier, safety is our number one priority – and it should be yours, too. Don’t put your home and family at risk by tackling a job that should be handled by a professional.
Knowledge: As the saying goes: “A little knowledge can be dangerous,” which is why it’s important to let a professional work on your electrical problem. Even if you know a few things about how electricity works, our extensive knowledge and expertise allow us to solve a problem quicker, more efficiently, and much safer.
Longevity: We all know that person who tries to fix their own plumbing only to have it break over and over again. While there are risks to water leaking, electrical fires are much scarier. When you hire Chadwick Services, you have a guarantee that your wiring will be done right, saving you money and headaches.
Troubleshooting: Almost every project will have some kind of surprise. Most of the time, it’s small and can be easily fixed – unless you try to fix it yourself. Then it can become a much larger problem that could’ve easily been taken care of by an experienced electrician.
It’s Complicated: This may seem like a no-brainer, but many people forget or don’t understand the complexities of a home’s wiring. Since it’s all connected in some way, a small mistake can spell disaster. Maybe not right away, but you’ll notice it – and it could be incredibly expensive.
Guarantee: When you hire Chadwick Electrical Services in Windsor, you have a guarantee that the work will be done right the first time. The same can’t be said for the neighborhood handyman or yourself.
Proper Wiring: Not all wiring is created equal. Choosing the correct wiring for the job will avoid disasters big and small.
Proper Tools: As a DIYer, you won’t always have the tools that you need to tackle complicated tasks related to electrical repairs. We do.
If you’re at all concerned about saving money and time or the safety of your family, call us before you start any electrical repairs. We’re available 24/7 for emergency services and for all installation services. Electricity can kill you, so better safe than sorry, right?
With cooler evenings comes the desire to retreat to the hot tub and sink into the warm water. But are you making sure that you remain safe while you relax? We’ve compiled 20 hot tub safety tips to keep in mind while you enjoy your soak.
- Ensure you have proper wiring. You need to make sure that your hot tub’s wiring complies with the National Electrical Code, which includes an emergency shutoff that is accessible, visible, and at least 5 ft. away. You also want to make sure your hot tub is properly installed and plugged in (no extension cords!).
- Beware of electricity. Keep electrical appliances away. Instead, use battery-operated appliances around the hot tub and keep extension cords as far from the water as possible.
- Supervise all children. Don’t turn your back for even a minute while children are in the hot tub. Children are more prone to overheating and need lower temperatures to remain safe. Consult your pediatrician for the right temperature or if you want to bring in a child younger than five.
- Establish rules. Expecting good behavior from all of your guests, including the adults, is always good, but especially when you’re in or near water. Running, jumping, diving, and pushing should be strictly prohibited, as should standing on the hot tub cover.
- Prepare for emergencies. Make sure all guests know where the emergency shutoff switch is before they get in the tub. It’s also a good idea to know CPR and have a first-aid kit on hand.
- Check your water. If your water is cloudy, don’t get in! Cloudy water is an indication that it’s unsanitary and could cause skin infections. Stock up on a good sanitizer and regularly test the bacteria to make sure your water remains safe. Remember: never add water to acid, always add acid to water.
- Safely store cleaning supplies and chemicals. Make sure all of your supplies and chemicals are stored out of reach of children and pets. They should also be in a cool, dry location.
- Shower before and after use. This is not only proper etiquette, it can also keep out bacteria that will thrive in your hot tub’s warm environment.
- Don’t wear street clothes. Everything worn in the hot tub should be clean.
- Beware of storms. You should never use your hot tub before, during, or immediately after extreme weather conditions, especially electrical storms.
- Maintain a safe temperature. Many hot tubs come with a factory setting of 104° F, but most users are more comfortable between 102° and 100° F. Children generally need less than 100° F.
- Check for skin infections and open wounds. Because bacteria love warm environments, entering a hot tub with existing infections or open wounds will help spread infection.
- Be aware of any health issues. Before you climb into a hot tub, make sure you know how you will react if you have an illness such as diabetes, high or low blood pressure, or are pregnant.
- Don’t use drugs. Speaking of an illness, check with your doctor to make sure you won’t have a reaction while on medication. Also, be smart about your recreational use.
- Don’t drink alcohol. Another big no-no is drinking while hot tubbing. Alcohol use can increase your chances of having a heart attack or passing out and drowning while you’re in the hot tub.
- Use plastic containers. If you do have food or (non-alcoholic) drinks around, make sure you use plastic instead of glass or anything else that could shatter in the hot tub. It’s better to be safe than cut yourself in the tub while trying to retrieve or avoid shards.
- Check your drain and suction covers. Make sure your hot tub is compliant with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act with the proper drain cover and suction covers.
- Don’t use a hot tub alone. Accidents and emergencies are easily avoided when you soak with a friend or family member.
- Install handrails and anti-skid devices. Getting out of and into hot tubs safely should be a priority. You can use treads on your steps, mats around the tub, sand paint on your deck, or similar measures.
- Always cover and lock the tub when it’s not in use. Check your cover periodically to make sure it still fits snuggly, all locks and latches are functioning properly, and that you lock the hot tub every time.
Hot tub safety is no joke. Neither is its wiring. If you’re worried about your current hot tub’s wiring or need to install a new spa, call us today. We are the experts you need in Fort Collins and Windsor.
With an average of 34,000 electrical fires being reported annually, it’s important to know what you can do as a homeowner to avert disaster. Here are some tips to ensure that will help you prevent electrical fires in your Northern Colorado home.
Install GFCIs: Install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters throughout your home to prevent fires because they automatically shut down if a circuit is overloaded or at risk.
Install an AFCI: Arc-fault Circuit Interrupters detect electrical abnormalities and shut down the circuit before it overheats. If you have an older home, it’s a good idea to replace your circuit breaker with an AFCI since arc faults are nearly impossible to catch before there’s a fire.
Update your electrical system: Ideally, electrical systems should be updated every 10 years. Now that so many households are adding more and more technology, it’s a good idea to make sure your current wiring is able to handle the load.
Know when you have faulty wiring: Faulty wiring can be a huge problem for older structures. These are the signs you should be aware of:
- Light switches are hot to the touch
- Outlets spark when you plug something in
- Flickering light bulbs
- Lights dim when you use appliances
- Outlets are buzzing, hissing, or crackling
- Circuit breakers are constantly tripping or shorting
- Wires or fuse boxes are hot to the touch
- Burning smell from an outlet
Check your outlets: Make sure that all of your outlets are tight and fitted to the wall – loose-fitting plugs can be a fire and shock hazard. You should also replace any broken or missing plates to avoid having exposed wiring, and put protective covers on any unused plugs if you have children.
Don’t tamper with plugs: You should NEVER remove the third prong from plugs. It’s better to replace your two-conductor outlet if you need to use a three-pronged plug. You should also avoid bending prongs and follow all manufacturer instructions while installing appliances.
Use surge protectors: If you need to plug in multiple items, you should invest in a surge protector to make sure you don’t overload your outlet.
Replace damaged cords: If you notice fraying or cracking on your cords, you should replace them. Most appliances have the replaceable cords available through the manufacturer.
Know where to run your cords: You create a hazardous environment when you run electrical cords under carpets, furniture, or rugs because you’re not able to tell if the cord becomes damaged or overheated.
Unplug small appliances: It’s a good habit to unplug smaller appliances when they’re not in use anyway, but you can lower the probability of them catching fire if they’re disconnected.
Use correct bulbs: Avoid using bulbs with higher watts than your lighting fixture recommends, or replace your incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs to reduce the heat created when your light is on.
Are you worried about electrical fires in your home? Call us today for an inspection. We also offer 24-hour emergency services!