Friday, November 11, 2011

2011 October/November Snow Storm Newsletter

I just completed our newsletter after our October snow storm.  It covers some of what happened and reminds people to review their power needs.  We continue to update our web site with information about generators and other ideas.
A-1 web site or go directly to the newsletter 2011 November Newsletter

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Storm response

The overwhelming number of emergency calls has tested our ability to respond and help people.  While helping one person on the phone, 2 or 3 other calls come in. 
We're telling everyone to use our 'normal' message process so Cyndy can keep track of the calls.  The 'emergency' process by-passes Cyndy to trigger my phone, but I couldn't handle those calls while working in the field to help customers.
We're doing things as simple as reattaching downed wires, to replacing the entire service wiring and meter box.
For people with simple portable generators for plug-in cords, we've temporarily converted furnace wiring so it can be plugged into the generator.  (When utility power comes back on, we change the wiring back to normal.)
A lot of people are asking about generator options for the future. We'll add more info in the Helpful Hints section of our web site, and in our next newsletter.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Making Light Work

As nightfall starts earlier and earlier, we again notice how much we depend on light to live our normal lives.  Light changes what we can do and how easily we do it. 

Simply having brighter bulbs can make a life brighter.  Light fixtures have ratings for the maximum wattage bulbs they can handle.  The issue is heat.  A 60 watt bulb creates 60 watts of heat.  Too much heat can 'cook' the electrical insulation to where it gets brittle and causes a short circuit.

However, CFL (Compact FLuorescent or my description: Curly Fluorescent) bulbs give you more light with less wattage.  A "60-watt-equivalent" CFL bulb may only use 13 watts of electricity and therefore generate only 13 watts of heat.  You could put in a 75-watt equivalent CFL bulb, save energy, not overheat the fixture and still have more light. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Aftermath of the flood

Since the flood a month ago, there have been a lot of requests for generators and battery backup sump pumps.  The materials for these jobs have been hard to get since so many people are interested in them. 
One little-discussed aspect of choosing a generator is the maintenance issue.  One major brand has you check/set the valve clearance after 50 hours of use.  Another had hydraulic lifters that are self-adjusting.  This makes a difference in the life of the generator but I doubt shoppers are aware of it.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Trying to help

With the 'flood' of calls, you soon realize that you can't help everyone.  We worked to have answers for as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.  Our emergency line was overwhelmed.  We'd be on one call, and be getting 3 more.  A few times, I would be helping people, but I'd actually say "I'm going to rush to solve your problem quickly so I can get to the next call.  I'm know I'm being brusque and not listening to your full story but I need to help more people".   I am impressed with how most people understood the need for priorities and the lack of firm scheduling

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Got fans?

Most people know if their ceiling fans work.  But if your roof  fan isn't working, sometimes you only notice that you're hotter and the a/c is running more.  You should be able to hear it running quietly on a hot sunny day.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Shut-off switches and breakers

We've had several calls about problems we were able to solve by phone.  
Partial power out in the house:  We have details in the Helpful Hints section of our website: How to check and/or reset circuit breakers.   With the hot weather, people have overloaded their circuits.  Resetting all the individual breakers often solves this. (It it makes noise and trips again, you have a serious problem for us to fix.)
No central a/c working:   Again in our Helpful Hints section, A/C checklist:   check all the shut-off switches: thermostat, top of the basement stairs, on the furnace/air handler.   

Click here to go to the Helpful Hints page.

Friday, July 15, 2011

New Newsletter

We just emailed, and posted online our Summer newsletter: tips for a/c issues, water (from different sources) and smoke detectors.  Click here to read it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Light bulbs are hot!

Breaking news: Light bulbs are hot.   What's the big deal? When it's as hot as it's been, simply keeping the lights off can make it cooler.  Yes, the a/c can overcome their heat, but ceiling lights can make you feel hot just because you're closer to them and their heat has not yet affected the thermostat.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Beeping smoke detectors

You know it's a common problem when a TV show has it as part of the storyline.  "Modern Family' had the chirping smoke detectors and how it drives people crazy.  We don't recommend hitting them with a bat to stop the noise.  (They should all be replaced every 10 years.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hot time in the summer

Summer heat is here.   Be sure your attic fan is working since it makes such a big difference in keeping the living area cooler. 
And if you're having a/c problems, check the A/C Checklist on the Helpful Hints section of our web page to check what the problem is.  Click here:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Outside lights

A simple idea, but very nice:  for outside lights like floodlights or walls sconces, add a dimmer to soften the light.  You still have a lot of light when necessary, but more attractive lighting when you want to simple set the mood outside and make it easier on the eyes. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ceiling fan buying tip

Important tips when shopping for a ceiling fan: Do you want a light? How much light? Can it be dimmed (many fluorescents can't)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Some like it hot, but not that hot

Weather's getting hotter, attic's getting hotter, house's getting hotter. Attic roof fans keep you cool. We install new or repair or replace.
Our Helpful Hints section in our web site explains what they do and why there so important.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A brighter idea.

Most people realize that the screw in fluorescent bulbs (CFL - compact fluorescent) can give you the same light as the old incandescents, but use less energy.  A 13 watt CFL bulb gives you the light of the standard 60 watt incandescent bulb. 
But did you know that you can get an added bonus?
If a fixture says 'Maximum 60 watts' (due to the heat build-up of the bulb), you can use a brighter CFL bulb that still generates less heat.  For example, a 23 watt CFL bulb gives you the light of a 100 watt incandescent, but still only the heat and energy usage of a 23 watt bulb.  More light, less electricity - not bad.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Some like it hot

We're getting some warmer days lately, and they'll seem almost hot compared to the last few months.  It's a good time to test you central a/c system.  It'll probably work fine and that's a relief.  However for some, it won't work and you'll have a chance to have it checked out before you really need it.  If your system doesn't seem to run right, use the checklist in the Helpful Hints section of our website to do a little troubleshooting yourself and determine what to do next.  Click here to read it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Assault on batteries

Daylight savings time means not only changing your clocks, but also changing the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.   Write the date on the batteries too so you'll know how old they are when you check next time.
(The previous post talks about replacing units after a certain age since they lose their reliability.)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Are smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors important?

Are seat belts important?  When was the last time you used them?   I talk about how important it is to replace smoke detectors every 10 years, but what about carbon monoxide (CO) detectors?  They have a similar issue.  They lose sensitivity over time.  Manufacturers recommend replacing them every 5 years.  (Some now have ones that last 7 years.)  Our web site's Helpful Hints section has more detail, but why would you not replace them?  And when you do, write the date on them for when they should be replaced, eg: "Replace March 2016".  Safety sometimes means doing small things to avoid big risks.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Water, water

Freezing and thawing. Do you have a water sensor to alert you if water comes into your basement from the sump pump, water heater, etc.?
Water sensors can be simple battery operated alarms, or elaborate systems connected to a security system. 
(There are special devices for a/c systems for the summer.)

The key is that you want to know when a problem is developing rather that hours or days later.  The Helpful Hints section of our web site has more info.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Some like it hot

Recently, we've had a few calls where people have lost power in parts of the house.  Either due to cold, or a furnace problem, they were using multiple electric heaters.  Even in different rooms, they can end up on the same circuit and a circuit breaker can typically only handle one plug-in heater. 
At least the solution is easy:   Unplug the heaters, reset the breaker (it may not look like it's tripped so you do each individual one - click Off, then On), and plug in just one heater, and/or use them at different times.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ice dam (or the reverse if you want)

Icicles were a lot more fun when you were younger.  Now, if you see the big icicles on your house, with gutters filled solid with ice, you worry about what can happen next.  In most cases, the water melts and runs down and out.  Sometimes however, big ice dams can block melting snow and ice from draining away properly.  The water can work its way into the house interior and that can be summed up by saying "it's not pretty".
What to do?
Short tem, try to get the snow off the roof and melt the ice without damaging the roof.  You may need to call in roofing contractors for this. Once off, you may be fine for the rest of the season but it all depends on the weather.
The long term solution is to install roof-gutter heating cables that provide a path for the water to drain away.  It takes planning for where the cabling goes, how much to use, where it plugs in, how to turn it On and Off (manual or automatic). 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Why do lights flicker?

It's a common question we hear:  "My lights sometimes dim or flicker, is that dangerous?" 
Usually not, but it can be a sign of a problem. 
Basically, light brightness is a function of your house voltage -120 volts.  If the voltage drops, the lights will dim a little.  That's not a problem if it's due to a big appliance starting (refrigerator, a/c, iron, hair dryer, etc.)  Think of it as it taking extra work to get the refrigerator going so the voltage strains a little. 
However if the lights get brighter than normal, that's a sign of a bad connection in the wiring.  It's causing the voltage to drop and jump, also called a surge.  A higher voltage can damage the electronics in your house: TV, DVR, etc.  That's not good.  And since these things do not fix themselves and will only get worse, you should call us sooner rather than later.  
Flickering lights are also an indication of a bad connection that has gotten worse. One cause is tiny sparks in a connection, causing heat in the connection, and the heating and cooling of the connection makes things get worse.
I hope this explanation helps 'enlighten' everyone.
(More info about surges and surge protection, click here.)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

People can be funny.

A little humor: A customer once said "I'd do it myself but I don't know how and I don't have the time." At least I didn't laugh out loud when he said it

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Water and electrical panels

With ice and rain in the weather forecast, sometimes people find water dripping from their electrical panel.
Don’t panic.
Usually, it’s not an immediate hazard but it does need to be checked out.  (If you hear ‘sizzling’, etc. in the panel, or your lights started flickering, it’s more serious.)
Over time, it can cause corrosion in the panel that can become a safety issue.  It’s better to address it before it becomes serious.

When caught early, it may simply be stopping the water from entering.  If it’s been going on for a while, the panel and main wiring may need to be replaced.

Our web site's Helpful Hints page also has this same information (click on

Friday, January 14, 2011

Temporary fix

A simple tip for when an electrical problem affects an important appliance (Refrigerator, washer, etc.): Use an extension cord temporarily.  Your 'emergency' isn't so critical and you'll be less stressed as you call for help.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Smoke detectors - who needs them to work properly?

I was thinking the other day about how people don't seem to take the issue of reliable smoke detectors seriously.  The manufacturers recommend that all detectors be replaced ever 10 years.  (Research shows that 30% are defective by that time.)  But that doesn't seem to make much of an impression on people.  But I guess it's hard to appreciate the problem when the detector looks the same as it always has. 

An analogy of seatbelts came to mind.  How often do you need them?  If your car had a recall on seatbelts because 30% were defective, that would get your attention.  You don't often need them, but they need to work 100%  when the time comes.  The same is true for smoke detectors.  They're there, working quietly day after day, month after month and year after year.  But after 10 years, although they look the same, they are no longer as reliable as they once were.  We all know how important they are.  Replacing them every 10 years doesn't seem too bad for the protection it gives you, your family and your house.

(You can read detailed information about smoke detectors in the Helpful Hints section of our web site:  Click here.)