Author Archives: Danielle

ByDanielle

Light Up Your Mood Stickers

Here’s a great idea for letting your kids add a little personality to their rooms. The Light Up Your Mood Stickers, available at YCN allow you to create faces on face plates resembling boys, girls, and animals….enjoy!

ByDanielle

MDA locks up one of our valued employees!

I’m sitting at my desk Wednesday when in walks a Muscular Dystrophy Association volunteer. She promptly placed our valued team member, Ray  under arrest!

Ray worked hard to raise his bail and get out of jail. Although the Lock Up is over, its not too late to donate to this worthy cause. You can donate from Ray’s page.

ByDanielle

Should you replace your electrical panel?

In response to last week’s post on knob & tube wiring, we received an inquiry from Scott regarding panel maintenance and replacements.  So, this week’s blog is about replacing and maintaining your electrical service panel.

Every building (commercial or residential)  has an electrical service panel that controls and distributes electrical power throughout your space. The electrical service panel is sometimes referred to as a circuit breaker panel or fuse box.  The electrical panel prevents the overflow of electricity.

Why would you need to replace your electrical service?

Old-style fuse box

Old-style fuse box

  • It hasn’t been properly maintained.
  • If you have an older fuse style system, they typically don’t stand up to today’s electricity demands.
  • If you are remodeling your office, kitchen, media center or adding new appliances you need to ensure your service is large enough to support it.
  • If your outlets are ungrounded, and you want to add more, or ground existing outlets
  • If your existing electrical service panel is damaged
  • If you are selling your house and want to add value
  • If you have Zinsco or Federal Pacific panels. According to the Underwriters Laboratories, these are not safe and should be inspected and replaced by a professional. These were primarily installed from the 1950s to the 1980s.

If you have a good electrical service, to keep it in good working order, you must maintain it.

Preventative maintenance includes periodic exercise of the operating mechanism. A best practice is to exercise the trip latch mechanism as it can seize due to lack of use. The trip latch can be exercised by primary injection testing or, if it has one, by pushing the Push-to-Trip or similar button (usually red in color). Exercising the trip latch is recommended every 6 to 12 months. Visual and mechanical inspections and calibration tests are recommended to be professional performed every 1 to 3 years.

You can read more on electrical service maintenance here:  Maintenance Technology

 

ByDanielle

Knob & Tube Wiring – Why should you care?

There are several good reasons to care about whether you have knob & tube wiring:

  1. The size of the electrical service associated with knob & tube installations of the pre-1950’s are inadequate to support the demands of many modern appliances – posing a fire hazard
  2. Improper, or lack of, maintenance and improper tie-ins during renovations can cause safety hazards.
  3. Knob & tube wiring does not contain a ground wire.
  4. Many insurance companies will not provide home insurance if your home has active knob & tube wiring. They consider it unsafe or high risk. This can make home insurance difficult, but not impossible, to obtain (but it will generally require an electrical inspection for safety).
  5. Knob & tube can make it difficult to sell your home, particularly if the new owners plan to perform renovations. This is because the renovations will likely necessitate the replacement of the knob & tube wiring.

Knob and tube wiring has not been used in construction since the 1950’s. There has been debate about the safety of knob and tube wiring in older homes – and in Maine, we have a lot of these. On the surface of it, provided that knob & tube was installed properly by a qualified electrician, it doesn’t present a safety hazard.  If you’ve had an electrical inspection and know your system is safe, AND you continue to respect the limitations of the system -you could be fine for many additional years. Properly installed and maintained knob & tube wiring can be safe when you don’t overload the electrical system.

How do you know if the electrical system is overloaded? If your home has modern appliances like a microwave oven, computers, central air, newer kitchen appliances, etc. you should have your electrical system inspected to make sure its adequate. Knob and tube was generally installed on 30- or 60-amp services.  If you experience a lot of blown fuses, tripped breakers, or electrical shorts, you’re likely exceeding the capacity of your electrical system. Most homes today should be on a 100- to 200-amp service. Be safe – get inspected.

However, even if you aren’t experiencing the problems above,  most homes and buildings have experienced some type of renovation or expansion of the electrical system since the original installation of the knob and tube. Problems with knob and tube wiring are generally associated with maintenance of the system, and how upgrades and changes have been accomplished.

With knob and tube wiring, the hot and neutral wires were run separately, a couple of inches apart from each other.  As mentioned above, knob-and-tube wiring does not have a ground wire. The copper wires are held by ceramic knobs nailed into the wall studs or floor joists. Ceramic tubes ran through holes drilled in the studs and floor joists. The knobs and tubes protected the wood frame from the heat of the wires. Cloth or rubber was used to insulate the wires — and this is the primary issue with knob and tube wiring. If the electrical system has been abused in any way, the wire insulation will deteriorate leaving bare wires. Bare wires are a fire risk – especially in walls that also contain insulation.

If you have knob & tube wiring, get an electrical inspection to make sure the system is safe. And, for all the reasons above, you may want to consider upgrading the system to meet today’s needs and standards.

If you are interested in reading more on knob & tube wiring, here a few resources you may find helpful:

Knob and Tube Wiring – Yikes! by Amy S Rybacki, Home Renovation Consultant

Knobandtubewiring.com

Knob and Tube Wiring at Living With My Home

 

ByDanielle

BBB certificate of no complaints – go team!

I’m very excited to share that we have earned the Better Business Bureau’s Certificate of No Complaints. It is an honor to be recognized for upholding and delivering on our core business values – and a real testament to the quality of our employees and service.  Go team!

ByDanielle

On Golden Pond at The Public Theater

Our family loves the theater. Someday we’ll make it to a Broadway show. In the meantime, we enjoy performances when traveling to see family in other states. And, we especially love the quality performances and convenience of the shows brought to us by The Public Theater.

Last night, Dan and Deb attended On Golden Pond. Real life couple Ellen Crawford and Mike Genovese are the stars for this show. Ellen Crawford has appeared on the tv series ER, Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, and Without a Trace (among many others). Mike Genovese also has a lengthy list of credits including appearances on ER, NYPD Blue, Judging Amy, and the movie Point Break, amongst others.

Making this show extra special, On Golden Pond is set in Maine. Tickets for the show have been selling fast. In fact, an extra performance has already been added. On Golden Pond runs from May 4 to May 14. Visit The Public Theater’s website for ticket pricing or call the Box Office at 207-782-3200.

ByDanielle

Finding a great glass lamp

Renovations on my 50’s fixer upper are going, well, slow. And by slow, I pretty much mean they aren’t happening right now. Major renovations can really thin out the wallet. After some significant plumbing repairs, HVAC replacement, and roof repairs – there’s not a lot left for the fun stuff. So, while we’re focused on filling our piggy bank, we’re making some little updates to make us feel like we continue to make progress. Our latest addition was replacing our living room table lamp with a gorgeous glass one from Currey and Company. The pic at the top is our living room (look mom, I cleaned!).

We looked at a lot of glass lamps and wanted to share some of our favorite finds with you:

West Elm Glass Jug Lamp

West Elm Glass Jug Lamp

 

For a traditional look, West Elm offers the Glass Jug Table Lamp for $149. If you haven’t yet discovered West Elm, you’re missing out. I like to think of it as an upscale IKEA (who also has some inexpensive lamps).

 

 

 

Lamps Plus fillable glass lamp

Lamps Plus fillable glass lamp

 

Lamps Plus has a “fillable” glass lamp – you can fill the base with whatever you want – that is gorgeous both empty and filled. The Fillable Glass Cylinder Collector’s Table Lamp is available for just $99.99, plus free shipping!

 

 

 

Pottery Barn Bacchus Lamp

Pottery Barn Bacchus La

 

The Bacchus Glass Lamp from Pottery Barn is traditional in style and a good price, ranging from $169-$199 depending on size. You can also get the Bacchus Glass Lamp monogrammed for a special touch.

 

 

 

Ralph Lauren glass ball lamp

Ralph Lauren glass ball lamp

 

Ralph Lauren makes a beautiful Stacked Glass Ball Table Lamp in the art deco style. It’s a bit pricey at $1710, but if your budget can support it, adds sparkle to your room.

 

 

 

Acrylic glass ball lamp

Acrylic glass ball lamp similar to the much pricier Ralph Lauren version.

 

If you find a glass lamp you love, but the price is a little high, keep in mind that acrylic can provide a similar look for less cash. For example, the lamp below is an acrylic lamp with similar styling to the Ralph Lauren Ball Table Lamp above, but at a price of just $79.99 at Amazon.com.

 

 

 

DIY glass lamps

DIY glass lamps from blogger Anythingology

 

Finally, for those of you who are more ambitious than I am, Anythingology provides instructions for creating a DIY glass lamp – for only $37! And, as you can see from the image below – it is gorgeous.

 

If anyone goes the DIY route, I hope you’ll send me a pic so I can turn green with envy at your ambition and creativity!

 

ByDanielle

Get ready for spring – air conditioners belong on a dedicated circuit

This year we got a taste of spring early with unseasonably warm weather. As you prepare for spring and the sometimes oppressive heat of summer, make sure your air conditioner is installed properly. Specifically, make sure it is running on a dedicated circuit – this is essential for electrical safety in your home.

If your home uses central air, your HVAC technician will have ensured that your central air unit is on a dedicated circuit. Homeowners installing window units often overlook  this step.

Without an appropriate dedicated circuit, your air conditioner may draw more current than the circuit can handle. This can cause the wiring to overheat and the material insulating the wire to breakdown. If the material around a wire breaks down, it can lead to an electrical fire. Fortunately, circuit breakers typically stop the surge of current before this catastrophe happens. To avoid an outage during the summer heat and repairs to broken down wires, put your air conditioner on a dedicated circuit from the start.

If your air conditioner is 30 amps or more, you should have a dedicated circuit. And while you are at it, make sure other medium and heavy-duty appliances are on dedicated circuits as well – appliances like: water heaters, washing machines, dryers, stoves, refrigerators, sump pumps, etc.  When in doubt, call the manufacturer or a qualified electrician.

ByDanielle

Improving Power Quality

Flickering lights and flashing digital clocks are two symptoms commonly seen when electrical systems aren’t performing optimally. There is a lot of misinformation on how to correct these problems on the Internet, so be sure to follow advice from a reputable source – or call in a qualified electrician.

Here are some steps that you can take to protect against power problems and improve electrical productivity in your home or office:

  • If lights on the same circuit are flickering, and its occurring when a large appliance is in operation (air conditioner, water heater, microwave, etc.), add separate circuits for the larger appliances.
  • Install retrofit “soft-start” kits” on HVAC units to minimize the power destabilization during start-up.
  • Many older homes and buildings, and we’ve got a lot of those in Maine, may not have electrical systems up to the current National Electrical Code standards. This can cause serious damage to modern day equipment.
  • To prevent damage to modern day equipment and improve productivity, you can connect items like computers to a UPS.
  • If you experience longer term power outages versus fluctuations, you should consider investing in a backup generator. This is not a long term solution for issues resulting from power issues within your home or business, only for those caused by external factors – like the power supply from your utility company.

NOTE: summarized information from Richard Bingham’s article “Is There a Doctor in the House?”, March 2012 edition of Electrical Contractor magazine.

ByDanielle

Retrofits – planning for the future

Today, I’m catching up on some industry magazines. I’m struck by, and thrilled by, the dominance energy-efficiency and alternative energy articles are playing  in these magazines. I am one of the 95% of Americans that think energy efficiency is an important issue and the 89% of Americans that pay active attention to their energy consumption. While I’d like to claim that its green idealism on my part, frankly it makes sense for my wallet.

Buildings use 40% of energy and emit 40% of greenhouse gases worldwide – and 50% of buildings in use today will still be in use in 2050.  A recent report from Pike Research shows that retrofits can provide 10% to 50% in energy savings. This is a big tangible savings alongside those feel good benefits like reducing greenhouse gas reductions, gaining energy independence, green branding for your business, property valuation, and even employee productivity.

You may remember that last month I wrote about a couple of steps I was taking to improve my energy efficiency – installing a Nest learning thermostat and doing some CFL light bulb replacements. I’m happy to report that I’m saving about 30% on my gas & electric bill compared to last year!

If you are a building owner – commercial or residential – I encourage you to take an active look at what you can do. Here are a few tips/ideas:

  • Install programmable building controls that enable systems to provide light, head and cooling to building spaces only when they are occupied. For control systems that are already time-programmed, revisit the schedule to make sure it still reflects actual occupancy periods. You could save 10%+.
  • Energy-efficient lighting uses less energy and generates less heat, reducing your costs and easing the strain on your HVAC systems. Reduce lighting loads with advanced fluorescent and LED technology. Compact fluorescents use 75 percent less energy and last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
  • In areas where its acceptable, dim lights and consider programmable dimmer controls. You could see energy savings of nearly 20 percent.
  • Schedule office cleaning and other services during regular work hours. This way lights, heating, and air conditioning don’t need to be left on at night.
  • Turn off computer monitors at night. A screen saver isn’t an energy saver – have your employees turn off their monitors, and computers (if possible) at night.
  • Use energy-star rated equipment and appliances – and don’t forget to have your IT department use energy-star rated servers in your server room too.