Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lighting Science demos Android @ Home bulbs, promises dead-simple home automation (hands-on) -- Engadget

Is Google Getting into Home Automation?

Android HomeImage by weboo via Flickr

Lighting Science demos Android @ Home bulbs, promises dead-simple home automation (hands-on) -- Engadget

Generation 3 electric has been following home automation for years. It has so much potential. The promises that it can make to energy saving, quality of life, and safety are huge. To date every systems we have tested in our office have just been too complicated or too expensive to be practical for our clients.

I do think however we are close to see all that change. With an inexpensive mesh network, smart phone and an open source architecture  there will be many advancements coming soon. This Google smart phone controlled light bulb(chip) could be the killer app for home automation.

Smart phones are now common. Add to them an inexpressive chip that can work on a mess network and I think you found the solution to the home automation problem. Consumers can build their smarter home one device at a time. You want to control you bedroom lights from bed. Buy a dimmer with a smart chip or change the bulbs. You want to have a programmable thermostat, get one with a smart chip and set it up from your kitchen counter when you are paying your bills. You want coffee in the morning but not sure what time you are getting up. Buy a coffee maker with a smart chip in it. Start your coffer from bed with your cell phone when you wake.

I do hope that Google's smart chip becomes an open standard. The closed standards of the home automation world has been a major problem that has keep the whole industry down. It is just too difficult for consumers to have to worry about who's products will work with who's controllers. It reminds me of piles of useless remote controls everyone has next to their entertainment centers or the drawer full of wall wart chargers.  The home electronics industry  needs a standard and  then we will start to see some huge movement in home automation.  No one want a pile of outdated expensive light switches in their house.
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GFCI is not working

GFCIImage by stu_spivack via Flickr

How to reset a GFCI outlet, which seems to be broken.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter or GFCI are special outlet that is designed to trip when they detect a voltage leak. They work like normal outlets but have two buttons on their face. One is labeled "test" and the other one "reset". The test button should be pushed monthly to make sure that the GFCI is operational. Resting some GFCO outlets can be tricky. The rest button needs to be pressed firmly strait in. In this video you can see me doing this and failing at it. That is because I was holding the camera in one hand and trying to reset the GFCI with my left hand. I was not able to push the rest button in firmly enough that way to rest it. This is often the case when we receive service call for clients. The trick is to push strait in firmly. I suggest elderly client use a pencil as a tool to do this easier. Using the eraser end you can push in firmly without damaging the GFCI.

GFCI outlets have no Christmas spirit.  :-(Image by slworking2 via Flickr

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Hot Tub Wiring

Hot tubbing in Keystone, Colorado.Image via Wikipedia
This is a 60 amp disconnect used to disconnect power to a hot tub. The main line is fed off of a GFCI breaker. Power goes from the GFCI breaker to the disconnect and then to the hot tube.

This is the terminal in the hot tub  that accepts the line voltage. The hot tub specifications require the feed to be in copper wire. The wire attach to the white terminal block with set screws.

Electrical Installation Requirements

Have your electrician read the following information before installation begins.

Electrical connections made improperly, or the use of wire gauge sizes for incurring power which are too small, may continually blow fuses in the electrical equipment box, may damage the internal electrical controls and components, may be unsafe and in any case will void your warranty.

It is the responsibility of the spa owner to ensure that electrical connections are made by a qualified electrician in accordance with the National Electrical Code and any local and state codes in forced at the time of installation.

These connections must be made in accordance with the wiring diagram found inside the control box. This equipment had been designed to operate on 60HZ. alternating current only, 240 volts are required. Make sure that power is not applied while preforming any electrical installation. A copper bonding Lug has been provided on the electrical equipment pack to allow connection to the ground point. The ground wire must be at least 6AWG copper wire and  must be connected securely to a grounded metal structure such as a cold water pipe. All Master Spa equipment packs are wired for 249 VAC only. The only electrical supply for your spa must include a 50amp switch or circuit breaker to open all non-grounded supply conductors to comply with section 422-20 of the National Electrical Code. The disconnect must be readily accessible  to the spa occupants, but installed at least five feet from the spa. A Ground-Fault Interrupter (GFCI) must be used to comply with section 680-42 of the National Electrical Code. A ground fault is a current leak from any one of the supply conductor to ground. A GFCI is designed to automatically shut off power to a piece  of equipment when a current fault is detected.

Power hook-up to spa must be 240 volt 3 wire plus ground (6AWG copper)

Route the cable into the equipment area for final hook-up to terminals inside the control panel. The spa must be hooked up to a "dedicated" 240 volt, 50amp breaker and GFCI. The term "Dedicated" mean the electrical circuit for the spa is not being used for any other electrical items (patio lights, appliances, garage circuits, ect). If the spa is connected to a non-dedicated circuit, overloading will result in "nuisance tripping" which requires resetting of the breaker switch at the house panel."
--West Chester Spas
319 Westtown Road
West Chester, PA 19382
Phone 610-429-4spa

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Electricity in the shower.

Dangerous electricity in your shower?

Here is a handyman fix of some old electric line that must have stopped working. On the left is some Armored Cable or BX. On the right is a piece of knob and tube wiring. In the middle is your cold water pipe. 

What is wrong with this picture?

Bad Grounding

Your bath tub should never be part of your electrical system. Yes, the copper pipe will carry electricity back to the ground but this is clearly a bad way to fix a problem. Knob and tube wiring has been in use for over a hundred years. The bigger problem here is that this is not an uncommon in many older Philadelphia homes. We get at least one or two calls a year where a homeowner feel small electrical shocks in their bathrooms. This is because somewhere in their electrical system their plumbing has become energized. The shock is normally small because a connection is starting to go bad. If the connection completely fails that shock can become life threatening.

Knob and tube wiring inside a 1930 Pittsburgh ...Image via Wikipedia

 Above is a picture of what Knob and Tube looks Like inside you walls. They are individual cloth covered conductors  held off the wood by knobs and isolated through the beams with tubes.  The idea was that the air space between the wire and the wood  kept the system safe. It does work but now 100 years later the demands on these wires are different.  Home have be altered, reconfigured or made over. This new life of a home makes it likely that the original electrical system has be disturbed in an unsafe manor.  Knob and Tube should be replaced when ever possible. 
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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How to light a Store

Two different ways of lighting

This is a client of ours Valentino's on fabric row needed to even out their lighting.
The existing track lighting was not giving them enough light or the correct type of light for their store.
With the track lighting on the lighing levels were too spotty for their product. With just the day light the through the window the color of their fabric were muted. 

To solve their lighting problem we added these florescent light fixtures suspended off of the ceiling. This bring the light closes to the fabrics so that they show better. We used natural light bulbs and you can see in the picture how much better the colors pop. The fluorescent fixture have some other advantage as well. They are much more energy efficient.  They also do not produce as much heat as the halogen bulbs in the track light.
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wall Sconces

 Below is a detailed picture of some of the holes that were necessarily for the wire pulling. There is one coat of wet  patch on these holes. The holes were made in the closet to make them less obvious. There are also patches on all the pictures of the sconces above. That patch has dried and is much more difficult to see.

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New light switch

 This wall needed to be cut open to add this new light switch. This is a decora style dimmer switch.

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Meter Socket Fail

There is also the tripping issue that this meter now causes. The glass clock that sticks out into the stairway. This is a clearly a tripping hazard. The glass is also not tempered. It can break into large sharp shards that could cut someone coming down the stairs.  
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Install Chandelier

Shell Style Chandelier

Colonial Gas lantern Style Chandelier

Candelabra  Style Chandelier

Crystal Chandelier

Art Glass Chandelier

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Burning Smell coming from Light

Why you need an Electrician?

As closer look at the socket shows signs of arching or sparking. Fire all start with a spark. The heat build up burnt off the protective jacket around the electrical wire.
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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lowe's Customer Service

LED GU10 lamps

We had recently had a problem with some supplies that we purchased at Lowe's.

The Solution

The store staff were not incredibly sympathetic to my problem.  I don't really blame them, they don't have much power over pricing. I went on to Lowe's customer care online and emailed my problem back and forth with Dawn V. She did a very good job and was able to get me in touch with Patrick Kirby the store manager. He understood my problem and went right to work to correct it. Patrick got me in touch with Nick the electrical department head. Nick was able to special order me in some replacement lamp that would match the specs for the job at the original price.  Thank you for all your help.

See the LED lights installed

The new LEDs will be installed at the Hats in the Belfry on South street. These light use 2watts compared to the 50watts used by the original lights. This will save 1,536 watts an hour over the old lamps. Why haven't you upgraded your lighting get. Lowe's have the lights for the DYIers or give Generation 3 electric a call. We can help.
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Burning in Electrical panel do to loose breakers

Burnt Bus Bar

Inspected the panel because the client was concerned about loose circuit breakers. We found a burnt buss bar. This occurs when circuit breakers get old, incorrect breaker are installed or general corrosion fatigues the metal. The electricity makes a poor connection between the buss and the breaker. This poor connection causes sparks and heat that damages the panel.

Old and incorrect circuit breakers

The breakers in this panel are between 20 and 30 years old. The wiring is even older. They are all in poor condition and should be replaced. Many of the breakers are in the off position. We did not test if they were even functioning because we did not know what they operated. Some of the circuit may have short circuits in them and that is why they are off. Other could control  equipment that needs to be kept off when not in use.

Sloppy work and no grounding

Here is a close up picture of a circuit that is incorrectly added to the panel. The ground wire is wrapped around a random screw. This panel must of been replace at some time in the past. The wiring that is feeding this panel is before grounding was part of electrical systems

This is the neutral buss bar. There is a drywall screw use to bond the electrical neutral to the metal case. This is not the correct way to do this. This panel should use the proper bonding screw. There should also be farther investigation to see if it is possible to add a ground wire to this location

Wrong Panel Cover

The bury picture below is meant to show that the panel cover is not the correct cover for this panel. There are screw hole in the paneling that are being used to close the panel. The panel cove needs to be screwed into the panel body. A panel cover that is not bonded to the panel case can become energized shocking people who think that they are safe.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wadsworth Circuit breaker box

 This is an old Wadsworth main circuit breaker panel.  Wadsworth breakers have a good reputation for the most part but there have been questions how responsiveness when slightly over loaded.  I have found this blog where an electrician had a circuit arch so much that it cut through a steel conduit without tripping. 
This panel is a combination main electrical fuse with circuit breaker on the branch circuits. The top black box with the silver metal handle is the box that houses the main fuses. You pull this box strait out of the fuse panel. The power to the house will go out. You can then safely replace the main fuses.
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