Friday, May 18, 2012

Timer control for your lighting made easy

Timer Control Of your lights.

Here is a new way to control you lights with a timer. This is an insteon timer. It works to remotely control insteon switches in your home. Insteon switches are switches that are able to talk with each other. This way you can control more than one switch with one timer. Many houses have several outside lights. Before this device you would have to install an ugly time wall switch at each location to control the lights. 

These older was switch are not as attractive as the insteon switches. The time also has to be set on each switch. Setting the times on each of these switches can be time consuming. These switches are also mechanical and tend to fail often.  With the insteon time you can have attractive wall switch. You only need to set up your programming in one location. The time can be hidden anywhere you have a wall outlet.

This is a basic insteon dual band wall switch. It can talk to the plug in the wall time above. As you can see it has a much better look than an in the wall timer. Since it can talk with other insteon devices you can also expand its function. For example you could also get a remotelinc switch for your car. This way you can turn on any insteon light from your car. There is even a smart phone app that will let you use and iphone or android phone as a controller.

The best part is the cost is not much more than the older style switches.  The older timers cost between $35 $45 where the insteon switches are only $40 - $50 each.  This is a big step forward in ease of use. The same type of timer can be use inside of your home for lamps and wall switches. There is even a vacation mode that will turn lights on randomly to give your home a lived in look. 

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I-Team: Faulty Circuit Breakers in Thousands of Homes Could Cause Fire | NBC New York

Here is a interesting News story about Federal Pacific Circuit Breakers.  

I-Team: Faulty Circuit Breakers in Thousands of Homes Could Cause Fire | NBC New York

The electricity in most homes is fairly safe. That is one of the biggest problem I find as an electrician. It is difficult to explain to customers that their circuit box that has been feeding power reliably for so many years can be a problem. Unlike other mechanical devices, your electrical box can break but still provide you with the power you expected.  It is my belief that client should replace their main electrical services every 30 years. The circuit breakers are mechanical devices that need to open and close physically to turn off. Any number of things can go wrong inside the mechanism.  Corrosion, water, physical damage, foreign materials are all thing that I have seen in older panel that could prevent breaker from tripping. 

Better to be safe than sorry.  If you have a panel that was installed before 1982 It is time for a replacement. After all 1982 was the last year of the DeLorean Motor Company. Ronald Reagan was still president in 1982.  Michael Jackson released "Thriller". The Commodore 64 was released without an internet.

 The Federal Pacific Breakers in the picture should be replaced as soon as you see them. There is no reason to risk a fire. These breakers were manufactured up until 1990s. They have been known not to trip and have caused as many as 2,800 fires each year in the US.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Before there were fuses!!

The First electrical systems Did not have fuses?

I recently came across this ceramic electrical distribution block. Today this would be done with a sub-panel. Here you can see three cables feeding two ceramic blocks. The enclosure was a handmade box lined with what appears to be asbestos.  Off of the two porcelain block are 4 two wire circuit. All of the wiring was Knob and Tube style cloth covered conductors. This home was built in the early part of 1900 when electricity was new.  

Here is a close up picture of one of the blocks. There was an over current protection built in. If you look closely you can see a thin wire that jumps between the screws. This is an early attempt at fusing the circuit. The jumper wires look to be made out of a metal other than copper. I think it is either lead or aluminum but cannot be sure.  This wire should be the weakest link in the circuit and should blow before anything else in the circuit burnt up. 

Fuses were added to these ceramic blocks with standard Edison socket. The fuses were standardized and rated at 15 or 20 amps for house circuits. It is hard to believe that this old and very unsafe system was still in operation in 2012. 

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Insuring an old home that has knob and tube wiring |

Insuring an old home that has knob and tube wiring |

We see knob and tube in many older Philadelphia homes. As a professional who has something to gain it is difficult to explain to home owner that this is something that they need to be concerned with. Many homeowner have lived with their wiring for 50-60 years problem free. It is difficult for them to see that their older wiring is an issue. We also see many electrician who have work with this type of wiring for 50-60 years who also over look the problem because they are too close.

I typically ask my clients to call their insurance companies for more information. Electrical system are generally very safe. The issues with older wiring are more apparent to insurance companies.  When and older electrical system fails the loss of life and property are huge. Insurance companies average thousands of home and are coming to the conclusion that homes with Knob and tube are a risky  to insure.