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Household Tips

The Truth About Aluminum Wiring

There are plenty of rumors out there, find out the truth about Aluminum Wiring by reading the document below.

Save your home from a tragic electric fire

Here at Gulf Coast Electric we are not only concerned with saving you money on your electric bill, but we are also concerned with your safety. Click the link below to view an extensive document on Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI), new devices design to protect you and your home from electrical fires.

ELECTRICAL PANEL SAFETY ALERT

If you have a FPE Federal Pacific Electric Panel it needs to be replaced immediately!
Click here to read the alert!

YOU MAINTAIN YOUR CAR DON’T YOU?

When you buy a car you immediately know that you have to do certain things to maintain your automobile so that it will last and carry you safely across town or across the nation. Well, the same thing applies to your electrical systems in your home or business.

Every year catastrophic failures occur in homes and commercial buildings because typically nothing is done to maintain the electrical systems. More and more, people are realizing that preventative maintenance is the best way to head off failures which result in costly repairs and serious damage. Many of the national and regional firms we do electrical service work for are realizing that a little spent up front is better than a lot spent in an emergency.

The fact is, electrical systems are installed and forgotten in most cases. But electrical systems, like automobiles, must be maintained if they are to be safe and reliable. There are things which take place in your home or business every day which diminishes the quality of the electrical system and lead to failures. Electrical components heat up, cool off, expand and contract, and this leaves terminations and components loose. Loose is not what you want in electrical systems. Poor connections produce heat that damages your components such as receptacles, switches, and other utilization equipment like disconnect switches for your heavy equipment.

A good example of the type of damage we are talking about is found in almost every home. You move into the home, you arrange your furniture, and you set up your home entertainment center. You plug in multiple components, possibly even adding plug strips to accommodate the various parts of our system, and the receptacle is never seen again until you move out of the house or have a failure in the circuit that feeds the entertainment center. This is repeated in many rooms all over the house with televisions and other small appliances, and it is basically neglected for years. We all assume the receptacles were tightened appropriately when they were installed originally, and we forget about them. Over a period of time with the loads being left on for hours each day the terminations on these receptacles begin to get loose. I’m sure you’ve seen receptacles in some locations that simply won’t retain a plug because they are so loose. Normally this is not from wear but from heat. In either case, wear or heat, it is loose and it is dangerous.

We often get calls from homeowner’s who are complaining about flickering lights in a specific area of the residence. When we dispatch our service technician to the residence we begin by listening to the customer’s complaint and then we troubleshoot the circuit in question. Most of the time our technician will find the problem promptly most of the time. Usually it is a loose connection on a receptacle or switch which can be repaired or replaced easily. But many times all the technician has to do is look for the most concealed and neglected receptacle on the circuit (which is usually behind a heavy piece of furniture or an entertainment center) and there lies the problem.

It’s an easy fix, but there is another scenario which sometimes occurs that is not so easily repaired. If this flickering doesn’t catch someone’s attention, or the circuit in question doesn’t have lighting on it, the flickering, which is really arching inside the junction boxes, just continues until it gets to a level that becomes dangerous and possibly causes a fire. This type of arching is so prevalent that the National Electrical Code now requires Arch Fault Circuit Interrupters in all new homes for most of the circuits in the home. When the National Electrical Code Convention meets every three years they team up with insurance companies which have data on how many fires take place due to certain circumstances and that is how we get new codes like the requirement for Arch Fault Circuit Interrupters.

Finally, treat your home or business like you treat your car; insist on regular maintenance and inspections so that you can avoid catastrophic damage to property and possible injury. As everyone knows, preventive maintenance is much cheaper and a lot more convenient than repairs and replacement.

Water Heaters – Some Household Electrical Tips and Tricks

Let’s talk about water heaters. There is much to be said about the types of water heaters available today in relation to their efficiency and practicality for your home. But for now, let’s just talk about conventional storage tank water heaters that are in the majority of homes in our area. If you have the demand type (tankless or instantaneous) water heater system for your home, let’s just say you’re in luck as long as it was engineered properly for the volume of hot water you need.

water heater tips

Storage Tank Water Heaters

Storage tank water heaters are the type that have a large reservoir in which to heat and store the hot water. These come in various sizes and shapes to accommodate space requirements and hot water volume requirements for different households. If you have a large, spacious home built a few years ago, the chances are you either have one large water heater or two water heaters. That is the way homes were built a few years ago. Most of these water heaters consume 4500 watts of energy for the entire time that they are heating water. They usually have an upper and a lower heating element which work in sequence to heat the whole tank of water rather than working at the same time. The supply of cold water is dumped into the water heater and the heated water is drawn out of the water heater at the same volume. What this means is that any time you are using hot water, cold water is being replaced in the tank which quickly turns on the element to reheat the water. The time it takes to heat the water is called recovery time.

With conventional storage tank water heaters the only way to save money is to limit the recovery time. You can do this in a number of ways. First, you can reduce the amount of hot water that you use. That can be done by shortening the length of time you spend in the shower, reducing the volume of water coming out of the shower with a “Low-Flow” shower head, or turning the thermostat down on the water heater so that it doesn’t take as long to heat the water. The US Department of Energy recommends that you use a shower head with no more than 2.5 gallons per minute. If your house was built before 1992 and you have never changed your shower heads then you are probably wasting a lot of water and energy. This may seem like a personal sacrifice to some of us who engage in long hot showers, but take my word for it, you can get used to it if you want to conserve energy and save money. One thing that may help is to realize that heating water accounts for 15% to 20% of the energy consumed in the average home. A quality “Low-Flow” shower head can be purchased for $10 to $20 each and installation can normally be done by the homeowner.

Another way to reduce consumption of hot water is to curb the frequency of usage on things like dishwashers and washing machines whenever possible by doing full loads of dishes and clothing rather than partial loads. By the way, for those of you who like to wash dishes by hand, just remember that if you do the dishes by hand more than a couple of times a day it is actually more expensive than using an energy efficient dishwasher.

Still another way to reduce your cost for heating water is to install a simple timer on the water heater so that it only operates at the specific times when you utilize the most hot water. You may want to install an additional set of trip levers on the timer so that it can operate in the morning and again in the evening if you find it necessary to do so.

Obviously, you don’t want to allow leaks in your water system anywhere but it is especially important to prevent water leaks in your hot water system. Hot water leaks can cause your water heater to take much longer to recover or maybe not recover fully at all. Even a small drip on your hot water system can cost big bucks. If you have a leaky faucet and the water coming out is actually hot as opposed to warm or cold, you can be sure that your water heater is working overtime or nearly full time and that could be costing you big money. It really pays to fix even minor leaks to hot water systems.

All Water Heaters Are Not Created Equal

That’s right; all water heaters are not created equal. In water heaters, like many other items, you usually get what you pay for in the way of efficiency. The water heaters with the best insulation cost a little more. But that insulation is critical to the performance of the water heater and its efficiency. Even if your water heater is located in conditioned space, that added insulation is important, but even more so if your water heater is in the garage or in the attic where it can be affected by colder temperatures. Heat loss is preventable even in the garage. You can buy an insulation jacket for your water heater and improve upon the efficiency. If you have a gas water heater, just remember not to cover the opening for the gas combustion air intake.

Many new water heaters come equipped with heat traps on the supply line and discharge line. These devices are designed to hold the heat in the water heater rather than letting the heat discharge through the copper pipes. These are a relatively new innovation that were developed primarily because the copper water lines that we use are very good conductors of heat and this enables heat from the water tank to dissipate through the copper pipes. They can be bought in pairs and usually have to be installed by a plumber unless you can solder the copper lines yourself. It is best to have them put on when the new water heater is installed if it is not already equipped with them. New water heaters also have an energy rating for efficiency and they have annual operating cost printed on the labels for the consumer so you can compare the efficiency with other water heaters. Look for the Energy Star Rating.

A Common Mistake

It is not uncommon for people to want to increase the size of their water heater when they are forced to buy a new one. Don’t fall for the idea that more is better, especially if you have had adequate supply with your previous water heater. Larger water heaters cost more to buy, cost more to operate, and a good portion of the energy used to heat all of that extra water is wasted because of the shear volume of water that the heater is forced to recover each time you use it. However, if you have a large home with lots of people, it would be equally as inefficient to buy a water heater that is too small because it would seldom recover and you would constantly be running out of hot water when you need it.

Other Helpful Hints

Another common problem with having a single water heater in a large home with a split floor plan is that the water heater is sometimes located on the opposite end of the house from where most of the consumption of hot water is taking place. This causes the user to have to run water for a long time before they actually feel the warm water coming out of the shower or faucet. Some people may be inclined to turn on the shower and go off to do other things while they are waiting for the water to get hot. (This is extremely wasteful and inefficient, and I’ve tried to tell her that too many times.) If this is the case in your home, it might be more efficient to install a new water heater with enough capacity for your needs closer to the point of usage. That way the water would be hot almost instantly and you won’t waste time and money heating the pipes all the way across the house each time you need hot water. It’s not cheap to install a new water heater but this type of waste can also cost you significant money over a long period of time. Sometimes this addition can be tied in with a bathroom remodel or some other major upgrade in the residence that involves an electrician and plumber.

Demand Water Heaters

Now let’s talk about demand water heaters. They are the type that only uses energy when there is actually a demand for hot water. Sometimes these are also referred to as Instant Water Heaters. They are capable of heating all the hot water you need as the water flows through the demand water heater. You can immediately see why these water heaters are so effective in saving energy and why they have become so popular. There are many manufacturers of this type of water heater and they come in various sizes to accommodate the volume of hot water that you need. Many times on larger homes they are installed in multiple locations and used in zones. They are also available in natural gas or electric. You must be very careful in selecting an electric unit for heating water because they require large electrical circuits that can sometimes necessitate upgrading your electrical service size and your sub panel in your home. A common size in the electrical demand water heaters is 28.8 KW for a modest three bedroom two bath residence. This can add approximately 120 amps of additional load to your residential service and that is often too much for a typical 200 amp residential electrical service to handle when combined with the other loads in the residence. If you have natural gas available it would be less costly to install it for the demand water heaters in most cases, in lieu of the electric type of demand water heater. If you want to convert from a conventional water heater to a tankless system you would probably want to start by having an electrical contractor come to your residence and take a look at the options before you purchase a new tankless water heater.

Can COMPACT FLUORESCENT lighting really make a difference in my home?

The answer is a resounding “YES”.

If every American home replaced just one light bulb with a COMPACT FLUORESCENT bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars.

 

  • COMPACT FLUORESCENT bulbs use nearly 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.
  • COMPACT FLUORESCENT bulbs save about $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb’s lifetime.
  • COMPACT FLUORESCENT bulbs produce about 75 percent less heat, so they’re safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling.
  • COMPACT FLUORESCENT bulbs are available in different sizes and shapes to fit in almost any fixture, for indoors and outdoors. (Click on the blue link to go to energystar.gov.)

We ask Arnold what he thought about compact fluorescent lamps (CFL’s) in homes. “Ask Arnold” is a regular feature of Gulf Coast Electric’s quarterly news letter. Arnold said:

“The great thing about these relatively new lamps is the amazing difference in the cost of operation. I use these babies around my house because I can replace the 60 watt bulbs in my lamps a 14 watt fluorescent bulb and we get the same lumens or light output with the 14 watt compact fluorescent as we did with the 60 watt incandescent bulbs”. (We have lamps all over our house and Mrs. Arnold insists on keeping them on all of the time.) The use of fluorescent lighting in recessed cans, table lamps, kitchen fixtures, bathrooms, and virtually all over the house can save you lots of money. And, the best part about compact fluorescent lamps these days is that you don’t have to have that dingy light that fluorescent lighting used to produce. You can now get fluorescent lighting in the exact same color rendition (Kelvin Rating) that incandescent lighting can produce. So to put it in a nutshell, there really is no downside or sacrifice when using the new compact fluorescent lighting anymore. You can get flood lights, spot lights, and even candelabra style compact fluorescent bulbs now. So whether you replace your old incandescent lights slowly over a period of time or all at once, you are going to begin to realize a savings in energy cost immediately. In fact, the ones I use at home actually advertise about $46.00 per year in savings for just one compact fluorescent bulb. Their figures are based on only three hours usage per day at 10 cents per kilowatt hour. Luckily, we don’t pay that much for electricity yet, so I did the calculations and found that we can save about $32.00 year for each CFL that we use instead of a 60 watt bulb.

Recycling information for CFLs may be found at www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling or www.earth911.org.

How do I know if my CFL is dying and how do I dispose of it if it’s burned out?

Find out the difference between incandenscent and CFL bulb burn outs and how to properly dispose of each.

Hopefully by now many of us are using compact fluorescents (CFL) in lieu of incandescent bulbs in our fixtures and lamps at home and at the office. We all know what it’s like to see an incandescent bulb burn out. Usually there is a little pop and the inside of the bulb turns black.

cfl

It’s just a little different with a CFL. Not only do they operate a little differently, using as much as 75% less energy, but they also burn out a little differently. You can expect the CFL to go out when you notice the light being a little dimmer and you will likely hear a more pronounced pop than you would with an incandescent bulb. You might even notice a smell and maybe even a little smoke. No need for alarm, in fact the CFL bulbs actually have an end of life mechanism that causes this to happen. But, to make absolutely sure that you are using the correct CFL, check to see if it has an independent laboratory stamp on it somewhere, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). That label means that the CFL has been tested repeatedly for safety. After the CFL burns out, don’t pitch it in the garbage can. Just put it in a plastic bag and take it back to the retail store for disposal. Most retailers will recycle the CFL’s for you. In any case, you don’t want to send any bulb containing mercury to an incinerator.

If you have any questions or concerns about CFL’s or energy conservation just give the guys at Gulf Coast Electric a call and they will be eager to help you.

Is it okay to leave my appliance chargers in the wall when I am not using them?

Most of us do it, especially with phone chargers, but is smart?

Another quick energy saving tip is to make sure that you have your lap top charger and any other chargers on a plug strip so that you can turn them off when not in use. Most chargers continue to use energy even when they are not charging anything. Even though they would use slightly less energy when they are not charging is can still add up considering the number of wall warts (chargers) we use these days.

outlet

If you have any questions or concerns about CFL’s or energy conservation just give the guys at Gulf Coast Electric a call and they will be eager to help you.

How can I save money on my energy bill this winter season?

Follow these five tips and you will have more money to save and/or spend this holiday season!

Here at Gulf Coast Electric we want to make certain you are saving as much money as possible. With the short cold winter season here in Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Navarre, Niceville, and the surrounding Emerald Coast area, keep some extra cash to spend on gifts or treat yourself by following these helpful household electrical tips:

winter candle

1. Assuming that you have done everything you can possibly do to seal your windows, doors, and attic access, the next best thing you can do to conserve energy in the winter is to install a programmable thermostat. Here in Northwest Florida, it is sometimes cold in the morning and evening and yet warm in the middle of the day. With a programmable thermostat you can insure that your heat and air conditioner are not running when they don’t need to be running. You may want to turn your heat off completely when you go to bed but with a programmable thermostat you don’t have to worry about waking up in a frigid house when it is time to rise. And you won’t have to think about wasting energy heating your home when you are at work. Let the programmable thermostat take the worry and expense out of conditioning your home.

2. If your water heater is not in a conditioned space, buy a blanket for it. Blankets make a big difference in the performance of the water heater. And if you live in a home that has a split floor plan with the water heater on one side of the house and the bathrooms on the other, you may have noticed that it takes a long time to get hot water from one point to the other in the winter. Often it is best to put a circulation pump on your system so that you don’t waste a lot of water and energy. All of that water pipe that is in your slab has to be heated before you get the full benefit of your hot water system. In some cases it is actually better to install a water heater on each side of the house so that you don’t have to waste so much water and heat. If you calculate the cost of the wasted water and energy that it takes to heat those pipes it can sometimes be better to have two water heaters. Also, you can make your water heater even more efficient with a timer, especially if it is an older water heater with less insulation than the newer models have today.

3. This is a big one for those of you who have fire places. Fire places are nice during those few cold periods that we have here in the Destin and Ft. Walton Beach area. During the holidays a nice fire is something that everyone enjoys, but just remember that the flue of the fire place is also a large opening for heat to escape when it is not being used and it is also a large opening for large volumes of air to enter when the air conditioning system is on in the house. Always make sure the damper is fully closed when the fire place is not in operation. Your air conditioning system is capable of exchanging a large volume of air when there is an opening for it to do so.

4. Turn off the vents in any rooms that are unoccupied, bundle up, dress like it is winter, turn the thermostat down to 68 degrees and put on a nice sweater or throw on a comforter while you are watching TV. Enjoy your favorite warm drink and save money at the same time.

5. Lastly but very importantly, remember that when we start putting up Christmas decorations each year there are always articles about homeowners being injured or electrocuted by their Christmas lights. Let’s remember that the holidays are not a time to throw caution and safety to the wind. All outdoor Christmas lighting should be plugged into a Ground Fault Receptacle that is completely weatherproof when it is in use. Ground Fault Receptacles save thousands of lives every year, especially in our coastal area where we have so many docks, boats, jet ski lifts, and outdoor equipment. Make it a safe holiday season and test your GFI receptacles as recommended. Check old Christmas lighting wires before you put them up and make sure that they are not subject to damage by doors and windows being opened. Also, make sure that the Christmas lighting you are installing outside is rated for outdoor use. If you are not sure about the safety of your electrical outlets outside, contact Gulf Coast Electric. We will check out your GFI receptacles and make sure that they are safe and working properly.

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