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Archive for September, 2010

Tip of the Day: Protect yourself with a Standardized Rate Sheet

September 28th, 2010 No comments

So one of the big gray areas in the trades that no one really likes to to all about is costing and rates.  I never have understood this and feel like it causes more harm then good to “save the money talk” for later.  A great tool to get this out of the way on the front side of a job is a standardized rate sheet.   As a consumer you have every right to see a rate sheet prior to any work being done at your home our business.  Any reputable service contractor that is conducting an honest quality business will have a rate sheet for their company – if they can’t provide you with one then that may be your first sign to look for some other options.

Here is a scan of our Standardized Rate Sheet – for service work and unit hour billings:

rate sheet 9-28-2010 9;51;06 AM

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What is this ELECTRICITY anyway?

September 15th, 2010 No comments

Electricity by nature is very hard to define.  In our day to day we often use the word “electricity” incorrectly to describe a lot of different conditions and states, all of which have specific definitions.  When you get down to it, it can all be rather confusing – even for those of us in the business.  Secondly – all of this electrical stuff is very closely related to (and effected by) the principals of magnetism and wave frequency.  There is a lot more to it then meets the eye, and general electrical theory is still an evolving filed of study.  Thankfully, I am but an electrician and can leave that heavy hitting to the the electrical engineers of the world.

Here is one basic electrical engineering text book definition we use to describe the electricity in motion we use as end line consumers:

Electric charge, also called “electricity,” is a fundamental component of everyday matter. Objects are made of molecules and atoms, atoms are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons, and the protons and electrons are made in part out of electric charge. Electric charge is substance-like. If you have a quantity of charge, you cannot destroy it, you can only move it from place to place. A flow of electric charge is called “electric current.”

So, stepping off from there… the practical electrician definition of electricity then becomes (more or less) “the flow of electrical current thru a conductor”.  Not so bad, is it now? So where am I going with all of this… good of you to ask.  One quick way to help determine if the electricians you are dealing with know their stuff is to ask them “what is electricity”.  More often then not I think you will be surprised by the answers you get.

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Electrical Tip of the Day – Outlet Strips & Plug Adapters – What you should know!

September 1st, 2010 No comments

As an electrical service contractor we see a lot of burnt up stuff.  Far and away the most common thing to find crispy and smoking are those trusty plug adapters and outlet strips.  You know the story… you only meant for it to be a temporary solution when you put the microwave on top of the fridge.  Or maybe its the one you installed behind your home theater with the ground pin broke off and a few too many things plugged in.  Or perhaps maybe (I know, not you right) its the 3 or 4 you have strung together in your man cave or garage.  Put in so you could run the beer fridge, the radio, charger for your cordless tools, run the space heater in the winter, and still crank up the tunes loud enough to hear when your washing your motorcycle, charging your boat battery, and working on the ATV.

Then… then THAT smell lingers in.  Dang it, well at least you were home to catch it, right?

So all joking aside all outlets strips, plug adapters, and surge protectors are not created equal. They all have two negative things in common the minute you put them in use:

FIRST – they increase the chance you can overload a circuit or outlet

SECOND – they are adding additional connection  points (many that are of poor quality and design) that can fail or cause heating at the point of use

Let me explain a little electric 101 and how this sets up to be the perfect storm.  So most 120 volt circuits in a newer home are protected on 20 amp breakers.  Strike one is that your standard 3 prong outlet is only rated at 15 amps to begin with (unless the larger blade terminal on the face is a “T”).  Strike two is that many of the outlet strips, adapters, plug makers, and such are rated at 10 or 15 amps, SOME ARE RATED MUCH LOWER THEN THAT.  Strike three comes next… add to that a couple of  light duty cords (like the smaller green and orange ones that only have 16 or 18 gauge conductors rated at 10 amps or less) and you have set the stage.  Each one of those additional “plug in” connections causes more resistance and more heat. What can happen is that all of those things, when stung together and loaded up, can melt and ignite before the 20 amp breaker protecting the circuit will shut down.  Depending on how poor the connections are, the age of the circuit, outlet, and breaker; combined with the type and ratings of the adapted being used it may only take a few amps of load to cause this to occur.

So what is the solution you ask.  It is three fold and simple:

1) BUY 20 AMP RATED CORDS AND ADAPTERS

2) BUY AND USE ONLY TOP QUALITY 20 AMP RATED OUTLET STRIPS and SURGE PROTECTORS

3) CORRECTLY WIRE IN MORE 20 AMP RATED OUTLES WHERE THEY ARE NEEDED (and consider adding some additional circuits).

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