Longo Electric Blog

August 28, 2010

11 Questions to Ask Yourself about Your Home Electrical System

The 11 questions below are from a form that was designed to aide homeowners in proactively identifying symptoms of electrical problems within their electrical systems. While the questions pertain to residential systems, it is equally important to apply them to your place of work or business. Our goal at Longo Electric is to make sure that you are safe from the the inherent and often hidden hazards of your electrical systems. We will interject a few of our own comments in italics. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns after reading the following:

Do circuit breakers in your home trip often or do fuses keep blowing?
A home electrical system has these built-in safeguards to prevent electrical overload.
Too much current causes the breakers to open automatically or the fuses to melt.
When a circuit shuts down repeatedly, it’s a warning that should not be ignored.

It can be dangerous to repeatedly reset a tripped circuit breaker, especially if there is a short circuit. When you reset a shorted circuit you are really creating a short in your hands when you close the breaker, and you may be causing further damage to your home or electrical system. When in doubt, call us.

Is there rust on the main electrical service panel?

Even permanent fixtures wear out or suffer the ravages of time. When rust appears on the metal service panel it often indicates a moisture problem or that deterioration has reached an advanced stage.

Rust indicates the presence of moisture, and we all know that water and electricity don’t play well together! Of great concern with water damage is that the mechanical parts of circuit breakers may fail to operate in an overload or short circuit situation.

Are extension cords needed to reach the outlets in any room?
Electrical outlets, especially in older homes, are often spaced too far apart for modern living. This not only creates too much demand on too few outlets, it also poses a hazard when the extension cords are run under rugs and furniture.

Please don’t run extension cords or lamp cords under rugs, you are just asking for trouble. We can put additional outlets just about anywhere that you need them in your home (as long as the location is NEC compliant). And while we are at it why not consider upgrading your existing two wire receptacles to modern 3 prong (grounding) receptacles that are type “TR.” (Read more about TR receptacles below).

Are GFCI outlets installed where required?
The National Electrical Code now requires extra protection for outlets in specific areas of the home, such as kitchens, baths, utility rooms, garages and outdoors. Ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs)— which are identifiable by their TEST and RESET buttons—are generally required in proximity to wet locations. If your wiring has not been upgraded with GFCIs you’re not protected.

GFCI’s or GFI’s have a proven track record of saving lives and making all electrical systems safer. There is no mystery that GFI’s can make a precarious electrical situation much safer; even OSHA requires ALL of our power tools to be protected by GFI’s on ALL work sites. Please note that some systems utilize GFCI type circuit breakers in lieu of GFCI receptacles, which is perfectly acceptable and just as safe. Longo Electric often opts to install GFI protection in the from of the GFI receptacle, however, so that when the GFI trips while you are drying your hair you don’t have to run out to the garage or outside to your electrical panel to reset the GFI breaker.

Are Tamper Resistant (TR) receptacles installed where required?

Tamper resistant receptacles contain a mechanical shutter that helps to keep curious children from poking things into outlets. The 2008 cycle of the National Electrical Code (NEC) requires TR receptacles to be installed in all dwelling units (houses) and in day care facilities.

Nearly 2000 children are shocked, burned, or worse from the effects of poking objects into electrical outlets every year. Our goal, however is to do our part to reduce this number to 0! We are more than happy to come to your home and show you samples and demonstrate how TR receptacles work. Lets all work together and make our homes safer for our children!

Do the lights dim when appliances turn on?
High-demand appliances such as air conditioners, clothes dryers, refrigerators and furnaces need extra power when they start up. This temporary current draw can be more than just a nuisance; it can damage sensitive equipment.

A common culprit for dimming lights is poor connections at the utility point of attachment and undersized utility transformers. We can work with your local electrical utility to minimize your dimming lights.

Do electrical switches or outlets feel warm or tingly?
Loose or deteriorating electrical connections, such as the wiring junctions in switches and outlets, impede current flow and create resistance. This may create a dangerous condition that can result in shock or fire.

It is perfectly normal for dimmer switches to feel warm to the touch. But if you are uncomfortable with the way a part of your electrical system seems, please call us and we will evaluate the cause and work with you on a solution. If, however one of your outlets is warm to the touch, call us right away!

Do your electrical outlets need accessory plug-strips?
Too many things plugged in at one location can create more current demand than a single outlet or electrical line can safely handle. Adding multiple plug-in strips won’t solve the problem. What you need are additional outlets, and possibly new wiring runs to service them.

Do your outlets not accept three-prong plugs?
The third, or grounding, prong on a typical appliance plug provides an extra measure of safety against electrical shock. Older two-prong receptacle outlets, installed in homes before this innovation, may not be adequately grounded and should be upgraded.

This set up is very common in our area. It is not acceptable to simply replace the two prong receptacles with three prong receptacles. The equipment grounding conductor is the most important wire in any wiring system. If the cabling is of the two conductor Armored Cable (AC aka. BX) type, then it may be permissible to use the outer metallic sheath of the cable as the ground. In this case a bonding jumper must be installed between the metal box and the receptacle yoke to create an effective ground path. If we do upgrade your receptacles to three prong, they will by the TR type. More often than not, the cabling is of the non-metallic type and new cabling must be installed to upgrade to three prong receptacles.

Is the wiring in your outlet boxes old and crumbling?
If you look at the wiring to your home’s light switches or outlets, do you find wires wrapped in cloth sheathing or bits of black rubber in the electrical box? Very old homes often have antiquated wiring that should be upgraded to ensure your safety.

There are not too many options here, a re-wire is usually in order. While some contractors may gamble on adding to or modifying a cabling system of questionable integrity, Longo Electric is not willing to take safety risks for you or for ourselves. There is only one way to install electrical systems; the safe way!

Have you never upgraded your electrical service?
If your home is over 25 years old, you could have an inadequate and possibly hazardous electrical system—and not even know it. To be safe, call in an electrician for a thorough inspection, and if necessary bring your home up to today’s electrical code standards.

New technologies in overcurrent protection (breakers and fusees) design have provided us with panels of much greater safety and integrity over the panels of the past. Longo Electric uses panels with Copper buss bars only as an added safety measure. Additionally the advent of GFCI breakers and AFCI breakers have made our homes and occupants safer and have reduced the electrical shock and fire hazards significantly. AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters) are a bit different than GFCI’s. GFCI’s monitor the amount of current flowing out on one conductor and then compare it to the amount of current returning to the device. If the amount of current differs by more than 5 milliamps the device opens the circuit, because it assumes that it is traveling somewhere that it should not be, such as through a person. AfCI’s, however, monitor the shape of the sine wave as current flows through a circuit. When arcing occurs in an electrical circuit it forms a characteristic anomalous pattern to a standard sign wave. when an AFCI sees a sign wave that indicates there is downstream arcing in the circuit it de-energizes or opens the circuit. In the 2008 NEC AFCI breakers are required for nearly every circuit in your house. Tennessee, however, has amended the 2008 NEC to only require AFCI breaker protection for bedroom circuits.

Circuit breakers are mechanical devices and are actually supposed to be exercised on a monthly basis. One reason that we recommend changing panels after 25 years is that most breakers are never exercised and when they are called upon to do their job, they may not operate properly; think of the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz!

When considering a panel change or service upgrade let us show you the options available. Longo Electric offers panels that are back up generator ready, solar ready and surge protection capable. We can perform a load calculation to determine if you should have a service of larger capacity and we will work with you to find the best solution for your electrical needs.

August 22, 2010

Koontz Solar PV system is 50% complete!

We began a 2kW solar Photovoltaic (PV) installation for Mr. Koontz in Strawberry Plains, TN yesterday. We, and Mr. Koontz are extremely excited for his system to go online and to start selling electricity back to KUB. This system is an array of 10 Sharp 220 watt PV modules and a 2000 watt PV Powered grid tied inverter. Of particular interest is that Sharp PV panels are manufactured in nearby Memphis, TN and the PV Powered inverter is manufactured in Oregon. How is that for keeping the cash in this country?

An initial site analysis and feasibility study was performed by Paul Platillero of Cara-Sol and Dan Longo of Longo Electric, LLC in a joint endeavor. The analysis indicates that Mr. Koontz’ solar system will pay for itself in 13 years, but of course the payback may come sooner as electrical rates continue to climb. We salute Mr. Koontz for being on the cutting edge of technology and the green power movement, in talking with him we have realized that the decision to install his solar system has not only been based on economics, but more importantly, reducing his environmental impact.

The Koontz solar system is scheduled to be online and generating energy by early September. The solar PV process is somewhat complex due to utility regulations, governmental procedure, and municipal electrical inspections. As part of the solar PV design and installation process, all parties come to the table (usually at the proposed site) and form a plan, timeline, and schedule. But while the process is complex Longo and Cara-Sol are there throughout to act as the customers’ guide, and representative. Our goal is to leave you completely satisfied, have fun and make new friends along the way.

Please contact Longo Electric, LLC with any questions about solar power and how we may design and install a system for you. We are also pleased to serve our commercial customers solar power needs.

August 8, 2010

Grounding & Bonding CEU Class

We just attended  another CEU class and this time the subject was Grounding and Boding. The class was led by IAEI East Tennessee chapter member and TN electrical inspector. We always love these classes, because the lecturers share photo’s and commentary about real life “horror stories” from our own back yard. Of course, we wish no one any harm, but it is important to remember that faulty and poor electrical installations exist all around us. Below are a few highlights of the refresher than the Longo Electric LLC team brushed up on.

Article 250 of the NEC is the longest and most extensive article and it covers Grounding and Boding. The ground in an electrical system is of paramount importance. While the grounding electrode conductor, equipment bonding jumpers, main bonding jumper and equipment grounding conductor are often taken for granted they are the most important component in any electrical system. The purpose of the ground is to bring any stray currents and voltage transients to a zero potential, to  facilitate the operation of overcurrent protective devices (OCPD), and to provide a low impedance return path for objectionable or fault current to travel upon.

Proper Grounding and Boding not only protects humans and livestock from the perils of electric shock, but also aids in preventing fire due to ground fault conditions by operating the associated overcurrent protection device (fuses, circuit breakers, GFCI’s). The most common wiring error that we see other electricians making, and that we have to correct, is not bonding metal boxes as pet article 250. Generally this is due to lack of proper education, apathy, laziness, and installers cutting corners to save money. Unfortunately, though, cutting corners is the main reason that perilous situations arise in the operation of electrical systems. A simple Google search on electrocution will show that most electrical accidents related to shock or electrocution are caused in part by lack of, improper, or faulty Grounding and Boding.
Another common wiring error that we see and correct is the intentional interconnection of the grounded and grounding conductors in a sub panel. The grounded conductor (neutral) of an electrical system shall only be bonded to the grounding (ground) conductor at the first disconnecting means of a service or separately derived system. If you draw a simple three line diagram of the grounding, grounded, and current carrying conductors of a given system the reason for isolating the neutral and ground at any location downstream of the main is obvious. The idea is that when a ground fault occurs that the fault current travel upon the grounding conductor in order to operate the OCPD in a timely manner. If, however, multiple return current paths exist, then current may unsafely travel on the neutral or  other normally un-energized surfaces and the OCPD may never operate. Furthermore, if a person finds themselves in the path of travel of fault current, injury and possibly fatality usually  result.

We could go on and on about Grounding and Boding, but we’ll wrap it up here and pick up with some related topics in the near future. Remember, wiring is no hobby, please call a licensed electrical contractor.

July 19, 2010

We’ve been busy! Thank you!

We are grateful to say that we have been busy during June and July. some of our longer term projects are about to wrap up and we have bids waiting to be awarded in the next few weeks. We have a site lighting project coming up that we have been awarded, but are waiting for the lighting manufacturers to build and ship the poles and luminaires.

While we have been busy we have also been gearing begun training with a (new for us) generator and transfer switch manufacturer so that we can offer you even more options. We have also been working with a (new for us) solar photovoltaic supplier in Strawberry Plains, TN. We are proud and excited to continue building relationships with you, our customers, our suppliers and manufacturers.

And while we have been busy with new projects, we have maintained our availability to service our existing clients; you are all equally important to us! We continue to perform service calls both on an as needed and scheduled basis.

Again, we would like to thank all of choosing Longo Electric LLC, and we look forward to being of service again in the future.

June 16, 2010

Fire Pump CEU’s

We spent last night at a class presented by the East Tennessee Chapter of the International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI). The class was on Fire Pumps which are covered under Article 695 of the National Electrical Code (NEC). Fire pumps are electrically driven hydraulic pumps that ONLY operate under a sprinkler condition. the most unique thing about fire pumps is that they are designed to run until they, their feeder conductors, and their controllers are completely burned up, either by an overload situation, or from the fire itself. Fire pumps are a sacrificial piece of equipment that are only designed to run when there is a fire that has caused a sprinkler system to operate. Fire pumps are powered by their own service or multiple feeders so that upon arrival the fire department can remove power from the building, but not from the fire pump.

Fire pumps are usually specified by engineers and are often required by insurance companies. If you have the need for a fire pump system in your facility, just let us know and we will be happy to help you get a system designed, then install it for you.

Oh yeah, what the heck is a CEU? CEU’s or Continuing Education Units are credits for taking courses, classes, and seminars in areas pertinent to ones profession. Currently the State of Tennessee does not require Electrical Contractors to complete ANY CEU’s, but Longo Electric’s policy is to never stop learning and to continually add build on our educational foundation so that we may stay informed, code compliant, and efficient.

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June 15, 2010

From end to end and back again.

First thing this morning found us in Farragut, TN adding an outdoor GFCI for a new customer who is having a water feature installed by Acadia Landscape Co. of Knoxville in the next few weeks. We then headed a few miles away to check in the previously mentioned outdoor kitchen project. After a brief job meeting with Mike, of Able Gunite Pools and Todd Barker of Acadia, we completed our rough in then headed East. By the time we arrived in the Fifth & Gill neighborhood in Knoxville to put the finishing touches on another outdoor project the temperature had climbed into the 90′s! The last stop was back to home base in Maryville to replace a ballast and lamps in the kitchen light for one of our great commercial clients, but in their personal home.

After some family time and getting everyone tucked into their beds, we are back at the desk wrapping up an under cabinet lighting proposal which will use Kichler’s Design Pro LED’s, followed by an estimate for a new house about to come out of the ground for a private builder.

Tomorrow we will do what we love again, but try to start in the wee hours to beat some of the heat!

June 7, 2010

A Happy Barn!

It is twice as bright in the Bozeman family’s barn this evening, because we upgraded their lighting today. We replaced the existing 8′ 2 lamp T-12 magnetic ballasted fluorescents with new 8′ 4-4′ T8 lamp models. The new fixtures feature electronic ballasts, and combined with the lamps they are about 50% more energy efficient than their predecessors. the new fixtures also put out about 30% more light! We also replaced all receptacles with weatherproof GFCI’s and replaced all of the Square D QO type breakers in the barn panel. We now feel sorry for Mr. Bozeman who can’t use “the lights don’t work” excuse to postpone his chores.

Wow, energy efficiency improvements + lighting quality improvements + safety upgrades = a quality installation!

April 28, 2010

Is your panel labeled?

Is your electrical panel labeled? You would be surprised at how many panels we work in that are not labeled. Besides being a National Electrical Code (NEC) requirement: Article 110.22 (A) Identifying of Disconnecting Means “Each disconnecting means shall be legibly marked to indicate its purpose…,”it just makes good common sense.

Longo Electric has the electronic circuit identification tools to locate, panels, breakers, wires and cable both buried and exposed in commercial and residential settings. We are pleased to offer our panel labeling service which is non invasive and we don’t flip breakers on and off and yell across your house. An unlabeled panel will show up on any decent home inspection report, but we can make that go away for you, just give us a call to find out more.

December 4, 2009

Christmas Light Safety!

How did Christmas arrive so fast? I’ll be putting up our own lights this week and it made me think that it would be wise to remind everyone that there are special electrical safety concerns that arise during the holiday season. I’ll just list my thoughts on the topic below with some brief suggestions on electrical safety during Christmas!

• Insure that all of your extension cords and light strands are “UL” (Underwriters Laboratories) listed. The UL listing on electrical cord sets and appliances assures us as consumers that if we follow the guidelines of a UL listing that we will be safe(r) from manufacturer defect. In other words, make sure the UL listing matches the actual use of whatever device you are using. Are your Christmas lights rated for outdoor use?

• Remember the cat from “Christmas Vacation”? Unfortunately, that does happen, our pets do chew on electrical cords and we should keep a close eye on the during the holidays.

• ONLY PLUG OUTDOOR CHRISTMAS LIGHTS INTO GFCI PROTECTED OUTLETS! Yes, I am shouting! How many times have you seen Christmas lights wrapped around wrought iron handrails leading up a set of stairs. did you ever stop to think that if there is a nick in the wire, that the entire handrail could become energized? Well it can! GFCI’s, or GFI’s (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) come in the device form (receptacles) and in the circuit breaker form. GFCI’ check the amount of current flowing out on one conductor and make sure the same amount is returning back to its internal microchips. If the GFI notices a difference of as little as 5 milliamps, it interrupts (opens or disconnects) the circuit, thus saving you from an electrical shock. Just like metal handrails, your entire rain gutter system could easily become energized, so please be sure to use GFCI protection anytime you are using electricity outside or in any wet or damp location.

• Again, the image of Clark W. Griswold comes clearly into mind for this one; please be safe on those ladders while you are setting up your lighting displays. Don’t over reach, and why not get someone to foot your ladder for you. If you are using a metal ladder, remember that they are great conductors of electricity, both from overhead utility lines and from energized strings of lights. That is why we, as electricians only use wooden and fiberglass ladders.

If you need more outdoor outlets, would like to be able to turn your Christmas lights on from your iPhone, or would rather us climb the ladder for you, please just call us at Longo ELectric and we will be happy to be of service. The phone is always on: 865-233-3241. Besides, let us freeze out there while you watch us and sip on a cup of your favorite hot cocoa! We’ll even put on our santa hats for you so you can tell your neighbors about the elves who helped you put up your Christmas lights!

“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night”

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