Electrical Safety & Energy Conservation
Many homeowners are unaware that their electrical system is the most important infrastructure in their home. No other trade-related item has the power to create either fire or shock. According to many agencies, since electrical companies have some of the lowest capital investment costs, there are more handymen and non-licensed tradesmen involved in the residential electrical industry than any other building trade. Some common misconceptions are that electricians just need to have a license and a bond. Nothing could be farther from the truth. For instance, all electrical companies in California are required to have a State Contractors license, a bond, Personal Liability insurance, vehicle insurance, a business license for each city they work within and most importantly, workers' comp. So what’s a homeowner to do? Simple. Insist that your electrical contractor pull his own permits.
We highly advise homeowners to simply check the city’s Web site: It will state most clearly what work can and can not be performed without a permit. The answer, in a nutshell, is not much. There are very important facts for homeowners to know when pulling their own permits, which we advise against. The Contractors License Board has current information regarding homeowner permitting, and we strongly encourage you to research the facts.
That said, there is an extremely important fact for homeowners to know about their electrical panels, especially in homes 25 years or older. Several panels, including "Zinsco," "Federal Pacific Stab-lok," "Pushmatic" and "Square D type XO" have been deemed unsafe and thus lost the original UL listing. Subsequently, some homeowner insurance companies will not insure or honor the insurance of homes possessing these panels. Another major deficiency in older homes is the original "knob and tube" wiring. There is a wealth of information on the Internet regarding all of these safety issues, and I recommend a small investment in time to find out more. Homes don’t come with instruction manuals, so I encourage all homeowners to educate themselves.
Energy conservation is nothing new in California. Several policies have been in place for well over a decade, and much like the energy scare of the late '70s, many people are now becoming acutely aware of our need to save energy.
Here are some useful tips:
- First of all, when given the choice of electric or gas, go gas. The BTU ratio of a therm of gas is substantially better than that of a kilowatt hour of electricity.
- The next thing is to look up "California Title 24" and understand how important it is to saving you money, gaining equity and leaving our children a better planet.
- Today’s fluorescent technology is not like in the old days, and many homeowners that were initially resistant to change come back to me and say "those fluorescent recessed lights are great."
- Many homes do not have overhead light fixtures, but have a "switched outlet" in the room. That would be a great outlet to put your chargers on, as they are considered "ghosting" transformers that consume power regardless of having the phone or camera plugged in.
- Another common misconception is that unplugging the bulb from a fluorescent fixture saves energy. All lighting, other than standard Edison base bulbs, use power regardless of the bulb. As long as the switch is on, the transformer is consuming power.
With Americans becoming more aware of energy use, we face a bright future in the soon-to-be green environment. But change comes slowly, and we all need to embrace it.
Alan Fortin, BSEE, is the owner/operator Lighthouse Electric, and has been in the electrical industry for 32 years.
CA License C-10 650521
236 Burning Tree Drive, San Jose, California, 95119
Phone: (408) 590-7565
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