Frequently Asked Questions – Electrical Q: Why do my smoke detectors keep chirping? Answer: Most likely your batteries need to be replaced. Like your HVAC filters, your smoke detector batteries should be replaced twice a year, when the time changes from standard to daylight savings, and then back again to standard. Q: Can I do my own electrical work? Answer: As with so many other questions, the answer depends. Are you handy with general home improvements? Do you have a respect for working with something that can be deadly? The most important rule for working with any type of electrical system is to make sure the power is turned off. You should become familiar with your circuit breaker panel to determine which breakers control the circuits throughout the house. We recommend calling the electrical experts at Midway Services to diagnose and perform all your electrical work. That’s both safe and smart! Q: Why do my lights flicker at home? Answer: In many cases, a flickering light is just that. It could just be a loose bulb, which is easy to check. If the problem is more widespread than that, you might have a serious problem. It is possible that problems at your breaker box or even beyond originate with a poorly grounded connection to the power company. If you are experiencing flickering lights around the house, it’s best to call on the electrical professionals at Midway Services. Q: My breaker keeps tripping, what do I do? Answer: Your home is equipped with a variety of electrical circuits that control the various areas within your home. Each breaker was initially set up to handle a particular load, based on the number of outlets and the size of the wire. Breakers are designed to trip when the load exceeds the limit of the breaker. This is a very important safety aspect designed to prevent electric shocks or even house fires from overloaded circuits. If a breaker continues to trip, you will need to inspect the outlets on that circuit and/or what is plugged into the outlet. If you are using extension cords with multiple outlets, you may be overloading the circuit. If you determine that you need a higher amperage circuit, that would be a good time to call the electrical experts at Midway Services. Q: Why is my breaker panel hot to touch? Answer: A hot breaker panel is the sign of overheating due to circuit overload. This is very dangerous. Call Midway Services immediately for an inspection. Q: What does GFCI stand for? Answer: Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. These are specialized circuits designed for use around damp areas – bathrooms and kitchens typically. These outlets are designed to shut off when it detects that current is flowing along an unintended path – such as water or a person. Q: Where should I install a GFCI protected outlet? Answer: GFCI outlets should be installed in potentially wet or damp areas throughout your home. These include, garages, any outside outlet, bathrooms, kitchens, and within six feet of any sink. Q: What are the buttons on my GFCI outlet for? Answer: Your GFCI outlet includes two buttons – a black test button and a red reset button. The black test button turns off the outlet and all other outlets on its circuit. The red reset button turns the outlet – and all others included within the circuit – back on. Q: How can I reduce my electric bill? Answer: Many options are available for reducing your energy consumption, from painting your roof white to installing solar panels. If you are not inclined to make such major changes, there are several well-documented tactics that have been proven to save energy dollars throughout the year. HVAC – invest in a programmable thermostat. If you are away from the house all day, set the temperatures accordingly. In the summer, try to set your thermostat to 78 degrees and use ceiling fans to make rooms in use feel cooler. During mild Florida winters, try using heavier clothes and blankets instead of cranking up the old heat pump. Use reusable AC filters and clean them twice a year. Water Heater – set it at 120 degrees. Look into a installing a timer for your water heater. Appliances – upgrade to more energy efficient appliances. In Florida alone, there are over 70 incentive and rebate programs available for upgrades. Check with your local power company for any that apply to you. Insulate – start with your attic or crawl space. Make sure you have at least 10 inches of insulation. Also, check all your doors and windows for any potential leaks. Electric Meter – Make sure you are being charged only for the power you are using. Ask your electric company about the meter location and how to read it. Then compare the meter readings each month with the numbers on your bill. Energy Star – This partnership between the EPA and the US Department of Energy identifies energy-efficient products (including lightbulbs, TVs, washer-dryers, refrigerators, fans, etc.) Look for the Energy Star rating when you purchase any of these items. Q: Why do my exterior bulbs burn out so often? Answer: Outdoor bulbs are exposed to the elements, so they can be expected to burn out more often than interior bulbs. Some other factors include the use of inferior bulbs, use of higher wattage bulbs than recommended for the fixture, and power surges. If none of these apply, then you should probably call the professionals at Midway Services to inspect your fixture and circuit. Q: Why does my recessed can light cycle on and off? Answer: You probably installed a high wattage bulb that exceeds the limits of the fixture. Can lights normally are equipped with a thermal device that shuts off the can when the temperature rises to a dangerous level. Check to ensure that your bulbs are the right wattage for your fixtures. Q: What’s the best way to handle those outside holiday lights? Answer: Most homes are equipped with external electrical outlets. It is always best to use an external outlet for your holiday lights. However, you must remember that each circuit is designed to handle a particular load. Even though most holiday lights are low power, stringing many of them together can easily overload the circuit. Check the required amperage for each item you plan on plugging into the outlet. Make sure the total does not exceed the limit of the circuit breaker. If you go a bit crazy around the holidays, you may want to consider adding additional circuits and placing them strategically around the outside of your home. In these cases, it’s always best to call the Midway Services electricians. Q: If I have whole house surge protection, do I need point of use surge protectors for my TV, computer, etc.? Answer: While whole house circuit protection is a great idea and can save you many hours of anguish and many dollars, it is still a good idea to protect all of your most sensitive devices with point of use protectors. Q: Will a whole house surge protector save my stuff from lightning strikes? Answer: Unfortunately, lightning is one of nature’s most destructive forces, and our Tampa Bay area is known for its lightning displays. There is really nothing that can protect your devices from a lightning strike – short of unplugging sensitive devices when lightning is in the immediate area. Q: My coffee pot and toaster are plugged into the same kitchen counter outlet. The breaker trips when I use both at the same time. What should I do? Answer: Try plugging one into a different kitchen outlet on a different circuit. These two devices are pulling more amperage than the circuit is designed for. Q: Are fluorescent lights able to be dimmed? Answer: Yes, but this requires a special dimmer and special fluorescent fixtures. You cannot use a typical incandescent dimmer to control a fluorescent bulb. Q: Can I hang a ceiling fan where a light fixture is located? Answer: Yes, but you must ensure that the electrical box is properly braced and rated to support the weight and torque of a ceiling fan. This is probably a good time to get the ceiling fan installation experts at Midway Services involved. Q: My fluorescent lights flicker and drive me crazy. What could cause this? Answer: Fluorescent bulbs can flicker when they are ready to burn out, or when there are minor power fluctuations, or when they are improperly installed. Cycling on and off is a pretty clear indication of a bulb or ballast failure. Usually, replacing the ballast and the bulb will fix the flicker. Q: What’s the difference between a circuit breaker panel and my old fuse box? Answer: Both devices are designed to turn off in the event of an electrical overload. The difference is that a breaker is a mechanical device that can be reset many times over. A fuse, on the other hand, must be replaced when it burns out. Q: Is aluminum wiring dangerous? Answer: During the 1970s, aluminum wiring became popular and widely used in residential construction. Since that time, aluminum wiring has been tied to a number of house fires. In fact, many jurisdictions no longer permit the use of aluminum wires in new construction. If your home is equipped with aluminum wiring, don’t panic. Properly installed, aluminum wiring can be just as safe as more traditional copper wiring. Call the professionals at Midway Services to inspect your wiring system and recommend any necessary changes. Q: How can I tell when an electrical outlet is not safe? Answer: The surest sign of trouble is a hot to the touch outlet. Other indications include an outlet that is cracked or otherwise damaged, or has become loose. In any case, call Midway Services for an electrical outlet inspection. Q: I have an older home. How do I know if I need to rewire my house? Answer: There is no stock answer. If your home has a fuse box instead of a breaker panel and you believe your wiring may need to be upgraded, you can rest assured that the home rewiring experts at Midway Services will inspect your current wiring system and make recommendations if needed.