Category: Home Maintenance

Always Tripping?

Picture this;

you are a homeowner and just had the kitchen of your dreams installed and are so happy to begin using your new space, you plug back in your appliances, coffee maker, lamps etc. and settle in.  One day seemingly out of the blue, your electrical breaker trips, you find the breaker and turn it back on because you’re a pretty handy homeowner and “YOU GOT THIS”, then it happens again and again until  you decide it’s time to call a Pro.

If this scenario sounds all too familiar and you have a problem with persistently tripping breakers you are not alone, this is a common issue that we get calls about frequently. The main objective in calling a pro is to get to the bottom of the issue since it’s not always as easily identifiable for most homeowners. Unfortunately, getting to the bottom of the issue is  perhaps even more difficult (even for the Pros) since the updating of certain electrical codes.

The various code councils are always assessing and updating code standards to safeguard the health, safety, and general welfare of building occupants. Many of these code upgrades have to do with shock & fire prevention in an around the electrical wiring in your home.

Some of the more recent electrical code updates stipulate that specific types of electrical breakers be used in certain areas of the home to help prevent fires. Any measure to prevent fires and increase safety in a home is definitely a positive change, however some negative ramifications have come from some of these changes as well.

These newly required breaker types are called AFCI (arc fault circuit interrupter) or CAFI (combination arc fault interrupter) and are designed to sense arcs, many of which are normal in the operation of switches, motors and other electrical appliances. The breaker is supposed to turn the circuit off when it detects a dangerous arc caused by a frayed cord, or a loose connection or any other problematic item that could start a fire. Very good thing right? Well,  yes of course,  but the nature of these newer devices is that they are designed to be pretty sensitive at times leading to what is called “nuisance tripping” or tripping of a circuit for no apparent or identifiable reason. Of course there is always a reason, but identifying a valid safety concern and addressing the reason can be where issues arise.

At times, older products with motors will cause the AFCI breaker to trip. This is because the brushes wear down on these older motors, which causes the arc pattern to become irregular and not as rhythmic as when the motor was new. This causes AFCI to detect this as an arc and trip the circuit for safety.

Do note that AFCI breakers differ from GFCI breakers that are designed to trip when the load becomes unbalanced between the hot and neutral wires, also known as an electrical “leak”. GFCI breakers are to protect people from getting shocked versus AFCI which are to prevent electrical fires. Both AFCI and GFCI breakers perform the duties of a standard circuit breaker which is to protect the wiring from short circuits and overload conditions.

Note that combination AFCI and GFCI breakers are also used and do all of the functions described above. These breakers are commonly used on dishwashers, disposals, kitchen circuits and other kitchen appliances near the sink.

Ok,  enough talk about the technicalities right? Let’s get back to the issue at hand, identifying the cause and knowing when to call in the professionals.

What to Do

Step 1
Identify the Circuit causing the issue.
 At the breaker panel identify the circuit that has tripped. The switch will be in the neutral position (between on and off).
 If the circuit is an AFCI breaker it will be labeled as such and will have a “test” button and sometimes light indicators. Below is an example of what AFCI breakers look like:

Step 2
Isolate the potential cause.
 Unplug all fixtures/appliances plugged in to the circuit.
 Turn the circuit switch back into the “on” position
 Plug in each appliance or fixture back into an outlet on this circuit one at a time and turn on or run each for a time to see if any of them are causing the trip to occur.

Most common items that trigger AFCI Tripping:
1. Vacuums, , typically being plugged in or unplugged when turned on
2. Any older motorized appliance or tool
3. Fluorescent lights
4. Surge protectors/power strips
5. Older appliances or fixtures
6. Any appliance or fixture with a worn plug or wiring (sometimes caused when furniture is pushed against plugs)
7. HAM Radios
8. Loose light bulbs, worn receptacles, plugs not fully plugged into the receptacle.

Step 3
If any of the devices trigger a trip, unplug the item and test it on another circuit that is also AFCI protected. If this same device trips a different AFCI circuit breaker, it’s the result of incompatibility between the electronic device and the AFCI breaker, or possibly a major problem with the device. You can try relocating the device to a non –AFCI protected circuit or if the device is older or plug/wiring is worn you may want to consider replacing the fixture to reduce fire hazard risk & reduce chances of future nuisance tripping.

If the trip is not duplicated in another AFCI circuit, contact your electrician for further investigation.

 

 

 

Fall Maintenance Guide

 

Summer is breathing it’s last breath, kids are preparing to head back to school and here in New England the weather can turn fast. Prepare now for the impending chill of Fall and winter with some easy home maintenance tasks you can do yourself and some you may want to call in the Pros for. 

Indoor Fall Maintenance

For you…

  The introduction of the heating season brings new potential for fire hazards, so take a moment to review fire safety in your home as well performing some yearly routine maintenance tasks listed below.                                                                                                                                             

  • Check and replace fire extinguishers if necessary.
  • Change the batteries in your smoke detectors.                                                                                                                  
  • Go over the home fire evacuation plan with your family.
  • Clean the lint from your dryer vent lines. 
  • Change the air filter in your furnace and stock up on several more filters for the winter.                                                                                                                             
  • Ensure all vents and returns are clear of debris and open.
  • Check your windows and doors for any air leaks that may compromise energy efficiency
  • Prepare your seasoned firewood and store it covered, at least 30ft from your home.

For the Pros…

  • Call in an HVAC professional to test the heating output and give the system a tune-up. This technician can also check for and correct possibly hazardous carbon monoxide levels generated by your heating system.
  • Have your duct system cleaned and sanitized.
  • Install a programmable thermostat to help lower your energy costs.
  • Have any door weather-stripping in disrepair fixed
  • Call a chimney sweep company for an annual sweep before the start of the season.
  • Have your attic insulation inspected and added to if necessary

Outdoor Fall maintenance

For you…

  • Cover or put away outdoor furniture for the winter
  • Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the section of pipe just inside the house.
  • Empty out unused fuel from any gas-powered equipment because sediment can build up and clog the fuel lines. Store gasoline in tanks out of children’s reach and have it ready for use in your snow blower or emergency generator.
  • Test your emergency generator & snow blower. Make sure they are in good working order and remember never to run a generator in any enclosed space as this presents a carbon monoxide hazard.

For the Pros…

  • Have your gutters inspected and cleaned.
  • Have inefficient windows/doors replaced or repaired.
  • Install a Storm Door 
  • Install an electrical sub-panel for your main circuits to be routed to your generator in case of a power outage.

For help with your seasonal maintenance needs call 508-279-0656 or inquire online

 

Solar Attic Ventilation Fans

Product Spotlight

Solar Attic Ventilation Fans

Have you ever had to run up to your attic to grab something in the middle of a hot day in summer? Do you ever notice how stifling hot it can get up there? Believe it or not that heat can transfer into your main living space and cause your cooling system to work overtime, even more so if your cooling components are located in the attic. A system that has to work harder is much less efficient and ultimately could be costing you a lot more money. Increased temperatures in your attic can also cause added wear & tear on your roof shingles and reduce their longevity. The solution? Active Attic ventilation.

Why do you need an Attic Fan?

In summer, temperatures in an unventilated attic can exceed 160 degrees. A properly sized attic ventilation
system will reduce attic temperature to 5-10 degrees F above the outdoor temperature. Ventilating
the attic reduces the amount of heat transferred from the attic to the home, decreases the load on the air
conditioning system (reducing your electric bill), and extends the life of your roof shingles.
In winter, heat trapped in the attic may melt snow on the roof, which trickles down and creates destructive
ice dams in the colder eaves.
Everyday home activities such as cooking and showering create moisture which collects in the attic and
promotes mold and mildew growth, reduces the effectiveness of insulation, and attacks the wooden attic
structure. Year round fresh air circulation from an Attic Fan removes this moisture and helps prevent
moisture related problems.

Attic fans offer an environmentally friendly and economical solution to summer time cooling problems
resulting from attic heat penetrating your home’s insulation. . The higher the temperature of your attic,
the less effective your attic insulation will be at stopping heat from entering your home.
Installation of an Attic Fan on your home minimizes the amount of heat entering through the attic by
reducing your attic temperature. By minimizing the amount heat entering your home, you will save
money on your summer cooling bill and make your house feel more comfortable (see diagrams below).

Things to Consider

• The cost savings due to reduced air conditioner load depends on the price of electricity in your area, and can be
even greater when installing a solar unit. Other factors include: the amount of attic space in your home, the efficiency
of your attic insulation, and the amount of ventilation your attic vent is able to provide. A typical installation
will usually pay for itself in savings within 1-2 summers of use.

• An Attic Fan should not be used when air from the living areas of the home can freely enter the attic. This would
result in conditioned air being removed from the home. Any openings between the attic and the home should be
sealed before an Attic Fan is installed.

Want to make an attic fan installation part of your next renovation project? Contact us and let’s start planning!

Why Replace Your Windows?

 

When assessing whether you should replace your windows, ask yourself the following questions:

• Do my windows get condensation or a frost buildup?
• If you touch the interior pane of glass is it cold to the touch in the winter? How about in the summer;
is the interior window pane warm to the touch?
• When sitting next to your window in the winter does it feel colder than the rest of the house?
• From inside your home, take a lighted candle and hold it so the flame is in line with the window
frame and slowly trace the entire frame of your closed window. Does the flame flicker anywhere
around the frame?
• Take a look at your windows outside; is the trim rotting, cracking or missing?
• Is the glass broken or cracked anywhere?
• Do your windows ever get stuck closed or open or won’t stay closed or opened?
• Are you unhappy with the way your windows look?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, it is time to replace your windows and here’s why…

• Utility bills are significantly lower when older windows are replaced with energy efficient windows.
The amount of money saved in energy costs adds up quickly and the windows often pay for
themselves.
• If your windows get a condensation or frost buildup it means that they are not insulating your
home well enough. This extra moisture can cause serious problems from rotting frames and increased
heating costs to dangerous mold growth that can harm your family’s health.
• If your window is cold to the touch in the winter and hot to the touch in the summer it means that
your window is not insulating your home correctly and is putting an extra work load on your
HVAC system and costing you money.
• If sitting by your window in the winter feels colder than the rest of the house it means that there is
either a draft, your window is not insulating properly, or both. This means more money spent on
your heating bill.
• If a flame flickers next to your closed window it means there is a draft. This can lead to water infiltration
causing mold growth, water damage to carpet and furniture, rotting window frames and
extra heating and cooling costs.
• If the glass is cracked or broken anywhere it is extremely dangerous for your family and can cause
accidents or injury. In addition, cracked windows put an extra burden on heating and cooling costs.
• If your windows don’t operate correctly it is a sign that they are too old and are beginning to fail.
The frame is most likely warped, which can create multiple problems.
• New windows allow you an opportunity to update the aesthetics of your home, with various finishes,  grid patterns and window styles, windows are becoming an important design element. 
• Newer windows provide better UV protection and can prevent fading and home damage as well as
keep your family safe from the sun’s harmful radiation.

If you would like to incorporate new windows into your next project call 508-279-0656 or inquire online