Joining the Modern Age
Upgrading your electrical service often becomes necessary when you start to renovate. Most electrical codes stipulate that any fixed appliance with a motor (dishwasher, fridge, garbage disposal, etc.) must be on a separate circuit.
The last thing you want is someone plugging in a hairdryer and killing the power to the fridge or deep freezer, and hundreds of dollars’ worth of food! You might also be upset if your hot tub was a frosty 40ºF, or even had ice on the surface from a really cold night!
There is a reason for these rules, and we’ll happily explain the logic of them and why permits and inspections protect you. Anyone offering to do work without permits to “save you money” is a dangerous individual. It doesn’t save you money—it puts your life at risk!
If something isn’t going to be inspected, they can take all sorts of shortcuts to save on their costs, and rush off to the next job to make more money. Sorry if you happen to die because it wasn’t done safely…
“Alexa, turn on the lights.”
If you’re becoming a fan of the modern Smart Home that is automated in fun and exciting ways, you’ll probably need upgrades. Not only are many older homes not up to modern code, but they simply don’t have enough power outlets to run all of our “cool new devices.” These are easy fixes for a real electrician. Our crews know how to rewire with the fewest penetrations of walls, floors, or ceilings.
Time for a bit of fun & easy science!
People think that they understand electricity. Each year people are killed or injured because of improper comprehension of what is happening. It seems fairly straightforward because they think of it as a flashlight. You put in a couple of batteries, flip a switch and “power” flows, illuminating the bulb. That is a “special case” and only applies to direct current (DC) systems. Electrical theory is much more complicated than that.
Even at that simple level, people misunderstand how it works. In the plainest terms possible, in a DC circuit, the electrons make a journey from negative to positive. This leaves a “vacuum” behind that wants to be filled up.
The “current” flows in the opposite direction to “fill the spaces” left by the electrons flowing to the positive terminal, and perform some “work” on the way. This is an effect of Quantum Mechanics, which we won’t get into in this discussion.
Household Alternating Current (AC) circuits are completely different. The electrons may shiver a bit, oscillating back and forth, but they don’t move very much. While it is true that they could (theoretically) move a little over 3,000 miles in 1/60th of a second, the reality is that there is a lot of “matter” in the way, and they just bounce around a lot.
As we saw in the DC circuit, electrons don’t transport current. Current isn’t a physical thing, and it doesn’t require “carriers” for it to move. It is an electromagnetic phenomenon, a “wave” that we call voltage.
In a DC circuit, it moves because the electrons leave “holes” behind that need to be filled up. Think of it like a balloon where the air is under pressure and if you provide a small opening it will rush to a place with less pressure, deflating, or using up its power.
AC (with the emphasis on C or “current”), travels through the copper wire because it is under “the pressure of voltage,” and the wire is the easiest path to equilibrium. Given any opportunity to decrease how far it must travel to equalize, it will all ways take the shorter path. These “short circuits” are what cause most of the problems and injuries with electricity.
Making Your House Safe
If you still have an old-style fuse panel, it probably needs an upgrade to modern circuit breakers. Aside from the ability to correct an overload condition without digging through a kitchen drawer, toolbox, or some obscure location that you “can’t quite remember” to find a replacement fuse, breakers can operate faster or slower, depending on need.
Often older homes are found with three-pronged power sockets where the home only has a two-wire system in place. The sockets were replaced (DIY) to allow homeowners to plug in modern three prong devices, but they don’t offer the protection of a properly grounded outlet.
Some older homes still have Knob and Tube (K&T) wiring as well. Correctly installed, K&T is very safe and reliable. It uses much larger wire, allowing for surprisingly heavy loads without overheating, especially since the two conductors are entirely separate, so the heat production is halved. The problem is often just age. Early K&T wiring was paper-wrapped or covered with natural rubber which sheds and crystallizes with age. Even though they are inside walls, the insulating cover may have deteriorated; they may be just naked copper after a century of use.
Adding new circuits is relatively easy if you have empty slots in your power panel. Replacing an old fuse box with a modern arrangement is relatively straightforward, too. If you have ancient 60-ampere service, but if 100 amp or 200 amp service is available in your neighborhood, we can help you join the 21st century.
Heavier, more capable electrical service doesn’t cost more. It does, however, allow you to add money-savers like tankless water heaters that cannot run on 60 (or often even 100) amp service. If you use 10 gallons for your shower and 5 gallons for the dishwasher (even every day), and a gallon to wash your hands, why would you want to heat 60-80 gallons continuously, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year? On-demand hot water is one of the ways modern electricity can save you money.
It is better, faster, and less expensive to do the job right the first time. That’s why you’ll want to talk to our experts here at Illuminations Lighting Design.
We at ILD are delighted to be located in beautiful Houston, Texas, and while we provide service over quite a wide area, we always love to hear from River Oaks, Memorial, West University, Bellaire, Southside, Heights, and Royal Oaks, or whichever part of town you call home… But don’t forget that we provide expert Electrical Contracting in Austin, Beaumont, College Station, Dallas, El Paso, San Antonio, and Midland as well.
We are experienced, licensed electricians, not some fly-by-night outfit that wants to turn a quick buck at your expense. There are so many ways do a job incorrectly, so we urge you to call us, because… We’ll do it right!
Give us a call today at 713-863-1133 and say “Howdy”! We’d love to hear from you!