Frequently asked questions
What Happens During a Power Surge?
A power surge is what occurs when there is an increase in voltage in the amount of electricity that is flowing into a building or a home. The voltage is regarding as exceeding well over 220 volts, the standard amount of electricity used to create a sufficient amount of power. When power surges occur, they can cause an extreme amount of damage to electronics, air conditioning units, heating systems, and other appliances by sending thousands or tens of thousands of jolts of electricity into the electrical wiring installed in a building or home. These volts are more than powerful enough to cash computer hard drives, completely destroy circuit boards, and ruin other electrical systems.
What Causes a Power Surge?
Power surges are often known to occur when the flow of electricity into a home or building becomes interrupted and then starts back up again. However, every power surge is unique. The impact that a power surge has is very dependent on the reason the power surge happened in the first place.
Lightning is one of the external factors behind some of the most powerful power surges if given certain atmospheric conditions. Power surges caused by lightning are regarded as some of the most feared types of power surges, but they are also the rarest. If lightning strikes within just one mile of your home or building, it can send up to 200,000 amps of electricity into the wiring. Big storms are another external factor that can also lead to malfunctions in power lines which can also cause power shortages. Because voltage is known to fluctuate, intermittent surges can occur before the power goes completely out.
There are also less serious reasons for why a power surge might happen. These common internal fluctuations might manifest themselves as a light flickering off and on, or you might not even notice anything occurring at all. The use of too many high-powered appliances at one time such as air conditioners, space heaters, and refrigerators can also be the source of power surges in your home. High-powered appliances such as these require a significant amount of electricity to ensure that they are operating smoothly. However, smaller electric devices such as hair dryers can also be behind a power surge occurring in your home. These small power surges might not be powerful enough to cause a circuit breaker to malfunction, but over time they can cause significant damage to expensive appliances and might even lead to their permanent failure.
What is Dirty Power?
You’ve probably heard the term “dirty power”. It can cause strange occurrences, or sudden failures, in appliances and electronics around your home or business. The definition of dirty power varies from region, but here it refers to voltage and frequency out of tolerance.
Standard US and Canada wiring use 60Hz and voltage range from 110V to 120V. The 110V option is outdated and no longer supplied by utility companies, and the 115V is on its way to becoming outdated as well. When utility companies provide the 120V, the acceptable variance is plus or minus 6V. If it strays any farther, the power can be considered ‘dirty’; and the same goes for frequencies above or below 60Hz. Continuous dirty power can be disruptive, expensive, and potentially dangerous.
Not only can appliances and electronics misbehave, they can suddenly fail because the equipment is not meant to handle electrical currents outside of its designed operating specifications. In rare cases, some internal power regulators get hot enough to melt the circuitry, resulting in catastrophic failure and even can cause fires.
According to data from 2015, power quality issues are costing us about $15 billion annually. Unsurprisingly, 80% of those issues originate on the customer’s side of the electric meter. Residents and homeowners can take steps to identify and correct these issues. If corrected, you’ll not only avoid costly disruptions, but it will also improve energy efficiency and reduce utility costs.
When should I call Ozzy Electric?
Common safety problems include:
Circuit breakers/fuse are tripping often and need constant attention
Lights dim in a room when big appliances like A/C or the refrigerator turn on
Hear a sparking sound when flipping a switch
Smell something burning
Lights are flickering for no apparent reason
The power strip is overloaded or better yet, two power strips running off one socket
3 prong plug will not fit in your 2 prong sockets
Running extension cords on a regular basis
Other convenience opportunities include:
Add recessed lights to an existing room
Protect expensive computer or TV and stereo equipment with their own circuit
Wish those speakers wires or network cables could be hidden behind the walls
Want to replace your old 2 prong plugs with modern 3 prong plugs
Want to add a dimmer switch or a new ceiling fan
How Should Outlets Be Installed In The Kitchen?
The type of outlets that are commonly questioned is how should outlets be installed In the kitchen. It is very important that the rules below are followed mainly for safety.
In kitchens and dining areas, a receptacle outlet shall be installed at each counter space wider than 12″. Countertop receptacles shall be installed so that no point along the wall line is more than 24″ measured horizontally from a receptacle outlet in that space and should be supplied with at least two 20 amp branch circuits, for small appliances. Peninsular bars and islands 12″ or wider shall have at least one receptacle. Fixed appliances (e.g. refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, garbage disposal) shall have their own dedicated circuit. All 15 and 20 amp receptacles installed within 6 feet of a kitchen sink or wet bar require GFCI protection. No receptacle shall be installed face up on a sink counter top. Kitchen outlets should be installed with extreme care.
What Size Electrical Sub Panel Do I Need?
An electrical sub panel can vary in size and purpose. A 100 amp circuit is the minimum in most states, although with all the new electronic devices (computers, printers and TVs), air conditioning and electric heat, we suggest 200 amps especially for new homes. The extra amperage does not cost much more yet it provides overhead for future additions (especially important if planning to finish a basement or add an addition to the home).
A new panel is not a job for an unlicensed person to attempt. In most cases, it involves replacing everything from the service loop (the wire that extends from the top of the electric meter to the utility tie-in) up to and including the main electrical panel and connections. In addition, most municipalities require permits to be pulled. Fortunately, we are highly experienced in all things electrical sub panels. Be sure to contact us to get in touch!
How to Prevent Power Surges?
One of the most important steps you can take to protect your home and other buildings from power surges is to invest in surge protectors. Surge protectors direct excess voltage into ground wire when they detect a higher amount of voltage than usual flowing them. They are then able to restore the normal amount of electricity.
Another measure of prevention against internal power surges is to make sure to unplug every electronic device that you aren’t currently using. There’s no reason to keep appliances like toasters or blow dryers plugged into electricity when they’re not being used.
For extra protection, you can purchase a whole house surge protection system. Whole house surge protectors prove especially useful during lightning-related power surges. These systems act as a wall against excess voltage that manages to get by power strips and work as a protective barrier for all of the electrical devices and appliances in your home. This is an extra measure for those looking to further ensure that their families are protected against the potential effects of power surges.
Making sure your appliances and other electronic devices are protected by the use of surge protectors is the crucial first step in taking care of the wiring in your home or building. Be sure to purchase power strips with a substantial amount of surge protection embedded to help fight against potential internal fluctuations.
Which is safer; alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC)?
Alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) have slightly different effects on the human body, but both are dangerous above a certain voltage. The risk of injury changes according to the frequency of the AC, and it is common for DC to have an AC component (called ripple). Someone with special equipment can measure this, but the effect on a particular person is very difficult to predict as it depends upon a large number of factors. As a consequence you should always avoid contact with high-voltage electrical conductors, regardless of the type of electrical current they are carrying.
Everyone gets a 'belt' from electricity every now and then, don't they?
No, not if they are careful and follow the simple rules to securely isolate electrical equipment, and check it is dead before they start work. If you received an electric shock but were not injured then you were lucky. Next time a slight change in events may lead to a very different result. No-one is immune to injury from electricity.
How do I know if my electrical installation is safe?
The best way to find out if your electrical installation is safe is to have it inspected and tested by a person who has the competence to do so. Electrical Safety First provide advice on selecting an electrician.
It is possible to do simple checks on your installation, using an electrical socket tester. This is a device that can be plugged into a socket outlet to identify if there is a wiring fault. However, be aware that many types of socket tester can't detect certain types of fault, and could indicate the socket is safe when it actually isn't.
What voltages are dangerous?
A wide range of voltages can be dangerous for different reasons. A very low voltage (such as that produced by a single torch battery) can produce a spark powerful enough to ignite an explosive atmosphere. Batteries (such as those in motor vehicles) can also overheat or explode if they are shorted.
If a person comes into contact with a voltage above about 50 volts AC, they can receive a range of injuries, including those directly resulting from electrical shock (problems with breathing, heart function etc); and indirect effects resulting from loss of control (such as falling from height or coming into contact with moving machinery). The chance of being injured by an electric shock increases where it is damp or where there is a lot of metalwork.
What should I do if I think I have seen an unsafe electrical installation or equipment?
If you think you have an unsafe electrical installation you should first warn everyone to stay away from it and - if safe to do so - switch it off. You should then contact a competent person, such as an approved contractor from:
Electrical Contractors' Association (ECA)
National Association for Professional Inspectors and Testers (NAPIT)
National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC)
The Electrical Contractors' Association of Scotland (SELECT)
If the installation you think is unsafe is not owned by you or under your control, you should try to find out who owns it and then contact them. Electrical distribution poles, pylons and equipment should have a contact telephone number attached to them.
If you can't find out who owns or controls an electrical installation that you think is unsafe, you should contact Ozzy Electrics
What should I do if I touch an overhead power line?
Guidance on what you should do if yourself or another person touches an overhead power line is available in: Safe working near overhead power lines in agriculture. Your local electricity distribution company can generally supply stickers which detail emergency procedures and contact numbers. These can be stuck in the cabs of vehicles likely to be used near overhead power lines.
When is it safe to work on live electrical equipment?
It is never absolutely safe to work on live electrical equipment. There are few circumstances where it is necessary to work live, and this must only be done after it has been determined that it is unreasonable for the work to be done dead. Even if working live can be justified, many precautions are needed to make sure that the risk is reduced 'so far as is reasonably practicable'.
How often should I test my electrical equipment?
Electrical equipment should be visually checked to spot early signs of damage or deterioration. Equipment should be more thoroughly tested by a competent person often enough that there is little chance the equipment will become dangerous between tests. Equipment used in a harsh environment should be tested more frequently than equipment that is less likely to become damaged or unsafe.
It is good practice to make a decision on how often each piece of equipment should be checked, write this down, make sure checks are carried out accordingly and write down the results. You should change how often you carry out checks, according to the number and severity of faults found.
For more information
contact with Ozzy Electrics
How often should I get my electrical installation tested?
Electrical installations should be tested often enough that there is little chance of deterioration leading to danger. Any part of an installation that has become obviously defective between tests should be de-energised until the fault can be fixed.
You should have your electrical installation inspected and tested by a person who has the competence to do so, Electrical Safety First provide advice on selecting an electrician.
It is possible to do simple checks on your installation using an electrical socket tester. This is a device that can be plugged into a socket outlet to identify if there is a wiring fault. However, please be aware that many types of socket tester cannot detect certain types of fault, and could indicate the socket is safe when it actually isn't.
Who should I talk to about electrical safety?
In the first instance, a competent electrical contractor should be able to give advice on electrical safety and should also be able to direct you to a suitable electrical engineer for advice about specialist areas. If you can't get satisfactory answers, contact us
What can I do electric shock?
A voltage as low as 50 volts applied between two parts of the human body causes a current to flow that can block the electrical signals between the brain and the muscles. This may have a number of effects including:
Stopping the heart beating properly
Preventing the person from breathing
Causing muscle spasms
The exact effect is dependent upon a large number of things including the size of the voltage, which parts of the body are involved, how damp the person is, and the length of time the current flows.
Electric shocks from static electricity such as those experienced when getting out of a car or walking across a man-made carpet can be at more than 10,000 volts, but the current flows for such a short time that there is no dangerous effect on a person. However, static electricity can cause a fire or explosion where there is an explosive atmosphere (such as in a paint spray booth).
What can I do electrical burns?
When an electrical current passes through the human body it heats the tissue along the length of the current flow. This can result in deep burns that often require major surgery and are permanently disabling. Burns are more common with higher voltages but may occur from domestic electricity supplies if the current flows for more than a few fractions of a second.
What can I do loss of muscle control?
People who receive an electric shock often get painful muscle spasms that can be strong enough to break bones or dislocate joints. This loss of muscle control often means the person cannot ‘let go’ or escape the electric shock. The person may fall if they are working at height or be thrown into nearby machinery and structures.