Serving Greater Lynchburg

Improve Air Quality and Comfort With Ventilation Fans

Improve Air Quality and Comfort With Ventilation Fans

Bathroom Exhaust Fan

There are many areas of the home that can benefit from improved ventilation. Do you find that you’re opening windows in a bathroom that gets too steamy? Does your kitchen get so smoky it sets off your smoke alarms? Does your living room have high ceilings that make it too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer? The solution to all these problems is improved ventilation.

Here are a few of the most common ventilation fans found in homes to improve ventilation.

Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans are one of the most popular electrical upgrades we install at Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical. It’s easy to see why; ceiling fans are stylish, quiet, and can improve the comfort of practically any room while using very little electricity.

While a ceiling fan doesn’t physically cool the air, it does provide evaporative cooling on your skin, which makes it feel more comfortable. In rooms with high ceilings the fan circulates the warm air downward in the winter months to improve comfort and make your heating system work more efficiently. With options like led light kits and remote controls, it’s worth replacing an old unit to take advantage of the energy savings and convenience options.

Bathroom Fans

If your bathroom exhaust fans are more than five years old, or have begun making loud noises, it’s a good idea to have them replaced. Old, worn out fans can be a fire hazard. Installing a larger capacity fan can also help clear the air, preventing excessive humidity and mold.

Bathroom fans are also helpful in laundry rooms, where clothes washers and driers can generate a lot of heat and humidity in enclosed spaces.

Attic Exhaust Fans

Most attics are not connected to a home’s ventilation system for heating and cooling. This is where an attic ventilation fan can be a big help by moving stale air to the outside, which in turn helps your home’s heating and cooling system work more efficiently,

Cooktop exhaust fans

Whether you have a gas or electric range, proper ventilation is important for reducing smoke, humidity and fumes from accumulating to unhealthy levels. Have an island cooktop? Consider an automatic pop-up ventilation fan.

Ventilation and exhaust fans can make your living space a lot more pleasant, comfortable and healthier. Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical can help with all your home electrical upgrades, including ceiling fans, bathroom fans and more.

7 Electrical Hazards Around the Home

7 Electrical Hazards Around the Home

Overloaded Outlet

Electricity causes around 50,000 residential fires and kills or injures thousands every year in the U.S. Thankfully, most electrical hazards around the home are easy to avoid by using common sense and ensuring that outdated electrical systems are updated to the latest electrical code requirements.

Here are a few of the top home electrical hazards and tips on what you can do to protect your family and property.

1. Overloaded Outlets

Each outlet in your home is rated to supply a certain amount of power. Adding power strips to increase the capacity of outlets can lead to overloading and tripped circuits. If you’re unsure how much power an outlet can handle, ask your Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical technician. Installing additional outlets to handle additional demand is always the safest option.

2. Extension Cord Misuse

When it comes to extension cord use around the home the most important thing to remember is that they are meant for temporary use. When using extension cords follow these rules:

  • Don’t chain extension cords together
  • Regularly inspect cords for damage and replace cords if they are frayed or have loose plugs
  • Never use extension cords as a substitute for permanently installed wiring
  • Do not use extension cords where they can be a tripping hazard
  • Keep extension cords out of standing water

3. Electrical Outlets or Appliances Near Water

In many older homes it’s not uncommon to find outlets in kitchens, bathrooms and outdoors without ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). This increases the risk of accidental electrocution.

Have Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical install GFCI outlets where they are required by the electrical code. GFCI outlets with “test” and “reset” buttons should be tested regularly to ensure they working.

4. Outdated or Faulty Wiring

The telltale signs of electrical problems to look for include dim and flickering lights,  sizzling and buzzing sounds from your electrical system, and circuit breakers that trip repeatedly. Contact Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical immediately if you notice any of these warning signs.

5. Overloaded Electrical Circuits

If resetting tripped circuit breakers in your home is a common occurrence, it’s a sign that the circuit or wiring are defective, or that the circuit is not rated to handle the required power load. If a circuit has tripped, don’t take chances. Have Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical inspect the circuit to determine the cause.

6. Unprotected Outlets

The National Fire Protection Association reports that injuries involving electrical outlets sent an estimated 5,500 people to hospital emergency departments in 2015.

If there are young children in the home, install tamper resistant receptacles (TRR). TRRs are designed to prevent electrical shock by deactivating the outlet when anything other than an electrical plug is inserted.

7. Inoperable Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms can mean the difference between life and death. Test the alarms regularly and replace the batteries annually. Detectors have an expiration date printed on the case. Be sure to replace the unit before it has expired.

Why You Should Update Un-grounded 2-Prong Outlets

Why You Should Update Un-grounded 2-Prong Outlets

3-pring grounded outlet

While 3-prong grounded outlets have been required in the electrical code for decades, it’s not uncommon for older homes in the greater Lynchburg area to still have two-prong outlets.

What Is Electrical Grounding?

Grounding is a way of allowing excess electricity a safe route from an appliance back to the ground by way of an electrical panel. Electrical grounding is needed if there is a fault in the wiring system, such as a short circuit, to allow electricity to safely exit to the ground without causing harm to anyone in contact with the electrical appliance.

3-Prong Outlets Are Not Always Grounded

In some cases two-prong outlets are replaced with three-prong outlets, but without the necessary rewiring to add a ground. This is often done to make it more convenient to use three-prong outlets, but it does not provide the safety benefits of a grounded outlet. A lack of grounding can be identified by using a plug-in circuit tester.

According to the National Electrical Code when a grounded type outlet is installed a new ground wire must also be installed by a licensed electrician. There is an exception to this rule when the outlet is protected with a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI).

One of the hazardous situations where an un-grounded outlet can be unsafe is when using a surge protector, such as the outlet strips commonly used to protect computers. When a power surge is detected by the surge protector, it needs the ground wire to redirect the surge until it can trip. Without the ground wire the surge protector will destroy the sensitive electronics that it is meant to protect.

If your home has two-prong outlets and older wiring, play it safe and have Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical upgrade your wiring and outlets to protect your family and your home.

When Should You Upgrade or Replace Your Electrical Panel?

When Should You Upgrade or Replace Your Electrical Panel?

Electrical Panel Upgrade

There are two common reasons homeowners choose to upgrade their home’s electrical panel. Typically, we get calls when a customer needs to add a new circuit for an appliance like a new range, hot tub, or a EV charging station. A panel upgrade is often needed when the existing circuits are unable to safely handle the additional loads.

Another common reason is the age of the panel itself. Electric panels usually need to be replaced every 25-40 years. Even if the panel has not reached this age yet there may be warning signs that it needs replacement. These signs include:

  • Flickering lights
  • Circuit breakers that keep tripping
  • A burning smell
  • Scorch marks or sparks coming from power outlets
  • Warmth around the electric panel

If you notice any of these problems, call Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical. We can inspect your electrical system, track down the source of the problem, and recommend solutions to ensure the system is working safely.

Even it the panel is in good working order and is not very old, it may not be able to keep up with the demands of today’s tech-filled home. With smart devices, continual phone and laptop charging and EV charging, there’s simply more demand for electricity than there was when the panel was installed 25 years ago. Do you find yourself using power strips or extension cords around your home? A lack of outlets is a common sign of a home with an undersized electrical capacity.

Fuse Box Versus Circuit Breaker Panel

The main difference between a fuse and a circuit breaker is that fuses are single-use. They work by melting when the current is too high. Replacing fuses is more costly and time-consuming than resetting a circuit breaker. Fuses can also present a fire hazard if not properly matched to the circuit.

While fuse boxes are no longer installed by electricians, they are sill found in some older homes and are a real safety concern. In some cases insurance companies will refuse to cover your home, or refuse pay out if you do get coverage, in the event of an electrical malfunction and fire. Having a fuse box in your home is one of the main reasons you should consider upgrading to a modern electrical panel.

Getting Your Home Ready For EV Charging

Preparing Your Home For EV Charging

Preparing Your Home For EV Charging

With gas prices remaining near record highs, electric vehicles are becoming a cost-effective option for many Lynchburg area commuters. So besides choosing the right vehicle for your needs, what do you need to do to ensure your home is ready for charging an EV?

Installing an EV charger is generally a straightforward process, similar to hooking up a new appliance like an electric range or washer and dryer. The key to a successful home EV charger installation is to ensure the home’s electrical system is up to the task of providing safe, reliable power where it is needed.

Home Electrical Evaluation

Before purchasing an electric vehicle we recommend scheduling an evaluation of your home’s electrical system. Because many homes in the Lynchburg area are more than 75 years old, it’s not uncommon to find outdated electrical boxes that should be upgraded to safely power the charger, as well as the rest of the home.

First, your electrician will inspect your home’s electrical service, including the utility lines and the electric meter operated by the electrical utility company. Next, your electrical panel, the box that distributes the power throughout your home, will be checked to ensure it is in good working condition with functioning breakers. Finally, the home’s wiring, which distributes power to outlets around the home is checked for safety issues such as arc faults, shorts and other problems.

Once the home’s electrical system is inspected and any safety issues are repaired or upgraded, the EV charger installation can go forward.

EV Charger Installation

EV charger installation should be performed by a licensed, qualified electrician in accordance with all applicable local and national codes. Your electrician will take care of any permits that may be required by the city or county.

Your electrician will work with you to determine the best location to install your new charger. Depending on the design of the EV vehicle and the location of its charging port, a convenient location on the garage wall will be prepared for mounting the charger.

Most EV charger installed in residential garages are 240 volt “level 2” chargers. These will require a dedicated circuit to be installed at the electrical panel to safely provide power to the charger. Even if you’re charging your EV using a 120 volt “level 1” charger, it’s a good idea to power the outlet from a dedicated circuit and use it only for charging one vehicle per circuit (outlet box).

The EV charger plug should be installed away from walkways and protected from direct exposure to rain. It should be close enough to the vehicle that the factory charger can reach with extra slack available. An extension cord should never be used with a level 1 EV charger. After your new EV charger is installed, take the time to read the owner’s manual to ensure you know how to use it safely.

Have questions about EV charging at home? Call Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical. Our expert electricians will help answer all your home electrical questions.

Top 5 Electrical Upgrades For Summer

Top 5 Electrical Upgrades For Summer

Landscape Lighting

Summer is a great time to make electrical upgrades around your home to improve safety, comfort and convenience. Here are a few of the more popular electrical upgrades to consider.

1. Landscape and Security Lighting

Landscape lighting can be as simple as a new entryway fixture to more elaborate path lighting and motion detecting security lighting. Filling in the dark areas around your home will provide a welcoming environment for guests and increase your home’s curb appeal.

2. Standby Generator

Extended power outages have become more common, leading many homeowners to install backup power generators. Today’s backup generators are reliable, safe and efficient. When the power goes out the generator automatically turns on and uses your home’s natural gas line to power all of your lighting and appliances.

3. Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans are a great way to increase comfort by improving the airflow in your home. While they don’t actually cool the air they help your cooling system work more efficiently by distributing the cooled air down to the living space.

4. Whole House Surge Protection

By installing surge protection at the service panel you can protect your entire home from damage caused by power spikes and lightening.

5. LED Lighting

LED lighting offers many advantages over conventional lighting, including low power consumption, long life, and lower heat output.

Need electrical upgrades for your home? Call Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical. Our experienced electricians can handle any upgrade, big or small.

Electric Bill Savings

Electric Bill Savings

According to the US Department of Energy almost one half of your electric bill is due to heating and cooling your home. One third of your bill is due to your appliances, cooking and lighting. One quarter of your bill is usage of your water heater and your refrigerator.

With a simple telephone call to your electric company they will send a representative to your home and do an energy audit of your home. An energy audit can help you know what appliances and or heating and cooling equipment you may need to update. Because of advances in technology, even a heating and cooling unit that was purchased as recently as eight to ten years ago can be the reason that your electric bill is higher by as much as $100 a month.

Although a new heating and cooling unit is a major and expensive purchase it can save money in the long run by running more efficiently. Plus it adds value to your home if you are planning on selling that home in the next few years.

Also big culprits in wasting energy in your home are the appliances that are used daily, such as your washing machine, refrigerator, dryer and dishwasher. Replacing them can save you dollars every month. However, make sure that the new appliances you are replacing are U.S. EPA and Department of Energy approved. The appliances will have the Energy Star label attached to them.

Electrical Safety Checks

Electrical Safety Checks

Where would we be if scientists had not learned to harness electrical and give us all of the , appliances, gadgets and electronics that we have all come to depend on. Electricity may be the best invention ever, but it is also dangerous. Thus you must either check out your home’s electrical system or have a professional such as Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical come to your home and run an inspection. This should be done especially if your home is more that 30 years old.

Listed below are a few tips of things that you may be able to check out yourself.

First check out your panel box. Above all your panel box should never be hot or even warm. Also in your box make sure that all of the breakers are labeled as to what they control. Those breakers can be a real bother when they may be constantly tripping. If that is happening to certain breakers in your panel it is telling you that this circuit is overloaded with too many gadgets or appliances. A professional should come in and reconfigure your breakers.

Go around to each of your outlets in every room and feel them also. Your outlets, like your breaker box, should not be warm. This could become a serious problem. Notice also if you have any of the two-pronged outlets. Change them out to the three-pronged, grounded outlets. This is a good time to also check cords of your electric devices to see if they have three-prong plugs.

Make a mental note if you have lights blinking. This could also be a potential problem. It could be a light fixture problem or maybe a breaker panel problem.

If you have any cords that are running under rugs move them and reroute them to the plug.

The easiest tip is to always have a fire extinguisher handy. Learn how it works in case you have an electrical fire.

Expert electricians are available with your call to Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical.