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Electricians Tips & Tricks Blog


Welcome to the Mister Sparky Tips & Tricks Blog! Look around to read our latest posts or delve into our archives for great ideas on maximizing your home’s energy efficiency, upgrading your electrical wiring, selecting new appliances or keeping your home safe. Whether you’re buying or building a new home, preparing for renovations, or just trying to keep on top of your own home maintenance, you’ll find interesting topics and helpful tips right here.

Technological innovations are developing faster all the time, and many of them have implications for the modern home. If you wish you could control all your appliances and electronics from a single smartphone or have a house that learns your behaviors and predicts your needs, it’s not science fiction -- it’s the smart home.

And if you’re looking to learn more about the old-school basics, like bringing your home into compliance with local building codes, replacing broken fixtures or setting up a generator to keep your household humming through a blackout, feel free to start your journey here. You might even find inspiration for a new home project or be reminded of an overdue opportunity for preventative home maintenance!

Check back often and bookmark this page to stay on top of the latest posts.


What is a Ground Wire, and Why Is It Important?

  • 10/31/18

You’ve heard the term “ground wire” and you know you have them installed in outlets around your home. But do you know what they do? The answer has major implications for household electrical safety.

What Does a Ground Wire Do?

As the name implies, a ground wire is an electrical wire that

Home inspector

When Should You Schedule an Electrical Inspection?

  • 09/26/18

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is good advice… sometimes. And when it comes to your home’s electrical system, you can leave well enough alone more often than not. But there are also certain circumstances in which it makes sense to schedule a thorough electrical inspection.

Most homeowners are familiar

Electrical wiring and diagram

Using a Multimeter at Home

  • 08/29/18

When you have an electrical problem in your home, you can’t go wrong by calling a licensed electrician. But if you’re thinking about taking more of a DIY approach to electrical maintenance, one way to get started is to spend a few dollars on a digital multimeter.

A multimeter doesn’t fix

LED, incandescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs

Why Are the Lights Flickering?

  • 08/02/18

There are a lot of abnormal electrical issues that can go unnoticed, but a flickering light bulb isn’t one of them. It’s visible, annoying and potentially alarming if you’re not sure what’s causing it. And it shouldn’t be ignored -- while the most likely explanations are harmless and easy to

Can your home survive a natural disaster

Should I Buy an Emergency Generator?

  • 06/13/18

With summer storms popping up all across North America, there’s an almost ever-present risk of temporary power outages. Even with storm prediction models improving all the time, it’s impossible to predict the specific events that can lead to outages, such as downed power lines and malfunctioning transformers.

To help keep your


Bugs in Your Electrical Outlet: It Really Can Happen

  • 05/02/18

It may seem like a scene out of a horror movie, but it’s not an uncommon sight: bugs crawling out of an electrical outlet.

This can happen even in homes that are generally clean and sealed off from the outdoors. Many bugs need only the tiniest of cracks to get in


What To Do When You Trip a Circuit Breaker

  • 03/28/18

When the lights or appliances in one area of your home suddenly go out, the first thing to do is check your circuit breaker box. If you see one breaker switch pointing in a different direction from all the others, you’ve tripped your circuit breaker. What now?

Your circuit breakers are


Finding and Fixing a Low-Frequency Electrical Hum

  • 02/28/18

If you’ve ever experienced an electrical humming noise somewhere in your home, you know how maddening it can be. Sometimes it’s so difficult to track this kind of noise back to its source that you might start thinking your ears are playing tricks on you. But these hums and buzzes

Power surges damage electronics

Sparking Outlets: Are They Dangerous?

  • 01/31/18

You’ve probably seen it plenty of times -- a small blue spark when you plug in an appliance. Most of the time, this is a normal and harmless event. But it’s worth paying attention to, because some sparks can be early warning signs of dangerous problems.

Why Do Outlets Spark?

Your home’s


Save Time and Money On Next Year’s Holiday Light Display

  • 12/20/17

Mister Sparky hopes you had a fun and safe time decorating for the holidays this year! As electricians, we have a soft spot for strands of twinkling lights, as well as lots of opinions on how to safely put them up, operate them and store them until next year. We


Malfunctioning Appliances Can Cause Electrical Damage

  • 10/11/17

When one of your appliances starts showing signs of disrepair, you might think the trouble is confined to that appliance only. But that’s not necessarily true -- there are some ways in which a faulty appliance can send surges of electricity into your home’s electrical system, and the resulting damage


How Do Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors Work?

  • 10/04/17

Two of the most important electronics in your home are also among the simplest. The smoke detectors that provide critical fire warnings and the carbon monoxide detectors that protect you from an invisible threat are extremely basic, and that’s part of what makes them so reliable, compact and inexpensive.

Safety Is

LED, incandescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs

What Does It Mean When Light Bulbs Keep Blowing?

  • 09/27/17

More and more homeowners are making the switch to LED light bulbs as prices continue to drop. These bulbs are extremely long-lasting and energy efficient, and they don’t suffer from some of the same durability problems of their filament predecessors, such as the tendency to blow out under certain conditions. 


Portable generator at home

Taking Care of Your Portable Generator

  • 09/20/17

It has been an active summer storm season, and many homeowners are grateful to have portable generators to get them through power outages. But an unlucky few discover every year that their generators can’t perform in their time of need because of overdue maintenance or improper use.

Compared to standby generators,

House with outdoor lighting

Strengthen Your Home Security With High-Tech Upgrades

  • 09/13/17

Are you worried about potential trespassing or break-ins at your home? It may be cheaper and easier than you think to add layers of protection and deterrence from would-be burglars. The latest smart home technology, along with tried-and-true tech like motion detecting security lights, can make your home an intimidating


Repairing Your Electrical System After a Flood

  • 09/06/17

The flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana has damaged hundreds of thousands of homes, and the recovery ahead will continue for months. Unfortunately, the hurricane season isn't over, and more storms are on the way. Flood-affected homeowners will be hard at work removing carpeting, drywall and sheetrock


Make Electricity Pet-Safe on National Dog Day

  • 08/23/17

National Dog Day is almost here -- on August 26, consider doing something extra special for your four-legged friend. And if you don’t have a furry companion, you might make a donation to a humane pet shelter in your community. But one of the most important things you can do


How Long Will Cold Food Last During a Power Outage?

  • 08/16/17

Nobody likes a power outage. During the summer, life at home gets dark, boring and hot in a hurry. But even worse is losing an entire fridge and freezer worth of groceries. Worst of all would be assuming your food is still good and eating it, only to learn the


Did You Know These Things Expire?

  • 08/09/17

Have you ever discovered a long-forgotten container in the back of your refrigerator, only to find a science fair experiment growing inside? That’s usually a sign it’s time to conduct a thorough audit to find expired food and toss it out. 

Conducting a purge like that three or four times per


Inspect, Maintain and Repair Your Garage Door Opener

  • 08/02/17

The automatic garage door opener is one of those home systems that is so simple and effortless to use that it’s easy to take for granted. But if you’ve ever pulled into the driveway and pressed the button to no avail, you know that things can go wrong and garage


Happy Anniversary to Benjamin Franklin’s Lightning Experiment

  • 06/07/17

The first day of summer is nearly here, and the calendar is already dotted with stormy days from all over North America. The next lightning storm that passes through your area may give you a moment to reflect on a legendary tale of American ingenuity -- Benjamin Franklin’s kite and


Take the Power Outdoors With Exterior Electrical Outlets

  • 04/26/17

The beauty of having electrical outlets all over your home is that you can power what you need where you need it. But while homebuilders are pretty good at predicting the power needs of individual rooms, they tend to favor a less-is-more approach to installing outlets on a home’s exterior.



Buy a Flashlight -- and Choose Wisely

  • 04/12/17

If your home’s electrical system is well maintained, you can have confidence that the lights will come on when you flip the switch. That is, unless there’s a storm-related power outage. Or a utility blackout. Or a transformer malfunction near your home.

Unfortunately, there are several potential causes of temporary power


Choose the Right Extension Cord for the Job

  • 04/05/17

When the nearest electrical outlet is so close, yet so far away, an extension cord can put the power right where you want it. But there’s a big difference between bringing a cell phone charger to your bedside and firing up a treadmill in front of your TV. When you

New kitchen appliances

Be Prepared for Kitchen Fires

  • 03/29/17

It happens to the best home chefs -- a little too much grease around an open flame, and suddenly there’s a fire. A large share of home fires start in the kitchen, so it pays to prepare for this moment by gathering a few basic supplies and understanding exactly what


Three Prongs Good, Two Prongs Bad

  • 03/08/17

Among the more obvious pieces of electrical safety advice you may have encountered is to never saw the third prong off of an electrical plug in order to fit it into a two-prong outlet. But just because we can recognize that as a self-evidently bad idea doesn’t mean everyone knows

Municipal building code

Does Your Home Have Knob and Tube Wiring?

  • 02/08/17

Since electrical work isn’t for amateurs, many homeowners don’t know much about the electrical systems in their homes. With all the wiring hidden behind the walls, it may be that all you know is what you learned in your pre-sale inspection -- if you remember, that is.

When it comes to


Electrical Work is No Novice Job

  • 02/01/17

Many homeowners know the pride and satisfaction that results from completing DIY repairs and improvements. But when it comes to electrical work, the stakes of making a rookie mistake can be high.

There are several common electrical projects that aren’t complicated or extensive, but even the simplest jobs can result in

House under heavy snowfall

Never Shovel Your Sidewalk or Driveway Again

  • 12/07/16

Snow and ice are major concerns for homeowners throughout much of North America, and that usually means pulling out the snow shovel a few times each winter. Shoveling snow can be strenuous and uncomfortable work, but it's the only way to get those sidewalks and driveways clear -- or is


Be Safe, Decorate Smart

  • 11/30/16

The holidays are nearly here, which means it's time to string up the lights. And while it doesn't take an electrician to get that job done, it doesn't hurt to think like an electrician - especially when it comes to safety.

Whenever you're using electricity, heat-producing lighting and power cords,


Do You Need to Replace Water-Damaged Wiring?

  • 09/28/16

The recent floods in Louisiana caused 13 deaths and millions of dollars in damage. Some homes were submerged to their roofs, while others received just a few inches of water. Now that cleanup and repairs are underway, homeowners are evaluating


Is Your Home Wiring In Need of an Upgrade?

  • 09/21/16

Even if your home was built to last, it could be that the wiring hidden within your walls is in need of an upgrade. This is especially true if you know your home’s wiring to be more than 50 years

New kitchen appliances

Kitchen Appliances Can Be Dangerous If Misused

  • 09/14/16

Most homeowners don’t put too much thought into how they use their major kitchen appliances on a day-to-day basis. The appliances feel familiar, and some basic safety precautions are probably built into most daily routines. But as the saying goes,


How to Treat Electrical Shock

  • 08/17/16

Electricity is as dangerous as it is helpful. A well-constructed home designed with an electrician’s expertise poses very little risk of accidental shock, but accidents can happen nonetheless. And there are electrical shock risks outside the home as well, including

Toddler playing with electrical outlet

Child Proofing Outlets, Plugs and Cords

  • 08/03/16

Welcoming a new baby into your home means lots of joy and lots of work. There’s more to preparing your home than decorating the nursery, especially when it comes to boosting household electrical safety.



Practice Safety When Celebrating With Fireworks

  • 06/29/16

At Mister Sparky, we can appreciate all kinds of sparky (or sparkly) things -- even a fireworks display on Independence Day! Taking in a professional public display is always a great way to ensure a memorable evening, but having your


With Blackouts More Likely, the Solution May Be Smart Tech

  • 04/27/16

Summertime heat waves are no picnic for anyone, but they can be especially stressful for the national power grid. When air conditioners are running across entire regions, the demand placed on the electrical grid can increase the risk of widespread


How to Prevent Rodent Damage to Your Electrical Work

  • 04/13/16

Are you harboring unwanted guests in your home? Rats, mice, squirrels and even raccoons are notorious for taking up residence in people's homes without asking. In addition to being a health hazard to your family, rodents love to chew, and seem to have a particular penchant for the insulation on


Do You Have Money Saved for Emergency Electrical Repairs?

  • 04/06/16

Some electrical repairs just can't wait. If you discover loose wiring, a faulty circuit or other problem in your home electrical system, it is essential to call an electrician immediately. At best, electrical problems can be annoying. At worst, they can damage your appliances or even start a

How to Be Prepared for a Power Outage

  • 03/30/16

One minute, you're watching television with your family – the next minute, all the lights cut out and the TV goes black. Blackouts are relatively rare in most regions of America, but when they do occur, they can cause serious problems for any family that relies on its electrical work.


Tips for Electrical Safety in the Bathroom

  • 03/02/16

Water and electricity make a dangerous combination. That's especially true in your bathroom, where you use water from the sink and shower to clean yourself, but also rely on electrical devices like shavers and hair dryers. That's why you need to take special care with your devices in the bathroom


How to Run Wires Around a Doorway

  • 01/12/16

Electrical work can be complicated, but there are some simple tasks that you can complete yourself without having to bring in an electrician. One example is running wires or cables for your devices and appliances around a doorway. Sometimes, you


How to Identify Electrical Fire Hazards at Home

  • 12/29/15

Electrical fires are something to avoid at all costs. A fire that starts in your electrical work can tear through your home at exponential speed, putting possessions and lives at dire risk. Most home electrical systems are perfectly safe, but


How to Splice Extensions on Your Electric Wires

  • 12/17/15

It's a problem that many a DIY electrician has run into a time or two: You want to move an outlet, or add a new light to a room, but the wires on your current circuit just aren't long enough.


Put Safety First When Stringing Up the Lights

  • 12/10/15
For many homeowners, one of the most anticipated traditions of the holiday season is stringing decorative lights inside and outside the home, on trees, in bushes and just about anywhere else. Putting the lights in place can be just as enjoyable as basking in the glow of the finished display,

Be Careful With Electric Blankets This Winter

  • 12/08/15

Electric blankets can provide some much needed warmth and comfort during the long winter months. Nothing beats a personal heat source on your bed, staving off the nighttime chills. Electric blankets can even help you save money by allowing you to keep your thermostat turned down a few notches. However,


Protect Your Home with Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters

  • 11/24/15

When it comes to your home electrical system, safety should be your number one priority. Electricity can be dangerous when your wiring isn't connected properly, and a house fire can rip through your home and possessions with alarming speed, putting you and your family's very lives at risk.


When is it Time to Upgrade Your Outlets?

  • 10/27/15

Wall outlets are the primary point of interaction most homeowners have with their electrical systems. Those of us who aren't electricians or contractors may never open our circuit boxes or run a wire through the wall, but we plug and unplug things from our outlets every day. Those


Learn the Benefits of Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters

  • 09/29/15

One of the biggest hazards of your home electrical system is the possibility of an electric shock. Whether there is an accident during an electrician’s work or there is exposed wiring that could shock someone inadvertently, this is a hazard that can cause serious injury and even death. Fortunately, by


Beef Up Your Home Security by Adding Outdoor Lighting

  • 09/10/15

There are few things more chilling than a home burglary. Imagine a stranger rifling through and stealing your possessions – to say nothing of the danger if you or your family members are home at the time of the break-in. Fortunately, you can take steps to deter potential thieves by


When is it Time to Upgrade Your Electrical Work?

  • 08/04/15

You can't see the electrical wiring in your home, but it’s integral to your day-to-day life. The electrical work behind your walls is responsible for lighting your home, powering your microwave and electric stove, running the air conditioning and so much more. So while your electrical work might be out


You Can Be Liable for Unlicensed Electrical Work

  • 07/30/15

Revamping your home's electrical work can be a big headache. You need to find a qualified electrician and write what could be a hefty check for work that might require opening holes in your walls and temporarily making a mess of your home. The last thing you want after a


Soon You Will Get Text Messages from Your Electric Stove

  • 07/21/15

The Internet of Things is arriving in a big way. Smart thermostats, smart refrigerators, smart home security systems and more are all moving toward one integrated home system. One day soon, all your HVAC equipment, electrical work and appliances will be connected and in communication with


How to Prevent Electrical Fires

  • 07/16/15

Nothing is more important than your family's safety. That's why you need to make every effort to identify and eliminate fire risks in and around your home, particularly in your electrical work. Faulty wiring, delayed maintenance or carelessness can lead to a disaster that can cost you your home and


Outdated Electrical Work Can Drive Up Insurance Bills

  • 06/11/15

Homeowners insurance is an often-overlooked but significant cost in owning a home. Your insurance policy protects you against major losses in the event of a disaster, but you need to invest in premiums each month, which can be tricky for any family on a budget. However, you do have a

Home inspector

Get the Most from a Home Inspection

  • 04/30/15

When you're in the market for a new house, every little detail counts. If you overlook an important flaw, you could be in for major repair or overhaul bills in your would-be dream home. Fortunately, you can avoid unexpected costs with some savvy when it comes to choosing your home

Toddler playing with electrical outlet

Electrical safety tips for parents

  • 02/19/15

Do you have a baby or toddler in your home? If so, call a residential electrician, who can prevent a number of electrical problems that could pose a threat to your little one. Here are some additional ways to protect your child from dangerous electrical currents in your home.

Electrical home maintenance banner

Home maintenance and safety tips

  • 01/19/15

You can help keep your electrical system in safe working order by being mindful and following some simple precautions. Check out Direct Energy's infographic for some basic electrical home maintenance tips that will keep you a step ahead. It's also a good idea to call in a professional electrician once

Woman testing smoke alarm

Fire prevention safety tips

  • 01/15/15

When winter temperatures dip below freezing, families across the country fire up their furnaces, boilers, space heaters, woodstoves and other heating devices to beat the cold and keep their homes warm and snug. Unfortunately, the very appliances that ward off the winter chill can put you in danger of a

Christmas tree and dreidel

Holiday safety tips

  • 12/15/14

The Christmas carols are already playing nonstop in shopping malls and on the radio. Before you know it, Christmas day will arrive. Whether that means flying off to visit far-flung friends and relatives, or inviting the extended family into your own home, follow these tips to have a meaningful, and

Municipal building code

Does your home violate your local building code?

  • 12/04/14

If you are looking to remodel, expand or sell your home, there's a good chance you will have a close encounter with your local building code. These laws can be extensive, confusing and change frequently. The code is there for your safety, but it can still be frustrating to deal

Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving safety tips

  • 11/24/14

Turkey day is upon us, when relatives and friends descend from near and far to gobble stuffing, watch NFL football and reflect on the things they are thankful for. In the spirit of the holiday, make sure that by the end of the day you can still be grateful for

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