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Electricians Tips & Tricks Blog

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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.



questions

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
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xmaslights

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
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smartfridge

How to Save Your Waterlogged Gadgets

  • 08/30/17

Smartphones, tablets, Mp3 players and other handheld gadgets have become indispensable parts of our lives. In many cases, they’ve become expensive parts, too -- which makes us motivated to protect them, and devastated when we fumble one into the pool, the sink or (gulp) the toilet.

Not all gadgets will survive
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electricstove

Clean Your Stove and Oven the Smart Way

  • 07/12/17

Good home cooking gets messy, and plenty of that mess spills onto the stove and into the oven. While you’re enjoying your meal, those messes are hardening, accumulating and waiting to start billowing smoke during the next night’s dinner prep.

Cleaning a dirty stove and oven can take quite a while
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flood

Organize, Protect and Digitize Your Precious Photos

  • 07/05/17

These days, you probably take almost all of your photos using a phone or digital camera. Most of your snaps will never exist in physical form, and there are no negatives to keep track of. But if you go back a few years, your photo collection is likely to be
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New kitchen appliances

Achieving Clutter-Free Kitchen Counters

  • 06/28/17

In many homes, the kitchen is the center of activity. Everybody’s got to eat, and kitchens have all that available table and counter space for meal prep, work and other projects -- at least in theory. 

If you like to have all your favorite cooking tools and appliances at arm’s reach,
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electronics

Ditch the Devices and Unplug for a Day

  • 06/14/17

Are you feeling burned out from too much screen exposure? Computers, tablets, smartphones and television can make our lives easier and more entertaining, but they can also distract you from stopping to smell the roses -- and can even start to feel overwhelming.

If you can’t remember the last time you
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electronicsrecycling

Dispose of Outdated Electronics the Green Way

  • 05/24/17

There’s one downside to buying the state-of-the-art version of any electronic device: it doesn’t stay state-of-the-art for long. Technology is developing at breakneck pace, leaving a trail of outdated electronics in its wake.

As long as you’re still using and enjoying your old record turntable or Atari 2600, there’s no reason
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tvclean

Clean Your Electronics Regularly and Carefully

  • 05/10/17

Electronic devices like your television, computers and smartphones are probably among the most expensive and heavily-used items in your home. So to maximize the lifespans of these electronics and make them more enjoyable to use, it’s important to maintain them with routine, gentle cleaning.

Some electronics are quite sensitive, especially to
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outlet2

Build a Clever Wall Safe With Electrical Outlet Hardware

  • 05/03/17

If you have valuables in your home, you may have considered investing in a safe. But while a safe can keep precious possessions locked up tight, it can also draw attention to the location of that treasure. Sometimes, a good hiding spot is just as effective as a heavy, intimidating
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flashlights

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
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batteries

Buying and Maintaining Rechargeable Batteries

  • 03/22/17

Rechargeable batteries offer power on-the-go with two key advantages over their disposable equivalents: they’re far cheaper in the long run, and they’re better for the environment.

But because there are so many different types and brands -- and because the upfront cost of purchasing rechargeables is higher than with buying disposables
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security

Troubleshooting Motion Detector Lighting

  • 01/25/17

One of the most affordable and effective components of any home security system is motion detecting outdoor lighting. Installed by a professional electrician, these lights can give you years of reliable service and peace of mind.

But like any part of your household electrical system, problems can arise from time to
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winter

Do You Have Snow Day Plans?

  • 12/14/16

Throughout much of the country, there's always the chance that a winter snowstorm could disrupt your best-laid plans. School can get canceled, and though it's less likely, you might even get the day off of work. But once you're left to your own devices, what do you do with the
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Stay Safe During Trick-Or-Treating This Halloween

  • 10/26/16

Halloween is one of the most anticipated nights of the year for millions of children who can’t wait to dress up and score some candy. But in order to ensure a fun night in the neighborhood, it’s important to observe
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Putting Hot Food in the Fridge is Safe, But Costly

  • 10/19/16

If you’re a hawk about refrigerator energy efficiency, you probably already do things like keep your fridge and freezer mostly full, clean the coils regularly and avoid browsing for snacks with the door open. But one tactic can be a
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congress

October is Energy Action Month

  • 10/05/16

Last year, President Obama declared October to be Energy Action Month, a time when Americans are encouraged to take steps to reduce their energy consumption and cut greenhouse gas emissions. In this second October of focused
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cords

Pull the Plug on Energy Vampires

  • 08/31/16

You’ve probably heard that it’s important to unplug your cell phone charger when your phone isn’t connected, because the charger will continue to drain power. While this is true, cell phone chargers generally draw a tiny amount of power on
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Home inspector

Find Opportunities for Savings with a Home Energy Audit

  • 07/13/16

Most homeowners want to do what they can to make their homes more energy efficient, but it’s less common to know exactly where to focus those efforts. To make informed decisions about energy efficiency upgrades, you’ll need to search your
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Clothes dryer

Make Your Dryer More Energy Efficient With a Few Simple Tricks

  • 06/15/16

Did you know that your clothes dryer is one of the biggest energy hogs in the typical home? According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program, the dryer usually consumes more energy than the dishwasher,
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fridge

Prioritize Safety Over Savings With Refrigerator Temperature

  • 05/25/16

Savvy homeowners look for ways to reduce their energy use in every area of their homes. And when it comes to home appliances, few use as much energy as your refrigerator. But if you’re tempted to adjust the temperature settings
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earth

Celebrate Earth Day With Energy Efficiency Upgrades

  • 04/20/16

Do you have any plans to do something great for the environment this Earth Day? Start change at home by boosting your household energy efficiency -- a move that not only reduces your contribution to destructive greenhouse gases,
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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.
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smartfridge

Next-Gen Smart Fridge Knows When Food is Going Bad

  • 03/16/16

Are you sick and tired of putting food in the fridge and forgetting about it, only to find it rotten and moldy weeks later? Not only is it a waste of food, you're left with a disgusting mess to clean up. One day soon, however, your refrigerator could send you
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bathroom3

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
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uniform

Don’t Get Scammed By Fake Utility Readers

  • 01/28/16

Your home should be a safe, secure refuge for your family and possessions. Unfortunately, there are people in the world who would liberate you of your money and other valuables if they have an opportunity. Sometimes, people who claim to work for the local electrical works can actually
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homeefficiency

Measuring Energy Efficiency Accurately

  • 01/14/16

Energy efficiency is a laudable goal, but many of us don’t always know the best or most cost-effective ways to move forward. It’s important to avoid falling prey to myths or overly-rosy projections about how much
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doorframe

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
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winter

Don’t Let Winter Storms Catch You Off Guard

  • 01/05/16

It’s been a mild winter so far in many regions of North America, but there are still several weeks in which major winter storms could develop. Don’t let the unusually warm weather of the holiday season make you complacent --
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splice

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.
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xmaslights

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,
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powerstrip3

Use an Overhead Power Strip for Convenience at Your Workstation

  • 12/01/15

Tangled wires are a pain in the neck. That's true whether you're managing multiple devices at your computer desk, trying to find space at a cluttered kitchen counter or juggling power tools at your workbench. One way to bring order to chaos is to create an overhead power strip, a
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powerstrip2

Get the Latest in Modern Power Strip Technology

  • 11/03/15

The lives of 21st Century Americans are filled with endless electronic gadgets and appliances. A modern home filled with computers, entertainment systems and portable devices can quickly run short of convenient electric outlets to provide power to the media extravaganza. That makes power strips a must. In addition to providing
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modern

Can You Save Energy and Maintain the Same Standard of Living?

  • 10/20/15

Saving energy is a laudable goal. By using less electricity and other energy around your home, you reduce your contribution to environmental degradation and climate change. On the other hand, easy and reliable access to electricity is in large part responsible for the high standard of living that most Americans
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lightning

How to Protect Your Home from Lightning

  • 10/15/15

There's nothing more important than protecting your home and its contents – including, of course, your family. That's why it's crucial to take steps to guard against lightning strikes, which can cause major damage to your home’s electrical work and can even start a fire. Fortunately, there are several measures
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electricmeter2

How to Read Your Electric Meter

  • 10/06/15

Have you ever received a nasty shock when your electric bill arrived? Maybe the amount you owed skyrocketed when you turned on the air conditioning for the summer, or the refrigerator started breaking down and consumed an excess of electricity. No matter what the cause of your sky-high electric bill,
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gfci

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
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neighbors

Do You Conserve More Energy than Your Neighbors?

  • 09/24/15

Tired of breaking the bank just to keep up with the Joneses? Forget fancy cars and other status symbols. How about a way to maintain a friendly neighborly competition that actually involves saving money instead of spending? Americans have a wealth of resources at their disposal to empower families to
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security

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
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internetspeed

Use Your Home Electrical Wiring for Internet Connectivity

  • 09/08/15

Tired of a spotty wireless network impeding your home Internet use? Walls, ceilings and distance all conspire to degrade the strength of wireless signals, which can make it difficult to stream movies or even just browse the Web in certain parts of your home. Fortunately, there's a piece of technology
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cords

Charge Your Devices Quickly with Combo Outlets

  • 08/27/15

Is it driving you crazy to charge all of your devices? Smart phones, tablets, digital music players, digital cameras and more have made many facets of life more convenient, but they come with their own complications and annoyances as well. For one thing, all those devices need their batteries charged,
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modem

More Efficient Modems and Internet Equipment on the Horizon

  • 07/28/15

The march of consumer product efficiency continues. Modems, routers and other internet equipment are the latest items to get a bump in energy efficiency thanks to a voluntary agreement between manufacturers and trade associations. The standards mean that new equipment should use about 10 to 20 percent less electricity than
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stove

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
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outletfire

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
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bigdata

Big Data Will Bring Benefits to Utilities, Consumers

  • 07/14/15

The world is getting more connected, and machines are collecting massive amounts of data about consumer habits. In the energy sector, the rise of big data is poised to revolutionize the way utility companies provide electricity to homeowners. That's good news for you – the more information you have at
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electronics

Smart Plugs Let You Control Devices With Your Phone

  • 07/02/15

Smart technology is poised to take over the home appliance market. We already have smart thermostats, smart lighting and even smart refrigerators. If that's not enough for you, there are some new contenders on the market that allow you to turn any electrical device in the
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efficiency2

Avoid Misconceptions When Investing in Home Efficiency

  • 06/23/15

Improving your home energy efficiency is a worthy and admirable goal. You can help reduce your impact on the environment while saving money with savvy decision making. However, the up-front investment for some efficiency upgrades is substantial, so always do your due diligence before you find electrician services and commit
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efficiencypollution

Energy Efficiency is the Best Way to Fight Climate Change

  • 06/18/15

Climate change is a growing concern in North America. We’re already seeing some of its consequences, with warmer temperatures and more extreme, less predictable weather over the past decade. Nevertheless, we continue to burn massive amounts of fossil fuels to satisfy our energy needs, sending troublesome levels of carbon dioxide
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roof

Capture Energy Savings with Your Roof

  • 06/09/15

Roof replacement is rarely a happy job. It's messy, time-consuming and expensive. If it's time for you to install a new roof, however, you can make the best of it by including energy-saving features that can cut down on your utility bills and take some of the sting out of
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powerstrip

Idle Devices Cost You Big Money

  • 06/04/15

There's an easy way to save money on your electricity bills that doesn't require any new appliances, smart technology or other expensive upgrades. This revolutionary idea is beautiful in its simplicity: Just unplug your devices when you aren't using them. It turns out that “always on” or standby technology is
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homebuilding

New Homebuilding Trends Toward Efficiency

  • 06/02/15

It's no mirage – energy efficiency is gaining traction. Whether people are concerned about contributing to climate change by burning fossil fuels or saving money on their utility bills, there is rising demand for homes that can do more with less. Home builders are paying attention, and the new house
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retired

How to Cut Your Energy Bills When You Retire

  • 05/21/15

When the day comes for you to retire from work, you might find yourself with a lot more free time and a lot less money. Hopefully, you've planned your savings so you don't have to live your golden years on a shoestring budget, but in any scenario, it’s wise to
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powerplant

How Can the EPA Clean Power Plan Help You Save?

  • 05/14/15

New rules will soon be in place to govern fossil fuel usage and cut carbon pollution coming from America's power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency proposed the plan last year, and it is expected to be finalized this summer. Most of the rules have to do with the generation of
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energybills

Save energy by breaking down use appliance by appliance

  • 05/12/15

Sometimes the biggest challenge in saving energy is knowing where to start. Your monthly gas and electric bills come in big lump sums, so how can you identify the best opportunities to reduce your consumption? One of the smartest ways to get a clear idea of your energy consumption is
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gamers

Save Energy with Your Video Game Consoles

  • 05/08/15

Did you know that your video game habit is an energy hog? The costs aren’t limited to the price of your console and games – the Xbox One and other gaming systems actually draw a large amount of electricity. In response to criticism about how much power the Xbox consumes,
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cable-box

Energy-efficient cable boxes can cut your power usage

  • 05/05/15

Looking for a creative way to save energy? Don't forget about your cable box. The television might not be the first device most people think of when it comes to energy conservation, but that's about to change. A voluntary agreement among manufacturers, cable providers and the federal government calls for
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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
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Spring cleaning tips

Spring cleaning tips to help lower your energy bills

  • 03/24/15
Ah, spring! When the temperature rises, the snow melts and birdsong provides a pleasant morning soundtrack. For many families, the onset of spring weather means it's time for a thorough house-cleaning — and a ramp-up of your energy-efficiency efforts? You can take advantage of your annual deep clean to make
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Girl turning off light

Teach your kids to save energy

  • 02/26/15

You've done everything you can to conserve energy in your house -- purchased the latest Energy Star appliances, insulated your walls, and turned your thermostat down to 68. But the next thing you know, your kids are leaving lights on in rooms they aren't occupying. Or staring into the refrigerator
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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
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