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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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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
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surge

Black Friday Shopping? Don’t Forget the Surge Protectors

  • 11/22/17

Savvy shoppers can save hundreds of dollars by shopping on Black Friday, and some of the best deals are on high-end electronics that are vulnerable to power surge damage. Many consumers are well aware of this danger and faithfully use surge protectors throughout their homes, but not everyone understands that
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appliances

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
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detector

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
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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
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flood

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
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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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pets

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
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detector

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
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cords

Take Energy on the Road With a Power Inverter

  • 07/26/17

Many modern vehicles are designed to deliver the comforts of home -- entertainment systems, heated seats, charging ports and more -- but even the most fully-loaded models can’t do it all. You can supplement with devices that run on batteries or the 12 volt DC current coming from the cigarette
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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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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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solarcharger

Freeload This Summer With Solar-Powered Gadgets

  • 05/31/17

What’s better than free? With the right gadgets and devices, you can do more under the hot summer sun without spending a dime on batteries or utilities. 

As much as you can save and help the environment by installing solar panels on the roof of your home, that’s not the only
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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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surge

What Do Surge Protectors Actually Do, Anyway?

  • 05/17/17

We all know that surge protectors can save our sensitive electronics from getting fried during an electrical storm, transformer explosion and other sources of electrical surges. But do you know how surge protectors actually work?

While the important thing is to make sure your household surge protectors are in place and
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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

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
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laptop

Portable Chargers Put the Power In Your Hands

  • 03/01/17

In this high-tech age, our gadgets can be essential lifelines. Smartphones, tablets, laptops and other devices are what help us connect with colleagues, avoid boredom and find our way from Point A to Point B. They can seem almost magic, but there’s one great equalizer that limits them all: battery
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220volts

No Adapters Needed With USB Combo Outlets

  • 02/22/17

In a crowded home where every family member has a cell phone and a tablet, electrical outlet space can be in high demand. And even if there’s plenty of outlet space to go around, the clunky chargers for these devices can clutter countertops and disrupt what could otherwise be streamlined
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laptop

Surge Protection May Save Your New Gadgets and Gifts

  • 01/04/17

Did you get what you really wanted during the holidays this year? Maybe that new smartphone you've been eyeing, or that extra-big HDTV? Perhaps you even got a new laptop or tablet. Whatever your favorite gift was, if it plugs into the wall, it could be at risk of electrical
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Hire an Electrician for Home Theater Perfection

  • 11/16/16

If you're ready to take the plunge and purchase a state-of-the-art home theater system, you have more to consider than just the equipment you intend to purchase. Even if all of your components are top-of-the-line, you won't get the most bang for your buck without professional design and installation.

To make
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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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bigdata

Energy Disaggregation Makes the Grade

  • 09/07/16

Whether or not you’re familiar with the term “energy disaggregation”, you’re likely to start hearing it more and more. That’s because technology companies have been working diligently to fine-tune this new tech, and one has just reached a significant benchmark
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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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Only You Can Prevent Household Electrical Fires

  • 08/24/16

The technology of household electrical safety has come a long way, but to prevent accidents such as electrical fires, us humans have to do our part. That means making sure the electrical infrastructure in our homes is safe and well
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lightning

Make Safety Simple With Whole Home Surge Protection

  • 07/27/16

Surge protection is nothing new; if you own a computer or HDTV, there’s a good chance you have those electronics plugged into surge protection devices right now. But instead of buying individual devices to protect your electronics one outlet at
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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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laptop

Save Energy With Computer Upgrades and New Habits

  • 06/22/16

Many homeowners can name the appliances and devices in their homes that consume the most energy -- the HVAC system, hot water heater and refrigerator top the lists in most North American homes. Consumer electronics generally use far less energy,
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fitbit

Smart Meters May Help You Get Hooked on Energy Efficiency

  • 05/04/16

Most homeowners don’t think about energy efficiency several times a day. But if they did, they might be able to make serious strides toward lower bills and emissions by making small, quick adjustments like doing laundry four hours later than
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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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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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ecosetting

Do Eco Settings on Your Appliances Really Save Energy?

  • 02/17/16

Economy settings have become a standard option on nearly all modern appliances. They purport to put the decision about energy conservation in the consumer's hands: Do you run the machine in its normal mode, or use the most economical setting to burn up less power and marginally reduce your contribution
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Power surges damage electronics

Low Voltage Direct Current Could Power Homes of the Future

  • 02/02/16

What if everything you knew about your home electrical work got turned on its head in the not-too-distant future? That could be reality, not science fiction, and maybe even sooner than you think. It’s not so far-fetched that in the coming decades, the electrical work in the American
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plugs

A Brief History of Plug Design

  • 01/19/16

Ever wonder why the plugs for our electrical devices are shaped the way they are? In North America, nearly every piece of electrical work relies on the standard two-prong model to draw power, with many power cords including a third
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energystar

Energy Star Releases List of Most Efficient Appliances of 2015

  • 12/22/15

There’s no better time than now to update your electrical work with the latest in washing machines, refrigerators, televisions and other devices. To help you decide among the thousands of appliances available on the market, the federal Energy Star program
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SAD

Using Indoor Lighting to Fight Seasonal Affective Disorder

  • 12/15/15

Winter can be a dreary time. Depending on where you live, cold weather can stretch on seemingly forever, and sometimes it feels like the sun doesn't come out for months on end. It's not unusual to feel a little low
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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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appliances

This Device Can Disaggregate Your Energy Usage to Help You Conserve

  • 11/12/15

Do you ever lie awake at night thinking about new ways to cut back on your energy consumption? You'll soon be able to rest soundly, because there's a new piece of technology that can make all your dreams come true. One of the trendiest ways to save energy with your
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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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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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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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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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leds

LED Lighting Technology and Your Smart Home

  • 07/09/15

Are you still using incandescent light bulbs? Your electrician would recommend a different course. Efficient lighting technology has blown up in the last few years, and advanced technologies are just getting better. Light emitting diodes, or LEDs, are at the forefront of modern lighting thanks to their inexpensive
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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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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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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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Earth Day

Earth Day energy-saving tips

  • 04/21/15

This Earth day, why not play your part by making some small changes around the home to cut back on your electricity consumption? For every kilowatt hour your can knock off your meter, you're saving coal or natural gas that gets burned to generate electricity. 

Saving Energy Starts with You

Small
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Smart fridge

New smart fridges can save you money

  • 03/02/15

You already have a smart phone – maybe even a smart thermostat. What's next? Believe it or not, refrigerators are next in the line of devices with advanced features and technology to improve our domestic lives. A new smart fridge, manufactured by GE, is scheduled to come
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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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CES show 2015

Consumer Electronics Show highlights money-saving devices

  • 02/09/15
The Consumer Electronics Show held recently in Las Vegas showcased some of the devices leading the way to the next generation of energy efficiency. Among the equipment on display: Super-efficient lightbulbs, fans, dryers and more. Some of the designs will stick around, others might not, but the show allowed consumers
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Can your home survive a natural disaster

Could your home withstand a natural disaster?

  • 09/01/17

Extreme weather can strike during any season, putting life and property at risk. Wise homeowners make sure they prepare in advance so their homes have a better chance of surviving disaster. The good news is that many of the steps that help disaster-proof a home also serve to make it
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Brownout sign

Protect your home from brownouts

  • 12/18/14

Hopefully, you have surge protectors set up in your house to protect your electronics from power surges, or voltage spikes, that can fry your devices. Unfortunately, surge protectors won't save you from the evil cousin of a power surge -- a low voltage event, or brownout. Dimming lights in your
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Power surges damage electronics

Protect your home from power surges

  • 11/13/14

Wondering why that expensive new DVD player mysteriously stopped working? The culprit might be a power surge. A power surge can enter the home, fry the circuit breaker and spread to various outlets in the house. If an appliance is plugged directly into the electrical system, it may not survive
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