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FAQ

We’ll Leave Your Home Safer Than We Found It

Common Questions

How do we know that your electricians are “certified”?

Great question, considering that there are so many technicians out there!

Mister Sparky electricians are selected carefully; we need the best electricians with the utmost professionalism. Personality is everything and it’s what upholds the Mister Sparky reputation. Our team takes part in extensive electrical training which has been nationally recognized as the reason behind our successful repairs. We will not send out an unprepared tech for any job nor will we send out someone who doesn’t put our customer’s safety as a top priority on their job list.

Why is there a burning plastic smell near an outlet?

If you smell a burning odor in your house, regardless of the location, you need to take action and should not ignore it. People often say the burning odor smells like electrical or plastic burning. If you smell a strange odor coming from an electrical socket, please take caution and be careful. Always be careful when dealing with electricity and be sure to call your local Mister Sparky electrician for the safest way to fix the issue.

Where is the smell coming from?

At the first scent of the burning, try to find out which socket the smell is coming from. This means you might have to use your nose and get fairly close to each suspected socket to find the burning odor. When you find out which socket the smell is coming from you will need to hit the breaker that controls that socket and turn it off until an electrician comes to fix the issue.

There are various reasons in which you smell a burning odor from an electrical socket. One reason is you can have an exposed wire that is causing the burning odor smell. Do not try to fix an exposed wire by yourself. This can be an extremely dangerous task that only a licensed professional electrician can deal with.

Also, compact florescent lamps (CFL’s) smell like electrical or plastic burning. Fluorescent light fixtures smell when the ballast fails and the light will fail to work. If this is the case, turn off the breaker related to that light.

There are many more reasons in which you might smell a burning odor coming from a socket. The best advice is to find out where it is coming from, turn off power to the source and call your local electrician to come assess the issue immediately.

How do I know if my outlets need to be replaced?

There are many reasons an outlet may need to be replaced. In older homes, basic wear from years of use may be a reason. The more an outlet is used, the more likely it is that the receptacles will get worn or damaged. One sign of this is if plugs fit too loosely in them or if there are cracks receptacles or the outer plastic casing.

Although these may seem like small issues, problems like exposed wires can put you and your family in danger of electrical shock. Loose plugs are more than just inconvenient; they can lead to overheating and become a fire hazard.

In older homes, outlets also lack safety features such as grounding (the bottom hole found in some outlets) or GFCI (usually found in bathrooms with test/reset buttons). The best way to keep your family and home safe is to contact a qualified electrician to inspect your outlets and replace them if necessary.

How do I know my light fixture wattage?

Since light bulbs vary in many ways – from the color they emit to the amount of energy or wattage they use – you will need to match the correct light bulb to your light fixture. If you use the wrong wattage not only is it a fire hazard, but you risk ruining your brand new, beautiful light fixture.

Check the maximum wattage of the light fixture. This can be found on either the box or the light fixture itself on a sticker. Remember, wattage is the indication of how much power a bulb consumes, not the amount of light it generates.

If your light fixture states maximum of 60 watts, it is because it has been tested to operate safely with no more heat than is produced by a 60 watt light bulb. If you put a 100 wattage light on a 60 watt light fixture, you risk: premature bulb failure; insulation failure on the wiring; heat damage to the fixture components; and failure of the fixture wires. Insulation failure on the wiring is extremely dangerous because it is one of the most common causes of a fire.

If your light fixture does not state the wattage, the best thing to do is call your local Mister Sparky technician to troubleshoot the problem.

How does a surge protector work?

Surge protection draws in any abundance of energy that comes into the electrical system and gets rid of it through your grounding system in order to prevent damage to electronics plugged in during a power surge. A surge protector is a device which protects electronic devices from the effects of a sudden spike in voltage above what they are designed to handle. Many of them have several plug in sites, like a power strip, each of which are protected. It is important to know that not all power strips are surge protectors. You want to make sure your electronic equipment are plugged into the surge protector so it wont be effected in the case of an unexpected voltage spike.

When the surge protector is plugged in and some other device plugged into it, the protector normally acts as a standard power strip or extension cord. When there is a voltage level that goes past the surge protectors capacity, excess energy is diverted away from the components plugged into the protector which saves them from being effected. Some surge protectors also have a fail-safe fuse in case too much voltage manages to get through.

Why is there a burning smell coming from my dryer?

A burning smell coming from your dryer could mean your vent is clogged with lint and keeping air from getting out. This can be a serious fire hazard, so be sure to clean out your vent regularly. If you smell burning plastic from your dryer, it could be an issue with the cord or plug. If your dryer cord is loose or damaged, the increased power needed to run your dryer can cause the wires to overheat and sometimes even melt the plug and outlet around it. Regardless of what the issue is, you should always call a professional electrician immediately to inspect the problem so that you are not putting yourself in danger.

How do I know if my light switches need to be repaired?

A light switch may need to be repaired if there are loose wires connected to it, causing lighting problems. If there is actual damage to the switch or fixture or if it feels loose, it may need to be replaced altogether.

How do I change the smoke alarm battery?

A smoke alarm is the only device that can forewarn you and your loved ones about a fire. Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms, according to the National Fire Protection Association. It is important to maintain your smoke alarm and check it monthly. If your smoke alarm seems to not be working properly, you should change the battery. Sometimes your smoke alarm will beep to warn you about low battery life.

Steps to change your smoke alarm:

  • Carefully remove the smoke detector from it’s place on the wall or ceiling. Look on the back and find the battery door
  • Remove the batteries from the back and make certain you have the right batteries to replace them. This might be tough. You will need to pull the battery hard until it is released. Throw the old batteries away properly.
  • Connect your new batteries to the connectors and snap them in place.
  • Close battery door and hang back up.
  • Push the test button to check the functionality of the smoke alarm. If the test button does not work, check the installation and refer to the owners manual.

Make it a habit to change your batteries at least once a year. Always remember to test your batteries monthly. A smoke alarm can save your family as well as your house if properly working.

How do I change an electrical fuse?

Your first step in changing an electrical fuse is to turn off the main power switch on the fuse board for you safety. This will turn off the power to your entire house but is necessary until you are done changing the fuse. Next, identify which electrical fuse has blown. Sometimes there will be visible scorch marks around the fuse carriers. This will lead you to the burnt fuse wires. If there are no visible marks, remove the fuse carriers one by one and inspect them for a burnt fuse. The fuse is the wire inside of the porcelain carrier. Once you have located the wire, replace it with a new fuse with the correct rating fuse. Do not install a fuse larger than what the circuit was designed to be protected with. Here is a generalization of ratings:

  • Lighting circuits: generally 5 amp wire
  • Socket outlets: Should not exceed a 15 amp rating. 10 amp rating
  • Larger appliances will require fuse wire with a heavier rating.

Return the fuse carrier to its slot and turn the power back on. If the fuse blows again, or if it blows on a regular basis, call a trusted licensed electrician to troubleshoot the fault.

Why does the GFCI outlet not reset?

GFI and GFCI both stand for “Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter” and are used interchangeably. The GFI outlets are the ones with test and reset buttons. They are usually found in areas that have the greatest shock hazards, such as bathrooms and kitchen.

How does a GFCI outlet work?

The GFI outlet works by sensing leaks in the electrical current and shutting off power to protect people from deadly electrical shocks. When the outlet shuts the power off, this is also known as tripping. When your GFI outlet trips, it may turn back on by pressing the ‘reset’ button.

There may be times when you press the ‘reset’ button and the outlet continues to not work. There are a few reasons this may happen. One reason is there may be no power to the GFI or it may just be a bad GFI. You also could have a problem with incorrect wiring of GFI. You can call your local Mister Sparky Electrician to safely help figure out what needs to be corrected.

One thing to watch out for is the GFI reset button trips each time you press it. This can signify a dangerous current leak somewhere on the circuit. For more info and troubleshooting information, you can find out more by clicking to this website. Also, feel free to call your local Mister Sparky electrician to answer any and all your questions.

Do I need an electrical panel upgrade?

To upgrade my electrical panel, or not…

There are quite few different reasons why you may need to upgrade your electrical panel. If it is older than 20 years old, it may be time to upgrade. Another reason for upgrading is if your panel has been improperly installed and is not UL Listed or has ”hot spots.” You may also need to upgrade if your breaker panel has been left open for long periods of time and moisture gets in. Upgrading your electrical panel can be an expensive project but very much worth every penny if your house calls for it.

You should think twice before paying an electrician $2000 to upgrade your electrical panel. Because there is so much profit in electrical panel upgrades, many electrical contractors will try to sell you on the need for one even if it is not necessary. If your electrical panel is old but still safe, it is not detrimental to upgrade our box in a hurry. You can find out if your panel is safe by clicking here or contacting one our electricians at Mister Sparky.

Reasons for an upgrade to your electrical panel:

  • Your panel has fuses instead of circuit breakers.
  • Your panel is less than 100 amps.
  • You have recently completed a home addition.
  • Your main breaker keeps tripping.
  • The inside of your panel has a strong burnt odor or has visible heat damage.
  • You have added large home appliances to your older home such as an electric over, spa, air conditioning, etc.

If you have decided it is time for an electrical panel upgrade, you should get in touch with a local, trusted electrician who will give you the right solution for your situation.

Is aluminum wiring safe?

The National Electrical Code has permitted the use of aluminum wiring since 1901, a mere four years after the first recognized national electrical code was published in 1897. However, there can be safety hazards in an home wired in aluminum especially in older homes. Many homes wired over 30 years ago with aluminum pose a multitude of fire and safety issues that most homeowners may not be aware of. What to look for and what can be done if your aluminum wiring is a probable safety and fire hazard.

Aluminum is a softer metal and it expands and contracts at different rates then the other metals such as copper used in wiring. The electric current will change the temperature of the wire, causing joints to loosen and compromise the connection. When the connection is compromised, this can lead to igniting a fire. Aluminum wire should not be connected with push-in terminals, which is an extremely dangerous connection. Every connection should be checked for any sign of melting, burnt or darkened areas. Contact your Mister Sparky electrician to verify the safety of your aluminum wired home.

Why rewire a house?

There are a few reasons why you might need to rewire a house.

Ungrounded Outlets

It is important to rewire your house if it has outlets with no grounding. An outlet without grounding is an outlet with 2 holes vs. 3 holes.

Cloth or Aluminum Wiring

You should also consider whole home rewiring if your house has cloth or aluminum wiring, which can cause a fire hazard, or after a major lightning strike.

Outdated Breaker Panel

A home older than 20 years with an outdated breaker panel may need to be rewired for a new updated breaker panel to suit modern electricity needs.

Unsafe or Poorly Installed Wiring

A home that has been wired unsafely should get rewired, because poorly-installed wiring can cause electrical fires.

Is there a wrong way to unplug a device?

Yes. When you decide to unplug a device from an outlet, pull the actually plug part. Do not grab the cord and yank it out; this is not only damaging to the cord but there is a chance that the wires could become exposed and give off an electric shock.

Is It safe to hang a TV over my fireplace?

Your fireplace mantle is a popular place in the home to decorate, either with lights during the holidays, or with the permanent placement of a TV. Any electrical item will of course need an outlet to maintain power. If you want to add an outlet by your fireplace, there are some precautionary measures. Anytime there are wires around heat, you will need to be extremely careful to keep your family and home safe. Always consult a licensed electrician to safety work with electricity.

When deciding to add an outlet around a fireplace, you will want to consider the wiring behind the fireplace. The wiring should always be installed with the environmental conditions in mind in order to protect the wiring and maintain the integrity of the electrical circuit. Also, you will have to double-check that all ground wires will have to be bonded to protect all of the circuit devices.

Once you inspect all of the safety issues you may be able to add an outlet. There is high temperature rated electrical wiring is available for applications such as this that you will be able to find at a hardware store. Also, I would recommend inquiring heat resistant wiring may be required to be installed in a protective conduit and a metal outlet box.

Electrical wiring: underground or overhead?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both overhead and underground wiring. The trick to determining which one is safer depends on which electrical wiring option works best for your situation.

Underground Wiring

Underground wiring has the advantage of being a cleaner look to your yard because there is not any visible wiring. If you have a wooded yard, underground wiring eliminates the possibility of a large tree falling in a storm and knocking out your power.

Overhead Wiring

The main advantage of overhead wiring is that is is cheaper. It uses triplex aluminum which is cost efficient and less time consuming than underground wiring. You save about $1.50 per foot when you chose overhead wiring versus underground.

Electricity Safety Hazards

Both electricity sources have safety hazards. If you have overhead wires, you have to be beware of tall trucks, falling tress and farm implements. Underground wiring can be dangerous when you are digging with a metal shovel. It is important to remember to call a trusted underground marking company before you begin digging.

What are the causes of a hot circuit breaker?

Since electricity produces heat, it is normal for a circuit breaker to feel slightly warm while it is running, however, if your circuit breaker feels too hot to the touch, your breaker could be malfunctioning. Breakers are designed to run at 80% of its maximum power capacity, so if it’s running beyond that, it could be exceeding the safety rating, which is a hazard. If it is a case of an overloaded circuit, you may have an outdated circuit breaker which does not meet your homes energy needs. Otherwise, you may have an improperly-installed or defective breaker that is malfunctioning and requires a repair or replacement. A faulty breaker can be very dangerous. It is not safe to attempt this type of electrical work on your own, so if you are experiencing this problem, contact an electrician immediately.

What’s the difference between alternating currents and direct currents?

Direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC) have been argued since the late 1800’s when electricity was be produced commercially. Think I am joking? The War of the Currents was a serious national argument about which current was better.

Alternating Current Won the War

AC came out as being the premier choice because it could transfer larger amounts of electricity over longer distances due to the ability to easily step voltage up or down. At that time there was not the technology to support DC in doing the same. As technology has advanced, DC can now support the transmission of large amounts of electricity and is a competitor to AC again. Some might even argue that DC power systems are returning to common use because of how wasteful AC electricity can be.

Are you re-piping your galvanized piping?

If you are going to re-pipe your older home, you will need to call out a plumber as well as an electrician. You will have you ascertain the piping does not interfere with electrical wiring. Also, a licensed electrician can double check the safety standards to keep you and your family as safe as possible.

Re-piping galvanized pipe has become popular because of the problems older homes have with the pipe work.

Galvanized piping is notorious for costly pipe leaks in homes. Galvanized piping replaced cast iron and lead in cold-water plumbing in the early 1900’s. It was thought to improve the water supply as cast iron and lead piping was found to be harmful. It did not take long for inspectors to realize that galvanized piping was not the answer to clean water. Also, it was found that galvanized pipe was not a long term answer and would eventually lead to more issues.

Galvanized piping rusts from the inside out. It builds up plaques that effect water pressure and eventually the pipe will form a hole from the rust. As water runs through the pipe, the plaques flake off and end up in your water. This is why sometimes tap water has a metallic taste.

Galvanized piping was replaced shorty after World War II by copper and plastic piping. Since galvanized piping has a life expectancy of about 70 years, some older homes still contain the older galvanized pipes.

Why do my light bulbs burn out quickly?

Light bulbs burn out quickly mostly because of there is too high of a voltage in the light socket. If you are having to switch out light bulbs every few days, this can be a sign of a dangerous situation. You may have too high of a voltage because the light was wired wrong or your house’s voltage may be too high. A good indicator of if your voltage is too high it that the light bulb will burn unusually bright. If this is the case, you will need an electrician to fix the issue. Another reason light bulbs burn out quickly is if there is an issue with the circuit. In which case, it would be best for your safety to call an electrician to troubleshoot the issue.

Why are my lights flickering when I turn on an appliance?

Generally, when your lights flicker when you turn on a major appliance, it is because the appliance is drawing a power causing a temporary voltage drop, taking that power away from the lights. If your lights flicker and remain dim, however, it may be a sign that they are drawing more power than is available in your home. If your circuit commonly becomes overloaded by multiple appliances, you may need the help of an electrician to check your circuits or upgrade your breaker panel.

Why do my lights get brighter when a motor starts?

Does your kitchen lights get brighter when you turn on the garbage disposal? When this happens, it may indicate the neutral wire in the panel is loose. This means that one hot wire is worth more volts than the other, creating an imbalance according to the ground. If your lights get brighter when you turn something else on, it can be an extremely hazardous situation. It can lead to damage to your electronic equipment, cause a fire or even electrocution. It can be even more harmful if you notice that the lights get brighter for longer than a second. Call your local Mister Sparky electrician to regulate the situation safely.

How can I make my light bulbs last longer?

Light bulbs obviously aren’t meant to last forever, but they should definitely have a decent lifespan, not a disappointing one. The electricians at Mister Sparky® of Dallas Fort Worth are here to give you a few tips to get the most out of your incandescent and LED light bulbs.

Dimmers

Light dimmers have become a popular solution for expanding the lives of incandescent bulbs. When you switch your lights “ON” and “OFF”, unbeknownst to many of us, the lights rapidly become hot which over time, burns them out quicker. The simple action of dimming instead of switching keeps them cooler, allows you to control how bright they are, and stretches their life a bit.

Buy “Top-Shelf” Bulbs

No, we are not trying to sell you on more expensive light bulbs but the fact of the matter is, cheaper bulbs are built with cheaper material. This applies specifically to LED bulbs. We highly recommend you take a few minutes to look at the packages they come in, and not so much the price (which we are all guilty of).

We hope these tips help make your light bulbs last longer and remember, for any of your summer electrical issues, call an experienced electrician to fix the problem and keep your summer stress-free!

What are the benefits of LED lights?

There are many benefits of using LED lights, so much so that CF-style lighting is fading away quickly. Many people have changed their lighting in their house to LED lighting because they are high in quality, safe, inexpensive, environmental friendly and aesthetically beautiful for interior lighting.

Quality of LED Lights

LED bulbs last longer than other forms of lights. They are also easy to install with fewer man hours and less time down. Also, LED lights use 15% of the electricity of a standard halogen lamp.

Safety of LED Lights

LED lighting does not emit heat and its temperature is much lower than florescent or halogen lights. This makes them safe to touch on installation. Also, LED lights have no filaments therefore can withstand more shock than regular light bulbs. They are able to resist extremes of temperature both excessively hot and freezing cold.

Eco-Friendly Lights

LED lights are designed to be 100% recyclable. Since they do not overheat, you will notice a lower electricity bill. LED bulbs last 8-10 years longer than standard bulbs, or up to 50,000 hours, which will save you from buying light bulbs. They have a life span equivalent to 25 incandescent light bulbs.

All LED lights of primarily designed to focus light to specific location or direction, without relying on an external reflector. This means it has a higher degree of efficiency than conventional solutions. Also, they all turn on at 100% of their intended brightness every time you turn them on.

Why are there burn marks around lights on my ceiling?

The first thing you should do is turn off all power to your house to prevent an electrical fire or a shock while you’re troubleshooting the issue. Second, check to make sure the size and wattage on your light bulb is appropriate for the fixture. Usually the wattage rating for a fixture is printed on the insulator where it screws in. Next, ensure that the light was installed appropriately. A loose light bulb is prone to overheating which may be causing the burns on your ceiling. If the wattage is correct and it was installed correctly, there may be a complication with the wiring. If this is the case, contact an electrician to diagnose and repair the problem. Attempting electrical work without training can be extremely dangerous, so when in doubt, always call an expert.

Why is my garage door light not working?

We get a lot of questions concerning the home’s garage door. One concern we get often is, “My garage light won’t work – should I call an electrician?” An electrician can fix this problem but before calling an electrician, you might want to try to replace the light socket. If your light bulb is good and does not work when connected to your garage door opener, you might have a bad light socket and you will need to replace it. A replacement light socket will cost about $15 at your local hardware store.

How to Fix My Garage Light Socket

First, you will need to remove the circuit board to get at it. Next, you will have to pop out the old socket. You can do this by depressing the clip that holds the socket in place. Then, you will need to remove the two wire connections and install the new socket. Before replacing the socket, double check that your new light bulb is of the correct wattage. Using a light bulb with a higher wattage than what the socket is rated for will cause a socket to fail. This is very dangerous as it can be a fire hazard. A good indicator of usage of the wrong bulb is that your light cover will turn yellow from the heat.

What appliances use the most electricity?

If you’re looking to lower your energy bill, you may want to know which appliances use the most power.

These are the top energy-draining appliances in most homes based on average usage:

  • Air conditioning and heating
  • Water heater
  • Lighting
  • Clothes washer and dryer
  • Refrigerator
  • Oven
  • Entertainment systems (TV/DVD)
  • Dishwasher
  • Computer

An experienced electrician can help you cut costs on your electricity bill by providing a full home inspection, identifying top power-drainers, and taking steps toward making your home more energy-efficient. The energy we use is usually measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh); 1 kWh is equal to 1,000 watts working for one hour. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 30 percent of U.S. electricity going to power homes, which is more than either the commercial or industrial sector uses. This is because home appliances draw extreme amounts of energy. Even when the appliances are switched to off, they continue to pull electricity. The best way to save is to not only turn appliances off when you go to bed, but also unplug them from the outlet so they can not draw anymore electricity.

What makes a good thermal insulator?

A thermal insulator essential is an object that reduces heat transfer between objects in either thermal contact or in a range of radioactive influence. In other words – a good thermal insulator is anything that does not conduct heat, or heat up fast. For example, even air is considered to be a good thermal insulator because air disperses the heat through the atmosphere, making it difficult for heat to pass through air. Plastics, wood, cork, and some fabrics are also good thermal insulators because they do not conduct heat easily. This is because they contain weak molecular bonds in disorderly arrangements.

What is the difference between watts, amps and volts?

To better understand the difference between watts, amps, volts and ohms you need to understand the basics of electricity. Electrical power is measured in watts which is equal to the voltage multiplied by the current. Electricity has three basic units: voltage, current and resistance. The three are each measured differently. Voltage is measured in volts, current is measured in amps, and resistance is measured in ohms. The following is the equation that demonstrates how they all relate:

  • Current (amps) = voltage (volts) / resistance (ohms)
  • Watts = voltage (volts) x current (amps)

One way to understand the basics of electricity is to view watts, volts, amps and ohms as if they work the same way as a water hose. Amps represent the rate of water as it flows through the hose, while volts represent the strength of the flow, and the watts represent the total amount of water that comes out of the hose per second. An amp, or ampere, refers to the amount of electrons that are flowing per second through something that conducts electricity. An amp is the measure of current in an electrical circuit. Voltage is the strength of the current as it flows through the circuit. The total electrical power released by circuit per second is named watts.

What is an AFCI?

In electric “arc” is a discharge of current that occurs when the current passes through normally non conductive media such as air. Small arcs can occur through normal use of plugs and switches, however an high-power discharge, also known as an arc-fault, produce heat which can cause an electrical fire. In fact, arc-faults are one of the leading causes of electrical wiring fires! An AFCI or Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter is designed to monitor the electrical current to detect undesirable arcs and disconnect power in order to prevent fires.

What if my doorbell doesn’t work?

I have gotten a lot of questions about what to do if a doorbell doesn’t work, and how to troubleshoot the issue. One question I get a lot is, “Can an electrician fix my doorbell?” Of course, calling an electrician will fix your doorbell. But, there is an easy, fast and safe way to troubleshoot the problem yourself. Most of the time, your doorbell does not work due to issues with with doorbell button on the outside. This can be because of weather issues or the bell can just be worn out.

How to Fix My Doorbell

In order to pinpoint the problem, you can test each component with a multimeter (an inexpensive device sold at hardware stores). Although it is not necessary to turn off the main power when you are troubleshooting the issue, it can make the situation more safe. If the multimeter does not indicate an issue, you might need to change out the batteries. Although doorbell wiring is not normally the problem when a doorbell does not work, if the multimeter test fails then it may be a wiring issue.

If you suspect that the issue is doorbell wiring, we recommend either purchasing a wireless doorbell, or fix the problem by calling a trusted electrician to rewire your doorbell.

Do Nest thermostats save you any money?

Nest thermostats are modern thermostat systems. They are controlled over WiFi and optimize your household temperatures to help save energy. Smart thermostats, like Nest, remember your temperature control behavior and adapt appropriately to climate changes. What Nest does is basically control your household’s temperature for you, which allows it to make the proper adjustments in a timely manner and ultimately reduces energy use.

Nest users have provided testimonials stating that they save anywhere between 10%-25% on their energy bills.

How often should I test my smoke detector?

We recommend inspecting your smoke alarms once a month for the safety of your house and family. Although everyone has a busy schedule and may forget to perform these tests, it’s vital to check on detectors at some point in the year to ensure your safety in the case of a fire.

What if my outdoor lights don’t work?

Most times when there are several outdoor lights that do not work, you can blame your GFCI outlet. The GFCI outlet has the black and red buttons that say “test” and “reset”. The outdoor lights and outlets are normally connected on an electrical circuit that relies on the GFCI outlet to work. If you press the buttons on the GFCI outlet and they do not turn on, then you will need to replace the GFCI. You will need the following:

  • A new GFCI outlet
  • Insulted screwdriver
  • Outlet tester
  • Non-contact tester
  • Electrician’s pliers

All materials are inexpensive and available at your local hardware store.

Before replacing the outlet, turn off the power! Once the main power is off, you can begin. You will first replace the faceplate, then remove the outlet. You will need to check the power with your non-contact tester. Next, replace all the wires correctly to the new outlet. Lastly, push the outlet into the box and replace the faceplate. Always take extra caution when replace your GFCI outlet. Replacing your GFCI might be the reason causing your outdoor lights not to work, but only a licensed electrician will know for sure. Be sure to call your local Sparky electrician to troubleshoot your issue properly.

Why aren’t my outdoor security lights working?

There are a number of reasons why your outdoor security lights may not be working. Whatever the problem may be, it’s important that we try and figure it out now so we can resolve the issue, get your motion sensor lights working properly, and keep your home safe!

Security Light Troubleshooting

Try troubleshooting your problem with the following tips:

  • Light isn’t turning ON
    • Increase your device’s sensitivity, but don’t max it out because it may become too delicate and turn on at every little object that passes by (cats, leaves, etc).
    • Clean the motion sensor. If it gathers too much dust or debris, the photocell is blocked and won’t function properly.
    • Try replacing the batteries and light bulbs.
  • Light isn’t turning OFF
    • Reset the device.
    • As listed in a previous bullet point, you may have to adjust your security light’s sensitivity except this time, slightly lower it to a less delicate level.

Security lights are an important feature to any home therefore, they should function properly. If these fixes weren’t any help, contact an expert electrician today, as the cause behind the faulty security lights may turn out to be an electrical issue in your home and should be inspected immediately.

Why do my outlets spark when I unplug something?

We see this happen every now and then, most notably with irons. What happens is, there is still current flowing through the circuit so when you unplug a device, you break the electric contact. To try and avoid sparks, turn off your appliances before you unplug them.

Why do I get a shock from my light switch?

Often, people feel a shock when they touch the metal screws on the light switch due to a static discharge. Static electricity is the build-up of electrical charges from the surface of objects. This happens when electrons move from one surface to another through contact and builds up an electrical charge if both surfaces are insulators. This is most common in homes with carpet.

Though these minor shocks are not dangerous, they can be irritating, Luckily, there are ways to prevent them.

Ways to Avoid Static Shock in Your Home

  • Use a humidifier, since static electricity occurs most often in dry air
  • Wipe down metal surfaces with dryer sheets
  • Avoid wearing clothing made of synthetic materials
  • Keep your skin moisturized with hand lotion
  • Buy a static shock eliminator

Although most minor shocks from light switches are harmless static shocks, if you experience a large painful jolt, you may have a defective light switch. If this is the case, call an electrician and avoid contact with the switch until it has been inspected and repaired by a professional.

What if my pool lights underwater don’t work?

Working with electricity and water is always a dangerous situation. If you need to install pool lights underwater, it will be safest to call a licensed electrician. An electrician is fully aware of every possible safety precaution that will be best when installing or fixing pool lighting. If you must troubleshoot the issue, be sure to turn off power at the main circuit breaker and leave it off until your work is complete.

If your pool lights underwater stopped working, first check the circuit breaker for a trip. If the breaker is tripped, turn the pool lights off and then turn on the circuit breaker. If it trips immediately, you have a short circuit. For something like this, you will need to call an electrician.

What causes circuit breakers to trip?

A breaker trips when there’s either a short or fault in the system or when you’re using more power than the circuit has available. This could be due to having too many items plugged in, too many lights on, etc. Circuit breakers are designed to trip and turn off power when any of the following dangerous situations occur:

Overloaded Circuit

An overloaded circuit is the primary reason for a breaker tripping and occurs when a circuit is has more connected electrical load than it is supposed to have. When more current runs through the circuit than the circuit was intended to take, the circuit breaker is designed to, well, “break the circuit” and save your appliances.

Short Circuit

The Short Circuit is a more serious reason for a breaker tripping. A short is caused when the hot wire (black) touches another hot wire or touches a neutral wire (white). It can also be caused if there is a break in a wire in the circuit. Shorts are a bit more difficult to diagnose because they can be caused by the wiring in your home or in something you have plugged into an outlet.

Ground Fault

A Ground Fault condition exists when the hot wire (black) touches the ground wire (bare copper) or the side of a metal outlet box (because the metal box is connected to the ground wire). The ground fault is a type of short circuit.

What are the risks of a wet circuit breaker?

A wet circuit breaker can be a very dangerous and serious issue. You should call your trusted licensed Mister Sparky electrician to further investigate safely. The moisture will eventually dissipate. Do not touch any electrical wiring system that is energized that may be wet. Look for signs of smoke as a wet circuit breaker is not only a shock hazard, but a fire hazard as well. Also, it is important to make sure you are not standing in water while working with any components of the circuit breaker.

Check the Circuit Breaker

You might want to search for the reason water is entering your circuit breaker. This could be because of heavy rain or even a leak near your breaker panel. If there is a leak, you will want to address and correct that issue immediately. If water has entered because of rain, you might want to double check the sealing. There are ways to help prevent water from entering your panel. They make weatherproof panels, meters and boxes that are designed to release the water if it does mange to enter your breaker box.

What does UL Listed mean?

The UL listed marking appears on a variety of different products, ranging from cameras to house lighting. When a product is marked with an UL Listed it has been recognized as safe for public use. UL is a global independent safety science company with more than a century of expertise innovating safety solutions from the public adoption of electricity to new breakthroughs in sustainability, renewable energy and nanotechnology. Dedicated to promoting safe living and working environments, UL helps safeguard people, products and places in important ways, facilitating trade and providing peace of mind.

Underwriters Laboratories (UL)

UL stands for Underwriters Laboratories, a world leader in product safety testing and certification. UL is an organization that is dedicated to the safety of the public. It sets standards that enable consumers and businesses to trust the value the products and services they purchase. Learn more about UL by visiting their website, or watching this video.

I know it’s summer time, but why is my house so hot?

If you’re living in Dallas or surrounding Texas cities, you’re familiar with how stuffy a home can get during these hot, humid summers. But is there anything you can do to keep them a little cooler that does not involve cranking up the air conditioning?

Little Tweaks, Big Difference

Believe it or not, there are cool opportunities all around the house to keep you and your family from melting this hot season.

Some quick fixes that’ll conserve the cooler air in your home are:

  • Sealing shut any door or window cracks.
  • Angling window blinds upward.
  • Replace your light-bulbs with energy efficient ones.
  • Use your kitchen wisely; try preparing cooler meals such as salads and cold pastas to avoid over-using the stove which heats up the house.

It’s the time of the warmer season, and even though the inside of your house will tend to reflect how it feels outside, there are indeed little shortcuts around it. For any of your summer electrical mishaps, call a trusted licensed electrician to troubleshoot the problem and help keep your summer relaxing and problem-free.

Does cranking the thermostat down cool my home faster?

Dallas heat is unbearable and when we get home from a long, sunny drive, we want our house to feel like a freezer! Out of habit, many people run to their thermostats to turn down the temperature, and they may intentionally decrease it from 80 to 65. This extreme decrease will not cool your home faster. Instead, this method makes your air conditioning unit overwork itself and ultimately reduces any efficiency. Consider turning the head down by only a few degrees and crank up the ceiling fans instead!

Is carbon monoxide poisoning common in the summer?

Yes. Carbon monoxide poisoning is just as common during the summer as it is in the winter because appliances such as lawn mowers, propane grills, camp stoves, and boats are heavily used during warmer seasons.

Decrease Your Family’s Risk of Exposure

Carbon monoxide is a deadly, poisonous gas whose dangers hide in everyday appliances used by families all over the world

Some ways to avoid exposure include:

  • Ensuring appliances are placed in a well vented area
  • Avoiding breathing around appliances that release carbon monoxide
  • Place your portable generators at least 25 feet from your home
  • When swimming around a boat, do not swim near the exhaust ports as carbon monoxide concentrations are very high in those areas

Can hot weather cause power outages?

So the short answer this time is once again, yes. Power outages are actually more common during warmer seasons because energy demand and outdoor temperatures are so high. Because Texas is currently in a drought and experiencing hot, humid weather, this may be a great time to practice ways to try and avoid a power outage at your home.

What to Do During a Power Outage

  • Turn off all appliances such as TV’s and computers that don’t need to be on when the power returns (keeping them all on can result in a power surge when the electricity comes back on).
  • Stay stocked up on water and ensure you are keeping you and your family hydrated during an outage, especially during the summer.
  • Stay away from power lines, electrocution is a serious injury.
  • Keep survival essentials in an easy-to-find area of your home such as flashlights, candles, batteries, canned food, water, etc.

Can cold weather cause a power outage?

The short answer is yes, cold weather can be the reason for a power outage. There are many reasons that can cause a power outage in the winter months. One reason is because on cold days the electric heaters are turned up throughout the electrical system which can cause an equipment overload.

What do I do when cold weather causes a power outage?

When your power goes out, you should first check your home’s electrical panel to make sure you have not blown a circuit. If your neighborhood lights are out, you can call your local utility company to report the outage and get assistance as soon as possible.

Be sure to not to approach any power lines that are down. You should call your utility company to clean up the power lines.

Stay updated for when your power will be restored by listening to a battery powered radio.

If you do not have a heater to keep your house warm, you should bundle up in jackets and blankets to stay warm. You can also stay warm by taking a hot shower. Your hot water tank should stay warm for a few hours. If you have a regular wood stove or fireplace, you can use it for heat. However, do not use kerosene heaters, BBQs, or any outdoor type heater inside. Such devices create poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas given off by combustion and could kill. You will want to unplug your large appliances so when the power comes back on it does not create a power surge. You might want to leave a light on so you will know when the power is restored.

Do space heaters save money?

The short answer is yes, you do save money by using a space heater versus heating our whole home. How much you save, however, depends on the size of your home and how many rooms are being heated. If you live in a small apartment, your savings may be minimal, however if you have a medium to large sized house and you spend most of your time in one room, you can save dollars each day by heating only one small space and keeping the rest of the house cool.

What are the benefits of LED Christmas lights?

Word has traveled fast regarding the benefits of LED lighting systems. As Americans strive every year to find more cost efficient ways around their lives, holiday lighting should be one less thing to worry about. LED lights are ideal for the holidays because:

  • They offer a safer approach as opposed to traditional incandescent lights due to its function of transmitting light rather than heat. They don’t necessarily burn brighter but are much cooler.
  • They last anywhere from 25%-50% longer than incandescent lights, which saves you the money and hassle of having to replace them often. Basically, if you care and monitor the amount of time you leave your LED lights burning, they may last you the rest of your holiday decorating life.
  • They are more durable than traditional lights and offer easier storage due to its tough exterior that doesn’t break or crack as easily.

How can I save money on my electrical bill during the holidays?

A great way to start to save money on your electrical bill during the holidays is to unplug your holiday lights before going to bed as well as all appliances and electronics you do not need overnight. Whether you know it or not your electronic appliances/lights will continue to draw power even when not in use.

Another quick tip is you can also decorate for the holidays with LED lights, which use 75 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting. LED lights are also more resistant to breakage which makes them safer for everyone.

Who should I call for an AC repair?

If your AC seems to have stopped working, there are ways to troubleshoot the problem yourself in order to assess if professional help is needed. But if you do need an AC repair, find out who to call, the AC repairman or electrician, based on what the problem is.

AC Electrical Problems

DIY Troubleshooting

  • Make sure it’s set to cool
  • Make sure it’s plugged in
  • Reset your circuit breaker

Call an Electrician

  • AC won’t turn on – This is a sign electrical wiring may need to be replaced
  • AC burning smell – This is a sign of faulty wiring which can cause electrical fire; call an emergency electrician immediately

Call an AC Repairman

  • AC not cooling house or cooling house unevenly -This signifies a problem with your AC unit. If you believe it may still be under warranty, call the AC unit company. Otherwise, contact an AC repairman.

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