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FAQ

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Common Questions

Is aluminum wiring banned by the NEC?

Although aluminum wiring is not banned by the NEC, it is discouraged by most professional electricians. When aluminum wiring first came about in the 1960s, a 1350 series aluminum alloy was used in most homes since it is cheaper and lighter. Years later, however, it was discovered that this material was prone to overheating and electrical fire hazards. Today, the NEC approves AA-8000 series aluminum. Although this material is more reliable, it is still not approved by city electrical safety standards for electrical work and will void many home insurance policies in the case of an electrical fire.

What causes a winter Houston power outage?

During extreme weather such as below freezing temperatures, overuse of heaters can cause an increased demand for energy. Often, electricity companies will send out power conservation alerts, advising people to save energy by keeping lights off, unplugging large appliances, and keeping the thermostat as low as comfortable. When the demand for energy is greater than the electricity provider can sustain, rolling power outages are sometimes implemented, creating deliberate outages in areas for a short period of time in order to prevent a region-wide blackout. Freezing weather can cause ice buildup on electrical equipment which can also cause outages. In some cases, winter outages are even caused by damage to electrical equipment due to car accidents caused by icy roads.

Can I install a USB outlet on my own?

Yes you can, and in fact it is very easy to do. For the most part, installing a USB outlet is mostly the same as replacing any electrical outlet. First, turn off all electrical current before you begin- check this before you tinker with the outlet to prevent shock. Next, unscrew the wall plate of the outlet, and then unscrew the mounting bracket which holds the wiring. For the most part, you'll notice 3 colored wires: red/black is the hot wire, green is the ground wire and white is the neutral. Detach these wires from the old outlet and reattach them to the new outlet accordingly. If your new outlet has an indicator light, be sure that it is NOT lit (this may mean that some wires may have gotten switched). Attach the mounting bracket to the wall, along with the outlet plate and turn back It is now time to test your new outlet. Should the USB outlet not work, you may have either switched wires or may need to flip back off/on your electricity. If the outlet is still not working, you may have picked up a defective outlet. If you're having trouble, or need some help, call a trusted electrician!

What is the NEC?

The NEC, also known as the National Electric Code, is a part of the National Fire Codes series published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which lays out the national standard for safe electrical installations. The NEC was created in order to keep people and property safe from electrical fire hazards. In addition to the NEC, each city has its own electric code. Prior to buying a home, selling a home or beginning any electrical work, you should always get your home inspected to ensure that it meets both the NEC and your city’s safety standards. Homes that do not follow this code risk not being covered under home insurance policies in the case of an accident. Mister Sparky electricians provide code inspections and repairs to ensure that your home meets NEC safety standards.

What are common old house electrical problems?

Homes older than 20 years have some common old house electrical problems for homes such as:

  • Aluminum wiring or poorly-installed wiring - both aluminum wiring and faulty wiring installation pose a serious danger of igniting an electrical fire
  • Too few outlets - older homes often have fewer outlets than the current demand for them; this can be solved with power strips or installing more outlets
  • Poorly-installed Fuse Boxes - fuse boxes with fuses with a higher amperage than the wires can safely handle can cause insulation on wires to overheat and make them prone to starting house fires
  • Outdated light fixtures - older homes have light fixtures with low wattage capacities; using higher wattage light bulbs than fixtures can support can be a fire hazard
  • No GFCIs, AFCIs, or grounding on Outlets - these safety features that help prevent electrocution or house fires are often not present in older homes, but every home should have them

If you have an older home that is having problems outside of the ones listed above, let us know how we can help!

Should my outdoor electrical outlets be GFCI outlets?

Yes, when installing new outlets outdoors, you should always make sure they are GFCI outlets. Any time there is an outlet that can be exposed to water or moisture; there is a risk of electrical shock. A GFCI monitors the amount of current flowing and if there is ever an imbalance which signifies a possible shock, it will trip the circuit and stop the flow of electricity within milliseconds. This can save your life. That’s why any outdoor outlets that can be exposed to rain or even humidity should always have this safety feature.

What is a power surge?

A power surge happens when something causes a spike in the amount of electrical charge flowing through power lines, which can go through the current leading to your wall outlet. The most well-known cause of power surges is lighting, however, the most common cause is actually high-power electrical devices. Appliances such as refrigerators or air conditioners require a lot of power, so turning them on can cause a quick surge in electrical charge. Whether a power surge is caused by a lighting storm or high-power appliances, it can be very damaging to anything plugged into the outlet at the time of the surge. Whether gradually or immediately, the overload of electricity flowing into your electronics can overpower them and cause hundreds or thousands of dollars’ worth of damage.

How do you report a power outage?

Before reporting a power outage, make sure the outage is not exclusively in your home. If the outage seems to be in your home alone, try resetting your breaker panel. If resetting your breaker panel does not bring the power back, call an electrician to diagnose the problem. If the power outage affects other houses near you and lasts more than a few minutes, you should report it by calling your energy provider.

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