October 31, 2008
On September 30, 2008 Wal-Mart Stores Inc., of Bentonville, AR recalled approximately 210,000 General Electric toasters. An electrical short circuit can occur between the heating element and the bread cage, posing a fire and electrical shock hazard to consumers. Wal-Mart has received 140 reports of fires or sparks coming from the toasters or the toasters tripping the circuit breaker in consumers’ homes. However, no injuries have been reported.
The recalled toasters have a chrome steel body, a black plastic base and controls with either two or four openings in the top. The GE logo is located on the front of the toasters just above the controls. Model numbers 169115 and 169116 are included in this recall. The model number is printed on the bottom of the toasters.
These units were sold at Wal-Mart Stores nationwide from September 2007 through July 2008 for between $17 and $28. They were manufactured in China.
You should immediately stop using the recalled toasters and return them to any Wal-Mart for a full refund or replacement toaster. For additional information, contact Wal-Mart at (800) 925-6278 between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site at: http://walmartstores.com/FactsNews/7701.aspx
October 28, 2008
Homeowners today are shifting towards more cost efficient and eco-friendly solutions for managing energy consumption in their homes. Proper lighting improves the appearance and safety of a home both inside and out, yet it can also account for nearly 25% of a home’s electricity. Most people don’t realize that the standard incandescent bulbs they’ve been using for years are only 10% efficient; meaning only 10% of the electricity they use is transferred into light and the rest into heat! Fortunately, the push for a greener way of life has brought rise to two major alternative options for standard incandescent light bulbs: the compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) and a light emitting diode light bulb (LED). Knowing what to look for and the difference between the two will help the average consumer save energy dollars each month.
As a replacement for your average screw in light bulb, CFL bulbs are an excellent option. In simplest terms, CFLs are a miniature version of the common fluorescent light, using an electrical current to make phosphor gas glow. Older CFLs use magnetic ballasts which usually cause a delay and/or flicker when they are turned on, however most new CFLs use electronic ballasts that eliminate this. When compared to incandescent bulbs, CFLs are approximately four times as efficient; a 25 Watt CFL will have the same light output as a 100 Watt incandescent. They also last up to 10 times longer, meaning that over the life of a standard CFL, you would expect to have used 10 incandescent bulbs. Unlike a regular fluorescent light, a CFL gives off light that looks just like a standard incandescent.
Choosing the bulb design that best suits the application is also a factor; available form factors include spiral, triple tube, standard, globe, flood and candelabra style bulbs to name a few. While the purchase price of a CFL is typically 3 to 10 times greater than that of an equivalent incandescent bulb, over the lifespan of the bulb you can expect a large return on energy savings (see comparison chart below). Continuously turning a CFL bulb on and off, or exposure to outdoor elements, can reduce the expected life span, so consider where you will be using them. While dimmable CFLs and CFLs that can be used with timers are available, they may not always work with dimmer switches, dimmer modules, or timers. Lastly, CFL bulbs contain trace amounts of mercury which is a toxic metal, and although they can be disposed of in your regular trash, caution should be taken if a bulb is broken in your home.
Recently, advances in technology have given rise to LED lighting as a replacement for the traditional incandescent bulb. LEDS are small, solid light bulbs which drive their light in one direction or in cones of varying width depending on the bulb design. Traditionally this type of directional lighting has been used for task lighting, flashlights and headlamps. However, grouping these light in clusters and applying new designs have led to the LED as an extremely energy efficient replacement for the standard incandescent bulb. A LED style bulb will generally last approximately 100 times as long as an incandescent; meaning that over the life of a standard LED style bulb, you would expect to have used 100 incandescent bulbs! When compared to incandescent bulbs, LEDs are approximately six times as efficient; in simplest terms a 16 Watt LED style bulb will have the same light output as a 100 Watt incandescent.
A LED style bulb can be upward of 50 to 100 times the cost of standard incandescent bulb (although costs continue to drop), but you can expect a large return on your investment do to the lifespan and energy savings when compared to an incandescent bulb (see comparison chart below). Another great feature of LED style bulbs are their durability; because they don’t have a filament they can withstand jarring and bumping making them less likely to be damaged under circumstances when a regular incandescent bulb would be broken. When used with a dimmer, LED bulbs can brighten and dim fairly consistently from 30% brightness up. They will also work well with most timers. On the low end, instead of going completely off, LEDs tend to exhibit a slight glow due to the small amount of current that LEDs require to illuminate. Because this type of alternative lighting is still at the beginning stages, you can expect the capabilities of LED style bulbs to grow.
When replacing a standard incandescent bulb with a CFL or an LED as an alternative, one of the most important factors to understand is lumens. A lumen is a measurement of how many foot-candles of light a bulb puts out in a square foot of area… or in laymen’s terms, how bright a bulb is. Many CFL and LED bulbs are misleading, whether intentional or unintentional, when describing the bulbs they replace. If you want a CFL or and LED bulb to replace your existing incandescent, make sure that the lumens match up.
|Bulb Type||Lumens||Watts||Investment||Consumption||Energy Cost||Total Cost|
Investment based on:
- Incandescent: $1.00 per bulb x 100 bulbs to equal the lifespan of one LED style bulb
- CFL: $10.00 per bulb x 10 bulbs to equal the lifespan of one LED style bulb
- LED: $100.00 per bulb equal to 100,000 hour lifespan
Consumption based on:
- Kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy used over the course of 100,000 hours
Energy Cost based on:
- 10 cents per kWh average fee from utility company
Incandescent bulbs still make up a majority of the light bulbs in homes today, but as more people become energy and environmentally conscious, both the CFL and the LED bulbs are well suited alternatives. Over the long term an LED style bulb will save you the most money although the initial cost may seem high. The good news is that LED bulbs last for 10 years or more. The CFL bulb will save you nearly as much as an LED style Bulb with a fraction of the investment. Consider the placement and how you will be using each of your bulbs and a combination of the two alternatives will be rewarding over the long haul, not just in your pocket book but also for the planet.
FACT: If every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL, in one year it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes. That would prevent the release of greenhouse gas emissions equal to that of about 800,000 cars. Saving electricity reduces CO2 emissions, sulfur oxide and high-level nuclear waste.
Click here to purchase CFLs
Click here to purchase LEDs
Answers To Electrical Questions About Installing Receptacles In A Kitchen, Grounding An Electric Service and Dimmer Switches
October 27, 2008
Joe Krupa asks:
I would like to add one, possibly two kitchen countertop receptacles. I have two existing ones, both 20 amps. Receptacle A, on the left, has not been tapped into. Receptacle B, on the right, includes the fridge receptacle, making a total of two receptacles on this circuit. Do I run a new devoted 20 amp circuit, or can I branch off of Receptacle A ??? My community observes the NEC, but it is not clear to me regarding this situation. I would greatly appreciate your insight…
You may branch off of circuit A providing the equipment will not overload the circuit. According to the National Electrical Code® (NEC®), you are required to have 2 dedicated and GFCI protected small appliance circuits. If it is easy, I recommend installing a dedicated circuit for the refrigerator; this does not need to be GFCI protected. I also recommend installing a dedicated circuit for a microwave.
C Miller asks:
How do I change a three wire service to a four wire? How do I add the extra ground lug to a square d box?
You need to ground your electric service to change it from a 3-wire to a 4-wire. At your first point of disconnect, you need to install a # 6 AWG copper wire for a 100 amp service or # 4 AWG copper wire for a 200 amp service to the cold water pipe where it enters your building; providing the water line is metallic and extends at least 10 feet underground beyond the entrance to your building. You should connect to the street side of your water meter first and without cutting it, connect it to the house side of the water meter as well. The reason for this is sometimes there is a neoprene or rubber bushing in between the water meter and cold water line. These bushings are insulators and will not allow electricity to flow outside to dissipate to ground.
At your first point of disconnect, you also need install 2 – 8 foot long x 5/8 inch diameter ground rods set 6 feet apart. Then install a continuous loop of # 6 AWG copper wire from the first point of disconnect through both ground rods and back to the first point of disconnect.
Your first point of disconnect is the first main breaker immediately after the electric meter. This is typically outside, but not always. After all of the grounding is done at your first point of disconnect, you need to install a ground wire to each breaker box from the first point of disconnect.
Grounding can be challenging and this is an area a lot of people have trouble with. This is an advanced DIYer project. I highly recommend hiring a licensed or qualified electrician for this type of project.
Is there a transformer inside the lutron light switch. Such as a ballast. Do the lutron dimmers constantly use voltage to run this transformer? I need to know because my house is vacant most of the time and I try to shut everything down when I leave.
I do not believe that Lutron dimmer switches have transformers or ballasts in them. All Lutron dimmer switches that I have installed have a positive off position. With the switch in the off position, the light will not use any energy and the switch should not use any energy either; unless it is lighted. However, this is a question for Lutron.
How Stuff Works has a good article about “How Dimmer Switches Work“.
Answers to Electrical Questions About Connecting A Ground Wire In A Federal Pacific Panel, Connecting A Ground Wire To Your Dryer and Installing a Tankless Water Heater
October 24, 2008
Judith Geiger asks:
I need to know where to connect the green (ground) wire from the Romex cable for a new 20 amp circuit. i have a Federal Pacific 200amp panel box installed when the house was built in the 50’s. I know where to attach the black wire (to the screw on the circuit breaker) and the white wire ( to the screw at the bottom of the box as the other circuit breakers already have) But there are no other green wires in the panel box. Perhaps when the house was built the wiring did not have this extra wire. Where do I attach this wire? To the bottom screws along with the white one? Thank you for your answer.
The first thing that I recommend is replacing that Federal Pacific panel. I believe Federal Pacific lost their underwriters laboratories (UL) listing in the 70s. These circuit breaker are well known for not tripping or working properly. In my opinion, these panels are a major fire hazard and should be replaced immediately.
As for the ground wire connection, this depends. Your ground and neutral are connected together at the first point of disconnect only and separated everywhere else within your electrical system. The bare copper wire is also a ground wire and this is more commonly seen in NM cable (romex). If there are other ground wires connected with the neutrals (white wires) in your panel, then you may connect it to your neutral bar. If there are no other ground wires connected to your neutral bar, then you should connect the ground to the frame of your breaker box. If there are no other ground wires in your breaker box at all, then I recommend hiring a licensed or qualified electrician to properly ground your electrical system.
Jennifer Watkins asks:
I followed your steps, but I’m not sure I did it correctly because my dryer isn’t working. The area where I think I might be messing up is the grounding wire. When I removed the 4 prong wires, the green wire (not the green wire connected to the 4 prong plug, but a separate one) was screwed to the side of the panel (with a green bolt). I cannot tell where that wire leads. Am I supposed to unscrew that from the green bolt and connect it with my middle/neutral wire on the middle terminal? I tried that, but still got no power?
Don’t unscrew this wire and connect it to your neutral. Instead leave it where it is connected and install a new piece of #10 AWG green wire between the neutral terminal and this ground bolt. However, this will not solve your problem. I’ve learned that when you move your dryer, all of the lint tends to clog the exhaust right below the dryer door. This will cause your dryer to shut down on over temperature. However, I am not a dryer expert and I recommend hiring an appliance repair person.
Have you checked power at your dryer receptacle? Check to see if the circuit breaker is tripped. Try turning the circuit breaker off and back on again.
Chris Andersen asks:
I am looking to install a tankless electrical hot water heater. My panel is a cutler-hammer and is a 125amp max. The model I am looking at calls for 88/100 amps. Am I able to install this water heater?
Great site for us weekend warrior’s.
If this is the only breaker box for your house, then you probably can’t do this. If you want to install a tankless water heater, then I recommend hiring a licensed or qualified electrician to upgrade your electric service to 200 amps. This will give you plenty of power for future expansion and help increase the re-sale value of your home.
October 21, 2008
On September 17, 2008 DCI LLC, d/b/a Hanashop, of Olive Branch, MS recalled approximately 180 power cords. The power cord wires are significantly undersized and allow incorrect insertion of the power plug, posing a risk of fire and/or shock to consumers.
The recall involves 2-Ft., three outlet power cords. The power cord is orange in color and packaged in a counterfeit yellow and green cardboard sleeve. The packaging indicates the power cord is a “12 Gauge Extra Heavy Duty” type. Model number T-4145 is printed in front and back of the packaging, which is indicated in the picture below.
These units were sold by ebay.com nationwide from November 2006 through April 2008 for between $2 and $5 and manufactured in China
You should immediately stop using the recalled power cords and contact the firm for a full refund. For additional information, contact Hanashop toll-free at (888) 263-2575 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. CT Monday through Friday.