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5 Ways to Creatively Save (Energy)

January 26, 2011

This guest post is written by Leon Harris of Southern States. If you would like to write a guest post for this site, then please visit guidelines and suggestions for guest posts at Ez DIY Electricity.

There’s no denying that we’re wasteful when it comes to energy. We’ve gotten so used to having it on hand that we practically lose the ability to function during a blackout. We leave lights and electronics on day and night (whether we’re using them or not) and we keep our homes at a constant temperature regardless of the climate outside (be it sweltering hundred-degree heat or below-zero blizzard). All of this contributes to massive energy consumption and an attendant utility bill that you dread every month. However, there are tons of ways to save when it comes to energy usage. By getting creative with cutting your electricity, you can help the planet and yourself. Here are a few ways to pull it off.

  1. Energy audit. Your local utility provider can probably send a technician to your house to perform this survey (although there are private companies, many of them also offer repairs, meaning your audit could be questionable). You’ll get a full report of problem areas that are leaking your bought air to the outside world. From there you can update or add insulation, install weather stripping, and seal any leaks to conserve more energy.
  2. Go old school. During the summer, or any time it’s warm outside, consider eschewing appliances in favor of the old ways. Hang laundry to dry on a line rather than throwing it in the dryer, and cook your dinner on the grill. Also, consider washing dishes by hand. A sink full of suds uses a lot less water and electricity. And of course, rely on the natural light provided by the sun whenever possible.
  3. Drop the drain. You may think that powering off your electronics means they stop drawing energy. In fact, they continue to suck up “vampire energy” and unless you unplug them, you’re going to pay for it. If you want to cut back on this phantom drain, simply keep electronics hooked up to a few power strips that you can easily unplug when not in use. As a side note, keep close watch on charging devices and detach them when charging is complete (to save on wasted electricity and keep your batteries going strong).
  4. Get a timer. Newer digital thermostats almost all come with a timer attached that allows you to input a turn-on and shut-off schedule for use. Simply set it to the “off mode” during the hours you’re absent from your home and then have the AC or heat kick back on about 30 minutes before you return (so that your house isn’t an extreme temperature when you walk in). If you’re home all day, set it to moderate while you sleep instead (since you don’t need a ton of heat if you’re cozy under the covers).
  5. Look for the energy-star label. You may think this energy-saving system only applies to lighting and appliances, but there are actually about 50 categories of products that conform to their standards (using at least 30% less energy). You could be saving on electronics (cordless phones, TVs, battery chargers), plumbing (water heaters), and even building materials (roofing, windows, doors), all of which are available from energy-star approved manufacturers. Check out the Energy Star website for more information on their products.

Leon Harris writes for Southern States, the quality name in high voltage switching. Whether you are in need of a high voltage disconnect switch, power fuses, or anything for your electrical power transmission and distribution needs, Southern States will tailor a custom solution for you.

Answers to Electrical Questions About Wiring a Ceiling Fan, Disconnecting a Receptacle in a Staircase and Wiring a Tanning Bed

January 24, 2011

DIY Electrical Wiring Help Mike asks:
I have installed a ceiling fan and light in my living room. I have a three way switch that controls one receptacle that I have a lamp plugged into that gives me light in the living room. One light switch turns the lamp on when you enter the house and the other one turns it off when you go in the kitchen. I can turn the lamp on or off from either side of the room. I need help getting power to the fan and light. Can you help me get my fan and light to work?

Yes I can make this work, but I need more information. Do you already have a light box in the ceiling where you plan to install the fan/light? I believe that your best solution is hire me to walk you through the process. Please visit my DIY Electrical Wiring Help from a Licensed Master Electrician. I recommend option #2.

Here is a general overview of what needs to be done to make this happen. I’m going to assume that there is no light box or power to the location where you plan to install your fan/light. First, you need to determine which switch box has the power supply in it. Now I would remove this switch box and enlarge the opening to install a larger switch box which will accommodate 2 more switches (1 to control the fan and 1 to control the light). Then install a 3 conductor cable with ground from this box to your new fan/light box in the ceiling. At the ceiling location, you need to securely install a “fan rated” box. You can’t use just any light box for a paddle fan as it will eventually fail and your fan will come crashing down onto someone.

Now hang the fan and connect the wires. Connect the green wire from the fan to the bare copper wire in the 3-conductor cable with ground. Connect the white wire from the fan to the white wire in the 3-conductor cable with ground. Connect the black wire from the fan to the black wire in the 3-conductor cable with ground. Connect the blue wire from the fan to the red wire in the 3-conductor cable with ground.

Now go to your new switch box, make the terminations, install the switches and cover plate.

Ella asks:
I would like to know if a hot electric outlet found in the staircase wall can be disconnected and if so how much would if cost? Average price please.

Yes it can be disconnected. I would charge you a maximum of $34.95 for my service. Please visit DIY Electrical Wiring Help from a Licensed Master Electrician. I recommend option #2.

To disconnect this properly, you need to trace the cable which supplies power to this receptacle back to the source and disconnect it there. This is probably fed from a nearby receptacle or light switch box. I can walk you through this process.

Julie asks:
I just purchased a tanning bed and the problem that I am having is I was told it would run on the same outlet as my dryer….well, not true. Both cords are 3 prong but the one on the tanning bed is a different type of 3 prong. What can I do to fix this problem, or better yet what would be the easiest & safest way to solve it without having to hire an electrician. I live in an apartment and the landlord is OK with the tanning bed as long as I don’t have to have BIG electrical work done. Any and all help would be great…I would like to be tan before summer but want to do it the safe way… Thanks!!!!

I really need more information to help you solve this issue. I need the power requirements from your tanning bed. I also need the NEMA configuration marked on your power cord. It should be something like 6-30P or 14-30P. Again, I think you would be best served by visiting my DIY Electrical Wiring Help from a Licensed Master Electrician page.

Finding Bolts for Your Electric Dryer Power Cord, Wiring a 3-Prong Dryer Receptacle and Wiring GFCI Receptacles

June 29, 2010

DIY Electrical Wiring Help Angila Adams asks:
I have a really big problem; I have a Signature 2000 Dryer by Norge! I was going to change the power cord to a four prong but, can’t cause I lost the bolts for the wires! I’ve bought all different size bolts and can’t find the right size and just wondering if you can help me with that. I would be very thankful cause I got some clothes I would like to dry at home instead of a dang laundry mat lol.

You have a few options here. I’m guessing that you dropped the bolts down inside of the dryer. So, you could take apart the dryer and retrieve the bolts. This is very easy to do. First, unplug your dryer. The top of the dryer lifts up and is typically hinged on the backside. A flat blade screwdriver works well to lift the top up. Now you will need to remove the front panel with the door. This is usually held in place with 2 sheet metal screws. The screws are on each side, near the top of the panel and on the inside. After you remove the front panel, you need to remove the drum. This typically pulls forward; be careful not to break the belt wrapped around the drum. The screws should be on the bottom. If there is lint or dust in the bottom of your dryer, then this is a great time to clean the inside of your dryer.

Another option is to look in your local yellow pages book for “Appliance Service and Repair”. Hopefully, someone local has the bolts in stock. If not, then there is always the internet. I recommend Appliance Parts Pros. I live in a rural area and our local appliance parts stores never seem to have the part which I’m looking for. I’ve used Appliance Parts Pros several times and they have always provided a great service.


Ed asks:
What about hooking up a 4 wire supply cord from the electric box to a 3 prong (old style) receptacle? The black and red (hot) wires and the white wire (neutral) all go into the receptacle. But what about the bare copper wire? It’s obviously a ground wire, so can I just attach it to the metal case of the receptacle?

Yes. You are required to bond all metallic parts. This includes the metal case of the receptacle.


Kenny asks:
I have a 20 AMP breaker with 12-2 wire for my first floor kitchen where there are 2 wires attached to it. One wire goes to an outlet on the kitchen counter that I have a GFCI on by itself. The other wire goes to 2 outlets in the same double box. I have installed 2 GFCI outlets in the box wired correctly I believe. The wire coming from the breaker is on the line side of the first GFCI and the second GFCI with a jumper going from the line to the Load side of the first GFCI. Will this cause a problem? They seem to work fine as I have plugged lights into both in the double box and they stay lit and do not blow the GFCI. Will the single GFCI in the box by itself protect the other outlets in the double box due to them being attached at the Breaker? I do not mind it being overkill if that is all it is, due to it being an rental apartment.

The first GFCI will NOT protect the others through the circuit breaker.

You do not need the second GFCI in the double gang box. You can use a regular duplex receptacle here as it will be protected by the GFCI. If you elect to keep the second GFCI in the double gang box, then you may change the terminations on the first GFCI to the line side instead of the load side.


Outlet Spacing, Service Size for a Detached Garage and Installing a New Dryer Outlet Verses an Extension Cord

June 8, 2010

DIY Electrical Wiring Help Kelvin asks:
I have got rid of my wood-burning stove and a wall too the side of it. There was one outlet in the wall. Is there a minimum distance that must be maintained from one outlet to the next outlet when the outlet is facing the opposite direction?

Your outlets need to be a maximum of 12 feet apart. Any wall over 2 feet wide requires an outlet. About the only concern with placing an outlet on the opposite side of the wall is fire. If the wall dividing the two rooms is fire rated then you need to place the outlets in different stud bays.


Anthony Chios asks:
I would like to power a single car detached garage from my house. If I use a 100 amp sub panel in the garage, run conduit underground, ( about 25 feet), then enter the garage with watertight conduit connections, would I be able to use 12-3, or 12-2 wire in 1/2 ” conduit? Is there a concern about grounding other than the white wire between panels? What size breaker should I use in the mail panel to accommodate 3-4 20 amp breakers in the sub? This will be just for a single garage door opener, about 4 receptacles, and about 2-3 compact fluorescent lamps.

No you may not install 12/3 or 12/2 NM cable in conduit. This is a code violation. The concern is that the outer sheath will trap too much heat. I recommend using copper wire with THWN / THHN insulation.

Regarding grounding in houses. Your neutral and ground wires connect together at the first point of disconnect only. When installing sub-panels in out buildings there are circumstances when you are permitted to only install 3 wires to the out building. Then you would reestablish a ground at the outbuilding. However, I do not recommend this. I prefer to establish the ground at the first point of disconnect and then just install ground wires to every sub-panel.

When it comes to garages, I highly recommend at least a 100 amp service. You can get away with less, but inevitably someone will want to do some welding or install a large compressor.


Fred Irons asks:
Can I change the ends of a 220 extension cord from a 4 prong to a three prong dryer male and female ends? My dryer and wall plug are three prong. If so how?

I’ve never seen anyone use an extension cord for a dryer before. This is not recommended and I believe this may be a code violation. Extension cords are for temporary power only. I recommend installing a new 4-wire dryer receptacle within 6 feet of the dryer. If you install a new receptacle, then it needs to meet today’s code requirements. This means that you will need to change the cord on your dryer to a 4-wire / 4-prong as well.


Wire Size for a Sub-Panel in an Attached Garage and Troubleshooting Loose Neutrals

May 16, 2010

DIY Electrical Wiring Help Lee asks:
I want to run a sub panel to my attached garage fifty feet from the main panel which is 150 amp service what is the maximum size sub box i can run and what size wire to connect?

It really depends on how much power that you need in the garage and if you will be using large loads in the house at the same time that you are working in the garage. You can easily install a 100 amp sub-panel in your garage. However, you can use the range and dryer at the same time while you are welding in your garage.

As for the wire size, you need either #3 AWG copper wire or 1/0 AWG aluminum wire. With a sub-panel, you need to install 2 hot wires, 1 neutral wire and 1 ground wire. You also need to ensure that your neutral and ground wires are separated in the sub-panel.


Gabriel Fequiere asks:
I was adding some wiring in order to add some recess lights in a dining room when suddenly I noticed the tool that was plugged in an adjacent room was turned off. Thinking the problem was related to my new wiring, I removed everything and began testing the 3 receptacles in question. I thought that the receptacle were cold (no juice) through testing the conventional way however, testing EACH insert against the box turns out to be hot and at no time that the circuit breaker was tripped. How can i solve the problem?

It sounds like you are missing a neutral. You need you open the receptacles and test for voltage between the hot and neutral terminals. You should have 120 volts here. If you do not, then you are missing a neutral. You need to go back to each electrical box that you worked in and look for a loose or disconnected neutral wire. Make sure that you turn off the power first. A neutral under load will grab you faster than a hot wire.


Ken Snyder asks:
Hi everyone. My problem is I have 6 pendant ceiling fixtures all on the same 3 way switch. Problem is that when I turn on the lights sometimes light 3 doesn’t turn on. I then replace the bulb and light 3 turns on but light 4 doesn’t. I repeat and light 4 now goes on but not light 3 doesn’t. I’ve checked the wiring and it appears right and the work was performed by a licensed electrician several years ago. I don’t remember when this first started but I have ignored it for some time. I am completely baffled and the licensed electrician who installed it has retired and moved away. Any suggestions?

Check for a loose connection. You will find these at the wire nuts, the screw on the lamp holder and if not originally stripped properly, at the back of the electrical box. If you are burning out light bulbs, then you may have a neutral issue as well.


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