Stand-By Generators



Stand-By Generators

Written By Joseph Farmer, President of GTS Electric Company

Q: The last major storm knocked out my electric power for days. I’m wondering if I should invest in a portable generator or a standby generator. What’s the difference in these home generators? How do you determine what size electric generator to purchase? Do you think I can install a standby generator myself as I’m pretty handy?

A: That’s a great question! I understand where you are coming from. When I was in the Navy a hurricane knocked out the power to our house and it wasn’t restored for nearly two weeks! (You’d be amazed at just how many meals can be prepared on a charcoal grill!) Electricity is almost as important as oxygen in some respects. When it’s there, you don’t even think about it, but when it’s gone, you get desperate in a hurry.

Home generators are gaining in popularity for many reasons. After this storm event, I was bound and determined to get a standby generator, especially for the winter season when vicious ice storms can create power outages for weeks in some remote areas.

There’s a huge difference between portable generators and standby generators. A portable generator is one you can move around. The type most homeowners recognize are those that are the size of a medium picnic cooler and are powered by a small gasoline engine. Contractors often use these on job-sites when regular electricity is not yet connected.

These small portable generators are not designed to power an entire house. The intention is for you to run one or several extension cords from the generator directly to the appliance you wish to power. You may connect it to a refrigerator for a few hours, then a window air conditioner, and maybe a few table lamps. Forget about connecting all of your appliances at once to a small portable generator. It simply will not work

A standby generator is a larger fixed device that resembles an outdoor air conditioning compressor. They are capable of generating enough power to keep many essential electrical devices operating at once, or you can invest in a standby generator that can operate every electrical appliance and light in your house all at once.

The standby generators are not meant to be installed by a homeowner. Not only do you have to connect a fuel source to it such as propane or natural gas, but you also have to hard wire the generator into your electrical system. This is fairly complex and best done by professionals. What’s more, you need to install a sophisticated transfer switch with a separate electrical panel that contains the electrical circuits that will be powered when the generator turns on.

One primary difference between a standby generator and a portable one is the standby generator will turn itself on when the primary electric to your home is knocked out. This is accomplished by the transfer switch, and can have your lights back on in as little as ten seconds. When the utility company finally restores your power, the transfer switch senses this and shuts off your generator.

Extension cords are not used with a standby generator. All of your appliances remain plugged into their wall outlets. The electrician, with your input, decides which circuits in your home to connect to the generator. This allows you to purchase the correct-sized generator. If you decide to power just a part of your home, the other areas will be dark and off the grid. Think about what appliances and rooms of your house you can survive in until the utility company gets power back to your home

Some standby generators come with software that allows you to check the status of your generator if you’re not at home. This software can also communicate with you or a service company if it senses something is wrong that might cause the generator to fail in the event of a power outage. This allows you to have it repaired so that it will be working when you need it most.

Portable generators can get you by in an emergency, but they are not in the same league as a standby generator. In an emergency, you need to drag out the portable generator, and safely string all the extension cords. You then need to add fuel to the engine on a regular basis day and night. It can be a hassle. You also need to be very careful about placing it near the partially open window or door that the cords pass through. The carbon monoxide fumes from the engine exhaust can drift indoors.

Standby generators require periodic maintenance as they contain engines that spin the actual generator. Often you can do this maintenance yourself. An excellent example of recommended maintenance for your generator can be found on the following web-site(http://www.cumminspower.com/www/literature/technicalpapers/PT-7004-Maintenance-en.pdf)  If you are the type of person who does your own oil changes on your car, the check list to maintain you generator will seem very familiar.

We are available to install and maintain residential, commercial or industrial generators and the associated electrical system they protect. Give us a call today if we can be of service at 262 367 2GTS (2487) !

Understanding Arc Fault Protection



Understanding Arc Fault Protection

Written By Joseph Farmer, President of GTS Electric Company

Q; What is arc fault protection, and why is it required?

A; Problems in home wiring, like arcing and sparking, are associated with more than 40,000 home fires each year. These fires claim over 350 lives and injure 1,400 victims annually.

A new electrical safety device for homes, called an arc fault circuit interrupter or AFCI, is expected to provide enhanced protection from fires resulting from these unsafe home wiring conditions.

Typical household fuses and circuit breakers do not respond to early arcing and sparking conditions in home wiring. By the time a fuse or circuit breaker opens a circuit to defuse these conditions, a fire may already have begun.

Several years ago, a Consumer Product Safety Commission  study identified arc fault detection as a promising new technology. Since then, CPSC electrical engineers have tested the new AFCIs on the market and found these products to be effective.

Requiring AFCIs

AFCIs are already recognized for their effectiveness in preventing fires. The most recent edition of the National Electrical Code, the widely-adopted model code for electrical wiring, will require AFCIs for all “living space” circuits as shown in the illustration below.

AFCIs vs. GFCIs

AFCIs should not be confused with ground fault circuit interrupters or GFCIs. The popular GFCI devices are designed to provide protection from the serious consequences of electric shock.

While both AFCIs and GFCIs are important safety devices, they have different functions. AFCIs are intended to address fire hazards; GFCIs address shock hazards. Combination devices that include both AFCI and GFCI protection in one unit will become available soon.

AFCIs can be installed in any 15 or 20-ampere branch circuit in homes today and are currently available as circuit breakers with built-in AFCI features. In the near future, other types of devices with AFCI protection will be available.

Should You Install AFCIs?

You may want to consider adding AFCI protection for both new and existing homes. Older homes with ordinary circuit breakers especially may benefit from the added protection against the arcing faults that can occur in aging wiring systems.

For more information about AFCIs, contact an electrical supply store, an electrician, or the manufacturer of the circuit breakers already installed in your home. Sometimes these components can be replaced with AFCIs in the existing electrical panel box.

Be sure to have a qualified electrician install AFCIs; do not attempt this work yourself. The installation involves working within electrical panel boxes that are usually electrically live, even with the main circuit breakers turned off.

Feel free to give us a call at 262 367 2487 and we’ll be happy to discuss any questions or concerns you may have regarding electrical safety in your home or place of business!

CO Detector Installation



CO Detector Installation

Written By Joseph Farmer, President of GTS Electric Company

 

Q: Should a home owner attempt to install carbon monoxide detectors themselves?

A: That depends. If your home already has interconnected smoke detectors installed (and if your house was built in the last 10 years or so, it probably does) then installing CO detectors is very easy and makes a great DIY project. You can verify this interconnection by pushing the “test” button on any of your smoke detectors- they should all activate and sound an alarm together.  If they do not-if they are not interconnected-then I would not recommend attempting rectify the situation yourself.

Before you begin any work on electrical devices of any kind be sure to de-energize the device by turning off the circuit breaker powering the device. In the case of smoke detectors, it is usually on a bed room circut, but don’t take that for granted; double and triple check. Safety first. Safety always!

Again, for optimum protection, you should install smoke and carbon-monoxide (CO) alarms that interconnect (they all sound at once) throughout your home. The illustration below shows you exactly where to install them. As a rule, smoke alarms should be installed on the ceiling or on a wall no more than 12 inches below the ceiling and away from corners, windows, and vents. Read the manufacturer’s instructions. Also make a family escape plan and practice it for day and night escapes.

Basement

Place an interconnecting dual-sensor smoke alarm near the stairwell leading upstairs. And put an interconnecting CO alarm at least 20 feet from a furnace, water heater, or other fuel-burning appliances.

Kitchen and Living area

Place an interconnecting photoelectric smoke alarm 10 feet away from—but not inside—the kitchen. Put another interconnecting dual-sensor smoke alarm and an interconnecting CO alarm in the living area. (If your home has more than 1,000 square feet per level, your local building code might require a second smoke alarm.)

Sleeping area

Place an interconnecting dual-sensor smoke alarm in each bedroom and in the hallway. If the hall location is close to a bathroom, install a photoelectric alarm since steam can trigger nuisance alarms. And place a separate interconnecting CO alarm in the hallway.

Garage 

Never put a CO alarm inside the garage, where car exhaust can trigger false alarms. Also don’t put CO alarms near any windows in your house, where fresh air can have the opposite effect.

Attic

Even if your attic isn’t finished, install an interconnecting dual-sensor smoke alarm. Even if this is not required by your local codes, I highly recommend it.

Breaker Panel Upgrades-When is it time?



Breaker Panel Upgrades-When is it time?

Written By Joseph Farmer, President of GTS Electric Company

 

Q: We are in the process of selling our home and our realtor wants us to upgrade to a 200 Amp electrical service-is this necessary?

A: Today, Americans use an incredible amount of electricity. The demand for electrical current is a hundred times greater for the average household than it was half a century ago. The way a new home is equipped for electricity has changed drastically since then.

For instance, these days an air conditioning system can use more electricity than the whole house would have fifty years ago. And, because of all the new technology constantly being introduced into the world today, it’s not uncommon for us to have some sort of electronic device, be it a television, computer, printer, or some other electricity-eating gadget, powered on somewhere in the house twenty four hours a day.

And that doesn’t include the items we own that are perpetually turned on and drawing power, even when we’re not using them. All of this electricity running through a home puts a lot of stress on the home wiring, as well as on its electric panel.

Plus, today’s homes have many more “plug-ins” for appliances, electronics, and such, which are in much greater demand today than they were even 20 years ago. The fact is, if your home is over 20 years old, you should definitely look into upgrading your service panel.

And if you’re using extension cords and power strips so you can plug several things into one receptacle, it’s definitely time to look into getting a service panel upgrade. Doing so will allow each circuit to run straight from the distribution panel. It’s simply too much of a fire hazard to have so many things running from one place.

Here are some basic guidelines that will help you decide if upgrading your service panel is something you should do immediately. If your house has less than 200 amps of electricity available with the current service panel, or if it has screw in fuses, you most likely need an upgrade. In fact, most of the time, an insurance company won’t let you buy insurance for a house that still has the “screw-in” type fuses.

Another tell tale sign, and a pretty obvious one, that you need to upgrade your service panel is not being able to use one appliance, such as your microwave, without having to turn off another, like your coffee pot, so that you don’t “trip a breaker”. In this case, it’s likely your circuits are overloaded meaning it’s definitely time for a service panel upgrade.

A Very Important side note: Always consult a licensed professional electrician  to do this work on your home or business. Service upgrades are far too dangerous to be “do it yourself” projects because of the fire hazards they pose, and because of the risk of electrocution.

We would be happy to take care of this for you! Give us a call at 262 367 2487 for a free consultation and estimate!

Garden Lighting



Garden Lighting

Written By Joseph Farmer, President of GTS Electric Company

Aesthetic lighting considerations for your prized outdoor spaces can transform your landscapes from “very nice” to “WOW!!!

Garden lighting is very big business, worth millions of dollars every year. There are so many different products available that we are spoiled for choice. For every need you might have there is something to cater to it, and more innovative and tasteful lights come out on a weekly basis. For the widest choice, searching online is the best option by far. In under an hour you can browse through catalogs to your heart’s content, and pick up some great ideas to style your garden in the process.

However, there is nothing better than viewing these products in the flesh, so a trip to garden center should also be on your list of things to do. There is no delivery charge here so bear that in mind. An online light may be cheaper at first, but when you add the shipping charge it may work out more expensive. You also have to wait for delivery from online shopping.

Spot lighting is one of the most common types used in gardens all round the world. They are quick to set up and you can adjust them very easily to change angle. Some of the latest kinds can change the intensity of the light, which you can use to reflect you mood if you like! Others rotate at differing speeds, and can do the work of many lights on their own. Colored bulbs are popular for changing the mood of the garden, which is good for the changing seasons. In summer you can bathe the garden in purples and blues to shine on the blooming flowers, and in autumn you can change this to more neutral colors.

Wrought iron light housings work well if you have other items of iron, such as railings. The light bulb is contained within a very stylish little house or lantern, and some even have leaded windows that have patterns on them, which will reflect across the lawn or plants and create shapes and shadows. The wrought iron will also weather very nicely, and they are very durable, and should last for many years without a lot of maintenance.

So back to the different kinds of light you may come across. Bollard lights are mostly used to light driveways and paths. They come in different heights, ranging from very small to over two feet high. The shape is like a small post, and that is what they are. The most common housing units come in aluminum, brass, copper, stainless steel, bronze and hardwood. Dimmer switches can be used to create a soft glow along the path that is inviting and brings calmness. This can work wonders to change your mood as you get home after a stressful day at work. The “trendy” look has the light contained in the post, as opposed to being on top of the post.

Colored lighting can be used to transform any garden in an instant. Usually the light casing has a colored filter that is used to create the effect. Most spotlights work in this manner, and you can change the filter color for a different color if needed. The typical colors used are red, yellow, green, purple, blue and white. There are other more elaborate colors such as moonlight which produces a cooling effect just like the moonlight. This is achieved by increasing the temperature of the bulb, and is mostly used with halogen lights. Honeycomb filters will spread the light over a wider range, and also split the beam into many unique patterns.

Down-lights and wall spotlights are used to point light in one direction. The down-light needs to placed up high and pointed downwards. Popular places are on walls, beams and on posts. The spot lights can be adjusted at different angles to point at a patio or a certain feature you want illuminated. Down-lights can also be placed in tree branches and have a hook that fits over the branches. If you use these then be careful not too put them in too deep or the branches and leaves may stop the light shining through. Adding frosted filters can help spread the beam all over the branches and gives an extra sparkle.

Up-lights serve a similar, but converse, purpose. Usually used to highlight and draw the eye upwards to accent a feature such as a chimney or flowering tree. And again, the color and intensity of the light can be filtered and adjusted to create just the right ambiance for your outdoor events.

Floodlights are generally used for security and just lighting up an area. They are usually on a sensor that comes on when you trigger it. You can also just have it connected to a switch and turn it on when you are about to go outside. Fitting a timer is also a useful idea for security when your not home and may deter any unwanted people because they are highly visible in your garden. The lamps are very powerful and do use a lot of electricity. Halogen is the most popular kind of bulb for these outdoor lights. The beam is not very focused, and will spread out all over the place, which is the intended result.

Joe, our Project Manager, has a great deal of passion and appreciation for aesthetic lighting design. Give him a call @ 262 367 2GTS-he’ll be delighted to arrange a design consultation for you, free of charge and with-out obligation!