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How Do I Know if My Electrical Panel Is Out of Date?

Electrical panels, also known as breaker boxes, are essential when it comes to the performance, safety, consistency and efficiency of electricity in a home or business. Unfortunately, many property owners encounter major problems with electrical panels that require constant adjustments and cause limited electrical performance. If you’re considering a breaker panel upgrade, but you’re unsure whether the time is right, keep reading to find out what to look for to know whether your electrical panel is out of date.

Signs that it’s time for a breaker box upgrade

An out-of-date electrical panel is more likely to have performance problems. In addition, electrical panels that are out of date are at higher risk of malfunctioning and starting fires. With that in mind, it’s important to be aware of when it’s the right time for a breaker panel upgrade. Here are some things to be aware of to make sure you know when it’s the right time to upgrade your breaker box:

Constant tripping: One of the most common signs that it’s time for a breaker panel upgrade is constant tripping. If your circuits seem to trip every time you plug an appliance into a certain outlet or power up an extra device, it’s very likely your breaker panel doesn’t have the capacity to handle your home’s or business’s electrical needs. Not only is constant tripping an annoying and inconvenient issue to deal with, it also indicates that your electrical system might be unsafe. If you notice that your circuits trip often, it’s a good idea to consider upgrading your electrical panel.

Disorganized wiring: A breaker panel is supposed to be organized and make it easy for property owners to manage electrical power throughout a home or business. Unfortunately, organization is not always a reality for property owners—especially those with old or damaged breaker panels. If your breaker panel is filled with a mass of disorganized wiring, it’s definitely time to consider an upgrade.

Remodeling plans: Most property owners focus on aesthetic and functional changes when planning a remodel, but there are a lot of things below the surface that should come into play as well. Oftentimes, a remodeling project requires upgraded electrical systems to support new wiring and additional appliances. If you’re planning a remodeling project, it might be time to upgrade your breaker box to make sure your electrical system has the capacity to support expansion.

Old age: Even if you haven’t noticed any major performance problems with your breaker system, it might be time for an upgrade if your breaker box is more than 20 years old. Most breaker boxes last between 20 and 30 years, so keep this in mind when considering whether it’s time for replacement.

Professional breaker panel upgrades

For a professional breaker panel upgrade to improve the performance of your electrical system, reach out to the team of experts at Walsh Electric. For decades, we have been committed to providing the highest quality electrical services possible to our customers, including breaker panel upgrades and wiring repairs. Find out more about everything we have to offer and get started with a consultation and a quote by giving us a call today.

Tips for Installing Exterior Pole-Mounted Lighting Systems

Installing a pole-mounted light or luminaire is a complex process that takes harsh ambient conditions—including temperature, corrosive chemicals, dirt and even physical abuse—into account. Read on to get to know the basics about pole lighting installation.

Start with preparation

The first step of luminaire installation involves architects, civil engineers or landscape architects. Before making any decisions regarding exterior lighting, it’s important to secure proper clearance and approvals from all involved parties. If you’re working on a new construction project, make sure final grading and appropriate site landscaping is finished prior to installation.

Choose fixtures carefully

When choosing an exterior luminaire, watertightness is key. Check all sealing needs and related electrical components and replace any defective items. Try to avoid products that use steel components, since they’re prone to corrosion, but always follow the fixture manufacturer’s instructions. As you select a fixture, review local codes to make sure the fixture you select can handle the typical wind conditions of your area.

Prepare the foundation

Install all electrical work during form preparations for pole foundations. Make sure there’s plenty of conduit and extensions, and that all conduits conform to manufacturer’s recommendations. Install anchor bolts in the concrete and allow for proper curing. It’s best to use the fittings provided by the manufacturer, although bolts with a plated or galvanized finish provide enhanced protection against corrosion. When the pole is in place and you’re ready to pour the concrete around the pole, keep the bolts in plumb orientation.

Install the pole

Proper mounting is of utmost importance during pole lighting installation. Follow all manufacturer’s instructions, including their bolt pattern, since orientation can be critical to securing the mounting plate. Use leveling nuts, flat washers and lock washers to hold the pole in place. Finally, add a non-shrinking or expanding concrete grout between the pole base and the concrete foundation. It’s best to put a small drain hole through the grout to the pole interior to provide for proper drainage.

Wire the connections

The next step of pole lighting installation involves wire connectors. Make sure your connectors have below-grade rating, which keeps them safe from moisture. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and follow the label to determine maximum size and number of conductors required.

Add the lamps

Once the pole is installed and electricity is connected, add the actual lighting fixtures as the final step of the process. Generally, you should select an E-type lamp for an enclosed fixture, an S-type lamp for an open one and an O-type lamp with protective glass if you’re looking for additional protection from damage. Make adjustments as necessary to ensure the light is distributed and aimed at the right spot, and be sure to follow all ordinances that restrict light pollution from nearby properties.

Pole lighting installation is not a do-it-yourself job—it requires the knowledge and expertise of professional electricians who know exactly what they’re doing. With a large and expensive fixture like a luminaire, you can’t afford a shoddy job. Contact Walsh Electric today to learn more about the process of pole lighting installation.

What You Need to Know About Federal Government Contracting

It takes a special kind of electrical contractor to provide electrical service for federal, state and local government buildings and facilities. All government projects must be carried out with great sensitivity, since they require a greater level of safety and security standards than typical commercial or residential jobs.

Government jobs are unique

Billions of dollars every year are spent on government contracts, and strict standards and specifications need to be followed by every subcontractor, including electrical contractors. Government electrical contractors need to be prepared to make competitive bids for projects, particularly for federal ones since they are always in control when it comes to standard specifications and terms and conditions of contracts.

Federal acquisition regulations

Government electrical contractors need to follow standard terms and conditions as well as federal acquisition regulations (FARs). These specifications are enforced and interpreted by boards of contract appeals. When working on federal jobs, government contractors can browse a wide range of case law to provide guidance on any contract disputes that may arise. This gives contractors some level of predictability in terms of how a decision regarding an individual project will be rendered.

Design/build concepts

Ordinary jobs can follow a design/build approach, since contractors have greater levels of professionalism in their specific area of expertise (for example, an electrical contractor or building envelope contractor). Design/build contracts are also monitored by federal agencies that have experience with FARs. In other words, the government still has full control over the design and execution of projects.

If you’ve provided the government with detailed specs and drawings, you need to meet certain performance standards or risk the chance of a dispute. To resolve these disputes, boards will look at individual specs and determine whether they relate to design or performance. Obviously, when performance is a concern, the contractor will have to follow specs to the letter, while those that put too much of a burden on the contractor to deliver a workable result can be adjusted in some cases.

The dispute process

All government contractors will file a dispute according to standard procedure, and appeals are filed in a standard way, too. Claims and disputes in government contracts are actually quite common, and you can find advice on the types of damages that are recoverable as well as what proof you must show to recover. Check your government printing office or make a Freedom of Information Act request from the agency to for a manual with all relevant information.

The Severin doctrine

This doctrine comes from English common law and states that the government was immune from lawsuits unless it consented to be sued. Issuing a contract is generally seen as consent. While laws vary from state to state and among municipalities, there’s usually an overlay of federal regulations on top of state-sponsored projects. It’s always advisable to seek legal advice from an experienced attorney if you have questions regarding government contracts.

When you need the expert assistance of a team of professional government electrical contractors with specialized expertise in handling government projects, contact Walsh Electric today. With decades of experience in the industry, we know and understand the strict regulations and sensitive security matters involved with these projects.

Electrical Dos and Don’ts for Kitchen Remodels

Congratulations on deciding to do a new kitchen remodel! Kitchen upgrades can make preparing meals a much more pleasant experience, from aesthetics to useful new appliances. However, it’s important that you consult a residential electrical contractor during your remodel. Working with an electrical contractor will ensure your kitchen’s electrical infrastructure is able to handle all of your remodeling needs.

Here are some tips for your kitchen remodel.

Plan on having plenty of circuits

When you work with your general contractor and builder to create a plan, they’ll usually have an electrical contractor they like to work with. A good electrical contractor will know that the electrical infrastructure is one of the most important parts of the remodel—after all, how good is a kitchen if you can’t use your electric appliances?

To that end, most kitchens require at least nine to 10 circuits—one for each major appliance (dishwasher, refrigerator, stove, microwave) and several for any eating areas or islands. The larger and more luxurious your kitchen, the more circuits you’ll need.

This process will require getting permits from your municipality. Your general and electrical contractors usually handle this process, since they’re more familiar with the process and the red tape involved. However, it’s a good idea to check in with them to ensure that this is on their to-do list—if it’s not, you’ll need to do it yourself. Proceeding without a permit could expose you to some unfortunate consequences, like having to tear out the work and start over. When interviewing contractors, be sure to ask who handles the permit process.

Consider LED lighting

Whether your kitchen remodel is large or small, you should consider replacing your old lighting with LED lights. LED lights are energy efficient, bright and versatile—you can create a number of different lighting effects with them for a lot less money. Plus, they don’t emit as much heat as incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, making them an overall safer choice for your remodel.

When you’re designing your new kitchen, be sure to ask your contractors about rewiring the lights for LED fixtures.

Remember even minor remodels involve electrical repair

Finally, keep in mind that no matter how minor your remodel, most will involve some sort of electrical repair. There’s no better time to replace old wiring or ensure your system is properly grounded than when you rip out your cabinets and appliances. Ensuring your electrical system is up to par will make it more likely your appliances last for years—maybe even decades.

Hiring an electrical contractor will help you rest assured your kitchen wiring is safe and up to code. In turn, you’re less likely to run into problems when there’s an inspection—or later on down the road, after the dust is vacuumed up and you’re enjoying your new kitchen.

When it comes to electricity and kitchen remodels, the only major “don’t” is failing to hire a residential electrical contractor. It’s the safer choice, and it will help ensure your project is completed to code and in a time-efficient manner. For help with your remodel, call Walsh Electric today.

Benefits of LED Lighting

When considering lighting repair in Alexandria, VA, it may be advantageous to consider using LED light bulbs and other types of LED lighting to replace old incandescent bulbs. The technology has come quite far in recent years, and these days you may be surprised at the lighting solutions that are available. Here are some of the benefits of LED lighting.

Longevity

Some of the first light bulbs ever invented were made to last 100 years in the right conditions. Somewhere along the way to modern times, the light bulb lost its longevity—but it may be gaining some of it back thanks to the invention of LED bulbs. LED lighting, which stands for light-emitting diode, is one of the most durable types of lighting. In fact, LED bulbs can last up to 25 times longer than incandescent lighting. That means you will spend less time and money on lighting maintenance in Alexandria, VA.

Energy saving

LED is one of the most efficient types of lighting available. It uses 75 percent less energy than traditional bulbs, and some types are even Energy Star-rated products. This energy savings is not only good for your bank account, but it’s also good for the planet. It’s estimated that if widespread use of LEDs catches on in the United States by 2027, it could save approximately as much energy as that of the output of 44 large power plants. At today’s energy prices, that equates to a savings of $30 billion overall.

Placement versatility

One of the most impressive things about LED lighting is its versatility. LEDs are small components that emit a lot of light, so they can be used in many nontraditional settings. For example, LED lighting strips can be installed under kitchen cabinets for extra illumination. Another idea is to install an LED lighting strip behind a headboard in a bedroom for a unique look.

Color

Another cool thing about LED lighting is its ability to change color. With incandescent bulbs, the only way to change color was to have a different color of glass around the lighting element. But with LEDs, it’s possible to set the color to match your mood at any given moment or to have them continuously change color in a programmable pattern.

Less heat

Something that is often glossed over in regard to incandescent lighting is the amount of heat it generates. These bulbs release 90 percent of their energy as heat, and only 10 percent as light. This is why an incandescent light bulb feels hot to the touch when it’s on or just after it’s been turned off. In comparison, LEDs emit very little heat and can be handled when they are turned on with no problem. All that energy being released as light rather than heat also helps you save on your monthly energy bills.

If you’re considering LED lighting for your home, contact Walsh Electric today for great customer service from the top residential electrical contractor in Alexandria, VA. We have over 30 years of experience and know how to get the job done right.