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How to Avoid the Most Common Winter Electrical Problems

Winter weather puts a strain on many home electrical systems. It’s not just that you could accidentally find yourself without power on one of the coldest days of the year—some electrical problems can cause fire hazards, especially if you’re overloading your circuits with holiday décor, space heaters and electric blankets. Avoid having to call for an emergency electrician in Alexandria, VA by following these tips to keep your home and office safe.

Inadequate electrical system

Your electrical system works overtime in the winter, from your heating system to the holiday decorations. Have your lights been flickering, or have you been tripping your breakers more than usual? You might be overloading your electrical system.

There are two solutions to address this problem. First, you can evaluate your appliances and decide if it’s time to replace them with energy-efficient models. If your appliances (like the washer, dryer and refrigerator) are more than 10 years old, they’re probably using a lot more power than they have to (and more than you realize).

The second solution is to “heavy up,” which is an industry expression for increasing the amperage of your home’s electrical system. If your home is over 20 years old, it may not be wired for the demands of today’s technology and appliances. You can have an electrician come inspect your system to see if you’re at risk for fires or outages.

Outdated heating equipment

Are you still using your old space heaters and electric blankets? If they’re more than five years old, they could be a hazard to your home. Space heaters are great for warming up the parts of your house that the heater never seems to reach, but they use a lot of electricity in the process. Always plug your heater into a dedicated wall outlet and unplug it when not in use. If your space heater’s or electric blanket’s cords are frayed or worn, it’s time to replace them.

Electrical fire hazards

Holiday décor and dry winter weather can create electrical fire and shock hazards. Always keep your Christmas tree away from heat sources, and inspect all of your holiday lights for damage and wear. If they’re older than five years, consider replacing them.

Extension cords can also be a source of problems—they don’t reliably trip circuit breakers, which can cause fires. That means that you should only use them temporarily, and unplug them when not in use.

Finally, avoid electrical shocks from dry winter weather by using a humidifier in your home.

Emergency electrician in Alexandria, VA

Since 1985, Walsh Electric has served the Alexandria area with skilled electrical contractors who can handle your toughest problems. We offer services for residential, commercial and government clients and have electricians on call and ready to help 24/7. Whatever the size and scope of your electrical problem, our technicians can help you get back to normal, upgrade your electric system or perform routine inspection and maintenance to avoid future problems. Call us today to find out how we can help you.

Common Electrical Problems in the Winter

Winter brings a host of issues, including the possibility of electrical problems. With cold and inclement weather in full swing, holiday decorations overloading the system and other major issues, you could find yourself unexpectedly without power. The best way to prevent problems is to catch them before they start, so you’re not calling an electrician in Alexandria, VA when you could be doing something more fun.

Here’s a list of what to watch out for when the temperature drops:

  • Overloading your breakers: If you’ve been tripping breakers more regularly than usual, you’re not alone. The holiday season is beautiful thanks in part to Christmas trees, lights, and other decorations—but it’s also very easy for these temporary additions to overload your electrical system. One solution for this is to upgrade your home’s electrical system with the help of a licensed electrician. That goes double if you live in an older home where using a hairdryer at the same time as your coffee maker seems to cause serious issues.
  • Space heaters: Space heaters are a potential fire hazard when used incorrectly. They also consume a significant amount of energy with limited results, making them an inefficient way to heat your home. If you do use them, be sure to plug them into a dedicated plug, unplug them when not in use and always keep them away from drapery, upholstery and other hazards.
  • Static electricity: When the air is dry, static electricity can become a real problem. If you have a damaged electrical circuit or fire hazard nearby, static electricity can result in severe electric shocks. If you suspect that your electrical system is outdated, call an electrician. Otherwise, using a humidifier in your home can help cut down on the risk.
  • Outdated heating systems: In addition to space heaters, any type of heating element you use—including electric blankets and throws—need to be checked regularly for any problems. This is because outdated equipment is often incompatible with modern electrical systems, and can present a fire hazard. If your electric throw is more than five years old, it may need to be replaced. Always unplug heating elements when not in use.
  • Inclement weather and power outages: Finally, winter storms can knock out power at the least convenient time, which is why you should strive to make sure your electrical system is protected, running safely and has a backup generator for the worst storms. Call an electrician for routine maintenance before the season starts, or as soon as you notice any problems like lights flickering, breakers tripping or unusual outages.

    Winter can wreak havoc on your electrical system, but with preventative maintenance, you’ll stay warm all season long.

Hire an electrician in Alexandria, VA

The electricians at Walsh Electric have been offering skilled electrical contracting and repair services since 1985. Whether you’re a residential, commercial or government client, we have the knowledge and experience to handle whatever challenges you’re facing, 24/7. Call us today—we can help get your home or business back to normal in no time.

Avoid Blowing Breakers This Holiday Season

There are homeowners who set up simple outdoor light displays during the winter holidays, and others who put on a vivid light show. Even if you are in the first group, it is likely that tree lights and other decorations also pressure your fuse box. It is easy to make mistakes that leave your home in the dark. Here are five tips for avoiding blown breakers and a call to an emergency electrician in Alexandria, VA this holiday:

  • Know what you are using: There are many gimmicks over the holidays that can wreak havoc on breakers. For example, there are adapters that allow you to plug Christmas lights into your light fixtures. This only works if you do not exceed the wattage limit and make contact with the fixture base. In their enthusiasm, many homeowners plug too many light strings into these fixtures and wind up shorting out their system. To be safe, do not even think about running multiple light strings unless you check the wattage limits first. Running lights to more than one fixture will be less convenient, but it is better than setting your house on fire.
  • Check amperage: Your residential electrical system has its limits. Fortunately, the packaging for your lights indicate amperage ratings and wattage. If there is only wattage available, divide that number by 120 to get amperage. That will help you determine how many light strings can plug into one fixture or outlet.
  • Be careful when hanging decorations: Other Christmas decorations, like wreaths and banners, are light and temporary. For that reason, many homeowners do not nail hanging hardware into a stud. While the weight may not be an issue four your walls, it is an issue for any wiring running behind them. If you nail into a wire, it becomes a hazard and will trip your breaker. The best way to avoid this scenario is to nail hanging hardware into studs.
  • Take power savings measures: Many of the same tips shared for reducing your utility bills can also lower chances of sustaining an outage. Unplug small appliances you are not currently using. Spread out electronics in your home so there are not too many plugged into one outlet or concentrated in one room. Use surge protectors for valuable electronics like large TVs and computers. Microwave ovens are especially demanding on breakers, so consider moving yours into your dining room so it is on a separate circuit from your larger kitchen appliances. Basically, you do not want to concentrate too many items on one circuit.
  • Consider LED lights: LED lights are the latest technology in saving electricity and producing soft light in your home. Christmas lights are also offered in LED varieties. They will lighten the load significantly and also reduce the burdens on your breaker box. This can be extremely handy if your outdoor outlets are all on the same circuit.

Walsh Electric offers emergency electrician services in Alexandria, VA if your light display gets out of hand this holiday. Keep our number nearby in case you experience a blown breaker as you celebrate.

Five Precautions for Your Circuit Breaker and Switchgear

Switchgear preventative maintenance is essential for working electric systems. When you ignore switchgear and circuit breakers within it, you are headed for disaster—especially if you run a business with high electricity demands. Here are five precautions to take for switchgear and circuit breakers:

  • Maintain disconnect switches: If circumstances demand you cut off the power, the last thing you want is a malfunctioning disconnect switch. Cleaning, lubricating and testing them is a vital exercise to take at least once a month. When you perform this testing, it is also a good time to drill for power outages. This ensures tools and procedures are ready if power outages affect your production.
  • Perform inspections: Visual inspections of bus connections and breakers helps you find wear and tear before it affects the safety of your crew and the productivity of your site. This only needs to be an annual inspection, and you may want to consider an infrared thermal survey as well. The latter can pick up on microscopic breaches that can later cause fires or electrocution. If it has been a while since your equipment was thoroughly inspected, perform an infrared survey as soon as possible.
  • Do not neglect testing procedures: Every two to three years, you should perform electrical testing of circuit breakers and transformers. Other tests include checking ground faults, cable insulation and contact resistance of fuses. If any of these elements fails, you will experience a power outage and likely expensive repairs. It is better to find problems before they explode (sometimes literally) than wait until you are making an emergency call to an electrician.
  • Review your industry’s standards: The aerospace and fire protection industries recommend specific standards for electrical procedures. These include tests specifically for the needs of your equipment and site and other preventative maintenance that may be relevant specifically for your field. Failing to follow these procedures could lead to more than outages—you can also fail government inspections and incur fines. Do not cut these corners. Check out recommended maintenance programs that are specific to your line of business.
  • Plan regular cleaning and lubrication sessions: Many electrical incidents arise from debris and surface damage like dents, rust and scratches. When switchgear becomes dirty, it is more likely to get jammed and make it difficult to redistribute power or shut it off when it is needed. Aside from your disconnect switches, you also need to address all current-carrying parts and sliding surfaces—basically any part that moves. This also includes vacuuming interiors and filters.

When your site contains switchgear and circuit breakers, you want safe, reliable and constant power without outages or serious accidents. Do not be the one who takes these systems for granted and wonders later why you now have a large repair bill. Use preventative maintenance to take the needed steps to avoid potential issues and make upgrading your system easier.

Walsh Electric offers switchgear preventative maintenance in Alexandria, VA and the greater Washington, DC area. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Optimize Your Office with Network Cabling

Offices these days are using a wider range of devices that use wireless network connectivity, but that doesn’t mean structured cabling systems have become outdated. Though wireless has become standard for convenience, there is no denying that structured cable networks still provide a significantly more reliable connection and greater security than wireless.

Here are just a few of the reasons why you should focus on optimizing your office with network cabling with the help of our commercial electrical contractors in Alexandria, VA:

  • Structured cabling systems are simpler: The vast majority of businesses use a variety of devices and equipment all at the same time. Single cabling systems significantly cut down on the complexity associated with the use of multiple wiring infrastructure in a single location. This means that if a problem occurs and you’re using structured cabling, you will have a much easier time pinpointing the problem that you need to solve. The result is greater efficiency and ease of use for everyone in your office, and an easier job for your IT professionals.
  • Less downtime: We already noted that structured cabling makes for better organization. This means it becomes easier to solve connectivity problems, and your business won’t suffer from as much downtime. Considering downtime can lead to lost sales opportunities, this is an important benefit. In this way, structured cabling can help save your business some money.
  • Network Cable

  • Flexibility: Structured cabling is a highly flexible type of network system. It can easily accommodate new additions and moves to new locations. This means if you ever relocate, you won’t need to worry about having to start from scratch with your cabling, which can be a big source of relief for companies that have invested a significant amount of time in it already.
  • Adaptability: Structured cabling systems provide very high bandwidth to those who use it. This means you’ll be able to support a wider variety of applications that might require more bandwidth, such as video conferencing, streaming and various other forms of multimedia, all without interrupting your connection and the system in general. This also helps you future-proof your system—with greater bandwidth and a wider range of capabilities, you’ll be prepared for new technologies and features as they get introduced, which, given the speed of technological innovation we’ve seen in our modern world, is a crucial benefit to be able to take advantage of.
  • Simple management: A structured cable system allows you to keep better track of which cable is connected to which location, meaning you don’t have to constantly get in touch with a network support team to deal with cable management. Again, this also makes it much easier to find problems when they do occur within your system.
  • If you’re interested in learning more about structured cable networks and the various benefits associated with them, we encourage you to contact the commercial electrical contractors in Alexandria, VA at Walsh Electric today. We’d be happy to answer any of your questions and tell you more about your options.