May23

LED Lighting

Written by // Mike Devereux Categories // Additions, Renovations, LED Lighting

There’s been widespread interest in LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology for a number of years. Originally the LED’s were a bluish, weak light which even though it used less electricity, produced little heat and lasted for a very long time, just wasn’t a useful light source. Recently the cost and functionality of LED’s has got to the point where they’re now being commonly used in many applications. There is a lot of demand for LED products and now affordable products are coming to market quickly.

                                          

We have a small travel trailer and after our first camping trip last season and worrying about light’s being left on and batteries dying I found some replacement LED bulbs and installed them for our second trip. No worries about leaving lights on now. Just have to find a solution for the 12V water pump now. I’ll keep you posted.               

As electrical contractors, our main interest in LED’s is for lighting applications.  Compared to a standard 60W tungsten filament light bulb, the lifespan of an LED equivalent is 2500-5000% longer and the energy use is about .04%. Mainly because of the drastically reduced energy use BC Hydro has been offering significant rebates to customers over the past few years. For example, if you replace your standard exit sign, which is on 24 hrs a day 365 days a year, with an LED exit sign BC Hydro will give you a $55 rebate.

                       

We now use LED low voltage puck lights for all of our undercabinet lighting. Exterior flood and security lighting, service stations, traffic lights, automotive brake and signal lights and of course, exit signs are all other areas where LED’s are becoming the standard choice.

                              

They are still more expensive to purchase than standard lights. But when factors such as maintenance and energy use are taken into account they will pay for themselves over a 1-2 year time frame. However, be cautious with LED specification information. At a recent lighting workshop I attended sponsored by BC Hydro we were told that LED lighting is not measured in a consistent way with other lighting types. Maintenance and repair is a significant part of the work we do and installing a product which will reduce that may not be in our best interests, short term. But we will always recommend a product which we feel is the best one for our clients.

 

 

Contact us at  http://www.pacificstarelectric.ca/index.htm for more information

May23

Aluminum Wiring

Written by // Mike Devereux Categories // Aluminum Wiring

People worry about aluminum branch circuit wiring (i.e. the wires from the circuit breakers going to plugs, switches and lights) and with good reason.  Wherever possible it should be replaced with copper. However, it's sometimes not feasible to replace your aluminum wiring.

The use of aluminum branch circuit wiring was widespread from the mid 1960's until the early to mid 1970's. Problems began to occur because aluminum is prone to breakage due to improper stripping of the wires, over-tightening of splices, cold forming etc. Most problems show up in the electrical splice.  Aluminum will also oxidize when exposed to the air which causes poor conductivity and heat build-up. Because of this, there is a risk of an electrical fire with aluminum wiring and it was subsequently banned for use in branch circuit wiring.

 Aluminum wiring connected to a plug approved for copper wiring only

 

 

Some symptoms of immediate problems with aluminum wiring are lights flickering or plugs that will not work even with all the circuits turned on or plugs that work intermittently. All insurance providers will require that a home with aluminum wiring either have the aluminum wiring replaced with copper or be inspected and certified by a licensed electrician. This involves physically inspecting all of the connections, installing approved connectors, using approved aluminum devices or copper pigtail wiring and using an anti-oxidant compound. If your wiring has been inspected, repaired and certified then the aluminum wiring system will outlast most other systems in your home (plumbing, roof, perimeter drains, windows, etc.).

 

Aluminum wiring "pigtailed" with copper for connection to the plug

Aluminum is still in widespread use today for distribution wiring. It is an excellent conductor, lightweight, strong and much more cost effective than copper. The BC Hydro supply lines that come to your home are aluminum, as is almost the entire power grid. Aluminum is commonly used as main distribution wiring within multi-family buildings (townhouses, condos) to bring power from the main service to the individual units. It is also used within houses to bring power from the main electrical panel to sub-panels, stoves or other large loads.

Alumiconn Connectors

As industry pushes to develop new methods to tackle aluminum wiring in houses, Pacific Star remains ahead of the curve when it comes to incorporating new designs and technology into our work. A new type of connector, the Alumiconn Connector, is already in use in the field today. Its an aluminum to copper lug connector, which is sometimes preferred over the pigtailed method. 

 

 

 

Aluminum is an excellent choice for main distribution wiring, NOT for branch circuit wiring.

We have completed many aluminum wiring refits for our customers. We go through your entire electrical system, do any minor repairs, then convert to copper wiring at the outlet boxes. Once everything is complete we provide you with a certfication letter to send to your insurer. Your electrical system will be safer and your insurance costs will be reduced

If you would like more information or would like to schedule a free estimate visit our website at    http://www.pacificstarelectric.ca

May23

Knob and Tube Wiring

Written by // Mike Devereux Categories // Knob & Tube Wiring

If your house was built before WWII you probably have knob and tube wiring.

 

 

 

Modern house wiring has three to five conductors encased in a tough thermoplastic jacket. Knob and tube wiring is a single conductor system, the copper is protected by a rubber, fibre type coating which after 50 years or so has begun to break down. Possibly having bare copper exposed. The most dangerous part of knob and tube wiring is when it has been "tapped into" by someone who didn't know what they were doing.

                   

We have seen connections where the original knob and tube insulation has been stripped off and new wiring has been laid beside or twisted around it then taped in place. This is an electrical fire waiting to happen. Another common problem is replacing the original fuse with a larger size fuse. Someone is making toast and boiling water in the electric kettle at the same time and the fuse blows, I know, lets put in a bigger fuse! This solves the problem of the fuse blowing but causes a much more dangerous problem. A copper wire which was designed to safely carry 15 amps of electricity is now carrying 20, 25 or even 30 amps. The wire heats up, this causes the protective insulation around the wire to break down. I have seen knob and tube wiring where one small bend of the wire will cause all the original insulation to fall off. The copper itself is brittle and prone to breakage.

 

If the knob and tube wiring is in good condition and has not been tampered with, there is a way to make it safe. See solution 2.

Knob and tube wiring also has no bond (sometimes incorrectly referred to as ground) wire, the bare copper wire you see in modern wiring. If the "hot" (black) knob and tube wire touches a copper water line, or any other metal plumbing line and the wires insulation has broken down the metal may become electrified and the fuse or circuit breaker will NOT trip.

There are solutions to make knob and tube wiring safe.

1) The best solution is to remove it and install modern Loomex, Romex NMD type wiring.

2)You can also GFI protect it. This means installing a GFI receptacle or a GFCI breaker as the first device the electricity flows through. Then everything "downstream" is protected. This must be done for each circuit. Your wiring is safe and will be accepted by your insurer. See our website  http://www.pacificstarelectric.ca/faq.asp#1 for an explanation of GFI protection.

If you have knob and tube wiring and are concerned about it or would like a free estimate contact us at  http://www.pacificstarelectric.ca

 

May23

Electrical Service Upgrade

Written by // Mike Devereux Categories // New Electrical Service, Panel Upgrades, Renovations, Sub-panels

Your electrical service is the system which brings power from the electrical utility provider (BC Hydro) to your home. There are 2 different types.

Overhead: Wiring is run on power poles then distributed to individual homes and buildings.

Underground: Wiring is in underground conduits or cables then brought to the individual homes and building through an underground conduit or cable.

Both systems consist of the electrical panel, circuit breakers, meter base, grounding and bonding system

The elecrical utility provider owns and is responsible for the meter installed in your meter base and the underground or overhead lines which bring electricity to the building.

There are a number of different reasons for upgrading your Electrical Service.

1) Renovations, additions, outbuildings

2) Adding significant electrical loads

3) Replacing an outdated or unsafe Electrical Service

4) Damage from wind, vehicle impact, grow-op etc.

5) Requirement by your insurance company or the electrical inspection authority

Panel Replacement or Upgrade

This involves disconnecting power to the building, removing the existing electrical panel, then installing a new panel. The grounding and bonding systems are inspected to confirm they are intact.

Grounding: Approximately 70% of the homes where we have replaced the electrical panel have had no grounding system prior to our work. In older homes (25+ years old) the main water line has often been replaced. The original main water line was copper and this was also the grounding for the electrical system. When the original copper line is removed and the new PVC (plastic) water line is installed the home has no grounding system. The electrical system ground has essentially been disconnected from the earth. Check at your main water shut-off inside the building. There is a clamp that attaches a copper wire to the water lines. If you do not have a minimum of 10 ft of copper water line in the earth at this point you have no ground. The solution is to install an approved grounding plate or grounding rods.

 

Bonding: All metal plumbing, waste or natural gas lines in the building must be bonded (electrically connected) together. Usually natural gas lines installed after the home was built have not been connected to the bonding system. There should be a visible clamp connection from the metal plumbing and gas lines to the electrical panel. If not, the solution is to install a copper wire from the metal lines to the bond connection in the electrical panel.

Installing a Sub-Panel

Often this is all that’s needed if you need space for new circuits or an addition or renovation. The sub-panel is installed close to the original main electrical panel or where the new circuits will be needed (outbuilding, suite, new kitchen etc.).

Sometimes the existing breakers can be reconfigured or replaced to free up additional circuit space as well.

Service Rebuild

This involves removing the existing meter base, panel and (overhead service only) the conduit or cable attaching to the BC Hydro lines, then installing new components.

400A Electrical Service

400A services require a BC Hydro meter cabinet and CT's installed. Basically, there are no meters that are capable of mopre than 200A so the current must be stepped down through the CT (current transformer) so the elctricity usage can be determined

CT cabinet on the left, meter base on the right. CT's and meter still to be installed

For questions, or a free estimate on upgrading your electrical service click here:

www.pacificstarelectric.ca

 

May23

Do I Need An Electrical Permit?

Written by // Mike Devereux Categories // Additions, Permits, Renovations

All electrical work, with some small exceptions, requires a permit whether done by a contractor or a homeowner. An electrical permit gives permission or authorization in writing to perform work regulated by the BC Safety Authority. Contractors must obtain permits and submit an  Electrical Contractor Authorization as the work progresses and upon completion of the installation.

An electrical permit is not required for:

1) The replacement of defective fuses, receptacles, switches or lamps with identical types and ratings.

2) Emergency work


Who Can Take Out an Electrical Permit?

The person or company doing the work takes out the electrical permit. If you hire someone to do the work, they must obtain the permit. If you're doing the work yourself, you need to obtain the permit and must reside in the  fully detached single-family dwelling.

A fully detached single family dwelling means any of the following if occupied or intended by the owner to be occupied as a permanent residence:


1) Any detached building containing only one dwelling unit;

2) A manufactured home as defined in the Manufactured Home Act;

3) A recreational vehicle


Hiring an Electrical Contractor

If you’re re-wiring your home or doing renovations that require new or altered electrical systems, the best way to proceed is to hire a qualified electrical contractor licensed with the BC Safety Authority.

All licensed contractors are, or employ, electricians who are certified Field Safety Representatives (FSR).  An FSR is the person who will be responsible for the permit issued to the contractor, with the class of the FSR determining the scope of work the contractor is allowed to perform.  

All FSRs have demonstrated to the BC Safety Authority that they have the necessary qualifications – and passed a written exam administered by us – before being issued a Field Safety Representative Certificate of Qualification. This allows them to install, maintain, operate and repair electrical products.


Areas of the Lower Mainland

Dependng on the area you live there are different requirements for obtaining a permit.

In Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey, North Vancouver City, North Vancouver District, West Vancouver, Maple Ridge the municipalities themselves issue permits and do the inspections. They inspect 100% of the work.

In the remaining municipalities, Chilliwack, Coquitlam, Hope, Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows, Abbotsford, Mission, Whiterock, New Westminster, Richmond, Delta, Tsawwassen, Ladner the province issues the electrical permit and does the inspection. 25% of the work is inspected.

Permit Form Here

permit form.pdf (2.42 mb)

For more information or to request a free estimate click here:

www.pacificstarelectric.ca

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