What Are Ungrounded Outlets & Why Are They Dangerous?
Safety is a topic you’ll see electricians covering on a very regular basis. Why is this? Well for one, electricity is, by its nature, volatile. We’ve harnessed it, sure. But nearly any amount of misuse can result in dangers, fires that cause property loss, and even potentially fatalities. And for two, this misuse we’re talking about is unfortunately pretty darn common. It’s one of those very common complications we would like to talk to you about today: ungrounded electrical outlets.
Not sure what an ungrounded outlet is? Don’t worry, because the experts at Hoffman Electrical & A/C are here to bring you the basics right now.
What Are Ungrounded Outlets?
You’ve probably seen lots of ungrounded outlets and never really known it or thought about it. In a standard home setup with currently safe outlets you’ll see a “three prong configuration.” Two of these are longer openings and run up and down, while the last creates an almost circle under the top two. It’s that small one on the bottom that is important, because that is what makes the outlet a “grounded” one.
If anything were to go wrong with that outlet, say a transient charge (overload), the grounding wire on the appliance would send that charge “to ground” or into the grounding wire. Here it is simply shrugged off by the outlet and sent harmlessly away, no troubles at all.
In the case of an ungrounded outlet, or a “two prong configuration” that grounding wire is not present, and thus an overload would have nowhere to go except the closest current it could follow, that being the appliance itself, a nearby organic object (your hand), or into the atmosphere in your home—which can result in a fire.
Ungrounded outlets were the standard until the mid 60s and you could find them in nearly any home. But since they didn’t handle the growing electrical needs of homeowners, and they represented a dangerous hazard, they were phased out in favor of the now standard grounded outlets. And in case you were wondering, ungrounded outlets are not considered up to code. That’s why we strongly recommend updating or upgrading outlets on your current home, or a new home you’re looking to purchase.
Is it Hard to Replace Ungrounded Outlets?
From the perspective of an electrician it’s actually very simple, provided the wiring in your home is in good shape. You can expect it to be a project that needs to be handled by a professional electrician, since it requires direct contact with potentially dangerous wiring, but the process can be handled and done with in a surprisingly short amount of time, and it doesn’t typically rank high on a cost scale.
Outlet Upgrades & NEC Code Corrections in Tampa, FL
Do you have ungrounded outlets in your home, or is it time for an NEC code inspection? If so, call on the specialists at Hoffman Electrical & A/C! We’ve been helping Tampa and Clearwater homeowners stay safely plugged in for generations, so contact us online today for your consultation!
Benefits of Energy Efficienct Lighting
An energy-efficient home has become the goal of nearly every modern homeowner. Lower costs, higher performance—what’s not to love? Lighting upgrades are commonly listed as one of the quickest and simplest methods of improving home efficiency, and this is for good reason. Want to know what new energy-efficient lighting in your home brings to the table? Follow along with Hoffman Electrical & A/C to find out.
The Biggest Perks of High-Efficiency Lighting
In the simplest definition something that is energy-efficient is simply an appliance or product that offers higher performance while also using up less power. But when it comes to lighting solutions like LED or CFL fixtures and bulbs, you stand to gain a good deal more:
Lower energy costs. The big number one here tends to be that both LED and CFL feature much lower energy consumption when compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. You can expect an LED to use a tenth or less wattage, and a CLF to use roughly half to an eighth on average. For a single bulb the difference is small, but when you’re talking a whole-home and outdoor lighting upgrades the difference is huge.
Longer bulb and fixture lifespans. Tired of swapping out bulbs all the time and going through the expense of buying bulbs by the dozen? Energy-efficient bulbs do cost more upon purchase, but they also outlive traditional bulbs by many years. That places this investment firmly in the “smart idea” category.
More stable bulbs. Energy-efficient bulbs like LEDs, CFL, and even halogen bulbs all tend to work far better in temperature extremes as well, failing far less often in heavy winter weather or on hot days. They even produce less heat, meaning you stand to save a bit on cooling costs in the summer!
Less environmental impact. Being eco-friendly is becoming more and more important as time goes on, and swapping out your fixtures and bulbs for higher efficiency ones is a great way to get ahead. Efficient bulbs consume less power, which helps to reduce your home’s carbon footprint.
LED Lights & CFL Fixtures
So what are these high efficiency options we’ve been mentioning? Well the biggest (and current best overall) option on the market is LED. These are “light emitting diodes” which generate light without generating heat, which is the problem with standard incandescent bulbs. Traditional bulbs use energy to run power through an element with the resulting light coming about due to literal heat generation. That’s why they’re inefficient—most of the power is lost to heat energy rather than actual light generation.
CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs also bear mentioning as being highly efficient, but they slightly lose out to LEDs in overall performance and lifespan. Still a solid option, but a small amount inferior.
Energy Efficient Lighting Upgrades in Tampa, Florida
Interested in gaining the perks of energy-efficient lighting for your home? Reach out to the lighting and electrical experts at Hoffman Electrical & A/C today! We can help you match your needs for ideal efficient lighting no problem. All it takes is a quick call or contacting our team online!
What Appliances Should Be On a Dedicated Circuit?
Proper electrical function and access in a home is pretty much completely necessary to support normal daily activity. We need power for lights, for cooking, security, entertainment, and even more! But though many of these can be wired to operate on the same circuit, there are some that absolutely must be placed on a singular, dedicated circuit. Want to know which ones? Find out by following along with th experts at Hoffman Electrical & A/C!
For dedicated circuit installation, wiring, and complete electrical services in Tampa and St. Petersburg contact the certified electricians at Hoffman Electrical & A/C today!
What Are Dedicated Circuits?
Dedicated circuits are ones that are completely devoted to powering a single appliance or electrical application. It has a singular purpose, and it’s own place on your breaker box where it is completely divorced from interacting with other circuits and outlets in your home. This is primarily a functionality measure, as well as a safety one.
You want to use dedicated circuits for anything that draws large amounts of power on a consistent basis (fridges, HVAC, etc.) or things that pull a sudden and heavy draw (hair dryers, microwaves, etc.).
Why Do I Need These?
Seems a bit frustrating to go through all of the effort to get a dedicated circuit for each and every one of these items, we know. But it’s very important! Ensuring the proper appliances are on a dedicated circuit prevents a lot of common home risks, helping keep you and your property secure. It’s also part of the standardized NEC safety codes. By using dedicated circuits you can avoid:
Potential home fires
Risks of electrical shock
Appliances That Need to be on a Dedicated Circuit
An easy rule of thumb to follow is that anything that is fixed (installed and not moved around) needs to be on a dedicated circuit. These sorts of things would include:
Refrigerators and standing freezers
Heating and cooling systems
Ovens, stoves, and ranges
Hot water heaters
Sump pump systems
This is a good baseline to follow, however, there are actually plenty of smaller and mobile items that should also be used on dedicated circuits, such as:
Portable space heaters
Window air conditioners
Because of this need for dedicated outlets for smaller items our experts frequently recommend that a “general use” dedicated circuit be installed in many rooms throughout the home. A general use outlet in a bathroom, for example, allows the safe use of hair dryers when needed, while one in the living room allows for plugging in a space heater (or holiday tree!) come the winter.
We’re not saying anything new by talking about how awesome our kids can be. No parent would doubt for even a minute that theirs is one of the biggest parts of their lives. They also wouldn’t doubt that kids are inquisitive, often to a fault. And with a home full of electronics, outlets, and appliances, it can be hard to feel like your kids are as safe as you want them to be.
Looking for the best ways to babyproof for your child or newcomer? The experts at Hoffman Electrical & A/C are here to help! Safety is our absolute top priority, and we want to ensure our clients get all of the best info possible to keep their Tampa home and family safe.
A Quick Guide to Electrical Safety for Kids
Of all of the dangers of electricity involving kids, outlets are probably the scariest, and for good reason. They’re right down there at a kid’s eye level, and they see us using them all of the time, so of course they’re going to be curious.
Outlet covers. You’ve probably seen these little plastic or rubber covers. Just slide on right into an unoccupied outlet, and bam, safety—or is it? Honestly speaking, we wouldn’t recommend them. They are very easy to remove, even for a toddler, and they will do very little to dissuade a curious mind.
Tamper-proof outlets. These are the real deal. They use spring-loaded shutters to cut off access to outlets completely when the outlet isn’t in use, and since it uses a dual-lock, the outlet is safe from everything from butter knives to tiny fingers.
Again, there they sit, right on the ground, full of potentially dangerous plugs. The solution is simple here, too, and you can go about it one of two ways:
Use specially-designed strips. There are some really great products on the market that feature dome or box covers for strips, or there are strips that feature the cover as an addition. They’re kind of ugly, but hey, they do the trick just fine.
Reduce your dependence on strips. Why do you use power strips in the first place? Because you have too few outlets! The easiest solution here, both for you just in general, and for your kiddo, is to just install more safe outlets. Outlet installation is fast and easy for a professional electrician, and can bring you all of the safe electrical access you’ll ever need.
General Electrical Safety
We would urge parents to go room to room, looking for anything and everything that can present a danger. Get down there at kid level and really get a look!
Trippable cords. Get shorter cords, tape them down, or buy covers that hide them safely.
Unsafe outlets. Get tamper-proof outlets! The NFPA requires them (as of 2014), and they’re way safer for your kids.
Damaged wiring. Damaged wiring should be immediately repaired or replaced.
Electrical Safety in Tampa with Hoffman Electrical & A/C
Need a team of professionals that are dedicated to the best solutions for safety and electrical security for you and your family? Contact Hoffman Electrical & A/C today!
Are Childproof Outlets Really Safe?
Ask any parent what they spend a large portion of their day doing and many, if not the majority, are going to say worrying. There are loads of potential dangers out there, and as parents we are vividly aware of all of them. They exist everywhere, and we can’t really mitigate literally all of them. But we certainly have control over the dangers in our homes!
Wondering about childproofing your outlets and how best to go about it? The team at Hoffman Electrical & A/C has you covered! Our certified professionals take safety as our number one priority, and we can give you the lowdown on what works, what doesn’t, and how you can make your home safer for you and your children.
What Are Childproof Outlets & Do They Work?
The question is a simple one, but the answer takes a bit of doing. There have been many types of “childproof” outlets or safety measures offered throughout the years. Some are great and work as well as anyone could hope. Others, on the other hand, are a bit lackluster.
These methods offer some protection, but don’t tend to do as well as anyone would really like:
Plastic outlet covers. We have all probably seen these from time to time. The little plastic or rubberish “plugs” that simply socket into an outlet. The intention is to block the outlet from tiny prying fingers, and when all's said and done, they’re probably better than nothing. But the problem is they can be very easily removed, either by an inquisitive child or one that has seen you remove one before.
Slide covers. Same song, different verse. These perform similarly to the plug covers, but instead use a mechanized slide to cover the outlets. Same problem again—a curious kid can simply slide the cover and there we have an exposed outlet again.
The trouble with these solutions is that kids are super curious. Outlets are a strange, interesting thing that is right at their level and they see us fiddling with them all of the time. Bottom line, simple covers aren’t going to dissuade an inquisitive mind.
The Best Solution: Tamper-Proof Outlets
The good news is that the best option may already be in your home! Why? Because according to the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) as of 2014 all homes have to be equipped with tamper-proof outlet upgrades to be up to code. These outlets utilize spring-loaded slide shutters to block access to the outlet.
When a device is plugged in, the two prongs of the device (let’s say a television, just as an example) hit the two points of contact on the spring lock and allow the appliance to be plugged in. Without two points of contact on the prongs, the outlet will not be accessible. So a kid armed with, say, a set of keys or a butter knife, has no chance of gaining access to the outlet. It’s the superior form of safety!
Outlet Safety & Upgrades in Tampa & Clearwater, Florida
Is your home equipped with safe, tamper-proof outlets? If you’re not sure or if you’re sure it isn’t, give our experts a call. You can reach Hoffman Electrical & A/C any time on the web and we’ll be happy to help!
Childproofing Your Electrical Outlets
Access to electricity is pretty much one of the most fundamental parts of our lives in modern day. Consciously and unconsciously, we use it nearly every minute. And some of us even more often. But an important and unfortunate fact is that electricity can also be scary. There are loads of accidents involving electrical shock and fires each and every year. And when you factor your kids into the equation, things can get even scarier.
At Hoffman Electrical & A/C, the only thing more important to our team than perfect service is the absolute safety of our patrons. Your family is our family, and we want to do everything in our power to keep you safe and happy!
Why Childproofing Outlets Is Important
It’s a fact of life that children are extremely curious. From birth all the way up to the teens, kids are learning and growing at an exceptionally rapid rate due to their innate curiosity. This is why teaching safety is a serious deal and should be pursued in-depth for kids of all ages.
But an incident with an outlet isn’t as mild as say, dealing with a grumpy cat. You can’t risk kids learning by example on this one! And this is why childproofing outlets and taking steps to protect your family is so critical.
How Do I Childproof My Outlets?
First thing’s first, get down low in your home. Your toddler or infant is seeing a much different world than you are and it can be hard to accurately access the dangers they face from way up at adult height! Take note of accessible outlets (and while you’re there, it’s a good idea to peek around for tripping and choking hazards, too!) and determine the best method of removing the danger.
Ensure you’re using tamper resistant (TR) outlets. Not only are they a NEC code requirement as of 2014, but these outlets also provide a layer of defense against unwanted use by children. We say layer because these do help considerably, but you should rely on additional defenses as well. They’re tamper resistant, not tamper-proof. Also, be sure to have these installed by a professional! They aren’t exceptionally difficult to install at all, but if any mistakes are made, they won’t be all that safe and can be a pain in the foot to use.
Use outlet covers (shutters are best!). Even those little plastic plug covers are decent, but the trouble is many parents forget to reinsert them after use, and while they’re lying around they present a choking hazard. For the best solution, look into shutter-style covers that are directly installed in the outlet. These are permanent, and are very effective at keeping your little ones safe and away from harmful outlet incidents.
Why Choose Hoffman Electrical & A/C for Your Florida Residential Electric Needs?
Hoffman Electrical & A/C is a family owned and operated business serving the Tampa and Brandon, Florida communities since 1989. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff of electricians install, repair, and perform regular maintenance check-ups in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. When you need an electrician in your home, let our family help yours! We provide a variety of in-home electrical services, including installations, repair, and routine maintenance. Not only do we offer high-quality installs, we’ll also make sure your equipment continues to work efficiently and safely.
For electrical services in Tampa, Brandon, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, or their surrounding areas, contact us online or call us at (866) 238-3243 today!
Electrical Outlets Not Working? Find Out Why!
It’s easy to take electricity for granted—until the outlets stop working. To test whether an outlet or appliance is to blame, try plugging in something else. If it still doesn’t work, you know it’s the outlet that’s at fault.
Malfunctioning outlets aren’t just a nuisance; they can also indicate a more serious underlying problem. Identify the different reasons for electrical outlets not working to help you pinpoint what’s wrong. (more…)
What Causes an Outlet to Spark? Find Out!
The electricity running through your home from the main power grid is fast and hot. In the U.S., supply lines carry electricity at 115 to 240 volts. When you plug something in, you’re dipping into this current to power your appliances and lights, making the potential for electrical outlet sparking very real. (more…)
Safety Is First When Dealing With Electricity At Home
We live in an electrical world. Yet few of us are as trained and equipped to handle electricity as the licensed professionals at Tampa’s own family-owned Hoffman Electrical & A/C.
So from our family to yours, here are a few tips you should follow when it comes to electrical safety in the home:
Install outlets that are GCFI (ground fault circuit interrupter), which are indispensable to ensure safety in the house, though they are specifically designed for outdoor use.
Use GCFI. Install GCFI outlets in various rooms, such as bathrooms, living rooms, and kitchens. This will tell you when there is a faulty wiring connection in the house. In such a case, it will automatically trip and shut down, limiting any damage to appliances.
Be careful with your power sources. Avoid using extension cords since they tend to encourage overloads and cause electrical hazards. This is one of the most overlooked safety tips.
Look into other options. To accommodate multiple appliances, use a plug strip that is at least two to three feet long. A high-quality plug strip will give you more power openings without the hazards. However, if you are looking for a long-term solution, you could always add more power wall plugs.
Clean your clothes dryer lint screen after every use. Lint buildup can be a fire hazard.
Use the right wattage replacement bulb. The heat from higher wattage bulbs can singe the ceiling or fixture or even cause a full-blown fire.
Always use fuses that are the right size. Many people prefer to use fuses because they are easier to replace than circuit breakers, but they often use one that is too large. To avoid hazards, use the correct size for the wiring in the fuse box, and make sure they are tightened.
Hoffman Electric, which has been serving Tampa since 1989, is always on call to help with your electrical needs. We service residential, commercial, and industrial clients. Call us at 866-238-3243! We are conveniently located at 502 S. Falkenburg Rd., Ste. D-8, Tampa, 33619.