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Show Your Electrical System Some Love

by VitalStorm Content on February 9, 2018

Valentine’s Day is all about expressing love, and especially for those people in our lives who may be so important but perhaps a bit under-appreciated.  It’s also a holiday that can—if the proper energy is applied—serve as a metaphorical “home improvement”. As you’re making plans for the upcoming date, use these tips from Blue Flame to give your home electrical system some love, and you and your sweetheart can enjoy literal home improvements, too.

Unlike relationships, no one wants to see sparks fly while working on the home electrical system. In addition to some simple safety procedures that we’ll outline below, it’s always a good idea to consult an electrician and check your local codes to determine whether you need a permit to perform the work. The level of professional assistance you need will depend on your expertise, your knowledge of the home’s electrical wiring and local codes. If you live in Seattle or the surrounding cities, it’s likely that we’ve got technicians who work regularly in your town, and we’re happy to provide assistance, guidance or advice on your project.

The Heart of Home Electrical Systems

When performing any electrical repair, you need to cut power to whatever you’re working on in order to maximize safety. The best way to accomplish this is by flipping the associated switch in your home’s main breaker box. Hopefully, you open the breaker box panel to find an array of circuit breakers neatly labeled. If that’s the case, flip the switch corresponding to the area of the home where you’re working, and move on.

If you’re like most of us, the labels are probably either faded, not present or scribbled in what must be a doctor’s handwriting. If your switches aren’t labeled, your first home improvement task will be to identify and label each one. This project isn’t much of a dinner party conversation-starter, but it’ll save you lots of time down the road, and dramatically improve the safety of your home electrical system.

The simplest way to do this is to flip each breaker one-by-one and see which area of the house loses electricity. This task is much simpler if you’ve got a helper. Label each breaker as you go. If you’ve never won any penmanship awards—or just want it to look nicer—you can buy pre-typed adhesive labels for circuit breakers at hardware stores.

Energize Your Life
Replacing or upgrading a wall power outlet is among the most common residential electrical fixes and upgrades you can do. This task can provide convenience, make things look nicer, improve safety and fix annoying outlets that tend to have a loose hold on power cords. When shopping for a replacement, you’ll have some options. If the outlet you’re replacing is in a high-traffic area, consider buying a unit with USB power receptacles for cell phone and tablet charging.

If the outlet is in the bathroom or kitchen (and some other areas, depending on local codes) you need to use a plug with ground-fault circuit protection. These safety devices detect and shut off the circuit if the hotwire is grounded.

Once you’ve cut power at the breaker, unscrew the outer plastic panel of the outlet you’ll replace. Once you’ve double-checked that the power is off with a voltage tester, remove the two screws fastening the outlet to its wall enclosure. Carefully pull the outlet out of the enclosure. Three colored screws should hold three different wires to the outlet.

The black wire is the “hot” wire that carries current (often attached to the outlet with a gold-colored screw). The neutral line is a white wire (attached with a silver screw), and the green or bare wire is the ground (green screw). Loosen the screws holding the wires and remove the outlet, replacing it with your new one. Once you’ve mounted the new outlet to the enclosure and set its face plate, you’re ready to turn the power back on and test the wall plug.

When you need help with your electrical system, the professionals at Blue Flame Heating & Air Conditioning are always here to help! Give us a call today at 206-388-5667 to schedule an appointment today!