Phantom power is when appliances and electronics continue to draw power even when they are turned off, but still plugged into a power outlet. According to BC Hydro, this adds up to about 10% of an average BC household’s annual electricity. This does not include appliances that need constant power such as the fridge, freezer, furnace or AC. In most households, this can add up to hundreds of dollars of wasted electricity over the course of a year.
The following are some of the biggest consumers of phantom power:
Devices with remote controls – TV, PVR, Blu-ray/DVD player & garage door opener
External power supply for a router, printer or cable modem
Chargers for a mobile phone, tablet, laptop, GPS & handheld gaming device
Anything with a continuous display – alarm clock, oven, microwave, toaster oven, coffeemaker with a digital clock, cordless phones connected to base, digital thermostats
Electronic components such as computers in sleep mode, not fully turned off, electrical toothbrush on charger
*Many PVR/DVRs use almost as much power when turned off or in standby mode as when they are used with the TV on.
How to Reduce Phantom Power
Although there may be benefits to keeping some electronic components on sleep or standby mode, there are ways to reduce phantom power:
unplug appliances & electronics that are not used very often
chargers and charging stations should be unplugged as soon as the battery is fully charged
use a power bar with an on/off switch or a timer
when purchasing appliances & electronics, look for the Energy Star label
use sleep mode on your computer instead of using a screen saver which uses twice as much energy.
BC Hydro reports that the average Canadian home has 25 or more devices that use standby power.
To power home electronics in average home: 1970’s – 290 kilowatt hours per year. 1990’s – 485 kwh per year. 2013 – 960 kwh per year. 2020 – Estimated 1500 kwh per year, based on this trend.
Over time homeowners accumulate more sophisticated electronic devices and consumption of phantom power increases.
Homeowners need to weigh the difference between what is practical and realistic versus what is wasteful and costing them unnecessary expense.
Every year, Canadians die or become ill because of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless toxic gas produced by fuel-burning appliances. If your home has one or more fuel burning appliances, or an attached garage, you should definitely have carbon monoxide detectors installed on every level of the building.
Some of the Most Common Sources of CO Are:
Vehicles idling in an enclosed space, such as a garage. The CO will build up and possibly leak into the building. Even sitting in an idling car in an open garage can be dangerous.
Gas water heaters, ovens & dryers. If fuel-burning appliances are not installed properly, regularly maintained or used correctly, CO can build up inside the building.
Fuel-burning heating systems such as gas or propane furnaces & wood, coal or gas fireplaces can emit CO gas. For safe use of these heating sources, proper maintenance and venting is very important.
Portable barbecues & back-up generators, which are intended for outdoor use only.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:
Chest tightness or shortness of breath
Because of their similarity, poisoning symptoms are often misdiagnosed as the flu.
How to Protect Yourself:
Never use fuel burning heaters in an enclosed area because of the risk of CO
Don’t let your car idle in the garage, even when the garage door is open
Inspect fuel burning appliances annually
Never use portable gas, propane or charcoal grills indoors
Never use a gas-powered generator in an enclosed space
Don’t use a gas oven to heat your home because CO can build up inside
To warn of increased levels of this deadly poisonous gas, carbon monoxide detectors should be installed on every floor. Detectors can be purchased as a single unit or in combination with ionization smoke alarm units. For more information on CO/smoke detector safety, click here
Contact Blue Crest Electric and one of our electricians would be happy to install a hard-wired, battery backup CO detector in your home.
Now that fall has arrived and the weather is getting colder, homeowners have turned off circulating fans and AC units and may be looking for supplementary electric heating options. When your home’s primary heating source is not adequate, or you are looking for additional heat in a specific area, supplementary electric heat may be the answer. Remember to ensure safe clearances of at least 3 feet from flammable materials such as curtains and bedding whenever using any kind of supplementary electric heating appliances.
Options for Supplementary Electric Heating
Baseboard Heaters – Heats only the room you need according to its own thermostat. Requires a dedicated, properly sized circuit. Should be installed by a certified licensed electrician. They are a good source of heat for a single room and a great way to supplement your heat.
Portable Heaters – Works as a supplementary heat source for a small area. Must be plugged directly into the outlet, never use an extension cord or power bar as this may cause overheating. Make sure you don’t plug any other electrical device into the same outlet. A 1500-watt heater should be on a dedicated circuit, this will prevent the overloading of circuits. Portable heaters should always be placed on a level, flat surface to prevent tipping. Never leave supplementary electric heating appliances unattended.
Electric Fireplace – Heats a small room. Must be plugged directly into the outlet, never use an extension cord or power bar. Should be on a dedicated circuit. There are many different designs, free standing or attach to the wall, and sizes available. Creates ambiance. An electric fireplace can be placed almost anywhere along a wall. A good way to supplement your heat in a smaller space.
Best Way to Reduce the Cost of Supplementary Electric Heating
Turning down the thermostat during the day when you aren’t home as well as at night will help reduce energy costs. There is no point in heating an unoccupied house or heating the whole house at night when you are under warm covers. Using programmable thermostats allow you to set temperatures at preset times. BC Hydro claims that lowering your thermostat by 2 degrees will save you 5% on your heating bill. Lowering it 5 degrees could save 10%. For other ways to reduce your electric bill, click here.
Contact Blue Crest Electric and one of our technicians would be happy to install a programmable thermostat to help with heating your home.
Owners and perspective buyers of older homes often face insurance concerns with aluminum wiring. New policy applications, or the renewal of existing policies, may require an electrical inspection to confirm the presence of aluminum wiring in the home. Insurance companies consider aluminum wiring in the home to be a greater risk than copper wiring. Aluminum wiring was used extensively in homes built between 1965 and 1980. As electrical concerns arose from the use of aluminum wiring, industry changes were made. Copper wiring is now the most commonly used wiring for branch circuits.
Insurance Concerns with Aluminum Wiring In The Home
Higher risk of fire. Sources claim homes with aluminum wiring are 55 times more likely to have a fire hazard condition.
Higher electrical resistance resulting in damaged wiring and devices due to overheating.
Oxidation on aluminum wiring when exposed to oxygen, resulting in failure of connections.
BC homeowners have three ESA approved options for addressing the concerns of aluminum wiring in the home: CO/ALR or AL/CU Devices, Copper Pigtails, or a Complete Home Rewire using copper wiring. For more information on these options, click here.
Only a trained and certified electrical contractor should complete any of these methods and ensure that proper installation procedures are strictly followed. Depending on the circumstances, a Blue Crest Electric technician may recommend one or a combination of Code approved options.
Symptoms That May Indicate Aluminum Wiring Problems
Flickering lights that cannot be traced to a failing bulb or other external cause
Plugs that do not work, even with the circuit energized
Unusual static on the radio, TV or computer
Switch plates and receptacle covers that are warped, discolored or warm to the touch
Circuit breakers or fuses that trip for no apparent reason
Strange odor similar to that of burning plastic around switches and receptacles
Smoke or sparking around electrical devices
If you notice any of these problems, it is important to have a certified, electrical contractor check the electrical system as soon as possible. If your insurance provider has never requested an electrical inspection, it is very likely that this will happen sooner rather than later. Like you, your insurance provider wants the assurance that your home is safe.
Our Blue Crest Electric technicians would be happy to address all your aluminum wiring needs.
With summer in full swing, some homeowners may be noticing higher electrical bills. When the weather gets warmer, air conditioners or fans are used to keep homes cooler. Having a summer electrical maintenance routine will help to beat the heat and keep your electrical costs down.
The following is a checklist of some summer electrical maintenance tasks that every homeowner should know.
Summer Electrical Maintenance Items To Help Save Energy
Use your barbecue to avoid using heat generating appliances inside
Use a microwave to cook to avoid generating heat and use less wattage
Air dry laundry to avoid using the dryer as much as possible
Have your AC system checked to ensure it is working efficiently
Use ceiling fans on slow speed to keep air circulating and add a slight breeze
Have an electrician inspect and tighten all major electrical connections
Install programmable thermostats which control temperature more accurately than older technology.
Upgrade your lighting to energy efficient LED
Turn off the lights when you leave a room
If possible, unplug appliances, devices and chargers when they are not in use. Even when turned off, some devices will still draw power
Change your furnace/air conditioning filter every three months. Dust and dirt on the filter will slow the airflow and make the unit work harder
Keep curtains and blinds closed during the hot days to help keep the heat out
Other Summer Electrical Maintenance
Test all smoke/CO alarms monthly. Replace back-up batteries if required
Make sure all outdoor outlets are GFCI protected and have weather-proof covers. For more information on GFCI protection, click here
Check all power tool cords for damage before use
Use extension cords rated for outdoor use and properly sized for the task. Check the cords for frays or plug damage. A damaged cord should never be used
Our electricians would be happy to assist you with all your summer electrical maintenance repairs. Regular maintenance of your electrical system may identify minor concerns before they become expensive repairs.
With home ownership comes the responsibility to maintain everything in the home. This includes the electrical. The following are some electrical safety tips for new homeowners to keep in mind.
Electrical Safety Tips For Indoors
Warm outlets could be a sign of a bad connection
Never overload the circuits
Replace damaged electrical cords or plugs
Keep electrical cords and appliances away from water
Always unplug an appliance by the plug head rather than pulling on the cord
Never run electrical cords under doorways or carpets
Test C/O & smoke alarms monthly. Replace batteries if required. For more information on C/O & smoke alarms, click here.
Outlets near water should be GFCI protected. Be sure to test monthly
Install tamper resistant outlets to protect young children
Extension cords should not be used as a permanent source of power
Electrical Safety Tips For Outdoors
All exterior outlets must be GFCI protected
To protect the sensitive components inside GFCI outlets, an in-use cover should be used
Test exterior GFCI outlets monthly to make sure it’s working correctly
Only use electrical cords that are rated for outdoor use and correctly sized for the task
Do not fly a kite near power lines
Keep tree branches clear of any power lines
Watch out for power lines when using a ladder or other outdoor equipment
When a generator is used, make sure it’s not plugged directly into the outlet without a transfer switch
Never hang string lights over a pool or hot tub
Common Electrical Safety Problems In Older Homes
Undersized service for what homeowners required
Outlet count is inadequate
Outdated two-prong outlets
Frequent blown fuses or circuit trips
Our electricians would be happy to assist you with all your electrical maintenance repairs. Regular maintenance of your electrical system may identify minor concerns before they become expensive repairs.
With the ever-increasing cost of home ownership, some owners may be considering adding a secondary suite as a mortgage helper. Other owners may be combining households with other family members. There are specific requirements when adding an additional living unit to your property. Before doing anything, be sure to contact your local municipality to confirm what is required to add an additional living unit and to check exactly what rules and regulations apply to your specific situation. A secondary suite could be a basement suite, in-law suite or a coach house. Each have a different set of requirements depending on the application.
Having a secondary suite will increase the amount of electricity already used, so upgrading your current electrical service for the additional load may be required. An experienced electrician will conduct a load calculation to confirm the service requirements for supplying power to the main and secondary household on the property. Installing a sub-panel specifically for the secondary suite would eliminate the inconvenience of a tripped breaker affecting the other living unit. Blue Crest Electric recommends installing an information meter to monitor the use of electricity by the occupants of the secondary suite. This will also help to avoid disputes over power usage.
A Secondary Suite Requires An Electrical Permit
Many homeowners do not realize the importance and benefits of the required electrical permit. The electrical permit, acquired by the electrical contractor, means that the installation is being completed according to the current electrical Code requirements. This provides assurance and peace of mind that the installation will be safely completed. For more information regarding electrical permits click Here.
A Secondary Suite As A Mortgage Helper
If the purpose of constructing a secondary suite is to offset the mortgage payment, getting top dollar for the rental space is very important. Consider adding some of the following features to the secondary suite to attract the most discerning tenants.
A full size kitchen with all major appliances stove, refrigerator and a dishwasher
Personal laundry appliances
Lots of lighting to compensate for lack of natural light
High speed WiFi and data capabilities
Lots of soundproofing between living units
Storage for seasonal and recreational items
Designated outdoor space
Personal and guest parking
To name a few…
With a well designed space and the right tenant, adding a secondary suite to the property can be a financially positive and even enjoyable experience.
Blue Crest electricians are skilled and knowledgeable in the construction of secondary suites. The electricians would be able to assist in the electrical installation of the project.
Many homeowners who want to save on energy costs are upgrading to LED light bulbs. LED stands for Light Emitting Diode which is a semiconductor source that produces light when an electrical current passes through it. Back in 2014 when incandescent light bulbs were being phased out, homeowners were encouraged to switch to the more energy efficient CFL bulb. Five years later, LED light bulbs have become the more popular choice because they are even more energy efficient than the CFL light bulbs. CFL light bulbs use 35% less energy than the incandescent lights bulbs. LED light bulbs, however, use 75% less energy than the incandescent light bulbs.
Incandescent Bulbs: 90% of the energy used is to produce heat. Average Life Span is 1,200 hours.
CFL Bulbs: 30% of the energy used is to produce heat. Average Life Span is 8,000 hours.
LED Bulbs: 0% or very little of the energy used is wasted to produce heat. Average Life Span is 25,000 hours.
Below are some advantages and disadvantages of LED light bulbs compared to CFL light bulbs.
Advantages of LED Light Bulbs
LED bulbs last about 3 times longer than CFL which means they have a very long lifespan and less maintenance and replacement costs.
They turn on fully right away. CFL bulbs take a few seconds to warm up and fully turn on.
LEDs use less wattage and therefore less energy
They can be compact in size and are available for most applications
The bulbs are more durable and resistant to breakage
They are not affected by constant turning on/off like other bulbs
They are dimmable
There is no mercury or lead in LED light bulbs
They don’t produce heat so the bulb stays cool to the touch
Rapidly developing technology
Disadvantages of LED Light Bulbs
It is difficult to find many disadvantages to the LED technology other than
They can be more expensive than other bulbs, although price has continued to drop significantly
In hot environments, the life span can decrease, ie sauna, steam room or enclosed fixtures
For more information on choosing the right LED Light Bulbs click HERE.
Having a spring electrical maintenance routine is important after a cold, stormy winter. The following is a checklist of some spring electrical maintenance tasks that every homeowner should be aware of.
Interior Spring Electrical Maintenance
Change your ceiling fan rotation back to a counter-clockwise direction. This will help keep the room as cool as possible during warmer weather.
Test all smoke/CO detectors to make sure they are working. Check all backup batteries. Lightly vacuum the unit surface several times a year to prevent dust from accumulating on the sensors.
Vacuum fan grills to remove surface dust to prolong the life of the motor.
Inspect and vacuum the back of your refrigerator/stand up freezer for debris and dust which can reduce the energy efficiency and create a fire hazard.
Interior & Exterior Spring Electrical Maintenance
Extension cords are for temporary use only. Check the cords for frays or plug damage. A damaged cord should never be used. Replace it with a properly rated cord with the appropriate wire gauge size. For information on how to choose the right extension cord click HERE.
Test interior GFCI receptacles monthly. Test exterior GFCI receptacles before each use.
Exterior Spring Electrical Maintenance
Check yard maintenance and gardening power tools for frayed cords or broken plugs. Repair the damaged cord or replace the entire tool.
Check all exterior lighting and replace burned out light bulbs. A good option would be changing to more energy efficient LED bulbs, if this has not been done already.
Reset lighting timers to accommodate longer daylight hours. Consider installing Astronomical timers which automatically adjust to seasonal changes and daylight savings time.
Check exterior lighting fixtures throughout the spring as birds like to use them as supports for building their nests. Nests can damage your lighting fixture and cause it to overheat and become a fire hazard.
If not already done, take down exterior Christmas lights. Most seasonal light strings are not rated for year-round use. Exposure to UV light from the sun will cause the cords to become brittle.
If you have an overhead service bringing power to your home, visually check connection points to ensure that the cables appear tight and free of obstructions. If you have any concerns, contact our electricians to check for any safety issues and make the required repairs.
Take advantage of the beautiful weather to cut back all branches from around overhead cables to prevent possible damage caused by falling branches. BC Hydro states that branches need to be 3 meters or 10 feet from the cables. Call a professional arborist if this task is beyond your abilities. For more information about safely clearing branches click HERE.
Check all exterior exhaust vents to make sure that they are clear of any debris.
All exterior water features require grounding. Ensure that the grounding is functioning correctly.
A generator should be serviced annually. Some units may need an additional service if used heavily during winter months.
Our electricians would be happy to assist you with all your spring electrical maintenance repairs. Regular maintenance of your electrical system may identify minor concerns before they become expensive repairs.
The bathroom is one of the most important rooms in the house when it comes to adding value to your home. Bathroom renovations can be as simple as changing the paint color on the walls to gutting the entire room. Here are some “must haves” to keep in mind when planning bathroom renovations.
Extra receptacles for the ability to plug in more than one or two appliances. All receptacles within 1.5 meters of a sink, tub or shower must be GFCI protected to meet current Code requirements. For information on the importance of GFCI protection, click HERE.
A bath fan correctly sized for the use and square footage of the room. A 2-piece powder room will likely only need a small fan to keep the air fresh. A bathroom with a tub and/or shower requires a larger fan to remove odor and humidity. This will eliminate the possibility of mold and mildew in this humid environment. For more details regarding ventilation click HERE.
Bath fan timers are a great addition for homeowners who may forget to turn the fan off. The timer will automatically turn off the fan at a pre-set time. Blue Crest recommends running the fan for “an hour per shower”.
Vanity fixtures that are located on the ceiling or high on the wall will create shadows on the face. Lighting fixtures that are located at eye level and illuminate both sides of the face provide the best lighting for applying makeup and personal grooming.
In shower and tub lighting that is correctly rated for a wet environment.
Some bathroom renovations require a larger budget, but the end result is well worth the investment.
Luxury Items For Bathroom Renovations
A heated towel rack so homeowners will always have a warm towel after a shower. Depending on the power requirements, a wall mounted towel rack will likely require a dedicated electrical circuit. A Blue Crest electrician can assist with this task. A freestanding towel rack usually plugs into a standard receptacle. Some models may also have a fan to heat up the bathroom.
Convection heater to help keep your bathroom warm on cold winter days.
In floor heat feels wonderful on your feet first thing on a chilly winter morning. It will also help warm up the rest of the room.
A heated soaking tub will keep the water warm for long relaxing or therapeutic baths.
Audio speakers and/or tv connection for entertainment when using the room for relaxation purposes.
A chandelier over the bath tub to add some glamour to the room. A lighting fixture that is not rated for wet locations must be installed high enough so you are unable to reach it while standing in the bath tub. Logic dictates that it would be unwise for a person to touch anything electrical while also in contact with water.
Blue Crest Electric technicians will ensure a safe, Code compliant installation for all bathroom renovations.