Water damage in your home? What should you do?

Lighting Recessed Lighting and FixturesIt’s officially rainy season in Northern California. After a very dry summer, most of us welcome the rain with open arms. But, weather forecasters are predicting the very wet winter will cause possible flooding. In fact, the Insurance Information Institute (III) states, “about one in 55 insured homes has a property damage claim caused by water damage or freezing each year.” So, as much as we need the rain, we need to be aware of the potential electrical hazards that can occur. Even a few little drips within your wall can eventually cause mold, fire, and structural weakness. Additionally, whenever wire and cable products are exposed to water or excessive moisture, there is a risk of a fire.

According to Walters Forensic Engineering (waltersforensic.com), this is how a leakage current can start a fire in your home:

“Leakage current occurs when water is in the presence of electricity. Exposed wiring, which exists primarily at connectors and switches, can come in contact with water. Since water conducts electricity, a current will flow through the water between contacts or from the live to ground or common. Over time, the water will accumulate salts which increases its ability to conduct a current. This current can eventually develop to a point where it generates a significant quantity of heat which begins to pyrolize and carbonize the combustibles in the area. This can eventually result in a situation where a carbon bridge is formed, creating a continuous arc or significant generation of heat. Ignition of surrounding combustibles can result in a fire. Fires have also been known to initiate this way in electrical boxes which become damp or wet.”

So, what should you do if you encounter water around your electrical components? As a general rule, electrical components and wiring should be assessed by a licensed electrician whenever they encounter any amount of water. Mildew and corrosion can damage components, causing electrical failure.

If you have standing water in your home, it’s important to exercise extreme caution. Do not enter your home if you believe any electrical components, including circuit breaker boxes, electrical outlets, or live wires are in water. Before entering, call your utility company and ask them to turn off the power in your home. Then, turn off your power locally as well. Next, call a reliable, licensed electrician to assess the situation and determine whether it’s safe to enter your home. You do not want to risk any sort of electrical shock. It’s also important to turn off your fuel oil, natural gas, or propane lines along with lines that lead to appliances.

Sometimes water-damaged occurs immediately and other times it happens over time. If you’re experiencing short circuits and improper operation, this is due to immediate damage. Corrosion and high resistance connections usually happens over time. Sometimes everything works great for a while and then fails a few months later. If your home has been exposed to any water or flood damage, you should call Main Stream Electric to determine the extent of the damage and how to safely proceed. We understand electrical safety and can give you the information and assistance you need to fix your home’s electrical wiring and components. Call us today!

Simple Ways to Save Energy (& Money) in your Office

commercial-electrical-contractor-servicesHas anyone ever told you they are “going green”? For many of us, the first thing that comes to mind when you hear that phrase is recycling. Recycling is quickly becoming part of our everyday life, especially in our homes. But, did you know there are lots of other ways we can “go green” and create even more positive change in our office space?

Many Americans spend at least one-third of their day in an office. Imagine if we applied the same conservation rules we use in our homes to our offices? The results would be astounding! But, where do you begin? Below are some simple, yet effective ways you can save money, energy, and the environment in your office.

Turn off Lights

One of the simplest ways to save energy is by turning off lights. According to the DOE, 44% of the energy used by an office each year comes from the lighting. Simply reminding co-workers to turn off lights when they leave a room will save energy and money. Put a friendly reminder sign next to light switches. This will help everyone remember. Motion-activated lights are another option for common areas and rarely used hallways. They will only turn on when an employee is in the area and will turn off when the space is not being used.

It’s also critical to upgrade your lights to Energy Star-qualified bulbs. Not only do they last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, they use about 75 percent less energy. Consider upgrading to LED and UID lights. Even exit signs are sources of high energy use. Don’t forget to upgrade them to LED lights as well.

Unplug Technology

It seems that everything in the office needs a plug! Your computer, the office printer, and the countless phone chargers are literally sucking the energy out of your building. Computers have energy saving options built in. If it’s not in use, consider setting it to “sleep mode”. It will automatically “go to sleep” if idle for more than 10 minutes. Unplug laptops and phone chargers when they aren’t in use and try using power strips for all your equipment. Then, you can shut everything down at the end of the day with a push of a button. Also, always look for the Energy Star label on new technology purchases.

Go Paperless

Did you know the typical office worker using 10,000 sheets of copy and printer paper each year? Although many companies are opting to “go paperless” to help save money and natural resources, some companies don’t have that luxury or need paper to run their businesses. To cut paper usage, try:

  • Putting employee manuals, forms, and documents online
  • Setting your printer to print double-sided
  • Buying recycled paper
  • Sharing large manuals with co-workers

These are just a few of the ways you can help save energy and money in your office space. If your office needs any electrical upgrades or you have further questions about how to help conserve energy in your office, contact one of our highly trained electricians at Main Stream Electric today.

Preparing for a Power Outage

lighting management servicesLosing the power in your home can be very scary. While we tend to think of the power going out during the winter months, it can actually go out any time of the year. During the summer, a heatwave can overload the electrical grid and cause a major outage. During the winter, power outages are usually caused by large rain, wind, or snow storms.

There’s no need to worry about power outages as long as you are prepared for them. Below are a few tips on how to prepare yourself and your home for a power outage.

  1. Designate an area to store flash lights, extra batteries, candles, and matches. A plug-in flashlight is a great option because it remains charged until you need it. When purchasing flashlights or lanterns, consider ones that use LED bulbs. They have a much longer battery life.
  2. Become familiar with your circuit breakers and know where they are located. Your outage could simply be a tripped breaker switch.
  3. Consider investing in a battery-powered radio or television. Cell phone batteries will only last so long and it’s important to stay updated on the latest weather and news, especially during a storm.
  4. Place the emergency number of your electric utility company in an accessible location. If a power line is down near your house, you need to contact the electric company and let them know.
  5. Keep an ice chest handy to store any medication or special foods that must remain cold. Freezer ice packs are critical and you should have some ready at all times.
  6. Store a few days of water in a large container. You need about one gallon of drinking water per day/per person. This is especially important if you use electricity for your water, such as an electric pump.
  7. Consider investing in a back-up generator.
  8. Make sure your home’s first aid kit is fully stocked.
  9. Create a home disaster plan for you and your family.

By following these tips, you and your family will be ready and safe if your power goes out. Additionally, consider the following tips when your power actually goes out.

  1. Turn off any lights that were left on when the power went out. Keep one light on so you will know when the power has been restored.
  2. Try and locate a neighbor to determine if the power outage includes your neighborhood or larger community.
  3. To help preserve the food in your fridge and freezer, keep the doors closed. Only open if necessary and eat the most perishable foods first.
  4. Unplug major appliances and any smaller appliances that were on when the power went out. This could include clothes dryers, televisions, radios, toasters, clocks, computer printers, and computers. If too many appliances turn back on at the same time, you could overload your circuits.
  5. Save your heat! Heat escapes homes quickly. Make sure all doors and windows are shut and secure. Consider placing towels below doors to retain your home’s heat.
  6. Only dial 911 in a true emergency. A power outage is stressful so keep yourself busy by reading books or playing games with your family. Emergency lines should stay clear for true emergencies.

Power outages are unavoidable. By following these simple tips, you’ll be ready when they happen. Contact one of our electricians at Main Stream Electric if you have any questions or concerns about power outages. We’re here to help keep your home and your family safe.

Circuit Breakers and Fuses

When to Leave the Electrical to the Professionals

Circuit Breakers and FusesWe all love a good DIY project. There’s a great sense of accomplishment when you complete a difficult project, especially if it’s done without the help of a professional. With the abundance of You Tube videos, how-to books, and endless Internet resources, where should you draw the line when it comes to DIY electrical work?

We believe there are many projects you can do on your own. But, when it comes to electrical work, it’s important to remember you’re dealing with electricity – and electricity can be dangerous. One small mistake could cause serious harm to you, your family, and your home. While many DIY projects can save you money, you have to determine if the extra savings is worth the risk. Additionally, if your DIY electrical project goes wrong, you could potentially cause more damage to your home or others and have to pay more for a professional to come in and fix the problem.

Here are few of the more dangerous and/or complicated electrical jobs best left to a professional.

  1. Upgrading an outlet: Replacing a like-to-like outlet is a fairly simple project as long as your power is turned off. But, it’s critical you hire a licensed electrician when you upgrade an ungrounded outlet to a grounded outlet and add a GFCI switch. It can be extremely dangerous if you add a grounded outlet without a true path to ground.
  2. Connecting to the grid: If you have any new construction that requires a permit, you will need the electrical to be completed by a licensed electrician. When it’s time to connect to the grid, power companies will require this to be done by a licensed electrician. Power companies do not want to risk damage to their equipment or injury to employees due to someone’s DIY mistake.
  3. Repairing or replacing your circuit breaker box: It’s imperative that circuit breakers are installed correctly. When wires get hot, they can short out and cause a fire. When you hire a licensed electrician, you can be confident they will design the circuits correctly and with appropriate breakers. Circuit breakers also contain a large amount of electrical energy. Whenever you’re dealing with this much electricity, you should leave it to the professionals.
  4. Wiring: Professional electricians should handle all new wiring in your home. Overloads in your wall can cause a fire in your home. Additionally, if you or an unlicensed contractor replace, repair, or add new circuits to your home and a fire occurs, your homeowner’s insurance may not pay the claim.

Whether big or small, all electrical projects should be handled with caution and care. While minor repairs like changing a light switch or ceiling fan may seem simple and safe, one mistake can still cause serious damage or injury. The highly trained electricians at Main Stream Electric can tackle even the toughest electrical projects. When you hire us to perform the electrical work on your home, you can have confidence the job will be done right. Keeping your home and your family safe is our top priority. We’ll get the job done safely and right! Contact Main Stream Electric today.

Home Safety Inspection

Home Electrical Inspections – Are they REALLY necessary?

We all know buying a home is a long, time-consuming process. In addition to the endless paperwork, there are inspections! While most people understand the importance of a getting a general home inspection, they often assume that’s all they need. General inspectors are wonderful and can help ensure your home is in working order before you move in. While inspectors do their best to spot any potential hazards, they usually don’t have the time or resources to thoroughly inspect your home’s electrical system and wiring.

Home Safety InspectionToday, nearly everything requires an outlet. Whether it’s your appliances, television, laptop, tablet, or phone, it’s important to know that your home’s electrical system is functioning properly. Not only is an electrical problem an inconvenience, it can be dangerous if not found early. Faulty wiring is the cause of many house fires. In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Agency, an estimated 144,000 house fires were caused by electrical failure or malfunction between the years 2007-2011.

Detecting faulty wiring is tricky and often overlooked by a general home inspector. When you hire an electrical inspector, you can have confidence your home is electrically sound.

Efficiency and Conservation

If your home is more than 20 years old and it still has the original electrical system, it may be due for an overhaul. Older systems tend to be less efficient and very expensive to run. By replacing your breakers, fixing shorts, and thoroughly examining the wiring, you will not only ensure a safer home for you and your family, you’ll conserve energy and reduce your overall monthly electricity costs.

Who Should Get an Electrical Home Inspection?

In general, the Electrical Safety Foundation recommends an electrical home inspection if you:

  1. Recently purchased a new home
  2. Own a home 40 years or older
  3. Added a major appliance
  4. Recently renovated your home

If your home falls into any of the above categories, call Main Stream Electric today. Our expert electrical home inspectors can answer any questions you may have about home inspections and schedule a visit to your home.

Electrical Outlets Light Switches Dimmer Switches

Protect yourself from these common workplace electrical hazards

We work with and around electricity every day. It’s a critical and essential part of our lives. Whether you work in an office cubicle, a construction zone, a commercial kitchen, or any space with an outlet, you are at risk of an electrical injury and sometimes even death.

Electrical Outlets Light Switches Dimmer SwitchesPotential Hazards

Electrical hazards are everywhere! They are often so common that we often don’t even notice them. One of the easiest ways to protect yourself and those around you against these hazards is to know how to spot them. Once they are identified, they can easily be repaired or replaced. Below is a list of some of the most common electrical hazards.

  1. Damaged Wires and Cords: Any cord with the outer sheathing torn or wire exposed should be thrown away. Cords that are corroded, frayed, or melted should also be tossed. If you handle this type of cord, you risk getting shocked or burned. These cords can also cause an electrical fire in your office or commercial space. It’s not a good idea to “fix” the cord by taping the tears. Your best option is to contact Main Stream Electric. We can check out the wiring and fix any cords that could potentially cause fires or electrocution.
  2. Damaged extension cords: Extension cords are handy, especially in an office environment. Unfortunately, they often are used as a permanent resolution instead of a temporary fix. Extension cords shouldn’t be run through ceilings or walls because they tend to overheat. In fact, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) recently reported that each year 3,300 residential fires are caused by improper use of extension cords. Installing a new outlet closer to the appliance, computer, or electrical device is a safer and more permanent solution.
  3. Water: While most people know it’s not safe to mix water and electricity, it happens all the time. You can get hurt by simply plugging in your phone while your hands are wet. Anything that requires a power source should stay as far from water as possible. A small amount of water can cause a lot of damage.
  4. Broken smoke alarms: Most office buildings have plenty of smoke alarms. Unfortunately, they often go unchecked. If a smoke alarm is broken, it won’t alert you of a fire. Make sure the smoke alarms in your commercial building or office are checked regularly. They’re easy to test and can save lives.

Protecting Employees

It’s important to keep an eye out for electrical hazards and report them to a manager or supervisor immediately. Here are a few simple ways employees can help prevent electrical accidents.

  1. Know where the power source is located and how to shut off power in an emergency.
  2. When pulling out a plug, pull from the plug itself, not the cord.
  3. Use ceiling and floor plugs as often as possible.
  4. Never touch the prongs of a plug while inserting it into an outlet.
  5. Never plug in a cord if it is damaged, wet, or if you are touching a wet surface.
  6. If you notice an extension cord is warm while in use, it is being overloaded. Switch to a thicker extension cord.

If you have damaged wires, electrical shortages, or any other complex electrical concerns, contact Main Stream Electric. Our experienced and knowledgeable electricians will fix your electrical issues and ensure your workplace is safe from all types of electrical hazards.

Smoke Detectors

Are Your Smoke Alarms Really THAT Important?

YES! A proper functioning smoke alarm could save your life! Smoke alarms alert everyone in the house that there is a fire and give you time to get out. According to NFPA’s March 2014 “Smoke Alarms in U.S. Home Fires” report, three of every five home fire deaths occurred in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. The report also found that from 2007-2011, smoke alarms only sounded in half of the home fires reported to the U.S. fire departments.

Smoke DetectorsSmoke alarms are one of the most important safety features in your home, but they often get the least amount of attention. Sometimes, we forget we even have them! We only notice them when we burn a meal, improperly put out a cigarette, or have an electrical fire. While you might find the alarms annoying, especially if you just burnt your favorite meal, they are just doing their job. Fire alarms are supposed to be sensitive to smoke in the air. They alert you at the first sign of trouble and hopefully give you enough time to put out a small fire or escape with your loved ones.

It’s critical you have fully functioning smoke alarms in your home. Below are a few steps you can take to protect your family and property against the unfortunate event of a fire.

  1. Test your smoke alarms regularly. There is a small “test button” on the front of your alarm. Press and hold down this button to test the alarm.
  2. Make sure you have the proper number of smoke alarms for the size of your home. The general rule is one alarm on each floor, in all bedrooms, and outside all sleeping spaces.
  3. Replace or repair all malfunctioning smoke alarms. Install additional alarms, if needed. To ensure your smoke alarms are installed and functioning properly, contact our experienced electricians at Main Stream Electric. We will protect and safeguard your home.
  4. Teach your kids about fire safety, fire escapes, and what to do in the event of a fire. Plan an escape route and practice it with your children. Many children try to grab their favorite blanket or stuffed animal before they leave the house. Stress the importance of leaving belongings behind and escaping the house as quickly as possible.
  5. Replace all fire alarms in your home every 10 years.

When you have properly installed and maintained smoke alarms in your home, you are doing your part to reduce the chances of fire deaths and injuries to yourself and your family. If your smoke alarms have not been tested or replaced recently, Main Stream Electric can help! We can protect your home by installing additional alarms and testing existing alarms. We also provide complete home electrical safety inspections. This is where we check for any other electrical issues in your home. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Contact Main Stream Electric today!

Who Are We

Electrical Warning Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore

Who Are WeElectricity is an integral part of our everyday lives. Whether we’re brewing coffee, heating our showers, washing our clothes, or charging our phones, electricity is vital to our modern day existence. But, like any other modern amenity, our home’s electrical system sometimes needs attention. Watching for electrical warning signs can help prevent serious electrical issues. Addressing an issue as it arises helps prevent unnecessary electrical damage and ultimately helps keep you and your family safe.

Below is a list of the most common electrical warning signs. If you keep an eye out for these signs, you may avoid costly property damage and injury.

  1. Electrical Shocks – Electrical shocks happen all the time. You can get shocked by simply crossing a carpeted area. While this type of shock is harmless, a shock from an appliance could mean you have inadequate electrical wiring or a ground fault in the appliance. It’s important not to ignore those minor shocks. They could be a sign of a bigger electrical issue.
  1. Flickering Lights – A flickering light could simply mean a loose or broken light bulb. First, replace the bulb and see if that solves the problem. If your lights are still flickering, the problem could be in your light fixture, in the circuit breaker wiring, or it could be a loose connection to the fixture. We recommend seeking a professional electrical contractor to remedy this problem.
  1. Burning Smell – A burning smell near your outlets or switches could indicate a very serious problem. It’s critical you turn your power off immediately and contact an electrician. At a minimum, the smell could be the result of an overloaded outlet or defective switch. But, a burning smell could be the start of an electrical fire. If not contained in time, electrical fires can destroy your property.
  1. Tripping or Faulty Circuit Breaker – Circuit breakers will trip when a circuit is overloaded. When a circuit breaker trips, it shuts down the electrical supply, preventing wires from overheating. If your circuit breaker trips and shuts down power to part or all of your home, it may need to be replaced. Replacing circuit breakers can be complicated and dangerous. It’s important to contact a professional electrician to determine whether your circuit breaker needs to be repaired or replaced.

Electrical problems shouldn’t be ignored. Thankfully, by educating yourself on the warning signs, you can address the electrical issue before it becomes a larger problem. If you’re concerned about your home’s electrical wiring or experienced any of the warning signs above, contact the professional electricians at Main Stream Electric today.