Common Home Electrical Problems

February 20th, 2015

Electrical problems have the potential to get really nasty no matter where they occur. They can be especially troubling, however, when they occur in your home. Not all electrical problems are equal, however. Some are fairly simple to fix, or not all that dangerous. Some, however, present a serious risk to your health and home. Let’s take a look at some of the more common electrical problems that homeowners deal with, and how to fix them.

Overlamping

This is a really common problem, which is also unique in that it is one of the only ones that is 100% user error. Overlamping is when a light socket has a bulb in it with a higher wattage than it can handle. Everyone has seen the warning signs on lightbulb sockets, stating what their maximum wattage is. Those warnings aren’t really guidelines so much as hard and fast safety rules. Overlamping can not only melt the socket, but the insulation in the wires leading to it. This is a huge fire risk, and not something you ever want to have to deal with. The solution for overlamping is simple: don’t use lightbulbs with higher wattage than the socket is rated for. If you don’t know what the socket is rated for, ask an electrician, just to be safe.

Flickering Lights

Another common problem, flickering lights indicates a short somewhere in the electrical circuit. Such short circuits are often caused by damaged insulation allowing wires arc electricity to each other, providing a different (and often dangerous) path for the current to travel down and interfering with the operation of the light. Just like overlamping, exposed wires that are allowed to arc to each other present a high risk of fire, and should be dealt with immediately by a professional electrician.

The most important thing to remember about your home electrical system is that electricity is inherently dangerous, especially in the amounts flowing through the walls of your house. A proper electrical system is designed to channel the current safely from place to place. However, any degradation in that system can drastically increase the risk of fire or electrocution. If you notice any issue that you suspect is related to your electrical system, call a professional immediately.

If your home is experiencing electrical issues, call ACI Northwest. We provide electrical repair services throughout the Coeur d’Alene area.

Lupercalia: The Origin of St. Valentine’s Day

February 14th, 2015

Many people may think of Valentine’s Day as a holiday essentially created by card and gift companies, but the truth is that the holiday has long-standing roots going back to the Roman Empire. The name “Lupercalia” has its origins in the word “lupus”, which means wolf, and the reason for this is that according to Roman pagan religion, the she-wolf Lupa nursed the two orphaned infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.

The Festival

The Festival of Lupercalia spanned two days each February, from February 13th to 15th. The festival was about fertility and was led by Luperci priests, known as “brothers of the wolf”. The festival was serious with intention (fertility) but was executed as quite a romp for both the priests and citizens of Rome. The process was this: two male goats and a dog were sacrificed at the beginning of the festival by the priests; two young Luperci were then anointed with the blood from the animals, and the hides of the animals were cut into straps. As food and drink flowed, the male priests would run around the city wearing nothing but thongs made from the animal skins, and they also carried a strap from one of the sacrificed animals. The strap was used to strike the palms of Roman women waiting for the priests in the city, as it was believed that being hit with the strap could help with infertility issues and a safe, healthy labor for women who were pregnant.

The Transition to St. Valentine’s Day

The Christian influence of the holiday came around the 5th century. The Roman Empire was still strong, but Christianity was rapidly taking hold throughout the world. It is believed that to try and remove the paganism from the holiday, the deaths of two men, supposedly both named Valentine, were added into the mix. During the 3rd and 4th centuries, a law created by Claudius II forbade young men eligible for military service to marry, because Rome wanted a strong army. The two men named Valentine were priests, and married young couples in secret. Both were found out and executed on February 14th, although in separate years. The Church made Valentine a saint (they chose one), and Lupercalia became St. Valentine’s Day.

Here’s wishing you and your loved ones a Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

The Anode Rod and Water Heater Repair

February 9th, 2015

Your water heater is comprised of many different parts which must all work together in order to provide hot water to any tap in your home. Most of the important parts rely on natural processes in order to heat the water, although a burner or electric heating element is also necessary.

First, the cold water enters the top of the tank and goes straight down to the bottom of the tank through the dip tube. The heating element is located toward the bottom of the tank. Hot water naturally rises over the dense colder water. When you turn on a hot water tap in the home, the valve opens and pressure forces water to flow through a small tube at the top and into the hot water pipes.

The Water Heater Anode Rod

But one component in your water heater participates in an entirely different process. The water heater anode rod, a small rod made of either aluminum or magnesium, screws into the top of the tank. Some water heaters have two of these rods, in order to provide better protection against corrosion. In order for something to rust, iron, oxygen, and water must all be present. And since water heaters are usually made of steel, an iron alloy, you can expect rust to form over time, unless the right preventive measures are in place.

The anode rod, sometimes called the sacrificial anode rod, essentially sacrifices anodes for the good of the tank. Magnesium and aluminum are more reactive than steel, which means the rod should begin to corrode before the tank does.

Beware of Rust

When you turn on the hot water in your home and you notice flakes of rust at the bottom of the tub, you may begin to worry. Rust flakes could mean rusty pipes, but this is unlikely if it is only a problem with the hot water. On the other hand, it could indicate that your water heater tank has begun to corrode, in which case a replacement would be necessary.

However, it’s possible that only the anode rod has begun to rust through. In this case, you would only need to replace this part. In fact, the anode rod should be routinely replaced, which is why regular water heater maintenance comes highly recommended. During water heater maintenance, a technician cleans and adjusts parts of your unit and inspects all of the components in order to let you know whether a vital piece, like the anode rod, needs replacement.

Call the experts at ACI Northwest today for quality water heater repair or maintenance in Spokane, WA.

Why Is a Boiler System Good for Allergy Sufferers?

February 2nd, 2015

If you’re an allergy sufferer, the very air you breathe can seem hostile at times. Even when you’re inside, it can seem like your nose and eyes are going to swell shut from irritation.

Though it may seem like you just have to take allergy medication and deal with it, there are actually several ways to improve the air quality in your home. Let’s take a look at why a boiler system is one of the best heating systems available for allergy sufferers.

Airborne Contaminant Circulation

The reason that you seem to have just as many, or more, allergy attacks inside as outside is that the air inside your home is not as clean as you think. The air inside the average home is rife with millions of different airborne contaminants, including dust, pollen, dander, viruses, bacteria, and mold. These contaminants find a haven and transportation system in the form of the home’s ducts. When the heat is turned on, the contaminants are blown throughout the house and into the lungs of the home’s occupants.

Boiler Systems

Boiler systems are helpful to allergy sufferers primarily because they don’t make use of ductwork. A boiler heating system, often called a “radiant” heating system, involves the installation of a network of water pipes throughout the house. These pipes are installed either in the walls or the subfloor of each room that needs heating. The entire network is then connected to the central boiler.

When the heat is turned on, the boiler heats and distributes water through the pipe network. As the water flows through the pipes, it transfers its heat through the pipes, the floor, and out into the room. This method of heating has a number of advantages, but the biggest one for allergy sufferers is that it does not circulate air.

The lack of ductwork involved in boiler heating systems removes the biggest contributor to indoor air quality problems: dirty ducts. By utilizing a boiler system, you’ll be taking one big step towards better air quality and better quality of life.

If you’re suffering from severe allergies, call ACI Northwest. We provide boiler installation services throughout Hayden, ID.

Signs It’s Time to Upgrade Your Electrical Panel

January 26th, 2015

The electrical power flowing into your home from the main electrical line is controlled by your electrical panel.

Like a dam controls water dispersal, so, too, does your electrical panel, by using a system of pre-set circuit breakers that are equipped to distribute a specific amount of power to the various systems of your home.

As such, the electrical panel has a maximum limit to the amount of power it will provide to your home. This means that should you need to draw more power, you will most likely have to upgrade your electrical panel.

Any work involving the electrical system of your home in Coeur d’Alene should always be handled by an electrical services professional, and the experts at ACI Northwest have the training and certification necessary to handle any kind of electrical services you may need.

Reasons to Upgrade Your Electrical Panel

Here are some reasons it’s important to upgrade your electrical panel:

  • You keep tripping breakers – if you keep tripping circuit breakers every time you have more than one major appliance operating, this is a good sign that you are drawing too much power from your electrical box.
  • You’ve expanded your home – your home’s electrical box was wired to accommodate the electrical power it needed when you purchased it; if you have expanded your home, your electrical panel should expand with it.
  • The panel has low amperage – the average household electrical draw per circuit is typically between 120 to 240 volts; if you don’t have enough amperage to support your systems, your panel should be upgraded as soon as possible.
  • You’re adding a major appliance or system – if you are adding a major appliance, such as a dryer, or a new whole-home system like air conditioning, your electrical panel has to be able to handle the power load.

Browning, dimming, flickering and tripping circuits are all signs that there may be a problem with your home’s electrical panel.

Don’t wait until a serious problem develops – call ACI Northwest and schedule an appointment for electrical services in your Coeur d’Alene home today.

What Is a Heat Recovery Ventilator?

January 16th, 2015

Have you ever wished you could give your heating system a boost without having to supplement it with a fireplace or woodstove?

If so, you may want to consider the installation of a heat recovery ventilator. Not only does this device help with heating, it also helps improve your home’s ventilation. Installation of a heat recovery ventilator should only be handled by a professional heating services company in Spokane, so call the people you can count on: ACI Northwest.

How It Works

A heat recovery ventilator is a pretty ingenious little device. What an HRV does is apply the thermal energy from your outgoing, stale, heated air to incoming fresh air. Applying this thermal energy to incoming fresh air pre-treats the new air, making it warmer while also keeping it fresh. The process is simple: the HRV exhausts your used indoor air to the outside, but the air doesn’t head straight outdoors; it goes through the core of the HRV, which contains a heat exchanger.

Inside the core of the HRV, the incoming fresh air stream and outgoing stale air stream exchange in the core, and the heat energy from the outgoing air is applied to the incoming fresh air. This pre-treated air then moves directly into your HVAC system, where it is warmed further and dispersed to your living spaces. The HRV is installed as part of your heating system, so the addition is seamless.

Benefit of an HRV

There are several benefits to installing an HRV that are worth considering:

  • Energy efficiency – the pre-treating action of the incoming air helps boost energy efficiency because it takes some of the work load off your heating system to do so.
  • Continuous fresh air – with an HRV, you won’t have to worry about poor ventilation as fresh air will come into your home continuously.
  • Less stress on your heating system – your heating system won’t have to work as hard to heat your home, which reduces the stress and wear and tear.
  • Increase comfort – the HRV helps balance the humidity level in your home and provides more even heating.

If you’ve been looking for a way to improve the energy efficiency of your heating system, call ACI Northwest and speak to one of our heating services experts in Spokane.

Why It’s Important to Hire Professionals for Electrical Work

January 15th, 2015

Electricity is a huge part of our day-to-day lives. As we become more and more integrated with our technology, that role is only going to get larger.

This increasing dependence on electricity is reflected in the home, as well, with an increasing number of electrical appliances being installed. It may be tempting to a lot of people to attempt some of this installation and maintenance on their own. Many of us have an urge to try our own electrical work, in an effort to save money and become more self-sufficient. While this drive to learn new skills is admirable, it really should not be practiced on something like your home’s electrical system.

Read on to find out why it’s important to hire professionals for electrical work.

Safety

Above all else, hiring a professional electrician keeps you safe. There is an incredible amount of power running through the average home’s electrical grid, and one wrong move can result in severe injuries, death or fire. The savings you would get from trying to do your own electrical work instead of hiring an electrician will never be worth the potential for injury or death. Be safe, and hire a professional electrician any time you need electrical work done.

Efficiency

The primary reason that people try to do their own electrical work is because they believe it will save them money. On the surface, this seems to be true. If you can wire your own outlet or ceiling fan, why bother spending money on a professional? The problem is that a lot of people who try to do their own electrical work don’t do it correctly, and end up causing more problems for themselves later on. Often, after fruitlessly trying to correct the mistake and making things worse, people have to call an electrician anyway to make things right. If you call an electrician the first time, instead of trying to do it yourself, you’re ensuring that the job is done right. This will save you a ton of hassle.

If you need a professional electrician, call ACI Northwest. We provide electrical repair services throughout Spokane.

3 Reasons to Consider a Boiler

January 5th, 2015

Sometimes homeowners hear the word “boiler” for heating and think of an outdated, clunky old heating system; this simply isn’t true. A boiler may not use the latest technology to heat your home, but that’s because it doesn’t have to: the way a boiler heats is fairly simple and straightforward, so it doesn’t need to be the trendiest system around. The heating from a boiler system is gentle and radiant, which is very comfortable for a lot of people, and the long-time use of boilers means that it isn’t hard to find parts for repairs. If you are looking at installing a new heating system in Spokane, you may want to consider a boiler for some of the following reasons:

Reason #1: They are great systems for allergy sufferers.

Having allergies is no picnic, and they can be as frustrating during the winter as they are during the summer. Forced air systems can be very challenging for allergy sufferers because the blowing air kicks up dust every time the system turns on. With a boiler, there is no blowing air, so allergy sufferers don’t have to worry about constantly swirling dust every time the heat turns on.

Reason #2: They are durable, reliable systems.

Boilers were the first whole-home heating systems and they have endured as such because they are reliable, durable systems. While today’s boilers are far more efficient than ones from just 10 years ago, the way a boiler heats your home is the same.

Reason #3: They can be used in several ways.

Boilers can be used with hydronic radiant heating, radiators and baseboard heating. They can be used in houses that are 100 years old or brand new. The piping can be easily zoned and you can even mix the outlets to maximize on heating the different areas of your home.

You can also use different kinds of fuels for a boiler, including natural gas, propane, oil and even solid fuels. Think a boiler may be a good fit for your home? Call ACI Northwest today and schedule an appointment with one of our installation experts!

When New Year’s Day Was Not on January 1st

January 1st, 2015

Some holidays fall on shifting calendar days for every year, such as Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November) and Easter (the first Sunday after the first full moon to occur on or after March 21). Other holidays, such as Valentine’s Day and Halloween, are fixed. No holiday has a more solid calendar date attached to it than New Year’s Day. It has to fall on January 1st because it celebrates the first day of a new year. That only makes sense…

…except that, like most things that at first appear obvious, there is a bit more to the story. The beginning of the year was not always on the first of January. As with an enormous numbers of traditions in the Western World, the establishment of January 1st as the inaugural day of a new year goes back to the ancient Romans.

The modern solar calendar is derived from the Roman model, but the earliest Roman calendars did not have 365 days in a year spread over 12 months. Instead, there were 304 days spread over 10 months. The Romans believed this calendar originated with the mythical founder of the city, Romulus. If Romulus were a real person, we can credit him with a poor understanding of the seasons, as this abbreviated calendar soon got out of sync with Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Numa, one of the Kings of Rome (probably also fictional) receives credit for creating a longer year with two added months, Ianuarius and Februarius, bringing the number of days in the year to 355. The new month of Ianuarius, named after Ianus (Janus in contemporary spelling), the god of beginnings, would eventually be known in English as January. But when this new calendar was instituted, January was not the first month. March, named after the god of war, remained the first month, and March 1st was New Year’s Day.

This extended calendar still did not keep in synch with the seasons. In 45 BCE, Julius Caesar instituted reforms to align the calendar correctly according to calculations of astronomers, with an additional 10 days distributed across the year. January also became set as the first month, and offerings to the god Janus on this day started the tradition we now know as New Year’s. The date still fluctuated during the ensuing centuries, with a number of Western European holy days treated as the beginning of the year instead. It wasn’t until the next calendar reform in 1582, the Gregorian Calendar, that the date of the New Year was fixed at January 1st.

However you choose to celebrate the beginning of the current calendar, everyone here at ACI Northwest hopes you have a wonderful 2015!

Why Do We Hang Up Mistletoe?

December 25th, 2014

Of course, you probably know part of the answer to this question already. You hang up mistletoe so that the people standing underneath can share a romantic holiday kiss! But what you may not realize is that the origin of this longstanding ritual predates many of the other holiday traditions we celebrate today. Why would a plant that has many poisonous varieties (most types sold for use in the home have few negative effects, but you can wrap it in netting to prevent children from consuming any fallen berries or leaves) be used as a symbol of holiday affection?

There are a couple of ways to explain the positive associations of (potentially hazardous) mistletoe. For one, this semi-parasitic plant has long been hailed as a treatment for illnesses and pain. The ancient Greeks and Romans used it to cure cramps, epilepsy, and more. Even today, mistletoe extracts are one of the leading alternative medicines studied for their effectiveness in killing cancer cells. And because the early Celtic Druids saw it as a sign of healing and life, they may be the first to bestow upon the plant its romantic associations, deeming it worthy of treating the infertile.

But it is Norse mythology that is likely responsible for a majority of the modern traditions associated with this small hanging bunch. One of the powerful Norse god Odin’s sons, named Baldur, was said to be invincible due to an oath his mother took to protect him from harm. But Loki, a god who often set out to make trouble for the gods, set out to find the one thing that could do some damage, and eventually discovered that Baldur’s mother Frigg had never included mistletoe in her invincibility oath. When mistletoe was finally responsible for her son’s demise, the grieving Frigg vowed that the plant would never again be used to hurt another living thing, and that she would plant a peaceful kiss upon anyone who walked underneath it.

And that is one of the reasons that, today, kissing under the mistletoe is viewed as a source of good luck. From our family to yours, we wish you a safe holiday season, and we hope that you and your family are full of joy and good fortune—mistletoe or not! Happy holidays from ACI Northwest!