ACI Northwest Blog: Archive for May, 2014

Electrical Considerations for a New Security System

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Homeowners have a natural desire to keep their family and possessions safe. A reliable security system is an excellent way of doing so. Here in Spokane, electrical services can help you plan for and install a new security system. Because so many security systems rely on electricity to work, you should consult with an expert before deciding which system is right for you. Here are some electrical considerations for a new security system that you should keep in mind.

Security systems typically rely on sensors to work. Contacts on your doors and windows will alert you if someone tries to break in, while motion detectors in key areas of the homes (usually centralized rooms and “choke points” such as stairways or halls). Depending upon your home, you may want to have motion-activated security lights installed as well, to activate in the event of movement in your yard.

All of these things require wiring to function as they should. That means you need to chart a path from their location to the central security box and/or the circuit breaker box in your home. The electrician will need to run wiring to all those locations, which may involve moving around plumbing, other electrical wires and even load-bearing woodwork depending on the specifics of your home. (Alternately, you could just run the wiring along the outside of the walls, but that can ruin the aesthetics of your home as well as leaving the wires vulnerable to damage.) The electrician also needs to calculate the load for each component and ensure that the new wiring can handle it without triggering the circuit breakers. It’s not usually a problem – security systems don’t require much electricity to work – but professional evaluation can ensure that no issues arise.

Any electrical considerations for a new security system need to take your safety in mind. The system needs to work at all times, or else it may as well not be working at all.

If you live in Spokane, WA or Coeur d’Alene, ID, electrical services like those at ACI Northwest can make that process a lot easier. Give us a call today and we’ll help you set your system up right!

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Not Just Lightning: The Causes of Power Surges

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

When people think of power surges and trying to protect their home’s appliances from them, the first image that comes to mind is something catastrophic like a lightning strike or power lines downed during a storm. Although those are definitely cause for concern and reason to find ways to keep your electrical system safe, there are more frequent reasons for power surges that can go on continually and add up to tremendous damage.

Power strips along the outlets are a layer of protection that works when it comes to power surges. However, they do not do well against most of the more insidious and frequent causes for surges. In addition to those power strips, you need to have a whole-house surge protector. Installation requires the work of professional electricians. For the necessary electrical services that will install a whole-house surge protector, contact the expert electricians at ACI Northwest today.

Causes of Power Surges

  • Lightning: Yes, this is a serious problem even if it isn’t as common as the others. A lightning strike on power lines can result in a massive surge that no home’s electrical system can bear. The power that comes through the lines is enough to ruin systems such as computers and home entertainment centers. A power strip is some defense against this, but not always. In any case involving expensive equipment, you need the best protection possible, and a whole-house surge protector offers a level above power strips.
  • High-Powered Appliances: This is the reason for most surges in a home: whenever an appliance comes on that demands large amount of power—such as the compressors of air conditioners and refrigerators—it put strain on system that can unbalance the flow of voltage. This may not necessarily cause a power outage, but the low-level will start to gradually damage other components connected to the system. Flickering lights are a common warning sign that this is happening and you should have a whole-house surge protector. Power strips do not help with this.
  • Bad Wiring: If you live in an older home, aging wiring can lead to uneven voltage that will cause similar damage to when powerful appliances turn on. For pre-1970 homes, you should have an electrician not only install whole-house surge protection, but also investigate if the wiring needs replacement.
  • Utility company problems: Surges can sometimes come from the power company itself if they experience equipment malfunction. These surges can range from small to “power line downed” level, so make sure you electrical system is prepared for anything.

Whole-house surge protectors are an easy installation for professional electricians: they connect them at the electrical control panel and test to make sure they work properly. To arrange for the work, call ACI Northwest today. We provide many types of electrical service in Spokane, WA.

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3 Signs of a Problem with Your Air Conditioner

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

One of the ways to have a great summer is to make sure you’re air conditioner has a great summer as well. To prepare your AC for a smooth season cooling your home, make sure any malfunctions it currently has receive professional repairs before the hot weather starts.

Since you’ve likely had your air conditioning working for a few days during spring, you’ll have an opportunity to notice anything awry or unusual in how it runs. Here are three signs to look for that can warn you it’s time to call for repairs so you will have a cooling system prepared for whatever the summer sun can hurl at you.

ACI Northwest has a trained staff available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to come to your aid when you need reliable air conditioning repair services in Spokane, WA.

3 Warning Signs of AC Repairs

  1. Loud, unusual noises: Modern air conditioners are designed to make as little noise as possible, with special baffles and soundproofing on the casing, and precision fans with whisper quiet operation. When you hear anything other than the fan whir and the hum of the compressor, it almost always indicates a malfunction that needs repairs. Some specific noises to listen for: grinding, groaning (motor troubles), clicking (capacitors failing), screeching (dirty motor bearings), hissing (leaking refrigerant), and rattling (loose mechanical components).
  2. Unusual spikes in utility bills: Always inspect your monthly electrical bills to see if costs take a sudden rise. This often points toward a mechanical malfunction in the AC that is causing it to strain in order to operate at its regular level. Compare current bills to bills from the previous year to locate when the costs have started to escalate. If you cannot detect anything specific due to noise or other symptoms, rely on a professional to find the root cause and fix it.
  3. Short-cycling: “Short-cycling” describes an air conditioner that continually cuts off its cooling cycle and shuts down its compressor before it can lower the temperature to its user-set level. The compressor will turn back on again a short time later, and shut off again before it finishing the cycle. This creates a huge drain on energy and will wear down the compressor rapidly. A number of issues can cause this, such as thermostat miscalibrations, clogged filters, and failing motors. Whatever the source of the problem, it needs to be fixed quickly before the compressor suffers damage.

Most air conditioning repairs are basic and inexpensive… if you catch them early enough. Do not let a repair slide until you “really need” the air conditioner in the summer. Contact seasoned professionals, like those at ACI Northwest, to handle your necessary air conditioning repairs in Spokane, WA.


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What Are GFCI Outlets and Why Should I Have Them Installed?

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Electrical outlets continue to improve with each decade. Old two-prong outlets gave way to grounded three-prong outlets. And now GFCI outlets are overtaking the standard three-prong model.

You have already encounter GFCI outlets before, although you perhaps did not know that is what they are called or what they do. GFCI outlets have two buttons, usually color-coded red and yellow, between their two sockets. A small difference, but an important one.

If your home still has standard three-prong outlets (or archaic two-prong ones), you should make installation of new GFCI outlets a priority. ACI Northwest specializes in this installation work. We have served Couer d’Alene with electrical services for many years. Call us today to schedule an appointment to improve your home’s electrical safety.

GFCI outlets: protecting people from electrical shocks

GFCI stands for ground-fault circuit interrupter. It performs a function similar to a fuse. But where a fuse is designed to protect your electrical system from an overload and prevent fires, a ground-fault circuit interrupter is designed to protect you from a direct electrical shock.

A GFCI outlet can detect a subtle change between the flow from the “neutral” and the “hot” slots in an outlet. (The hot slot is the smaller of the two slots.) Power flows from the hot slot through an appliance and to the neutral slot during regular operation. The ground-fault circuit interrupter outlet monitors the amount of current moving from hot to neutral, and should it detect a change in the balance—as small as 4 or 5 milliamps—it will immediately trip an internal circuit breaker that cuts off power to the outlet. An imbalance like this means that the power from the hot side is going into something other than the appliance, and that usually means it is going into a person. With a correctly working GFCI outlet, the power will shut off before you can even notice the shock. You can then reset the circuit by pressing the “reset” button on the outlet.

Although modern homes have sturdier electrical systems capable of handling large electrical loads, this doesn’t lessen the danger from electrical shocks due to malfunctioning appliances or from accidents. Installing GFCI outlets will greatly reduce the potential for electrical injury in your home.

Call ACI Northwest for all your Couer d’Alene, WA electrical needs. We can perform fast and effective installation of new outlets that will keep you and your family safe.

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