Education Library

Energy Efficiency Series: Lighting Efficiency

If I were to ask you what consumes the most energy in your home or office building, what would you guess? Air conditioning? Powering up computers or copiers?lighting efficiency in the office

Actually, the chances are that keeping the lights on takes up more energy than those things combined!

One site says that if everyone replaced the 5 most-used fixtures in their homes with ENERGY STAR® fixtures and bulbs, we could save $8 billion per year.

Another expert I heard at an energy conference stated that if everyone in the US switched to fluorescent and CFLs, we could close down 109 power plants. Maybe that’s overstating it, but the savings can be huge, meaning more money in your pocket.

And the good news is that in most instances, lighting is the single EASIEST and LEAST EXPENSIVE upgrade to make. Often it’s a DIY project. [Read more…]

My breaker keeps tripping. Can I just replace it with a bigger one?

PROBLEM: Circuit breaker tripping repeatedly

breaker keeps trippingBreakers are protective devices, similar to governors on vehicles to control speed, or door stops to keep the door from damaging something. When installed correctly and properly sized, breakers are designed to protect wiring and devices from overheating and potentially causing a fire.

When the breaker is tripping, it is almost never a good idea to replace it with a larger one. Here’s why:
  • It increases the risk of fire. If the breaker is tripping because it’s overloaded (say, drawing 25 amps on a 20-amp breaker), increasing the size may cause the wire or the receptacle to overheat. It’s like running a car engine at full speed for a long period—it will cause the components to get too hot, and it could result in fire.

[Read more…]

Got Smoke Detectors? (You should–here’s why!)smoke detectors information

Do I really need smoke detectors?

All new homes and many older homes have smoke detectors, and when a home that does not have smoke detectors sells, home inspectors often recommend adding them. Smoke detectors do just that—detect smoke, and potentially save lives in the event of a fire. So, yes, Virginia, you DO need smoke detectors!

What if I don’t have them?

You should. It’s that simple.

The best kind of smoke detectors are those that are hard-wired with battery backup. These are interconnected so that if one is activated, they all sound the alarm simultaneously, increasing the likelihood that you and your family will respond quickly and be saved in the event of a fire. If you don’t have these detectors at all, [Read more…]

Teach Children Electrical Safety

83588599_e53522d58dIt’s never too early to start teaching children electrical safety.

Did you know that about 2,400 children go to the ER every year because they stuck things like paper clips, hairpins, knives, nails, and other objects into electrical sockets? That’s an alarming statistic, and one that could easily be reduced, if only more of us were proactive in teaching our children.

Make it fun. Make it practical. Make it part of everyday living.

You don’t have to have structured lessons to impart a healthy respect for electricity. [Read more…]

FAQ 4: What are Surge Suppressors?

ee surge suppressorsSurge suppressors (also known as surge protectors) are devices for protecting electronic equipment in homes and businesses. In commercial and industrial applications, where they protect entire panels, they are sometimes known as transient voltage surge suppressors (TVSS). Their main function is to limit sudden high voltage inputs (called “spikes”) and stray electrical signals not intended (“trash”) to provide “cleaner” power—i.e., steadier, more consistent voltage.


Unless you like playing Russian roulette with your power, yes. Lightning strikes, power surges from or outside the power company, or faults within your own building can take out electronic components in TVs, computers, circuit boards in newer appliances, etc. in a heartbeat. All of a sudden, it’s “not working”—and you won’t even know what hit you. [Read more…]

FAQ 3: Breakers and Fuses: What’s the Difference?

breakers and fuses

Fuse panel

Breakers and fuses are both designed to trip (turn off) in the event of an electrical overload. However, breakers are mechanical and may be reset, whereas fuses are “one time only” and have to be replaced. Breakers typically offer greater protection, because modern technology allows for more sophisticated measurement and more precision tripping.


Both breakers and fuses are designed to trip when a circuit is overloaded. (And FYI, modern sophisticated fuses can often provide a level of protection greater than most breakers. But this is something more for industrial applications, and typically costs significantly more.)


Fuses often aren’t sized properly. [Read more…]

FAQ 2: What is an ACFI, and why do I need it?

ACFIwhat is an ACFIAFCI (Arc-Fault-Circuit-Interrupting) breakers and receptacles (also known as AFI or simply “arc-fault”) have been on the scene since the early 2000s. Beginning with the 2014 National Electrical Code (NEC) they are being required almost everywhere in residential applications that is not already protected by a GFCI.


Both have test buttons. Both protect. They look alike. (You may not be able to tell the difference unless you look closely!)

After that, the differences are HUGE. GFCIs protect from differential current—i.e., what’s coming in and what’s going out. (See our GFCI article.) AFCIs, on the other hand, protect from FIRE. They are designed to save lives. Thus, they are taking on a prominence that will only be increasing, and they are adding to the costs of construction significantly—typically, AFCI breakers cost between $40 and $80, and receptacles around $30 or more.


AFCIs are a bit more complicated to explain than GFCIs, because they measure two things: arcing (electricity traveling through the air or other substance instead of wires) and current (load). [Read more…]

FAQ 1: What are GFCI receptacles, and why do I need them?

GFCI (Ground-Fault-Circuit-Interrupting) receptacles—the outlets with the push buttons—are designed to protect people and animals from electric shock.  They’re also known as GFIs or simply “ground-fault.”


GCFIGFCIs measure incoming current vs. outgoing current, and are designed to trip if the smallest fraction (around 4-8 milliamps, or thousands of an amp) are going out through some other path, whether through a person, a piece of equipment, or faulty wiring. Remember that tingle you felt when something didn’t work right? A correctly-functioning GFCI would trip and keep you from getting electrocuted. (Since nearly two-thirds of all home-related electrical deaths are due to ground-fault conditions, GFCIs are important in keeping people safe!)

Believe it or not, [Read more…]

PROBLEM: You’ve got an electrical issue. Is it safe to do it yourself?

Do it yourself Electrical safetyI often have customers say, “I’m afraid of electricity.” That’s a GOOD thing. It’s healthy and safe. It can avoid damage to equipment and property. It can be life-saving. And it can save extra expense when from having to call an expert in to figure out what you did wrong.

I typically don’t advise people to work with electricity unless they feel confident. But sometimes I get calls from people who are already in the middle of a project. For Do-It-Yourself-ers who have some experience and are not afraid to try, here are some basic DO’s and DON’T’s when dealing with electricity:


  • TURN THE POWER OFF! This is the most immediate need, even if you DO know what you’re doing. Besides the danger of shock, there are possibilities like [Read more…]

How To Choose A GREAT Electrician!

PROBLEM: “I need an electrician, and I need one NOW!”

Easley Electric
You’ve just had a breaker trip, or worse—the Fire Department just pulled your meter! You need an electrician PRONTO!

SOLUTION: Here’s a quick checklist for proceeding.

(NOTE: This procedure can also apply to other trades, such as plumbing or heating/air conditioning, and even beyond.)

1) Ask friends and family.

[Read more…]

HELP! Breaker Tripping: Is My House or Business Going to Burn Down?


PROBLEM: Circuit breaker tripping repeatedly.

We had two service calls this week with the same symptom: “The breaker keeps tripping!”

Turned out the cause—and the recommended solution—was very different for each!

Case 1: Breaker tripping because of faulty wiring

[Read more…]

Home Inspection Headaches: Do We HAVE to Rewire Old Receptacles?

ungrounded vs grounded outlets

PROBLEM: The home inspector says that the home’s 3-wire receptacles don’t have ground connected and must be fixed.

If you’re trying to sell a home, you may be surprised to hear the home inspector report that your 3-wire receptacles (the “monkey face” outlets) aren’t actually grounded.

This occasionally happens in older homes. At some point, someone simply replaced the old ungrounded 2-wire receptacles with new 3-wire receptacles—often because they have equipment with 3-wire cords and it’s simply inconvenient to purchase adaptors—but didn’t actually ground the connections.

When that happens, and the house goes up for sale, triggering a home inspection report, the home inspector must report such a condition. What’s the seller to do?

[Read more…]