How do I determine which new bulbs to buy if I am switching to CFL/ LED bulbs?

In general we recommend going to LED rather than CFL, LED has become more affordable and offers better longevity than CFL bulbs. There are now good looking LED bulbs available for almost any application even retro style “Edison” bulbs. There are a few older application or small bulbs that remain most appropriate for a Halogen or incandescent bulb, mostly small bulbs found in appliances; refrigerator bulb, range hoods, some low voltage track lighting etc., but otherwise try switching to LED as you replace household bulbs

Look for bulbs from a reliable manufacturer, big names like Phillips, GE, Halo and Lutron, these may cost a bit more but offer better quality than unknown brands.  If they offer a warranty, check to see if it applies only to the diode or if it covers the ballast/drivers as well. 

Fixtures are rated for either dry, damp, or wet locations, the same goes for bulbs and it will lessen the lifespan of the bulb to put an indoor bulb in an outdoor fixture. In addition, be careful to read the label on your fixture or bulb to see if it's dimmable. CFL's and LED's can blink, buzz and have a shorter lifespan if they are installed on an older incandescent only dimmer. We recommend changing your dimmers to a Lutron brand "CL" type for all CFL's and LED's. Some specialty LED fixtures require an "ELV" dimmer which cost more because it is more effective at dimming LED's. 

Over time switching your bulbs to LED is a great way to conserve energy as well as spend a bit less time changing bulbs, even making the swap in your most frequently used lights can have an impact. 

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Which light bulbs should I switch for energy efficiency first?

Most people transition to newer LED or CFL bulbs on a gradual basis as old incandescent bulbs burn out.  Think about which lights are on most often in your home and start there. For many homes these are lights in the kitchen or living room. Another area that can provide some energy savings is outdoor lights especially if they are on all evening on a regular basis. 

The other area we recommend doing first are any fixtures that are hard to access or require a ladder, switching these to a longer lasting energy efficient bulb not only saves money but saves the hassle of changing them on a more frequent basis.

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Why do my new LED/CFL lightbulbs not last as long as the package says?

We hear complaints all the time about new “long life” bulbs needing to be replaced or burning our prematurely. A couple of factors come into play here:

First the claims made on packaging are often for a 3 hour per day usage. A bulb that claims a 10 year life may burn out much quicker if it is being used for a kitchen or living room light that is on most of the time. If the bulb is on for 8-9 hours a day then the manufacture would estimate a 3 year lifespan based on the number of hours. It is always an estimate at best and individual bulbs when combined with fixtures/especially older ones may not meet the average as determined under laboratory settings by the manufacturer.

A second factor is the cost/quality of the bulb. With CFL and LED technology being relatively new there is a wide range of quality vs cost as these bulbs become more accessible to the public at a relative price range.  Components other than the bulb itself may fail and cause the bulb to “blow”, with CFL this is commonly the ballast and with LED it is a driver, both these parts regulate voltage to the bulb and can be affected by heat, vibration or other external factors and become the weak link in the functioning of the bulb.

A third factor in overall bulb life is the condition of the fixture and working environment itself. This is often harder to determine but some older light fixtures may simply be harder on new lightbulb technologies. Older dimmers and touch sensitive lights may be incompatible with new energy efficient bulbs and cause bulbs to burn out or not response correctly. Enclosed fixtures may allow newer bulbs to overheat. Another environmental culprit may be vibration and loose or insecure connection in the fixture itself, kids romping around in a playroom above the kitchen or a wild dance party upstairs may be shaking the light fixture below, better quality bulbs may be unaffected but cheaper bulbs may fail as a result. 

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Why has the inspector requested additional work be done that isn't related to the current job?

Occasionally, an inspector may find other issues when visiting your home that require attention. This is most common when improvements have been done in the past without proper inspections or permits. Depending on the type of issue, inspectors can sometimes require that other additional repairs be made before allowing the current job to pass inspection.

This can be frustrating as it may require additional work on your home and can delay current work being done.  Inspectors are most likely to make this decision when the previous work is wildly outside of code or represents a safety hazard in your home.  It doesn't happen very often but can become an unexpected issue that must be dealt with.

The best way to prevent this is to ensure that all work done to your home is properly permitted and inspected.

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Will my job require a permit?

County permitting offices exist to both record improvements for tax purposes as well as oversee work being done to ensure that it is safe and meets code building code standards.  If a job is considered new service, an improvement to existing service or an upgrade it may require a permit. In general repairs to existing systems do not require permits.

The permitting process is fairly simple, a permit is applied for, a fee is collected and then an inspector visits at various stages to ensure that work is completed correctly.

The permit process can add additional time to completion as in most cases an county inspector will need to visit and approve work being done at different stages of completion. Depending on the type of work being done this can be one or multiple visits.  If the inspector has a question or finds a problem they must re-inspect the work before the job can proceed. Most inspectors require at least 24 hours to schedule another visit so this can add additional days to a job.

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What is the difference between AFCI and GFCI breakers and outlets?

Both of these breaker/outlet types are designed to provide protection for you and your home.

GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) are designed to prevent any excess current from escaping the line and potentially shocking people by turning off the circuit when power goes where it shouldn’t, wiring becomes wet, or damaged.

These are required for many outlets located in kitchens, bathrooms, outdoors and several other locations. If there is ungrounded or leaking current, the GFCI "trips" to prevent the potential for electrical shock. The outlet is then reset with a small button located on the outlet.

GFCI have been required by code since the late 1960's so most homeowners are familiar with these outlets. They are sometimes called GFI.

AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) are designed to protect your home against fires caused by loose wires and other current disruptions that may allow electrical current to arc and start a fire. When these arcs are detected on the circuit, it will "trip" and cut off electricity to the circuit.

Arc faults can be caused by any number of things. Common causes for arc faults are loose wires, wires that have been damaged by nails or animals, damaged or frayed power cords or simply old wiring. Because these arcs often occur in the walls of a home they can be a huge fire risk.

Code now requires that residential areas of your home be updated with AFCI protected circuits during any remodeling or repair work. AFCI protection is available both on a circuit breaker level (inside your electrical panel) and on outlets and receptacles. These look very similar to a GFCI outlet or breaker with a small reset button that tests the current before allowing the electricity to flow again.


Here's a great video that explains the differences: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU91WS94qz4

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What is a transfer switch?

A transfer switch is a switch that moves electrical load between two different sources, normally between a generator and an electrical panel/utility line.

Transfer switches can be automatic (ATS) (common with standby generators) or manual which require you to physically move the switch when you want to redirect the source of electricity. Both types ensure that power is not backfed to the generator or utility line when changing back and forth.

There are many options available and correct selection will depend on your specific home's needs.

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