Category Archives: Electrical How to Instructions

Outdoor Extension Cord Safety

Outdoor extension cords can be a blessing or our demise. So many Charlotte residents do not have enough outdoor outlets and rely on extension cords to bring the power outside with them during the summer months.

I’m sure you’ve seen them lying in a pile on driveways or garage floors, waiting to be stored away. Or perhaps they are dragged across yards to provide energy to power our outdoor tools or toys.

Extension cords can be a blessing, but only if we take the extra precautions of observing proper safety and common sense. If you find yourself relying on multiple extension cords, that could signal that it is time to increase the number of outlets in your outdoor area.

If you’ve ever compared an indoor to an outdoor extension cord, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the differences. The most obvious difference is the insulation that protects the outdoor cord from the elements. But most importantly, never use an indoor extension cord outside!

You may think that purchasing an extension cord is as simple as measuring the length you need, getting in the car, and finding one on sale. But just like anything else that poses a safety risk in our homes, there are specifications you’ll want to consider.

The most important information you’ll want to gather in advance is the length of cord you’ll need, and how much power you want it to safely be used for. We’ll be discussing how to understand the ratings of extension cords and tips on how to choose the “right cord” for the job you have in mind in our next blog “How to Choose the Right Outdoor Extension Cord.”

Douthit Electric has been providing Charlotte with quality electrical services since 1990. When you need help with your electrical service or installation, check out our money saving coupons and give us a call!


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Why does my breaker keep tripping?

Indoor Home Open Electrical Breaker PanelIf you continually need to go down to the basement or to the garage to your electrical panel box, your breaker is trying to tell you something.

The most common reason a breaker keeps tripping is because you are constantly overloading the same circuit. The breaker is trying to keep you and your family safe, by warning you the only way it can … by interrupting the power usage on a circuit that has reached its safe limit.

Before resetting the tripped circuit breaker, unplug the items that are on that circuit. Once you’ve reset the breaker, consider allocating the energy usage over different circuits. If that is not a practical solution, Douthit Electrical can help you decide if an upgrade is the next step.

If this is the first time you’ve been left in charge of resetting the breaker, here are a few helpful hints on how to reset a circuit breaker.

A short circuit or ground fault is another reason a breaker might be tripping. There is usually a physical sign when this happens. It could be as obvious as a blackened area around an outlet or even the smell of burnt wires.

Has a new appliance entered your home? Appliances come and go, but our electrical system tends to stay the same. New appliances can sometimes mean it is time to update the electrical system.

Now that summer is approaching, air conditioners can take a heavy strain on our electrical circuits. Make sure that your home can handle the extra power needed to keep your home cool.

Douthit Electrical has been providing Charlotte with quality electrical services since 1990. When you need help with your electrical service or installation, check out our money saving coupons and give us a call!


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Why aren’t the outlets in my bathroom working?

It’s happened to most of us. We’ve just taken our morning shower … switch on the hair dryer and nothing happens. We turn it off and on and off and on until we finally give up. Now it’s time to find out what is to blame for this inconvenience.

The most obvious next step is to try the hair dryer somewhere else. Find another outlet that you know is currently working and plug in the hair dryer. Does it work now? If it does then you’re on your way to discovering the problem.

Go back to the bathroom and see if that is the only outlet not working in the room. All the outlets in your bathroom should be updated to GFCI. Check the button in the center to see if it needs to be reset. In some cases, outlets in the bathroom and kitchen are updated by installing a GFCI circuit breaker in the main electrical panel. If you are not sure what the importance of GFCI outlets in your bathroom is click here.

The next step is to see if you have a tripped circuit breaker or blown fuse. Locate your main electrical panel. Check to see if a circuit breaker needs to be reset or a fuse replaced. If that’s the culprit of your hair dryer misery, reset or replace and check on the outlet. If that has resolved the problem, good job! If this becomes a common occurrence, you will want to find out the reason for it. Douthit Electrical can help!

If that did not restore the power to the outlet, then we suggest giving us a call to do more troubleshooting of the problem.

Douthit Electrical has been providing Charlotte with quality electrical services since 1990. If you need experienced electrical service or installation, check out our money saving coupons and give us a call!


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Basic Electrical Tools for Your Home

Douthit Electrical is here to help you with any electrical project you have planned for your home. But if you’d like to try to take on a small project or two on your own, we’ve prepared a basic list of both general use and electrical tools you should have on hand in your toolbox.

  • Tape Measure
  • Hammer
  • Flashlight
  • Flat Head Screwdriver
  • Phillips Screwdriver
  • Pliers
  • Level
  • Utility Knife

Determined to take on an electrical project or two around the house? Here’s a list of tools that should be in your toolbox that are particular to electrical work.

1. Voltage Detector – used for a quick safety check in order to see if a circuit is “live”
2. Multimeter- checks for multiple electrical facets with one tool
3. Fish Tape – used to steer new wiring through walls and electrical conduit in confined spaces
4. Wire Strippers – used to cut the insulation away from wire
5. Diagonal Pliers – also called wire cutters
6. Needle Nosed pliers – to reach into those small spaces
7. Electrical tape – covers and insulate wire
8. Allen Wrench Set – electrical Panels often use allen screws
9. Channel Lock Pliers – used primarily when working with electrical boxes

Just remember, if you decide to do even a small electrical project—turn off the current!

If you decide to reach out to us for help on a future electrical project, Chuck Douthit and his team are the ones to call. With an A+ rating at the BBB, you can rest assured in the knowledge that you will be pleased with the outcome.

Douthit Electrical has been providing Charlotte with quality electrical services since 1990. When you need help with your electrical service or installation this holiday, check out our money saving coupons and give us a call!


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Why is electrical wire in different colors?

Electrician Connecting WiresWe’ve all seen those shows. The bomb is ticking and the hero has to decide which wire to cut to stop the timer. Did the bad guy change the colors to make it confusing? Luckily in our homes, the wires have been color coded and installed to make things as easy as possible to make changes to our electrical system.

Types of Wire
Hot — The job of a “hot” wire is to deliver power to a destination.
Neutral – A “neutral” wire completes the electrical circuit.
Ground – A “ground” wire is a safety measure. Put simply, an electrical spike sends the extra power through the ground where it can cause a circuit breaker to trip.

Common Wire Colors Used by Certified Electricians
Black Wire is always hot.
White Wire is neutral (but can change to live if marked accordingly).
Green Wire is always a ground wire.
Red Wire is always hot and used more in switch wiring.
Yellow and Blue Wire is less common, but if used are hot wires.

Never guess or assume! Always shut off the power when working with electricity. All electrical home projects should be done carefully to ensure the safety of your home.

Always connect wires of the same color, and as an added precaution use insulated tools when working with or even around electrical wires. Remember to err on the side of caution when dealing with electricity.

Douthit Electric has been providing Charlotte with quality electrical services since 1990. When you need electrical service or installation, check out our money saving coupons and give us a call!


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My old dryer outlet was only 3 slots. What do I do?

Laundry Room DesignGas dryers require very little electrical power. They use gas as their heating power source and their electrical needs are mainly to turn the drum. They typically use the same 120V amount of power as a small appliance.

Electric dryers are quite different. Electric power is converted to heat and has much more power needs. These require an electric outlet that is specifically for dryers and the extra power they need to run properly.

3 Prong vs. 4 Prong
If your previous dryer was older than 2000, then it may have very well been quite happy with the 3 prong outlet in your home. Since that time, many electrical safety advances have been made. That is reflected in the current electrical code that requires 4 slots in newer home 220V outlets. The extra slot was an added safety measure to add an additional neutral path to the circuit.

What do I do?
Douthit can update your outlet to the new safety standards. Just give us a call for an appointment.

But, if you would like to wait to change to a 4 prong outlet, you may be able to convert the dryer cord yourself.

Changing the Dryer Cord
We always recommend having a licensed electrician help you with your home’s electrical projects, but if you are feeling confident, here’s our suggested steps:

1. ALWAYS MAKE SURE THE DRYER IS UNPLUGGED.
2. There should be a metal plate covering the area on the back of the dryer where the cord attaches. Remove it and make sure to put those small screws where they won’t be lost.
3. You should now see a restraint that keeps the cord stable and helps to relieve the stress and strain of movement. Remove the restraint.
4. Disconnect the existing dryer cord
5. Connect the center wire of the new 3 prong cord to the center silver terminal.
6. You have 2 wires on the new cord that now need be attached. Attach these to the 2 terminals beside the silver terminal.
7. Reattach the restraint collar. This can be frustrating and can take a bit of patience. Slide the tab ends one at a time into the cord wire hole. When you’ve been able to match up the 2 halves and can get the screws to catch, you’re done with the hardest part. Tighten.
8. Replace the safety plate.
YOU MUST GROUND THE DRYER. Return the frame ground strap to the central terminal post (neutral).

All electrical home projects should be done carefully to ensure the safety of your home. Always err on the side of caution when dealing with electricity.

Douthit Electric has been providing Charlotte with quality electrical services since 1990. When you need electrical service or installation, check out our money saving coupons and give us a call!


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Why is my light bulb flickering?

A flickering light bulb is more common that you might think. A slight drop in your Charlotte home’s voltage can cause your lights to dim momentarily … or flicker. Here’s a few things you can check before calling your local electrician.

Loose bulbs. Sometimes the easiest solution is the right solution. Make sure the bulb is not loose and is properly seated in the socket.

Type of Bulb: Fluorescent lights tend to flicker more often than the more energy efficient LED light bulbs. The easy answer is just to replace the bulb. Hopefully that will solve the problem.

Dimmer switches: Low voltage LED bulbs can often flicker on these types of switches. Dimmer switches expect to be controlling higher voltage items and can cause lower voltage bulbs to flicker.

Faulty connections: Sometimes a switch can go bad over time, as do most things in our home. See if the on/off switch has a bad connection and is causing the flickering. You should also check the outlet where it is receiving its power, to make sure the prongs are not bent or damaged.

Appliances: Our appliances can sometimes require a surge in power when they are in full operation. You may have noticed your lights flicker when your washer or another appliance turns on. If this is a common occurrence, you should consider calling an electrician to help you decide if your home’s circuit is being constantly overloaded.

These are just a few examples of common reasons why your light bulb could be flickering. If you experience a sudden change in your home’s electrical system, you should always err on the side of caution, and give your friendly electrician a call.

Douthit Electric has been providing Charlotte with quality electrical services since 1990. When you need help with your next appliance installation, check out our money saving coupons and give us a call!


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How do I remove a broken light bulb?

BulbA broken light bulb stuck in a light fixture can be much more trouble than you might expect. It is always best to approach anything dealing with electricity with the “better safe than sorry” point of view.

Preparation

  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Drop cloth to catch any broken pieces from the bulb that may shatter.
  • Make sure to turn off the power!

Methods

Pliers: Pull out any large pieces of the bulb left in the socket. Use needle nose pliers to hold onto the base of the bulb. Once you have a good grip, start twisting and pulling the bulb away from the socket to pull the bulb free.

Potato: You’ve probably heard of the “potato method” for freeing a broken light bulb. Yes, it can actually work. Grab a raw potato from the kitchen and cut off the end, insert it into the socket and give is a twist. That potato should actually give you a grip on the broken light bulb and hopefully free it from the socket. Please dispose of the potato after it has successfully done it’s job.

Hot Glue: For exceptionally difficult broken bulbs, apply a large dose of hot glue to a stick of wood that will fit into the bulb’s base. Completely fill the base with glue. After letting the glue set for over 5 minutes, use the wood stick like a handle to unscrew the bulb from the socket.

Remember: always be careful with any project dealing with electricity. Safety should always be your first concern!

Douthit Electric has been providing Charlotte with quality electrical services since 1990. When you need quality electrical service, check out our money saving coupons and give us a call!


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Understanding Fuses and Circuit Breakers

Fuses and circuit breakers have the same job in our Charlotte homes. When too much power is going through a circuit, they both are able to stop the flow and hopefully, stop the damage that could be caused by too much electricity going through the circuit.

Both fuses and circuit breakers have their advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a few of the differences.

Fuses

The most common type of fuses is made up of glass or ceramic with a metal casing. Inside the fuses is a filament or metal wire. When electricity is flowing normally, it safely passes through the filament and into our homes.

If a power surge occurs, the filment melts and stops the flow of electricity. Once that happens the fuse must be replaced in order for the circuit to be complete again.

Fuses react faster, but has to be replaced in order to restore power to the circuit.

Circuit Breakers

When turned on, the breaker allows power to pass across. If the current reaches an unsafe level, the switch is automatically turned off either by a magnet or a bi-metal strip, and the circuit is broken.

Circuit Breakers are much easier for the average homeowner to use. Once the problem has been found and corrected, restoring the circuit is easy as flipping the switch.

Douthit Electric has been providing Charlotte with quality electrical services since 1990. When you need quality electrical service, check out our money saving coupons and give us a call!


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How to “Sleigh” Common Electrical Problems in Charlotte Right in Time for the Holidays!

Christmas Room Interior Design, Xmas Tree Decorated By Lights PrElectrical decorations are a great way to get into the joyous spirit of the season but failure to properly install them can pose some pretty serious risks. According to recent data from the Electrical Safety Foundation International, home-based electrical systems are the cause for nearly 55,000 fires a year, resulting in over 500 deaths and 1,400 injuries. Furthermore, electrical fires cost a whopping $1.4 billion each year in property damage.

At Douthit Electrical, electrical safety and your satisfaction are always our top priorities. We understand how important the holiday season is, and our experienced electricians are happy to help with your electrical holiday lighting in Charlotte.

Whether you’re hanging a few lights or creating a spectacular lighting display that’ll leave the neighborhood Joneses green with envy like the Grinch, here are a few easy ways to avoid common holiday electrical problems.

Inspect your electrical decorations

You won’t be able to safely put on much of a holiday lighting display with electrical decorations that are worn, frayed, or otherwise damage. Considering it’s likely you haven’t seen them since last year, it’s important to closely inspect your electrical decorations for signs of wear, such as torn insulation which can drastically increase the risk of short circuits and fire. Repair or replace any faulty equipment before installing it.

Use the right kind of lighting

The best kinds of electrical decorations are those that have been approved and tested for safety by a nationally accredited laboratory such as the Underwriters Laboratory. Look for the seal of approval on the packaging. In addition, never use lights and electrical equipment designed for indoors use only outside. Looking for ways to save on lighting energy costs? Consider using energy efficient, low wattage LED lights instead of old incandescent lighting. Not only do they use less energy, but they also produce less heat, reducing the risk of electrical fire.

Avoid using the same outlet

It can be tempting to string holiday lighting and decorations together from the same outlet, but spreading electric decorations across multiple circuits is the safest way to install them. Plugging too many things into the same outlet puts a significant amount of stress on the circuit and may cause it to overload or worse, spark a fire.

Consider using a timer

Leaving electrical decorations unsupervised can be potentially dangerous as they can become overheated due to being left on for an extended period of time. Use a timer or be sure to remember to turn the lights off before bed or when leaving the house.

Exercise caution in all areas

A jolly “ho-ho-ho!” can easily turn into a big “Oh-no-no!” if you aren’t careful! In fact, hospital emergency rooms experience an influx of patients with injuries related to hanging — or falling over — holiday decorations during this time of year. Never use a metal ladder when hanging or taking down string lighting to reduce your risk of electrical shock or fire. Always keep walkways shoveled and when necessary, tape cords down to prevent falls. And remember to always keep your tree watered! Fresh, green trees are far less likely to ignite than dry, brittle ones. Buying an artificial tree? Make sure it’s fire-resistant.

Our electricians want you to have the happiest and safest holiday possible. We understand how frustrating and intimidating troubleshooting electrical problems can be, so never hesitate to give us a call for all your Charlotte electrical needs, both big and small!

 


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