Category Archives: Electrical How to Instructions

How to Install USB Outlets

Your family is probably like most of us and has a large amount of today’s electronics at their fingertips. But your home may be plagued by not having enough outlets to keep them all charged and ready. One answer for some is to switch a few of their current outlets to USB combo outlets.

We always suggest using the services of a licensed electrician for any electrical project in your home, but if you are feeling especially “handy” we have put together some advice we hope will help.

Changing a wall outlet is one of the more straight forward home electrical projects, but always be prepared for something to be different than expected. And when working with electricity, always make safety your first concern.

Options

When choosing your new outlets you will need to decide a few things, including what type of USB ports you need. USB-A are the large ports you usually see on laptops with a rectangular shape. USB-C are smaller, shaped more oval and and are more often seen on newer smartphones. Which size does your family need? Both?

You may also want to consider spending a few more dollars to purchase combo outlets that have chips. Your devices are expensive. You will want to make sure they charge at the safest speed and a chip will help detect and regulate that.

Another option to consider to protect those devices is whole house surge protection. Combo outlets may be a welcome convenience to your family, but don’t forget about protecting those devices from unwanted surges. Douthit Electrical is an expert at helping to protect homes from electrical dangers.

Installation

Switching one wall outlet for another could be a simple project, but always, as with any project, unplanned things can happen. Make sure that an accidental shock is not one of them! Before starting, make sure to turn off and test that no power is going to the outlet you are working on.

Click here for our blog on how to replace an electrical outlet. The new combo outlet may be slightly larger than the old one. If it does not fit in your current electrical box, you will need to swap that out as well. If that happens, you may want to rethink your project or call Douthit Electrical for professional installation.

Location

USB combo outlets are not meant for rooms where water is used. We hope you already have GFCI outlets installed in those rooms. Call us if you have doubts about what type of outlet should be installed at locations around your home.

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


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How to choose a location for circuit breaker panels

IA Circuit Breaker Panel is an important part of your home’s electrical system. It’s location should be chosen carefully and must always observe The National Electrical Codes (NEC) handed down by the National Fire Protection Association.

NEC Guidelines
In order the assure that the circuit breaker panel can always be accessed easily and safely, the NEC has designated a certain amount area to be left available at all times as a “working space”. This space around the breaker panel must be at least 6′ 6” high and 3 feet square away from the wall, with 30” width.

The center of the handle on the panel should not be more than 6′ 7” from the floor.

Resist the urge to hide your panel away in a closet or pantry. They should be installed in a larger exposed area such as a basement or garage. This should be a place that is out of the way and out of sight, but still convenient.

It should go without saying, that a light must be nearby to make sure your panel can be seen at all necessary times. Don’t store things near the panel that would limit easy access to it.

Are You Ready?
If you are considering taking on this project, consider visiting NEC (National Electrical code) at www.nfpa.org/NEC. It’s important that before you start you are armed with all the necessary information so that you do not have to redo your work.

If you’ve chosen the location for your new circuit breaker panel and would like it installed by a professional electrician, Douthit Electrical can help! Douthit Electrical has been providing Charlotte with quality electrical services since 1990. When you need electrical service, check out our money saving coupons and give us a call!


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What to do when motion lights won’t turn off

Motion lights are a great addition to a home. They not only add safety and security, they add convenience. No longer do you need to remember to leave lights on outside (and waste power), you can be confident that they will turn on when they are needed most.
But what if they don’t turn on as expected? We tend to take them for granted, and when they don’t function correctly, it can be frustrating.

COMMON CAUSES

Sensitivity Settings
Quality motion detectors usually have settings that will allow you to choose how sensitive they should be to stimuli and how far away we want that stimuli to set off the detector. Be sure these settings are still accurate.

Time Setting
That same motion detector will probably also have the option of choosing how long the light can stay on. Make sure to check that the time duration is what you think it is. It may have accidentally been lengthened.

Reset
Just like our cable TV box and our computers … when in doubt, reset. After you’ve checked the settings above, cut the power to the motion detector completely for at least 10 seconds. Restore power and then see if the lights are now working correctly. Sometimes the simplest solution can be the correct one.

If these steps didn’t resolve your problem, Douthit Electrical can help! Douthit Electrical has been providing Charlotte with quality electrical services since 1990. When you need electrical service, check out our money saving coupons and give us a call!


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How Many Outlets can be on a 20 Amp Circuit?

The question you probably meant to ask is how many things can be plugged into and used on a 20 Amp Circuit. The typical home has countless outlets for convenience, most of which are not used at any given time.

The National Electrical Code requires that the circuit breakers in our home warn us when more than 80% of the acceptable power usage in any given circuit be used by “tripping” the circuit breaker. You can read more about circuit breakers here.

Using only 80% of our 20 amp circuit gives us 16 amps to safely work with. Those 16 watts give us at most 1920 watts on a typical 120 volt circuit. These numbers are based on safe usage. Who wants to worry about their circuit breaker tripping by exceeding that?

So you are probably still wondering how many things can be run on a single circuit? That is going to depend on the types of things you are plugging in. A typical electrical heater may require 1500 watts when in use, while lights and electronics have very small usage. A safe bet would be to allocate 1.5 amps per item such as these on your circuit.

Common sense should tell you that running appliances and power hungry devices should be delegated to separate circuits. But remember, just because they are plugged into separate outlets, does not mean they are not all sharing the same circuit.

If you need to update your home to more safely handle your power usage, Douthit Electrical can help! Douthit Electrical has been providing Charlotte with quality electrical services since 1990. When you need electrical service, check out our money saving coupons and give us a call!


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How to Replace a Light Switch

In our last blog, we discussed how to replace an electrical outlet. The need to replace a light switch is less common, but the process is very similar. Here are tips on how to replace a single pole light switch that controls only 1 light from one location. Just as before, we always suggest never taking on an electrical project unless you are completely confident in your abilities.

We recommend having the following tools available before starting:

  • Replacement light switch, of course
  • Screwdriver
  • Wire Stripper
  • Needlenose pliers.
  • Voltage detector, not required but suggested.

First, turn off your power to the light switch at the breaker box. Then double check that the existing light switch is not getting any power. It is extremely important when working with electricity, to always put safety first.

Take off the faceplate and then remove the screws that fasten the switch to the wall. Gently pull the switch out from the wall and take a look at the wires connected to it.

The wires should be connected to the older switch either by looping around the terminal screws or through holes in the back. Before unhooking those wires, take notes or even a photo to remind yourself about the original setup. Once you’ve done that, unhook the wires and remove.

The red or black wire attaches either to the brass screw or connects through the hole on the same side as the brass screw. The white wire connects to the silver screw or through the hole on that side. If the ground is attached to the switch (and not the box itself) unscrew that as well.

Now it’s time to install your new light switch. Attach the live (black or red) wire to the brass screw (or through the hole on that side) first. Next attach the neutral white wire, and finally the ground (if it is not already attached to the box.)

Take a moment to look over your work. If the wires are firmly attached to the correct screws/openings, carefully push the switch back into the wall and secure. Reattach the face plate.

Turn the breaker back on and restore power to the light switch. We hope you have successfully replaced your switch and light has been restored to your room.

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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How to Replace an Electrical Outlet

Any electrical project in your home should be taken seriously. But replacing an existing outlet is one of the most common projects a homeowner will take on by themselves. Here’s basic instructions on how to replace an 110V electrical outlet with 2 wires and 1 ground.

1. Turn off the power at the main circuit panel.

2. Unscrew the outlet cover and remove it.

3. Use a voltage tester to confirm that the circuit is receiving no electricity.

4. Unscrew the outlet and gently pull it and its wires away from the wall.

5. Locate the terminals and remove both the black and white wires. The black wire (live) is usually connected with a gold or brass screw. The white wire (neutral) is usually connected with a silver screw.

6. Remove the ground wire (typically green or copper).

At this point, you should be able to remove the old outlet and replace it with the new one.

Connect the ground wire, then the black & white wires to the same screws as were attached before. Fit the new outlet into the wall and rescrew into the electrical box. Reattach the outlet cover.

Remember, you want to attach everything exactly as it was before. If you fear a faulty memory, take notes or even a photo of what the wires look like attached.

Once you’ve surveyed your work and believe you are ready to be tested, turn the power back on at the main circuit panel. Hopefully your nice new electrical outlet is working properly, and you can pat yourself on the back.

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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What is a Short Circuit?

Going on a long trip? You are probably going to use your GPS or perhaps google map it to find the shortest distance you need to travel in order to arrive at your destination. Well, that is what electricity does!

Electricity must travel along its own roadway of circuits. If it finds a quicker way, just like us, it changes its normal route and detours. When that happens, a “short circuit” occurs.

A short circuit can be caused by many things. It can happen from destructive household pests, loose connections, or even insulation that has become damaged over time. There are many unseen home issues that can cause this.

When that happens, bare wires that should never have touched become instant short cuts for our electricity. This means too much power is moving across too short of a distance.  This causes more heat to be produced then was intended for our circuits and can lead to shocks, burns and/or fire.

Oftentimes a short circuit will lead to a circuit breaker constantly needing to be reset . Click here for our blog “Why does my breaker keep tripping.” A visual inspection of our home’s outlets, appliances and extension cords can sometimes offer information for a quick diagnosis.

Remember, a short circuit in your home can easily lead to fire. If you suspect a short circuit, give us a call to diagnose and remedy the problem. Douthit Electrical has been providing Charlotte with quality electrical services since 1990. When you need electrical service, check out our money saving coupons and give us a call!


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What is Causing My Electric to Hum?

Have you ever had such a great day that when you are alone you begin humming or whistling a song you recently heard? That’s when you know that you are having a great day! But, unfortunately, hearing a hum coming from one of your electrical systems or outlets can ruin all that. Don’t let it!

Dimmer Lights
Did you know that when you use a dimmer switch, you are not actually dimming the energy. Instead it is being turned off and on so fast (many times per second) that our eyes don’t notice it. The hum from your switch could be caused by the constant switching of power on and off.

Outlets
If you tracked that hum down to one of your outlets, don’t ignore it! It could mean that a wire is no longer properly grounded or that too many volts are being carried over those wires. Give us a call to repair it!

Circuit Breakers
If you hear an electrical hum coming out of your circuit breaker box please contact us immediately. That could mean that your box is being overloaded with current, but is not shutting off properly the way it was intended.

If you wish to investigate the problem yourself, try shutting off the power entirely and then turning the breakers back on one at a time. This could narrow down the cause. We always recommend contacting a licensed electrician when dealing with the electrical safety in your home.

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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How to Choose the Right Outdoor Extension Cord

Extension cords … how we do love thee! But most Charlotte residents have not taken the time to truly understand our extension cords. Are they all made the same? Does the length matter, except for convenience? What makes one outdoor extension cord better then another?

Last blog we discussed “Outdoor Extension Cord Safety”. This time we’re going to explain how to choose the right extension cord for the job on hand.

IMPORTANT NOTES

UL symbol – These means that the cord has been approved by the Underwriters Laboratories.
W – Marked “For Outdoor Use” and their coatings have been designed to prevent moisture entry.
Gauge/Wires – The packaging on the extension cord should have a numerical rating. For example, 14/3 means It is 14 gauge and has 3 wires inside.

WHAT SIZE?

The smaller the gauge number, the thicker the wire is, and the more electricity it can handle. But at the same time, keep in mind that the longer distance the current will need to travel, the thicker the wire (gauge) will need to be. Which is why buying only the correct length that is needed for the job is a more safety cautious rule of thumb.

This may seem confusing, but choosing the right outdoor extension cord is important for your family’s safety. Especially if you will be using it to run an outdoor appliance that requires a lot of juice.

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


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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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