Category Archives: Info Articles

What is Knob and Tube Wiring?

When the wonder of electricity started to be brought into our homes in the late 1890s, the wiring system predominately used was referred to as “knob and tube wiring”. This wiring system was just the beginning of giving our homes the ability to deliver electrical power to serve our families.

As with most things, that system has been updated and improved several times over the course of 2 centuries. But you may be surprised to learn that it still exists and continues to be used in older homes across the country.

Construction

Rubberized cloth fabric was used to insulate each hot and neutral wire separately. The wiring was then run inside wall cavities. A porcelain knob was used to hold the wire in place. Unfortunately the insulation used at that time was only capable of doing its job for about 25 years. After that time, an increasing chance of failure is caused by cracking and wear.

Grounding

One of the major problems with knob and tube wiring is the lack of grounding. Today, our home’s electrical system is grounded in order to offer us protection from unwanted power surges and short circuits.  You can find out more about “What is a ground wire?” in one of our recent blogs.

While the knob and tube wiring was an inspired innovation of its time, they did not have the information to realize what a great importance our grounding system truly is in our homes.

If your home’s electrical system is in need of an upgrade, give us a call about a home electrical inspection. Douthit Electrical has been providing Charlotte with quality electrical services since 1990.


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What is a ground wire?

A typical circuit in your home is comprised of 3 wires. The live wire, the neutral wire, and a ground wire. These 3 wires work in unison to not only deliver power, but to do so safely. You can learn why electrical wire is different colors by clicking here.

In order for an electrical circuit to do its job, it needs a complete path. The combination of a live wire and a neutral wire allows it to do that. So why have a ground wire? A ground wire is a safety precaution in case anything should happen to change that circuit.

A short circuit may occur if any part of the circuit becomes disrupted, such as a wire becoming loose or frayed. When that happens, electricity no longer follows the path it is intended and creates its own “short” cut. The ground wire is there to give the electrical current a safe secondary path to follow. Remember, electricity follows along the path of least resistance. If it can find a shorter distance to complete the circuit, it will.

3 prong cords

Have you ever wondered why most appliances and some other devices have power cords with 3 prongs? That rounded extra prong actually contains its own grounding system that, when plugged into updated outlets, provides extra protection against electrical mishaps.

You may be tempted to use 3 to 2 adaptors in homes whose outlets need updated. Keep in mind, that the risk of a future short circuit is then increased. We highly recommend that older 2 prong outlets be updated by a professional electrician.

Home Electrical Inspection

Through the years, our homes protection against electrical dangers has become more advanced. Our circuit breakers warn us, our home’s surge protection guards us, and our ground systems try to protect us.

If you think your home’s electrical system may be in need of an upgrade, give us a call about a home electrical inspection.  Douthit Electrical has been providing Charlotte with quality electrical services since 1990.


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What is the difference between a surge arrester and a surge suppressor?

If you are confused by the uses of a Surge Suppressor, a Surge Arrester and a Lightning Arrester, you are definitely not alone. The differences between the 3 of them are similar but different at the same time.

All three of these have the same purpose, to keep unwanted electrical power from damaging your home and its systems. Whatever protects your home is definitely something that should be understood.

Surge Arrester
A surge arrester “arrests” unwanted power that enters your home from outside sources such as lightning, or surges from your power company. It sends that excess power directly into an installed grounding application.

Lightning Arrester
A lightning arrester “arrests” unwanted power from a lightning strike before it reaches your door and sends the power into the ground outside.

Surge Protector
A Surge Protector “protects” your home’s electrical system from power surges created inside your home. It is often intalled into the network in a whole home protection system.

Now you may be wondering if you need 1, 2 or all 3 of these. The best answer is to give Douthit Electrical a call. Everyone’s home and needs are different. We can discuss your options and recommend what we believe to be the right course of action for the safety of your home and its electrical system.

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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Why does my microwave keep tripping the breaker?

A microwave has become as essential in our kitchens as our stove top and oven. But because of its small convenient size, we often forget just how much power it takes to reheat those leftovers or cook those quick meals.

It’s because of this power that our microwave uses that it should be on its own dedicated circuit. This allows it to draw the essential energy it needs, without being hindered by other devices on the same circuit.

Microwave ovens have come a long way since 1970, and they now are available in all types of sizes and strengths. It is always a good idea to install a breaker that can handle a slightly higher amperage than your microwave lists it uses. Giving the appliance room for a bit of fluctuation is always a good idea for safety and future peace of mind, especially if your breakers are older.

Step One – Test Microwave
First, let’s be sure the microwave is functioning properly. Use the microwave in an area of the house that is guaranteed to not be on the same circuit, a garage or workshop perhaps. If it works then go on to step 2. If it does not, then the microwave is faulty.

Step Two – Check the Circuit
Locate your circuit breaker box and look to see if it is on its own dedicated circuit. Hopefully your box is sufficiently labeled to make this an easy chore. If the circuit is shared with other items, then a dedicated circuit for the microwave is what is needed. If it appears to already have its own dedicated circuit, then a higher amperage may be required. Douthit Electrical can examine the circuit and recommend a course of action with your family’s safety in mind.

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 light bulbs to blow out so fast?

Are you still in the process of updating to CFL or LED lights in your home? Are you concerned that your older type of bulbs are suddenly blowing out faster than ever before? Even though you are updating, it is a good idea to investigate the reason for the sudden change.

Bulbs
Have you started using a different brand or batch of bulbs where you see the sudden change? The durability of the filament in these type of bulbs was already fragile. If the quality of these different bulbs is even a small amount less, that could result in them blowing out faster.

Light socket
Anything using electrical current requires a strong connection in order to work correctly. Light bulbs are no different. If the bulb is not able to make that connection effectively, it can result in arcing electricity that can lead to the fast blowouts.

Remove the bulb and look into the light bulb socket. Inside you should find a small brass tab that is slightly raised. If it has been flattened by over tightening bulbs in the past, that could be causing arcing electricity.

Turn off the power to the affected light socket. Once you have confirmed it is safe to work on, use your fingers or a pair of small pliers to bend that tab slightly upwards. Not sure how much? Take a look at another light socket and see the position of the tab to compare.

High Voltage & Vibration
Two less common causes can be excess voltage and vibration. Excess voltage can be caused by your home’s electrical system. If you have concerns that this may be happening, give us a call to diagnose the problem.

Vibration from appliances nearby or other mechanical devices can be causing the filament in these bulbs to snap prematurely. In these instances, once you switch to CFL or LED your problem should be satisfied.

If you would like help diagnosing and correcting any of these potential electrical problems in your home, 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 Causes Power Surges and How Can I Protect Myself?

When you hear the phrase “power surge”, most of us instantly think of storm clouds sending lightning bolts down toward our home. Or perhaps you think of power lines being zapped by millions of volts coming down from the heavens. Believe it or not, lightning is one of the least causes of power surges, even though its damage can be massive.

What is more likely to cause power surge damage inside our homes, is the use of devices that use a lot of power. Appliances such as air conditioners and refrigerators, for example, can cause our home’s power to fluctuate. Faulty wiring, that does not do its job of monitoring power, can cause this and other threats by allowing too much power to travel through our home’s electrical system.

Last blog we discussed what a surge protector is and the types available in stores. To better understand Surge Protector Ratings here is what they mean.

Clamping Voltage – typically 330V, 400V and 500V – this is the amount of volts that will pass through before directed to the ground. Lower is better.

Energy absorption/dissipation – 200/400/600 joules – states how many energy the surge protector can absorb before it fails. Higher is better.

Response time – how quickly will it work – look for less than one nanosecond.

Douthit Electrical is an expert at installing surge protection for your entire home. A whole house surge protector will protect your family from unwelcome surges from outside sources such as lightning. We can also discuss with you protection from smaller surges created inside your home with Point of Use Surge Protection.

We can counsel you on the right kind of protection, from not only the high voltage that can happen from destructive lightning and power line damage, but fluctuations that can occur because of faulty or outdated wiring to insure it can handle your appliance power needs.

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 are Surge Protectors?

You see it advertised, you are told you need it, but have you wondered exactly what are Surge Protectors?

The average home expects to have 120 volts flowing through its system to deliver energy to its many outlets. If a surge of unwanted power is delivered, our wiring is not prepared for it, and neither are the many devices that we have plugged in.

When that surge of power is pushed onto appliances and delicate electronic devices, the result can be catastrophic. A surge protector power strip monitors that amount of voltage.

Types of Surge Protection

MOV (Metal Oxide Varistor) and Gas Tube (gas discharge arrestor). These are the most common types. If too much voltage travels into the power strip it diverts the excess amount to the ground wire, while allowing the correct amount to travel to items under its care. Under most circumstances, this will protect our plugged in items.

Built-in fuse – Some surge protectors have a built-in fuse. This acts as a second line of defense in case the extra voltage is not diverted in time. If the fuse is burned out, it eliminates the circuit and the flow of power is stopped.

You may have assumed that the power strips you see in your home are offering you surge protection. That may be not be the case. If you inspect them closely they should have a Underwriters Laboratories (UL) rating. If you do not see that, they are probably not offering you any protection, and are simply power strips. The minimum rating for surge protection is UL 1449.

Next time we will be discussing what causes power surges to endanger our homes and the option of whole home surge protection.

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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Should I buy LED or Incandescent Christmas Lights?

If you’ve been decorating for the holidays as long as we have, you might still be wondering if it is worth the money to update to LED lights. The initial cost can be a bit daunting on the budget, and change comes slowly for most.

While a beautiful display of Christmas lights can be created at anyone’s home with either type of lights, here’s a few things to consider.

What do you get for the higher LED price tag?

LED lights are more durable. They are plastic which makes them easier for storage … and it will seem like they never burn out! They may get dimmer with age, but as we know, nothing lasts forever without losing a step here and there. LED will last up to 50,000 hours compared to incandescent’s approx. 1000 hours of light.

LED lights are cool to the touch. That makes them, not only safer to use to decorate with, but Flourescent lights use up to 90% of their expended energy on heat that is both wasted and unwanted near our home’s holiday cheer. LED lights are going to save you up to 80% on your energy cost by not creating heat … only beautiful holiday brilliance.

LED light options are constantly changing and expanding. New styles come out every year to constantly awe and amaze us. While LED lights will have a higher price tag than their less expensive fluorescent counterparts, they will prove their worthiness over time. If you plan on decorating year after year, LED will be worth the investment.

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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How Does a Smoke Detector Work?

Protecting our family and home with smoke detectors started as early as 1901. The importance of an early warning system from fire and smoke continues to be a priority across the United States.

Today the 2 most common types of smoke detectors are photoelectric and ionization. The power source for these detectors can be as simple as a 9-volt battery or as dependable as our home’s electrical current.

As I’m sure you can guess, they each work in completely different ways, but have the same goal in mind. They each want to do their part in helping to keep us safe and save us from disaster. Here’s a brief description of them both.

Photoelectric

You guessed it! Photoelectric uses light to sense smoke. A photo beam is used inside the detector in conjunction with a sensor. When smoke enters the detector, it scatters that light. So when that same internal light hits the sensor, it triggers a loud piercing siren we’ve all come to know.

This type of detector is best at detecting fires that produce a lot of smoke, such as a mattress or piece of furniture for example.

Ionization

Perhaps the most common and affordable detector is the Ionization type. It may be hard to believe, but inside these detectors is an extremely small amount of a radioactive element called americium-241. This material is used in an ionization chamber (similar to an aluminum can) that is a source of ionizing radiation which helps to detect smoke.

Sound confusing? Here’s how it works. The chamber consists of 2 plates along with a power source that produces the voltage and the americium-241 produces the ionizing radiation. This combination produces a small amount of electrical current that the interior electronics recognize.

When smoke enters the ionization chamber, it interferes with the current. This drop in current is what lets the sensor know that a fire could be nearby and sounds the alarm.

Douthit Electrical can discuss any changes or upgrades of your smoke detectors that you may want to consider for your home. We have 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 are Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)?

In order to understand what an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) is, let’s first remind you what a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is. GFCIs monitor the flow of electricity through a circuit. These are typically the type of outlets found in rooms that have access to water, such as a bathroom or kitchen. If the flow of electricity through a circuit becomes unstable, a GFCI outlet will automatically cut the power.

This type of protection attempts to protect us from life threatening shocks that could be caused by household accidents, such as a hair dryer falling into the sink. Electricity always follows the path of least resistance, and water is one of its favorite conductors.

An Arc Fault occurs when electricity jumps the gap between 2 loose connections. It will likely cause sparks and an increased amount of heat. This heat can easily cause fires under the right circumstances. AFCIs reside in our circuit breaker box. From there they can then sense unusual heat amounts and interrupt the flow of electricity to the circuit.

Newer homes are typically equipped with both GFCIs and AFCIs, and are required by safety regulations in many areas. Unfortunately older Charlotte homes are not always fully protected and there is a need to investigate the presence of these safety features on our own.

Douthit Electrical can inspect your home for these essential safety upgrades and advise you on a course of action to help protect you and your family from electrical dangers.

Remember, both GFCIs and AFCIs can help save your home from fire and your family from injury. 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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