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Electricians Are Essential

THE U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a directive March 19, 2020 identifying essential critical infrastructure workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Electricians are included as critical workers including, of course, Allstar Electrical.

The directive states that the list of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers should continue normal operations, appropriately modified to prevent further spread of the virus.

That’s what Allstar Electrical is doing…keeping necessary electrical services operating in metro Denver and the surrounding suburbs. With more people staying at home, their electrical needs are increased. For example, outlets that did not work were not priority fixes when the entire family left the house for the day headed to school and the workplace. But now that homes have become the classroom and the office while families shelter in place, failed electrical is a huge inconvenience.

A word of caution for the Weekend Remodeling/Repair Warrior: Electrical work is best done by pros. No one wants to end up on a hospital due to an electrical accident, especially not now when the hospitals are filling up with COVID-19 patients.

Call Allstar for prompt, safe and clean electrical work in your home. Stay connected through the pandemic and keep your family safe and your business running.

Allstar Electrical Service and Coronavirus

Like many other businesses, the Allstar Electrical team has spent the last several days learning about the coronavirus (COVID-19) and how it is impacting our world. That means understanding how it affects our employees, customers and communities, and making any necessary adjustments to our work and operations.

Our primary goal is keeping our customers and employees safe. We are closely following the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and recommendations on the steps we can take to help prevent the spread of the virus. Thus far:

  • We have shared specific instructions with our employees on the importance of washing their hands and staying home if they feel sick or are returning from an area identified as posing a coronavirus-related risk
  • We have increased cleaning services at our facility and are adding hand sanitizer at multiple locations throughout our building as well as in all our vehicles
  • We are taking extra measures to clean and disinfect our vehicles and equipment
  • We are stressing preventive measures among our employees including social distancing, frequent hand washing and sanitary practices such as covering coughs and sneezes
  • We continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice and encourage our employees to take all reasonable precautions, including self-quarantine, where appropriate

Allstar Electrical Services will continue to offer all our regular and emergency services as long as we deem it appropriate. If you have scheduled in-home services and want to reschedule due to illness or simply as a precaution, call 303.399.7420 and we will work to accommodate your needs.

Likewise, we would appreciate it if you would reschedule your appointment if anyone in your household is ill or may have been exposed to coronavirus or any other communicable illness.

We will continue to closely monitor the situation and do all we can to protect you and our employees.

For the latest information about the COVID-19 coronavirus, its prevention and treatment, visit the CDC and US Department of Health, websites.

We thank you for your trust in us and look forward to providing the area’s best electrical services in the future.

Allstar Electrical Services

How Will the Coronavirus Affect the Electrical Grid?

Of all the things in short supply during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, electric power isn’t among them. And fortunately, it isn’t likely to happen.

At the same time, US utility operators are observing government guidelines to control the spread of the disease by encouraging (or requiring) employees who can to work from home, adding extra sanitation procedures in workplaces, restricting business travel other than in vehicles, and avoiding group meetings. Many government utility agencies are also postponing regulatory hearings.

Emergency and Maintenance Services

Unless significant numbers of employees become ill or unable to work due to quarantine or assisting family members, emergency services for things like downed power lines and other service interruptions should continue to be addressed as usual.

US utility executives say the sector is well prepared, having dealt with and learned from earlier epidemic scares like SARS, MERS, and Ebola and, of course, 9/11. Contingency plans were developed then and remain in place today.

Overall Demand

As businesses and industries cut back or shut down altogether, overall demand for electric power decreases. Both China and Japan have reported less demand since the outbreak and, according to Bloomberg News, power use in Italy dropped 7.4% in the second week of March after the government shut down schools and told workers to stay at home.

US utilities thus far have seen no substantial decrease in energy demand, but that could change as more work, entertainment, and school restrictions take place. Most industry experts say the effects on residential consumers would be minimal, if at all.

Local Effects

So far, local effects have been mostly positive, at least from a consumer perspective. Xcel Energy, with operations in eight Midwestern and Western states, released a statement saying that it has staff in place to ensure that power plants, line service, and customer service will remain in normal operation while it coordinates responses to the outbreak with local, state, and federal agencies.

Xcel and other utilities are also suspending power, heat, and water disconnection to residential customers until further notice—of particular concern for people who are out of work and cannot afford to pay their bills.

We’re Here if You Need Us

Allstar Electrical Services will continue to offer all our regular and emergency services as long as resources and regulations permit.

We thank you for your trust in us and look forward to providing the area’s best electrical services during the coronavirus epidemic and well into the future.

Allstar Electrical Services

For the latest information about the COVID-19 coronavirus, its prevention and treatment, visit the CDC and US Department of Health, websites.

Adding a Car Charging Station to Your Home

As more electric and hybrid cars hit the streets, knowing where to recharge them can become an issue. Unless, that is, you have a charging station at your home or office. And getting one may not be as hard (or expensive) as you think.

Your Home May be Charger-Ready
As of 2016, Denver and other locations require that any new residential construction include provisions for Level 2 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.

At minimum, residential garages and carports must have sufficient electrical conduit installed to enable 240-volt, 40-amp wiring for a charging station to be easily pulled to an outlet for future installation. That means that if your residence was built after 2016, you probably are ready to add a car charger. But unless an EV charger is already installed, there’s more work to do.

Types of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
There are three types of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.

 

Level 1 EV Charger

Level 2 EV Charger

Level 3 EV Charger

Wiring Needed

Uses 120-volt cord plugged into wall outlet.

Requires 240-volts on dedicated circuit

480-volt service for public/commercial charging

Estimated EV Range per Charge*

About 40 miles with overnight charge

30-80 miles per hour of charging

40 miles per 10-minute charge

Service Needed

GFCI outlet and may require service upgrade

Permit, licensed electrician and possible service upgrade

Requires special equipment and licensed electrical installation

* Range will vary depending on EV vehicle type. Estimates are for typical EV passenger cars.

Unless your driving needs are limited, you will probably want a Level 2 charging station. The 240-volt service is comparable to that used for electric ranges, water heaters, and clothes dryers.

Installing an EV Charging Station
Installing EV charging stations to existing structures requires running new conduit and wiring to an outlet. It can involve panel upgrades, adding extra electrical service, and breaking into walls. If your garage or carport isn’t attached, it could also require burying a line from your service entrance. Even if your builder has run conduit, adding a 240-volt line and outlet should be left to professionals.

Allstar Electrical Services has helped Coloradans increase efficiency while adding comfort and convenience to their homes and businesses for over 15 years. To learn more about the many ways upgraded electric services and emerging technologies can improve your home or business, visit our website or give us a call at 303.399.7420. While you’re there, browse through our blog for timely articles and handy tips.

Electrical Projects For Spring

Spring brings Daylight Saving Time and Colorado’s beautiful outdoor living season isn’t far behind. Get a head start on outdoor enjoyment by making sure your electrical service is ready to add to your warm weather fun.

Here are some things to consider:

Outdoor Lighting
Winter can take a toll on outdoor fixtures. Repair or replace any damaged porch, landscape, and motion-sensing security lights. Replace burned-out bulbs with long-lasting energy-efficient LEDs.

Make sure your deck and patio lighting suits the different areas and uses. Outdoor kitchens and grilling areas need bright task lighting for safety and convenience. Dining and lounging areas call for softer illumination. Install separate switches and/or dimmers for the control you want.

Outdoor Living
Add extra comfort and enjoyment to porches, decks, and patios. Attractive, well-placed lighting lets you control the coverage and intensity to suit your different uses and moods. Show off your landscape with lighting for features like ponds, fountains, specimen trees and other plantings. If you have a roof or pergola, you might want to add a ceiling fan for extra comfort in hot, muggy weather.

Outdoor kitchen areas may need convenience outlets, and outdoor entertainment centers will need their own power outlets.

Outdoor Safety
All of your outdoor outlets should be GFCI-protected in weatherproof boxes. If they aren’t, call a licensed electrician to be sure they’re upgraded correctly.
Stairs and walkways should be lighted for safety.

Good Work Starts with a Good Plan
Outdoor remodeling, renovations, and additions need top-notch electrical work, and Allstar Electrical Services delivers the quality results you expect and deserve. We work hand-in-hand with you and your contractors to ensure your project is done right, on budget and on schedule.

Whatever your electrical needs, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are A+-rated by the Better Business Bureau.

The Three Levels of Kitchen Lighting

Older homes and most builder-grade new construction only offer basic lighting in kitchens. They typically have a ceiling fixture or two and call it good. But today’s kitchens are more than just a place to cook dinner. They’re often an integral part of a home’s living space with open floorplans and eat-in dining. That adds extra importance to making your kitchen lighting a part of your home’s overall décor.

Here are some tips on how to make your kitchen lighting both functional and fashionable:

Ambient Lighting
This is your basic room lighting. It’s what helps you navigate the space comfortably and safely. It’s also the canvas on which you add elements that make your kitchen a welcoming and functional space.
Generally, ambient lighting is provided by overhead fixtures, either surface mounted or recessed—or a combination of both, depending on your decorating scheme.

In a galley or other single-aisle layout, these lights should be placed along the midline of the traffic pattern. They should be spaced to give even lighting with no dark or overly bright spots.

If you get natural light during the daytime you may not need much supplemental lighting before sunset but having dimmers on your ambient lights will add extra flexibility to controlling your kitchen lighting at different times of the day and year.

Task Lighting
Task lighting keeps your kitchen both functional and safe. Ambient lighting illuminates the overall room but since it’s overhead, it can cast shadows on work surfaces making it hard to see what you’re cutting, chopping, and mixing. That’s not only annoying but creates a safety hazard when working with dangerous objects like knives and mixers. You don’t want to mistake your finger for a carrot.

The most common type of task lighting is an over-sink fixture, and while that makes dishwashing easier, it doesn’t do much illuminate work areas. Solve that problem with under-cabinet lights. They can be mounted in the center of the base of a wall cabinet or hidden behind the front lip of the cabinet bottom.
Types and designs vary considerably, from standard fluorescent tubes to LED strips and hard-wired to battery operated. Some are dimmable and some are not. You may even be able to get remote controls.

If you aren’t sure what will work best for you, contact a licensed electrician or a lighting designer. Better safe than sorry.

Decorative Lighting
Function can be fashionable too, and with so many kitchens part of an open floor plan, choosing the right fixtures and controls can add beauty and functionality to your living space. Dimmers are an easy way to balance kitchen and dining lighting to set the mood you want for entertaining guests or a comfortable family dinner.

Pendants can add style to a kitchen island or dining table, and wall sconces can add a dramatic touch in shared kitchen and dining areas.

Bring Your Kitchen Out of the Shadows
Regardless of the kitchen lighting design you choose, careful choices will add both your cooking and time you spend enjoying it.

Remodeling, renovations, and additions need top-notch electrical work, and Allstar Electrical Services delivers the quality results you expect and deserve. We work hand-in-hand with you and your contractors to ensure your new project is done right, on budget and on schedule.

Whatever your electrical needs, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB.

Treat Yourself to a Winter Reading Retreat

One of life’s little pleasures on a cold winter’s night is curling up with a good book in a cozy nook away from the storm. Add a plush chair, a warm blanket, and a cup of your favorite winter beverage and your imagination can let you escape the winter blahs.

Make flipping through that page-turner even more enjoyable by adding to your reading comfort with lighting that’s easy on your eyes.

Tailor Your Lighting to the Task at Hand
While we recognize the importance of task lighting for kitchens and work areas, it plays an important role in making reading easier, too. Lighting that’s too bright or too dim can cause eye strain, diminishing the pleasure reading brings.

Most experts agree that the amount of light emitted by a nearby 60-watt incandescent bulb is best for an average reader. Some people with impaired vision may find that slightly brighter light works better for them.

But incandescent bulbs are giving way to more efficient technology like compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that use less electricity and last longer. Halogen lamps are a type of incandescent bulb that uses less energy than traditional incandescents. Since wattage is a measure of energy consumption rather than light produced, these newer bulbs emit more light with fewer watts. That’s why you’ll see them rated by lumens rather than watts (although most still list an incandescent wattage equivalent as a guide).

Here are the wattage comparisons of different types of bulbs that emit the same 800 lumens as a traditional 60-watt incandescent bulb:


Incandescent

Light in lumens

LED

CFL

Halogen

60 W

800

~ 12 W

~ 15 W

~ 43 W

Create the Right Reading Atmosphere
Proper lighting keeps your home inviting and relaxing, and that’s especially important in the winter. We humans, along with most other living things, have an internal clock that runs in 24-hour cycles, known as circadian rhythms, and influence our sleep/wake cycle. While your personal habits (night owl vs early riser, for example) can influence those rhythms, external factors do too. Bright light tells your brain that it’s time to be alert and active, while darkness signals it’s time to relax and go to sleep.

If your goal is to stay awake, overhead lighting keeps you thinking daytime. But when it’s time to wind down, go for the indirect approach. Keep the overall room lighting bright enough to see easily but not so bright it’s not relaxing. Then add table or floor lamps to add extra light next to a sofa or reading chair.
Pick a lamp height appropriate to the job at hand—lower for seating and higher for general illumination. The shade shape and color are important, too. It directs the light and affects how much of it filters through the shade in what color.

Reading in Bed
You may have noticed that you tire more easily when reading in bed. Aside from fatigue, there are other factors working to nudge you off to dreamland as you read.

Your eyes are continuously scanning your environment, even if you’re not consciously looking around. When you’re looking at a bright object, a book page for instance, in a dark room, your pupils are constantly contracting and dilating to regulate the amount of light that enters your eyes. If the difference is extreme, that can add to eyestrain and fatigue making it harder to stay awake. That can be a good thing if your goal is to get some sleep, but if you need to power through a reading assignment, you’re better off doing it in a well-lit room.

A Word About E-Readers
There’s been a lot of talk about whether e-readers (and phone, TV, and computer screens) are bad for your eyes. While early screens had lower refresh rates that could be perceived subliminally and cause eyestrain, newer models with higher refresh rates largely eliminate that problem. LED screens initially had limited viewing angles, too, but that’s less of a problem now as well. The bigger issue is your reading environment (see reading in bed, above) and the quality of the printing on the page.

If you’re buying an e-reader, look for a refresh rate of 120 Hz and read the reviews. If you’re buying one at a store, test it in different lighting conditions and at various reading angles. Then pick one that’s right for your particular needs.

Lighting plays an important role in our lives, both consciously and subconsciously. It’s a year-round effect, too, so choosing the right lighting options for your home is an important part of its design and comfort.

If it’s time to upgrade your home’s lighting, always include a licensed electrical contractor to be sure any changes to your home’s wiring are safe, convenient, and meet code requirements.

The pros at Allstar Electrical Services work hand-in-hand with designers, architects, and contractors to ensure your project is done right, on budget and on schedule. Call us at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve been serving homeowners and businesses along Colorado’s Front Range since 2000 and are top-rated by the BBB.

Charging Stations, Digital Assistants Among Top Home Improvements

According to a recent survey by Houzz.com, electronic upgrades are part of 1 in 10 kitchen remodeling projects with digital assistants such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home part of 1/3 of the improvements and charging or docking stations included in about half.

We’re becoming more reliant on our electronics every day and keeping them charged is essential to having them ready when we need them.

Phones, tablets, laptops, and controllers can take up valuable counter and table space, though. Fortunately, there are many clever solutions to getting your devices out of the way, from shelves and drawers to this clever, inexpensive attachment to wall outlets, available from Home Depot and other sources.

But what if your outlet isn’t where you need it or doesn’t have enough sockets? That’s where a licensed professional electrician can help.

Working on wiring, switches, and outlets safely requires a knowledge of electrical circuitry and codes, so don’t risk injury, shock and fire hazards, or damaging expensive devices by getting in over your head. If you have any doubts about the project, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to handle it for you. We offer homeowners, builders and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.

Whatever your electrical needs may be, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range since 2000 and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Winter Safety for Seniors

Whether you’re aging in place or living with an older relative, you should be aware that winter comes with special risks to senior citizens. Here are some concerns to address if you or someone living with or near you is “of a certain age.”

Hypothermia
Older adults lose body temperature faster than youngsters. Even sustained temperatures as low as 60-65°F can cause a senior’s body temperature to fall dangerously, a life-threatening condition known as hypothermia. Hypothermia can cause a loss of cognitive function, making a person unable to realize they are at risk and take preventive measures. It can also lead to heart attack, kidney problems, liver damage, and other health issues.

Help prevent hypothermia by keeping living and sleeping areas warm--68°F is a good minimum—and block drafty windows and doors. Keep the heating system in good repair and working order to avoid unexpected failures. If you use space heaters, be sure to operate them safely.

Dress warmly in the winter, both indoors and out, using multiple layers for added insulation. And pay extra attention to covering the head and neck since they are major sources of heat loss.

If heating costs are a concern, contact your local utility; most have programs for low-income seniors. Other resources include the National Energy Assistance Referral service and local area councils on aging.

Overexertion
Your body works harder to maintain its heat during cold weather. Strenuous activity adds an extra load and can lead to heart and respiratory problems. Leave the heavy stuff to the younger folks. While exercise is important to good health at any age, try to get it indoors during cold weather.

Dry Air and Pollutants
Winter heating dries out air, and tightly sealed homes can cause a buildup of indoor pollutants, both of which can aggravate problems in seniors and others with respiratory ailments. The dry air can also cause dry, itchy skin and eyes and irritate nasal membranes.

If your indoor air humidity is below 30%, adding a central or room humidifier can make winter more comfortable for seniors and others alike. Keeping furnace filters clean helps trap dust and other pollutants before they get into your home and portable or central air filters add extra protection.

Other Winter Concerns for Seniors
Some illnesses such as diabetes and thyroid problems can make it harder for seniors to regulate their body temperature, as can certain medications. If you or a loved one experience cold weather discomfort, check with a physician to see if treatment or changes of medication will help.

For more information about winter safety concerns for seniors, see this article on the National Institute for Aging website. 

Improving winter comfort and safety can add an extra burden to your home’s electrical system. Appliances like space heaters, humidifiers and air cleaners can tax a system, and poorly insulated spaces can add to heating costs, tempting low-income and thrifty seniors to keep thermostats too low in the winter.

If you’re experiencing tripped breakers, overheated cords, or unusual electrical smells, call the pros at Allstar Electrical Services before things become dangerous. Adding outlets and upgrading service also minimizes the need for extension cords, which can be both fire and tripping hazards, especially for seniors and young children.

Allstar Electrical Services expertly delivers the quality results you expect on all our residential electrical services to ensure your project is done right, on-budget and on time. We’ve served the Colorado Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the Better Business Bureau so don’t put up with potential hazards or risk costly emergencies. Visit our website for complete details about our services as well as timely articles about the latest developments in the ever-changing world of electronics. Then give us a call at 303.399.7420 or use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment.

Are You Ready for Winter?

Winter officially arrives in the Denver area at 9:19 p.m. Saturday, December 21st, and if this fall was any indication, there’s plenty of cold, snow, and ice to come. The mountains are measuring snow in feet, not inches, and heavy snow followed by days of sub-freezing temperatures left many city streets looking more like luge runs than thoroughfares.

Fortunately, there weren’t widespread power outages, but locals know that’s often not the case during winter storms. Here are some tips on how to be prepared when the inevitable outages hit.

Be aware of threatening weather
Someone once said that forecasting is tough, especially about the future, and that’s especially true when it comes to Colorado weather. Our diverse terrain creates local conditions that can vary considerably from the regional forecasts. Pay attention to weather forecasts but be aware of how that can impact your local conditions too. Cold air sinks into valleys and river bottoms and winds on mountains and hilltops, open prairies, and steep slopes can be much stronger than more sheltered areas.

Use your local forecast as a guide, but factor in conditions unique to your location.

Sign up for alerts
Radio and television stations broadcast emergency alerts, but other resources advise you of things like power outages that can be sent directly to your cell phone. Some utilities have outage maps and information on their websites and social media pages. Others let you sign up for text messages about outages that affect you directly. Check your utility’s website for sign-up information.

If power is out at your location, report it to your utility unless you know they are already aware.

Stay away from downed power lines
Never touch or go near a sagging or downed power line. High voltages can arc and flow through wet or even damp ground. If a line is down or appears weakened, leave the area and report it by calling 1-800-895-1999. If life or property is threatened, call 911.

Stock up for outages
Power outages of a few hours are annoying at best, and long-term outages or impassible roads can be an emergency. Keep your family safe and functioning by having things ready to get through an outage like:

  •  A battery-powered radio or television
  •  Flashlights
  •  Fresh batteries
  •  Back up phone chargers
  •  A cell phone or land line that doesn’t need electricity to operate
  •  A non-electric clock, preferably one with an alarm
  •  Bottled water and nonperishable food
  •  A manual can opener
  •  A first aid kit.

Also be sure you observe food safety and know how to operate electric locks and doors (including garage doors) manually.

Have a backup plan
Dining by candlelight may be romantic, but it can get old after a while. Backup power options like storage batteries and generators can keep you functioning during an outage and can be a necessity for persons dependent on life-sustaining medical devices.

There are several options for backup power depending on your particular needs. Read this article on the Allstar Electrical Services website to help you choose the right one for you.

If you're thinking about adding safe, reliable backup power or have any problems or concerns about your electrical service, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to help. We offer homeowners, builders, and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.
Call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. We've served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB.

Indoor Electrical Safety Tips for the Holidays

One of the biggest causes of home fires is holiday lighting gone bad. Here are a few tips on how to keep your home both beautiful and safe throughout the holiday season.

  • Don’t overload circuits
    Typical household branch circuits are 15 amps, and that is plenty of capacity for normal household use. But adding large numbers of holiday lights and accessories (especially the larger C7 and C9 incandescent bulbs of yesteryear) can put more load on a circuit than it’s designed for. This can lead to annoying trips to the breaker box or fuse panel, but it’s also a warning sign that trouble is lurking. If you keep tripping breakers, if outlets or cords feel warm, or if you notice any off smells around outlets or service panels, disconnect the lights and move them to another circuit to avoid creating a fire hazard.
  • Switch to LED Lights
    LED lights come in nearly all sizes, colors, and shapes for holiday lighting —including the retro-look C7 & C9 bulbs. These bulbs last years longer (some up to 13 years). LEDs burn cooler and draw much less current than incandescent bulbs. We highly recommend them for all your lighting needs year-round.
  • Don’t exceed extension cord capacity
    Extension cords are rated to carry a specific load, which is indicated on the packaging. When that’s exceeded, the cords can become overheated, melting insulation and causing short circuits and fires. Feel your cords when all the lights are on. If they feel warm to the touch, replace them with higher capacity cords. Better yet, arrange your lighting so you don’t need extension cords at all.
  • Don’t run extension cords under carpet or rugs
    Modern building codes require wall outlets to be spaced at least every 12 feet, but older homes may not conform to this, necessitating the use of extensions. Use them if you must but realize that even a properly sized extension cord can get warm under load. When they’re run under rugs or carpet, this heat can’t dissipate and can lead to the same problems as an undersized cord.
  • Protect extension cords from pets and small children
    Dogs and cats (and even toddlers) love to chew on things, and an exposed cord can be a real temptation. Aside from the risk of electrocution, gnawed-away insulation presents the danger of short circuits and fires. And tangled cords can be a strangulation hazard, too.

Pets roam the house at all hours, even when you’re sleeping, so check your electrical cords frequently for damage.

  • Avoid tripping hazards
    Run electrical cords safely away from traffic areas to prevent trip hazards (not under rugs or carpet). If you must run a cord across a threshold or other open area, use a cord protector, available at hardware and home improvement centers.
  • Don’t let your tree or wreaths dry out
    It’s easy to overlook keeping your greenery moist. Check the water levels in tree stands and containers and discard any vegetation that starts to turn brown or feels brittle to the touch before it becomes a fire hazard.

The pros at Allstar Electrical extend our best wishes to you and your loved ones for a safe and joyful holiday season. We look forward to serving your electrical needs through the remainder of the year and many more to come.

Give us a call or visit our web site, allstarelectrical.com, for any of your holiday electrical needs, and for help on your projects in the coming year.

Christmas Tree Safety Tips

There’s nothing like the look and smell of a freshly cut tree to evoke memories and the holiday spirit. And part of that tradition should include making sure the tree stays in good condition until it’s time to take it down. This becomes especially important in places like Denver, where there’s a tradition of leaving holiday decorations up until the end of the National Western Stock show, which extends into late January.

Here are some tips to keep your tree looking great and your family and pets safe.

  • Choose your tree carefully
    Some tree species tend to last longer after cutting. Fir and cypress can keep their needles for 4-5 weeks after cutting. Other species like pine and spruce start dropping needles after a couple of weeks, if not sooner.

Buy from a seller who knows their trees, choose a healthy-looking tree, and ask when the tree was cut. Try to get one that was cut within the week if possible. Tap the base of the tree on the ground or shake it a few times to verify that the needles stay attached.

When you’ve found your tree, ask the attendant to cut the trunk to expose fresh wood and have it baled for transport home to avoid damage in transit.

  • Condition your tree before bringing it in
    Once home, place the tree in its stand, put the tree in an unheated garage or other freeze-protected area, and fill the stand with plenty of water to hydrate it for about 24 hours. Larger trees may absorb as much as a gallon. Then cut another half inch or so off the trunk to encourage more absorption.

This is also a good time to apply an anti-desiccant spray before decorating if you plan to use one. Don’t use any additives in the water, though. They’re not effective and may even harm the tree. Clear tap water is all you need.

  • Pick a good spot for the tree
    Heat and dry air are your tree’s enemies. Place the tree away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, and furnace vents and avoid direct sunlight if possible. Make sure the tree stand is easily accessible for watering.
  • Use LED lights to keep the tree cool
    LED tree lights come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. They burn cooler so they will not add to the drying heat of other bulbs. They save energy and last longer, too.
  • Keep children and pets safe
    Cats see Christmas trees as toys, dogs like drinking from the tree stand, and toddlers are fascinated by lights and shiny parts. Put a layer of heavy aluminum foil around the base of the tree to discourage cats from climbing the trunk, and a Citronella or apple bitter spray may keep felines at bay altogether.
    A baby gate may keep both toddlers and pets away from the tree, or set the tree up in a kiddie playpen where it’s protected from curious eyes.
  • Don’t Push Your Tree Past Its Limit
    When properly cared for, a cut tree will last around 4-5 weeks before it starts drying out. During that time, it’s important to keep it watered. A tree with a 2-inch trunk will absorb as much as a quart of water per day during its first week or two; larger trees will use even more. Trees should be put in a stand with at least a one-gallon water capacity and be checked several times daily at first.
    After a week or so, check it daily and never let the water level drop below the trunk. If you got your tree freshly-cut a few days before Christmas, it might make it through the Stock Show, but don’t put your home and family at risk by pushing it past its limit.

As you approach the second week, check the tree daily for dropped and brown needles. If you notice more than a few, it’s time to remove the tree before it becomes a fire hazard.

Take down the lights and decorations and remove it from your house. Many communities offer curbside recycling for trees or you can take it to a recycling center on your own. Store the dead tree outdoors, away from structures and combustible materials until it can be hauled away.

  • Turn OFF the Lights When You’re Asleep or Away
    Even well hydrated trees can be fire hazards, and as they approach the end of their lives, Christmas trees become increasingly flammable. Tempting as it may be to have a lighted tree in the window throughout the night, there are too many risks in leaving the lights and tree unattended. Save your all-night lighting for outdoors and put it on a timer so you don’t waste energy when no one’s awake to see it.

Don’t Become a Statistic
Residential fires and electrical accidents increase every year during the holiday season and into the winter months. Dried out Christmas trees, improperly installed indoor and outdoor lighting, and overworked electrical systems are major contributors to the problem.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International and the pros at Allstar Electrical Services urge you practice electrical safety not only at the holidays but year-round.

The pros at Allstar Electrical Services want to extend our best wishes to you and your loved ones for a happy, safe, and prosperous holiday season and new year. We look forward to serving your electrical needs throughout the coming year and many more to follow.

Give us a call or visit our web site, allstarelectrical.com, for any of your electrical needs, and for help on your projects in the coming year.

Hard Wired or Battery Smoke and CO Alarms?

As we button up our homes for winter, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors assume an even greater role in protecting property and loved ones from disaster.

Both battery-operated and hard-wired devices need to be tested monthly for proper operation and that’s a good time to assess whether you have the protection you need. Experts recommend smoke alarms outside every bedroom, in kitchens, basements, and garages. And every home with a fuel-burning furnace, dryer, water heater or other appliance should have at least one carbon monoxide alarm installed at least 15 feet from the fuel-burning appliance and away from windows, doors and areas where airflow is restricted.

But what is the best choice, battery-operated or hard-wired into your home’s electrical system?

Battery-operated alarms
Battery-powered alarms are the most popular and easiest to install, but they only work when the batteries are good. They should be tested monthly and batteries should be replaced annually. Sensors can wear out over time, so the units themselves should be replaced every ten years.

Most battery-operated alarms work independently, so they won’t trigger alarms in other parts of the house and may not connect to “smart” home systems. Check the manufacturer’s information to be sure you get the features you want.

Hard-wired alarms
Hard-wired alarms are connected to your home’s electrical system so they’re functioning as long as your home has power. Most also come with battery backup in the event of a power outage. Just like battery-operated alarms, they should be tested monthly and any batteries should be replaced on the schedule recommended by the manufacturer.

While new installation is usually not a DIY project, homes built after 1986 are required by law to have at least one hard-wired smoke alarm. Additions or replacements are connected to 120-volt household current and should only be serviced by qualified electrical personnel.

Because hard-wired detectors are connected to the home power, there’s no risk of batteries getting weak and taking longer to activate or sending out a weak alarm, saving potentially precious seconds in the event of a fire or other danger. The alarm signal will always be loud and quick to sound. Many are also interconnectable, sounding alerts on other units throughout the house, another potentially life-saving benefit.

Alarms connected to home security or “smart” systems are constantly drawing extra current, so with hard-wired systems you don’t need to be concerned with shortened battery life from the extra load.

Safety First…either way.
Whether you choose battery-powered or hard-wired, the important thing is to be sure that your home and family are as safe and secure as possible. That means top-notch electrical work, including updated safety systems, and Allstar Electrical Services delivers the quality results you expect and deserve. We work hand-in-hand with you or your contractors throughout our Front Range service area.to ensure your work is done right, on budget and on schedule.

Whatever your electrical needs, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line contacts to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service

Outdoor Holiday Lighting Safety Tips

Maybe you’re the type who waits for the Thanksgiving weekend to hang your outdoor lights for the holidays. Or maybe your outdoor lighting is in place by now. Either way, here are some tips to be safe and stay safe this holiday lighting season.

Be safe when hanging, maintaining, and removing outdoor lights
Make sure ladders are resting on firm footing and don’t overextend your reach. Snow can hide loose dirt or gravel, and whether you’re on foot or on a ladder, icy spots are accidents waiting to happen.
Stay safely away from power lines when using and moving ladders, especially metal ones.

Use only outdoor outlets with GFCI protection
Wet weather and electricity don’t play well together. Outdoor outlets are designed to keep connections safe and dry. Current codes require any damp area outlets to have GFCI protection to prevent electrical shock. That includes basements and garages, so don’t run cords from unprotected outlets in those areas.

Don’t overload circuits
Typical household branch circuits are 15 amps, and this is plenty of capacity for normal household use, but adding large numbers of holiday lights and accessories, especially the larger C7 and C9 incandescent bulbs of yesteryear, can put more load on a circuit than it’s designed for. This can lead to annoying trips to the breaker box or fuse panel, but it’s also a warning sign that trouble is lurking. If you keep tripping breakers, if outlets or cords feel warm, or if you notice any off smells around outlets or service panels, disconnect the lights and move them to another circuit to avoid creating a fire hazard.

LED lights come in nearly all sizes, colors, and shapes for holiday lighting, last longer, burn cooler, and draw much less current than incandescent bulbs. We highly recommend them for all your lighting needs.

Don’t exceed extension cord capacity
Extension cords are rated to carry a specific load. When that’s exceeded, the cords can become overheated, melting insulation and causing short circuits and fires. Feel your cords when all the lights have been on for a while. If they feel warm to the touch, replace them with higher capacity cords. Better yet, arrange your lighting near outlets so you don’t need extension cords at all.

Protect cords from damage
Avoid running cords through window or door openings where they might become worn and damaged. Make sure any cords are run safely away from areas where snow and ice removal or vehicle traffic can cause damage.

Protect cords from trip hazards and pets
Run cords away from places they could trip family and visitors.

Dogs and cats love to chew on things, and an exposed cord can be a real temptation. Aside from the risk of accidental electrocution, gnawed-away insulation presents the danger of short circuits and fires. Pets and other critters roam the neighborhood at all hours, so check your electrical cords periodically for damage.
The pros at Allstar Electrical Services want to extend our best wishes to you and your loved ones for a wonderful and joyful holiday season. We look forward to serving your electrical needs through the remainder of the year and many more to come.

Give us a call or visit our web site, allstarelectrical.com, for any of your holiday electrical needs such as adding or upgrading outdoor outlets, adding extra circuits, and for help on your projects in the coming year.

Using Space Heaters Safely

Space heaters add comfort to drafty and hard-to-heat areas and can actually save money when used to heat individual rooms while keeping the central thermostat lower. But used carelessly they can be hazards to your property and your safety.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission estimates that around 25,000 house fires and 300 deaths are caused by space heaters each year. Another 6,000 people go to emergency rooms with burns from touching a heater’s hot surface.

Space Heater Basics
A space heater can quickly warm a small space such as a home office or workroom. A small heater with a fan will usually work fine for rooms of 100 sq. ft. or so. They can have metal coils or ceramic-encased wires, and both types generally have two heat settings. On low, they use around 1,000 watts of power and on high, it’s about 1,500 watts. Some have two fan speeds and may also oscillate to spread the heat over a larger area.

Portable radiators can be upright designs that look like traditional steam or hot water styles or horizontal ones that function like baseboard heaters. Convection heaters can be free-standing or wall-mounted, and some are available as flat panels that can be painted to match the room.

How to Use a Space Heater Safely

  • Place the heater on a hard, level, and nonflammable surface. Don’t put heaters on tables, desks, or shelves where they can be easily tipped over.
  • Keep children, pets, fabrics, and combustible materials away from heaters, and never leave the heater unattended. Think of it the same as you would a stovetop burner or candle and use similar precautions.
  • Don’t leave a space heater in a child’s room. Besides the risk of burns from contact in the dark, a child will not react to smoke or bad smells as quickly as an adult.
  • Don’t use a heater in a workshop or garage near paint, gas cans, or matches.
  • Turn heaters off when leaving a room and unplug them when not in use.
  • Don’t run the power cord where it can be a tripping or tipping hazard.
  • Avoid using extension cords, which can overheat from a heater’s heavy load. If you must, use a heavy-duty cord and never run any heater cords under rugs or carpet.
  • Check any cords for wear, damage or being hot to the touch. Discontinue use if any of these warning signs are present.
  • Put smoke alarms on every level of your home, including basements, and in each bedroom and they should be tested monthly.

If you think your home may have service or safety issues, don’t hesitate to call Allstar Electrical Services. We’ve served the Colorado Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the Better Business Bureau.

Don’t put up with annoying problems or risk costly emergencies. Visit our website for complete details about our services as well as timely articles about the latest developments in the ever-changing world of electronics. Then give us a call at 303.399.7420 or use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment.

California Outages Show Backup Power Need

California’s Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has been cutting power to hundreds of thousands of residents in an attempt to lower wildfire danger from downed power lines. Some people have been without electrical service for several days, creating concerns about food safety, water, and medical needs along with the considerable inconvenience of living without electricity.

And if you think that’s just California’s problem, a look back at recent Colorado history will change your mind.

“Bomb Cyclone” Points Out Need for Backup Power
Last spring’s high winds, called a bomb cyclone by the Weather Service, left at least 164,000 people in Colorado without power. Hurricane strength winds downed power lines and cut off travel throughout much of the Great Plains. The storm serves as a reminder that even in urban areas, loss of electric service can present serious dangers.

Have a Backup Plan
People who live and work in remote areas know that power outages can take a while to resolve. But what about urbanites? True enough, outages are usually dealt with in a relatively short (or at least shorter) time in the cities and towns, but even a few hours of downtime can be a big problem, especially if you’re one of the growing numbers of Coloradans who telecommute or run a home business. And while local utilities in Colorado haven’t threatened California-like blackouts, when major storms like the bomb cyclone or winter snow and ice hit, even urban areas can be without power for a day or more, creating serious problems, especially for people with health or mobility issues.

Batteries Can Only Do So Much
A backup battery may be a temporary option for your computer or Wi-Fi network, but when you have a big project to finish, a dark house full of bored kids, appliances that don’t work, or someone relying on electrical devices for home health care, a backup generator is a better solution.

What Type of Generator is Best?
Generators fall into three basic categories: portable, permanent, and hybrid. Choosing the best one for you is a balance between your needs and your budget. Here are some considerations:

Gasoline-Powered Portable Generators
Portable gas-powered generators are the least expensive and come in a variety of outputs to meet different needs. Properly sized, operated, and maintained, they’re a good choice for occasional outages, are budget-friendly, and can be used (carefully) by homeowners.
They also require the most work to set up and operate and can be dangerous to use. If you’re considering a portable generator, read our article Backup Generator Benefits before buying. It has safety tips as well.

Permanent Installations
Long the choice for commercial locations, a permanently installed generator has several advantages for homeowners, too. Installed similarly to an air conditioning unit, they’re as close to a “set it and forget it system” as you can get. They’re normally connected to a natural gas or propane supply, so you don’t have to worry about storing potentially dangerous gasoline—or running out at the worst time. They have sophisticated controls and switches that automatically turn the unit on when an outage is detected and even cycle the generator periodically to keep in in good working condition and notify you when it isn’t.

They’re also the most expensive to buy and install but are a very reliable source of power for places where minimizing downtime is important. Talk to a licensed electrician about your options and costs.

Hybrid Backup/Power Supplies
If you want a system that gives backup power for short periods of low wattage demand without the hassle of a portable generator, a hybrid might be right for you. Like a car battery charger, these devices are trickle-charged and store energy in batteries. They also have built-in AC inverters to run household appliances. You still need to plug individual cords into the units, but they’re virtually maintenance-free and can be used indoors as long as ventilation is provided in case the batteries release fumes. Many are portable and can be used on job sites, as well.

They’re best for short outages with limited needs since they have low storage capacity but may be a versatile solution if you only need minimal power to ride out an outage.

Stay Safe with Professional Help
Colorado residents learn quickly that power outages are a way of life. We have more lightning strikes than any state except Florida, and while we don’t get hurricanes, as recent storms have shown, our winds can rival them. Throw in heavy wet snows and ice storms and having backup power handy can add to your productivity and peace of mind.

Choosing the right generator and using it safely requires a knowledge of electrical circuitry and codes, so don’t risk injury, shock, fire hazards, or expensive repairs by getting in over your head.

If you’re thinking about adding safe, reliable backup power or have any problems or concerns about your electrical service, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to help. We offer homeowners, builders, and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.
Call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Is Your Breaker Box a Fire Hazard?

Circuit breakers, fuses, and GFCIs are safety devices designed to protect you from shocks, overloads, and electrical fires. But millions of breaker boxes installed in the 1960s through the 80s may defeat these life-saving protections.

A Federal Problem
Federal Pacific Electric was a manufacturer of circuit breakers and other electrical equipment. One of their products was the Stab-Lok circuit breaker and some tests showed it failed to function properly in 25-50% of tests. Needless to say, this presents an unacceptable risk of electrical fires. In fact, according to a recent article in the Washington Post, one testing agency estimates that FPE Stab-Lok breakers may be responsible for as many as 2,800 fires, 13 deaths and $40 million in property damage every year.

No Help from the Feds
When the issue was brought to the attention of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission in the early 80s, it said that the data available didn’t establish that the breakers posed a serious threat to consumers. But they added that they didn’t have the budget for exhaustive testing that could lead to a recall. Other testing in the US and Canada reached a different conclusion, but had no power to force a recall so the breakers continued to be installed until Federal Pacific Electric went out of business.

Is it Time to Panic?
Because the CPSC failed to issue a recall and there’s no FPE left to sue or file a warranty claim with, consumers are left with a choice, and it’s not a great one. On the one hand, they can play the odds that their breakers will not fail, and frankly the odds are in their favor…as long as they don’t mind gambling with the safety of their property and family.

On the other hand, they can replace the Federal Pacific panels with ones that are known to be safe. But that can be expensive, from several hundred to over a thousand dollars, depending on the work that needs to be done.

Things to Watch For
Despite their inaction on the FPE breakers (or maybe because of it), the CPSC advises consumers to take safety precautions with all circuit breakers and fuses. They are:

  • Know your electrical circuit and know which outlets and products are connected to each circuit.
  • Never overload any electrical circuit by connecting too many products to the circuit. Be particularly careful not to connect several products that demand high current (such as heating appliances) to a low amperage circuit.
  • Comply with local building codes in wiring or adding electrical circuits. Make sure the wiring and devices used in the circuit are connected to a circuit breaker or fuse of the proper size.
  • Immediately disconnect any electrical product if problems develop. Have the product examined by a competent repair person.
  • Investigate to determine why a fuse blows or circuit breaker trips. Do not simply replace the fuse or reset the breaker. If a fuse blows or breaker trips, it is often a warning that the circuit is overloaded. Check the circuit for causes of overloading (for example, too many appliances plugged in, a malfunctioning product, a short circuit). When in doubt, consult a licensed electrician.

Is There a Win-Win?
Protecting your home and family is never a bad investment but upgrading your electrical service can also add comfort and convenience to your lifestyle.

Many older homes were wired before the proliferation of modern electronics and appliances were popular. While today’s codes specify 200-amp or more service, 100 amps (or less) was common before the internet and gourmet kitchens were everybody’s must-haves.

If you’re having issues with too many devices and not enough outlets, are adding high-demand appliances like a new range, oven, an entertainment center, or air conditioning, or are planning an addition or remodel, that’s the time to upgrade your electrical panel and service to meet those demands, and you can save time and money by having it all done together.

Allstar is Here to Help
Allstar Electrical Services specializes in service panel upgrades and modifications. We’ve done hundreds of service panel upgrades on homes and on commercial/industrial properties of all sizes and uses. Our service features first-class work by licensed professionals who know the latest code requirements and the best ways and equipment to meet them. And we do the job with minimal downtime and disruption, as well.

We're proud of our track record and our fine service, exceptional workmanship, and detailed clean-up when the job is done. Contact us via email or call 303.399.7420 to schedule your service today.

Snow Melt Systems

Let it snow.

It’s mid-summer, and yet it’s time to seriously consider a Snow Melt System…that is if you want it installed before the first snow of the season.
Snow Melt Systems come in a variety of options: from radiant in-floor heating to mats that are stretched across a driveway. The cost of installing such a system is based on the square footage of the snow melt functionality.

Cost aside, NOT having to shovel one’s driveway could save a life.

Health.Harvard.edu reports that about 100 people — mostly men — die during or just after shoveling snow each year in the United States. Many more are admitted to the hospital with chest pain or other heart problems after shoveling. Researchers correlated admissions to the hospital and deaths due to heart attack the day after it snowed in Canada during the years 1981 to 2014. This included more than 128,000 hospital admissions and more than 68,000 deaths due to heart attack.

It might look like there’s not much to shoveling as a science. But it’s a task that’s governed by city and state laws. Homeowners are required to shovel the public sidewalks in front and on the side of their homes within 24 hours after the snow stops falling or risk being fined. Fines in the City of Denver range from $150 to $500 to $999 for the fifth violation. Plus, the Colorado Department of Transportation cautions homeowners that when shoveling snow from their driveway or sidewalk that they not deposit the snow into the street. That too is illegal and homeowners can be fined.

Having to hoist a shovel full of snow to the sides of the walk and driveway complicates the task and actually risks back and shoulder injury. Using a snow blower, even the smaller types intended for private walkways, becomes more difficult when the snow must be deposited at the sides of the driveway vs. at the end.

So what’s a person to do?

Consider a Snow Melt System. A word to the wise, start consider it now so that it can be installed before the first snowfall.

Allstar Electrical has installed Snow Melt Systems of various types for customers in Colorado—residential and commercial.

Snow Melt Systems are either electric or hydronic. Electric snow melting systems are designed for small to medium sized projects for your residence or commercial building. It’s the simpler type to install and the least expensive. And it can be installed under concrete, pavers or tile.

Hydronic systems melt snow and ice by circulating a glycol solution fluid through tubing that is either embedded in concrete or installed beneath brick pavers. The heating element in a hydronic system is a closed-loop tubing made of a flexible polymer (typically a cross-linked polyethylene) or a synthetic rubber that circulates a mixture of hot water and propylene glycol (antifreeze), much like what’s used in a car radiator. Hydronic snow and ice melt systems can be installed in practically all types of outdoor surfaces.

Whether you’re a believer in Global Warming or not, weather stats substantiate that the May snowfall in the Mile High City has roughly doubled since 2000. Findings issued on May 4, 2019 from Denver's old Stapleton Airport observation site show the May snowfall has measured 2.0 inches on average in the last two decades, compared to the 1981-2010 average of 1.1 inches. The same is predicted to continue into the decades ahead.

Contact Allstar Electrical today for an estimate and hang up your shovel for good.

Smart Thermostats Save in Summer Too

When people think about thermostat settings it’s usually in the context of saving heating costs in winter. But air conditioning demands in summer can add considerably to your electrical bill, sometimes more than heating does. That’s because in some places electricity costs more per BTU than natural gas. It’s especially true in areas where power companies increase electric rates during times of peak demand.

Four Ways to Save
Using programmable or smart thermostats lets you save on summer electrical bills in four ways:

  1. You don’t cool empty houses
    Setting your thermostat to keep the air conditioning off (or several degrees warmer) while you’re away at work or on vacation saves on wasted energy.
  2. You save on peak load surcharges
    Since peak loads usually occur during the afternoons while you may not be home, less use of your cooling system lowers what you consume when rates are highest.
  3. Your utility company may reward you
    Most utility companies have programs like Xcel Energy’s AC Rewards program that encourage lower energy use with reduced rates for program participants. Similar savings are offered by other utilities so check what’s available in your area.
  4. You can get discounts and rebates on smart thermostats
    Check with your electric company about discounts and rebates on smart thermostats. The savings can be considerable.

Save Even More on New Cooling Systems
Get up to $1200 in rebates for installing or upgrading energy-saving cooling systems including central air, evaporative coolers, heat pumps, and ductless heating and cooling systems. Click here for details about Xcel’s programs or consult your local utility for information on programs they may offer.

Most of these energy-saving measures apply to offices and commercial spaces too. Programs for commercial users may be different from residential customers, so check with your local utility for the programs they offer.

Need Help? Call a Pro
Many new devices need the expertise of a licensed electrician for safe and convenient installations. If you need additional wiring, switches, outlets, or other electrical work to improve your energy efficiency, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to help. We deliver the quality results you expect and deserve to ensure your project is done right, on budget and on schedule.

Whatever your electrical needs, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. Allstar has served the Front Range for 20 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Avoid Costly Mistakes with a Mid-Project Walkthrough

Whether it’s a remodel or new construction, scheduling a work-in-progress walkthrough with your architect/designer and subcontractors can avoid annoying and costly re-dos. A careful assessment of electrical and plumbing installations after the framing is up but before drywall is hung lets you confirm that walls, doors, and windows are where you want them and that fixtures, switches, and outlets are where they belong.

Perfect Plans Aren’t Always Perfect
Your architect or designer should have given the contractors detailed drawings and plans for where things should be located and how they should be constructed. But mistakes can be made, both by designers and contractors, and the time to fix them is before costly and time-consuming changes need to be made in finished spaces.

If contractors make mistakes by not following plans, reputable firms will stand by their work and make the necessary changes without charging for them. If the plans were off, but the contractor followed them, the blame lies elsewhere and contractors should not be expected to make the corrections at their expense. Who pays is a matter between you and your architect/designer. But don’t settle for less than you want or have a right to expect. Negotiate while the changes are easier done. Regardless of who pays, the costs will be lower than if you wait.

Changing Your Mind
You, your designer, or even a contractor may notice a change to the original plans that will improve the design or functionality of a space. Once the framing is up and windows are installed, you may decide the placement of overhead lighting, outlets, switches, or plumbing is off or could be improved. Doors and widows may not be optimal when you look at their placement now that the walls are in place.

Unlike fixing mistakes, change orders are on the owner, but making changes before walls are closed up is usually much less expensive. Weigh the costs versus the benefits in making your decisions, but remember, it’s your house and you’re the one who will be living in it.

Communicate Clearly
Bring your plans and a tape measure to verify locations and dimensions. Whether it’s correcting a mistake or making changes, be sure to document things in writing, including new measurements and locations. Use a permanent marker to mark framing and subfloor locations. Masking tape can be helpful when locating things like appliances, cabinets, and islands. You can also use it to visualize placement of furniture and artwork for lighting and flow patterns.

Choose Contractors Carefully
Remodeling, renovations, and additions need reliable and experienced contractors who stand behind their work. Allstar Electrical Services delivers the quality results you expect and deserve. We work hand-in-hand with you and your designer and other contractors to ensure your new project is done right, on budget and on schedule.

Whatever your electrical needs, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Is Your Home a Nest of Spies?

As homeowners add more “smart” devices are they inviting a nest of spies into their private spaces? Recent revelations of hidden microphones, cameras, and digital assistants that constantly eavesdrop make it seem like we’re all living in a Cold War spy movie.

A Nest of Spies

Google acknowledged this month that its Nest Guard security system comes equipped with a hidden microphone. Ostensibly included to listen for alarming sounds like breaking glass, the microphone’s presence was not disclosed in initial owner’s manuals. While Google said the “feature” was included to integrate with its Google Assistant technology, the company more or less admitted that failure to disclose the microphone was a mistake and has since included instructions for disabling it in the Nest app.

Free Passes for Intruders

As if Nest microphones weren’t controversial enough, Google also cautioned that its Nest smart devices were vulnerable to home network intrusions.

In early February a family’s Nest security camera was hacked and while the Nest system itself wasn’t directly breached the backdoor network hack gave entry to the Nest devices, allowing the culprit to access the cameras. This follows an incident where a similarly hacked Nest system broadcast a fake message about an impending North Korean missile attack.

To Trust or Not to Trust

Smart devices may be clever, but they’re also naïve. If their password is submitted, they assume the user is safe to enter and access all its features. If your devices are open to your home network, they trust it too, so any access to the network gives access to everything if no further barriers are in place.

The first line of defense is practicing safe surfing. Don’t visit sketchy websites or open email attachments you aren’t sure are safe. Next protect the network itself with a firewall and a strong password. Sensitive items like cameras and listening devices should be further protected by a two-factor verification login process that is unique to that device. And always keep your home WiFi, browser, and antivirus software up to date.

If you need to add or change a home network, Allstar Electrical can handle your needs. We install all types of home and business electronics, from security systems to complex server rooms. Give us a call at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB.

We also offer 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Are You Ready for Spring Storms?

Each spring we remind readers that winter isn’t the only time that weather emergencies occur. Colorado has the second-highest number of lightning strikes in the nation, surpassed only by Florida. The state ranked third in the highest number of large hailstorms in 2014, and the Front Range has had numerous storms in which hail damage has topped $1 billion. While tornados are mostly confined to the Eastern Plains, hurricane-force winds are common throughout the state. And a late-spring snowstorm proved that snow and ice damage can occur nine months out of the year.

Storm damage can be widespread or confined to a few individual homes or businesses. In either case, there are several things you can do to minimize damage and disruption to your electrical service.

Protect Against Power Surges

Besides outages, storms can cause surges in the transmission grid, and lightning strikes can do major damage to sensitive electronics. Experts recommend these measures to protect against power surges:

  • Make sure your home’s lightning protection system is properly installed, especially after roofing repairs, remodeling, or if your home is over 15 years old
  • Be certain your incoming electrical service and disconnect are properly grounded
  • Have other service connections such as TV and phone lines checked for proper grounding
  • Provide surge protection for electronic equipment and for telephone and cable/satellite TV lines connecting to the equipment
  • Alternatively, have a whole-house surge protector installed at entry points
  • Check your wiring to be sure all neutral (return) and grounding wires are properly attached.

Prepare for Power Outages

Whether widespread or localized, power outages range from annoying to potentially disastrous. Here are some things to consider for protection:

  • Have backup power. It can be as simple as backup batteries for essential equipment, using a portable generator, or installing a whole-house emergency generator
  • Keep flashlights and a portable radio handy and have fresh batteries on hand
  • Turn off lights and non-essential appliances to reduce the load and prevent tripped breakers when power comes back on. Things like refrigerators, air conditioners, and motors draw considerably more power to start up than they use to run, so the fewer things on your system the less likely it will overload.
  • Unplug or turn off delicate equipment like computers and TVs or provide protection from surges when the power comes back on.

Stay Safe

The safest place to ride out a storm is indoors. But you still need to take precautions:

  • Never use stoves, ovens, or grills as heat sources. They can overheat, causing fires, and carbon monoxide buildup can be fatal
  • During strong winds or hailstorms, stay away from windows and glass doors to avoid injury from breaking glass and flying debris
  • Stay away from downed power lines. High-voltage current can travel through standing water or even damp soil. If someone is injured or threatened, don’t try to be a hero; call your utility or emergency services.

Electrical problems need prompt attention. Allstar Electrical Services offers rapid response radio-dispatched emergency services 24/7. Call 303.399.7420 or visit our website. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB.

Rebates Save on Summer Electric Bills

Most utility companies in the US offer rebates on energy-saving upgrades and some of them can be substantial. For instance, Xcel Energy, the primary energy provider in Colorado and seven other Western and Midwestern states has programs that subsidize insulation, cooling equipment, and thermostat upgrades. Here’s what they offer.

Smart Thermostats

Programmable thermostats have saved countless BTUs and kilowatts since their introduction over thirty years ago, but new Wi-Fi technologies have taken energy-saving and comfort to a new level. We’re already in a third generation and there’s more to come. The Nest line of thermostats led the way, but nearly all major manufacturers like Honeywell, GE, and Emerson have devices now along with innovative startups that are in the market, too.

With some thermostats, you don’t even have to program them. Just adjust the temperature to a comfortable level on the digital thermostat; it remembers the setting and when you set it. After a few days, it learns your heating and cooling patterns and takes it from there.

Xcel Energy offers up to $125 in rebates and credits on smart thermostats through its AC Rewards program. Similar savings are offered by other utilities.

A Note of Caution: Any device connected to your home Wi-Fi network is vulnerable to hacking and sharing personal data. Security issues were discovered in Nest systemsin February and other “smart” devices may be sending data you’d rather not share. This article points out some of the dangers.

Energy-Efficient Cooling

Get up to $1200 in rebates for installing or upgrading energy-saving cooling systems including central air, evaporative coolers, heat pumps, and ductless heating and cooling systems. Click here for details about Xcel’s programs or consult your local utility for information on programs they may offer.

Add Insulation for Year-Round Savings

Xcel offers up to $1499 in rebates for upgrading insulation and air seals. It’s a one-time investment that cuts both heating and cooling bills and adds to year-round comfort. Details are here.

All of these energy-saving measures apply to offices and commercial spaces too (check for whether rebates apply), and many need the expertise of a licensed electrician for safe and convenient installations. If you need additional switches, outlets, or other electrical work to improve your energy efficiency, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to help. We deliver the quality results you expect and deserve to ensure your new project is done right, on budget and on schedule.

Whatever your electrical needs, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Electrical Updates for Summer Enjoyment

The outdoor living season is just around the corner, so take time to do a walkaround of your home and make a list of projects to add extra enjoyment to your summer.

Fixups
Winter can take a toll on outdoor fixtures. Repair or replace any damaged porch, landscape, motion-sensing security lights and outlets. Replace burned-out bulbs with long-lasting energy-efficient LEDs. All of your outdoor outlets should be GFCI-protected in weatherproof boxes. If they aren’t, call a licensed electrician to be sure they’re upgraded correctly.

Upgrades
Add extra comfort and enjoyment to porches, decks, and patios with attractive, well-placed lighting lets you control the coverage and intensity to suit your different uses and moods. Show off your landscape with lighting for features like ponds, fountains, and specimen trees and other plantings. If you have a roof or pergola, you might want to add a ceiling fan for extra comfort on hot, muggy days. Stairs and walkways should be lighted for safety.

Add-Ons
If you’re adding a deck or patio, make sure the lighting suits the different areas and uses. Outdoor kitchens and grilling areas need bright task lighting for safety and convenience. Dining and lounging areas call for softer illumination. Install separate switches and/or dimmers for the controls you want. Kitchen areas may need convenience outlets, and TVs and fountains will need their own power supplies. Remember: electrical codes require weatherproof, GFCI-protected outlets for outdoor use.

Good Work Starts with a Good Plan
Remodeling, renovations, and additions need top-notch electrical work, and Allstar Electrical Services delivers the quality results you expect and deserve. We work hand-in-hand with you and your contractors to ensure your new project is done right, on budget and on schedule.

Whatever your electrical needs, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Call 811 Instead of 911

What a difference a digit can make! As the weather warms up and our attention turns to outdoor projects, it’s important to pay attention to hidden dangers. And some of those hazards are right under your feet.

Many utility lines are underground, especially in newer neighborhoods, but even older homes can have gas, electric, water, and cable lines buried in places that may be long-forgotten. While most water and sewer lines run under front lawns toward the street, homes with alleys may have them located there. Underground electric, phone, and cable wires tend toward the back and are less common with older homes, overhead being the preferred approach in the past, but they may have been added during remodeling or other projects.

Call Before You Dig

It’s a message utility companies have been sending for years, but one that still gets ignored. The consequences can range from annoying to disastrous. Even a single shovel blow can sever a water or gas line and contacting a live electrical wire can cause serious injury or even death.

You can avoid those risks by calling your local utility locating service at 8-1-1. It’s a free service and can save time, trouble, and costly repairs. It’s also required by law. Any damage caused by digging can result in fines on top of repair (and medical) costs.

A crew will come out and use detecting equipment to mark the location of buried utility lines to guide your tools safely away. Plan ahead, though; it can take up to three days for a service location call to be scheduled. Also note that locating lines installed by homeowners and private contractors (gas lines to barbeques, water lines to pools and fountains, electrical lines to garages and sheds) are the owner’s responsibility. Call your contractor if you’re not certain of their location.

Dig with Care

Location surveys give general information but aren’t pin-point, and they don’t tell the depth of the lines. Local ordinances (and good practices) require that lines be physically located by hand digging before automatic digging or trenching equipment is used.

Proceed with Caution

Always assume underground lines are active whether they’re in current use or not. Never touch electric lines, even if they’re in conduit. If you smell the rotten egg odor of natural gas, evacuate the area and call 911 since there’s danger of explosion. Then call your utility to notify them.

Always check for overhead lines and other hazards and allow for settling and root growth when planting or building around underground lines.

Spring and summer projects can be fun and add enjoyment to your outdoor spaces. Don’t ruin them by ignoring safety in the process and don’t hesitate to call for professional help.

Whatever your outdoor electrical needs may be, call Allstar Electrical Services at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request a free estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Earth Day Savings Start at Home

Since its inception in 1970, Earth Day has grown to a global reminder that we humans are a large part of our planet’s ecosystem and that each of us has a role to play in keeping it healthy and sustainable. While opinions vary widely on large-scale approaches to sustainability, each of us can do our part right in our own homes, starting with how we consume energy. And since electric power generation is key to energy use, let’s look at ways you can do your part to reduce its impact on our environment.

Sources of Electric Energy

Electric energy must be created by converting other forms of power into a useable form through the use of generators that transform various types of energy into electricity. Those generators can be powered by steam, moving water, wind, and solar radiation. Steam is created by heating water with combustible materials such as coal and natural gas or by the heat produced by nuclear fission. Hydroelectric power is generated by large amounts of water turning generator turbines. Wind currents can also create enough force to power generators, and photoelectric cells can convert solar energy to electricity.

Each of these methods has its advantages and disadvantages, but none is without some environmental impact, so using electric energy efficiently reduces the need for more power generation, ultimately benefitting the environment regardless of the source.

Ways to Save Energy at Home

  • Heating
    In colder climates, heating is usually the biggest consumer of energy. While natural gas can be more cost-effective than electric heating, many improvements in electric heating technology have allowed homeowners to save energy by allowing more precise use of energy with things like tankless water heaters and single-room electric heaters. And even if your heating is provided by gas or other combustible fuel, electronic controls offer better efficiency with those appliances.
  • Ventilation and Cooling
    Nearly all venting and cooling systems are powered by electricity, and in warm weather they account for a large portion of energy costs. It takes a lot of energy to cool air, so high-efficiency air conditioners, refrigerators, and freezers can reduce energy consumption dramatically. Evaporative coolers use the natural cooling properties of air and water to generate cool air without the need for energy-consuming condensers. Fans use even less energy, so using them to exhaust hot air or provide cooling breezes are environmentally-friendly ways to stay comfortable on hot summer days.
  • Lighting
    The second-largest home energy user is lighting. Traditional filament bulbs waste as much as 80% of electrical energy, giving it off as heat instead of light. While that’s not usually enough to make a difference in a cold room, it can add to the need for extra cooling in the summer.
    Fluorescent lamps use less energy but they often give off poor quality light and have environmental concerns of their own, chiefly from the mercury used in them. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have progressed to the point that they’re available for nearly all lighting applications. They give off top-quality light, use much less energy, and last much longer than other forms of lighting. As they have gained in popularity, their costs have become competitive with other bulbs, and many utilities offer additional savings with rebate and discount programs.
    And of course no light uses energy when it’s turned off, so high-tech switches—from timers and motion sensors to Wi-Fi “smart switches”—make keeping lights off when they’re not needed easier.

All of these energy-saving measures apply to offices and commercial spaces too, and many are easy and inexpensive to implement. But if you need additional switches, outlets, or other electrical work to improve your energy efficiency, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to help. We deliver the quality results you expect and deserve to ensure your new project is done right, on budget and on schedule.

Whatever your electrical needs, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Disaster Preparedness is Electrical Safety Month Theme

In celebration of 2019’s Electrical Safety Month this May, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is focusing on the importance of preparing for, surviving, and rebuilding after natural disasters with the theme "Electrical Safety During Natural Disasters."

ESFI spearheads an annual campaign to educate key audiences about the steps that can be taken in order to reduce the number of electrically-related fires, fatalities, injuries, and property loss. Since its inception in 1990 the program has been adopted by the National Electrical Contractors Association and other organizations including OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

The pros at Allstar Electrical Services want to remind you of common electrical hazards that exist both inside your home and out during the times when Nature misbehaves. Here’s a look at how to deal with natural disasters like floods, lightning strikes, and damaging winds.

Be Prepared for Trouble

Today’s homes and businesses are highly reliant on electricity to power them and their contents. Here are some ways to stay safe before, during and after a major storm.

Before the storm hits…

  • Charge all phones and other communication devices
  • Unplug electronics and move them to avoid water damage from flooding and leaks
  • If power is out, turn off the main power breaker to prevent any surges from damaging the wiring and equipment when power is restored
  • Have a qualified arborist remove any tree branches that endanger power lines

After the storm…

  • Evaluate the aftermath, being very aware of your surroundings
  • Stay at least 20 feet from downed power lines and report downed lines or damaged equipment to your utility. Call 911 in an emergency
  • Avoid touching any objects the line may be laying on such as a fence, car, or light pole as they may be energized
  • Do not attempt to remove damaged branches near power lines. Call a qualified arborist or your utility.
  • Avoid damp and flooded areas since they may be electrified
  • Do not use any electrical equipment or electronics if they’ve been submerged
  • If flooding has occurred, have the electrical system inspected by a qualified electrical inspector
  • If you’re using a generator, be sure it’s properly installed with an approved transfer switch and GFCI protection

For more information on electrical safety and disaster preparedness, visit the Electrical Safety Foundation International website. Be sure to check the additional resources at the bottom of the page.

While storms can be devastating, the aftermath can be just as challenging.  But it can also be an opportunity to renovate and upgrade your electrical service and add extra disaster protection such as backup power.

Electrical safety is a year-round job and electrical problems need prompt attention. Allstar Electrical Services offers rapid response radio-dispatched emergency services 24/7. Call 303.399.7420 or visit our website. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB.

April Home Checklist

April is transition time. Basketball gives way to baseball, greenery starts to wake up, and longer days draw our attention to the great outdoors. In Colorado, it also means it can be 80° one day and snowing the next. So while you’re planning for outdoor living to come, don’t overlook winter’s last gasps. Here are some things to consider.

Keep Your Generator in Good Shape

Spring snowstorms are heavy and wet, bringing down branches and power lines. If you have a gasoline-powered backup generator, make sure it’s still ready to go and you have plenty of fuel on hand. If you don’t need it, it’ll be there for your lawnmower (or snowblower).

Click here for generator maintenance tips.

Schedule Tree and Shrub Service

Walk around your property and check for weak or overhanging tree limbs and other damage that creates hazards for power lines and property. Don’t try to trim branches close to power lines yourself. A professional tree service has the tools and experience to handle it safely.

Maintain Your HVAC System

Forced air heating and central air usually use the same duct work and filtration system, so clean or replace air filters as needed and make sure your AC is ready for the cooling season to come.

Check Gutters and Downspouts

Gutters and downspouts can clog with debris and may have been damaged by ice and snow over the winter. Be sure they’re intact and flowing well. Blocked gutters can ruin a roof and soffits and leaky downspouts can cause drainage problems resulting in foundation damage. Waterlogged soils can drown foundation plantings and cause shock hazards around outdoor outlets and fixtures, too.

Start Scheduling Outdoor Projects

Get a head start on outdoor improvements before contractors are jammed up with requests. Outdoor living and kitchen spaces involve planning, especially if electrical or plumbing is involved. Early spring is the time to install underground plumbing and electrical before you start planting gardens and beds. Be sure to mark where the lines are so you don’t damage them when digging.

Get Pros Involved

Electrical and plumbing work are jobs best left to licensed professionals. Consult with them early in the planning and design stage to avoid unpleasant surprises and unnecessary expenses. The same goes for major tree and landscaping projects. A little upfront investment in expertise can save major headaches down the road.

Remodeling, renovations, and additions need top-notch electrical work, and Allstar Electrical Services delivers the quality results you expect and deserve. We work hand-in-hand with contractors to ensure your new project is done right, on budget and on schedule.

Whatever your electrical needs, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

LED Buying Tips

Are you baffled by the strange terminology and seemingly endless choices in LED lighting? 

Here are some tips to cut through the jungle.

Choose the Right Brightness
You’re probably comfortable choosing bulbs based on their brightness as expressed in watts. It’s a system that’s been around ever since Thomas Edison et al. first stated making light bulbs in the late 1800s. A measure of how much electricity a bulb consumes to heat a filament, wattage is being replaced by a more accurate measure: how much light is given off, measured in lumens.
But it’s just as baffling to most Americans as a kilogram or kilometer is, so most LED bulbs sold in the US list a comparable wattage. Here’s a table of common equivalents and their typical uses:


Wattage

25

40

60

75

100

150

200

Limens

375

450

800

1100

1600

2600

3000

Typical Application

Night lights
Candelabras

Chandeliers
Sconces

Table lamps
Ceiling fixtures

Reading lamps
Ceiling fixtures

Reading lamps
Task lighting

Task lighting
Workshops

Workshops
Garages
Warehouses

Recommended Lumens (Min.)

n/a

400

800

1000

1100

2000

2000

Learn more about Choosing the Right Lighting Design

Choose the Right Color
The design of LED bulbs lets them produce pure colors across the spectrum, but we’ll presume you’re most interested in “white” light in your home, office, or workspace. But pure white light is too stark for most locations, so for decades manufacturers have offered bulbs with descriptive terms like “soft white” and “daylight.” These are all consumer-friendly terms for the color a bulb gives off measured in degrees on the temperature Kelvin scale. Either the friendly term or the actual Kelvin measure, or both, will be stated on the bulb’s packaging. Here’s what you need to know to pick the bulb that’s right for your application:


Description

Warm White

Soft White

Bright White

Daylight

Kelvin Degrees

2700-3000

3000-3500

3500-4000

4000-5000

Applications

Warm colors
Natural woods

Neutral colors
Reading

Task lighting
Offices & schools

Task lighting
Workspaces

Learn more about Color Temperature

Choose the Right Shape
LED lights come in several different shapes, types and sizes, each for its own purposes.
Ribbon and strip lights are the choice for subtle or indirect lighting, especially in places you want the lights themselves to be concealed like under cabinets and counters. Screw-in or integrated fixtures can be used in existing lamps and to replace other fixtures. But like other light bulbs, LEDs are sensitive to heat, so choose fixtures with vents or accept that sealed fixtures may result in shorter bulb life (it will still be much longer than other bulb types).
As with other bulbs, the shape of the LED bulb itself is also a consideration. Does it cast light in all directions or is it more focused like a spotlight? Let its function be your guide.

A Word About Color Rendering
The spectral distribution of a light affects how accurately colors appear when lit by the bulb. This is indicated by a Color Rendering Index (CRI) of 0-100. While this is critical in working with things like pigments and fabrics, it also makes a difference in how furnishings, artwork, and finishes appear in your home. We’re all familiar with the sickly green skin tones some fluorescent lighting creates. That’s because it has a low CRI. If accurate and subtle variations in the appearance of color is important to you, stick to bulbs with a CRI of at least 90. If it’s critical, go with 95 or higher.

Learn More About LEDs and Their Benefits
Allstar Electrical Services has several articles on our website about LED and lighting choices. These include:
LED vs. CFL - Which Is Better for Your Home?
Choosing the Right Color Light
Maximize the Impact of Your Lighting Retrofit

Let the pros at Allstar Electrical Services show you the many ways LED technology can be used in your home or business. We provide a full range of residential, commercial and facility electrical maintenance services, so call today to learn about our free audit at 303-399-7420.
We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

We also offer 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

“Bomb Cyclone” Points Out Need for Backup Power

The recent winter storm, called a bomb cyclone by the Weather Service, left at least 164,000 people in Colorado without power. Hurricane strength winds downed power lines and cut off travel throughout much of the Great Plains. Thousands of others experienced outages in other states. The storm served as a reminder that even in urban areas, loss of electric service can present serious dangers.

Have a Backup Plan

People who live and work in remote areas know that power outages can take a while to resolve. But what about urbanites? True enough, outages are usually dealt with in a relatively short (or at least shorter) time in the cities and towns, but even a few hours of downtime can be a big problem, especially if you're one of the growing numbers of Coloradans who telecommute or run a home business. And when major storms like the bomb cyclone hit, even urban areas can be without power for a day or more, creating serious problems, especially for people with health or mobility issues.

Batteries Can Only Do So Much

A backup battery may be a temporary option for your computer or Wi-Fi network, but when you have a big project to finish, a dark house full of bored kids, appliances that don't work, or someone relying on electrical devices for home health care, a backup generator is a better solution. 

What Type of Generator is Best?

Generators fall into three basic categories: portable, permanent, and hybrid. Choosing the best one for you is a balance between your needs and your budget. Here are some considerations:

Gasoline-Powered Portable Generators

Portable gas-powered generators are the least expensive and come in a variety of outputs to meet different needs. Properly sized, operated, and maintained, they're a good choice for occasional outages, are budget-friendly, and can be used (carefully) by homeowners. They also require the most work to set up and operate and can be dangerous to use. If you're considering a portable generator, read our article Backup Generator Benefits before buying. It has safety tips as well.

Permanent Installations

Long the choice for commercial locations, a permanently installed generator has several advantages for homeowners, too. Installed similarly to an air conditioning unit, they're as close to a "set it and forget it system" as you can get. They're normally connected to a natural gas or propane supply, so you don't have to worry about storing potentially dangerous gasoline—or running out at the worst time. They have sophisticated controls and switches that automatically turn the unit on when an outage is detected
and even cycle the generator periodically to keep in in good working condition and notify you when it isn't.

They're also the most expensive to buy and install but are a very reliable source of power for places where minimizing downtime is important. Talk to a licensed electrician about your options and costs.

Hybrid Backup/Power Supplies

If you want a system that gives backup power for short periods of low wattage demand without the hassle of a portable generator, a hybrid might be right for you. Like a car battery charger, these devices are trickle-charged and store energy in batteries. They also have built-in AC inverters to run household appliances. You still need to plug individual cords into the units, but they're virtually maintenance-free and can be used indoors as long as ventilation is provided in case the batteries release fumes. Many are
portable and can be used on job sites, as well.

They're best for short outages with limited needs since they have low storage capacity but may be a versatile solution if you only need minimal power to ride out an outage.

Stay Safe with Professional Help 
Colorado residents learn quickly that power outages are a way of life. We have more lightning strikes than any state except Florida, and while we don't get hurricanes, as the recent storm showed, our winds can rival them. Throw in heavy wet snows and ice storms and having backup power handy can add to your productivity and peace of mind.

Choosing the right generator and using it safely requires a knowledge of electrical circuitry and codes, so don't risk injury, shock, fire hazards, or expensive repairs by getting in over your head.

If you're thinking about adding safe, reliable backup power or have any problems or concerns about your electrical service, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to help. We offer homeowners, builders, and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.

Call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. We've served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie's List.

Three End-of-Winter Projects for Your Home

After months of being trapped in an airtight (more or less) box, you may have noticed some things are different than in warm weather. With doors and windows sealed against the cold, dark nights, furnaces working overtime, and extra cooking and washing, issues with air quality and lighting are more apparent in winter months.

Rather than put addressing them off till fall, make a list of things to do to eliminate those problems. Here are some things to consider.

Service//Upgrade Your Water Heater

We use hot water year-round, but incoming water is colder in the winter, adding to the cost of heating it and stressing your heater.

Heaters of all types need periodic maintenance, and they all have limited life spans, so keep them maintained per the manufacturer’s recommendations and consider replacing them if they’re showing their age or you keep running out of hot water. Modern water heaters are more efficient and use less energy, so consider an upgrade if your unit is more than 10-12 years old. New heaters come in both gas and electric models, both with tanks and space-saving tankless versions.

Upgrade/Add Ventilation

Between heating and cooling, we keep our houses buttoned up most of the year. While that saves on energy costs, it can also contribute to indoor air quality issues, especially if localized venting isn’t performing properly.

Keep your kitchen vent filters clean, use vent fans in bathrooms to remove excess humidity and prevent mold growth, and be sure your dryer and other ducts are clean and that they exhaust to the outside, not into crawl spaces, attics, living areas, or garages. If your kitchen and bathrooms lack vent fans, add them to improve your indoor environment.

Every cubic foot of air you exhaust must be replaced in order for your systems to work efficiently, so keep return air vents clean and unobstructed and change your furnace and a/c filters frequently. If you have humidifiers or dehumidifiers, keep them clean and consider adding air cleaners if you have residents sensitive to dust, pollen, or other allergens.

Add Lighting for Safety and Comfort

Long winter nights can point out areas where lighting is inadequate. Kitchens and other workspaces need task lighting as well as overall illumination. Porches and walkways should be well illuminated to prevent slips and trips. And switched and dimmable lighting can add interest and be regulated to suit different needs and mood. LED lighting can be added without significantly increasing your electrical system’s load, possibly avoiding the need to add extra capacity while saving energy in the bargain. LED bulbs last from 20-40 years years when used for 3 hours each day and use a fraction of the energy of other types of lighting. The cost of LED bulbs keeps coming down—some utilities even offer to help pay for them—so the bulbs pay for themselves in just a few years. And they’re available in nearly any size, shape, and color you may want.

Start Planning and Budgeting for Improvements

Planning improvements ahead of time lets you budget for costs and maintenance, and phasing in your improvements over time encourages saving and helps prevent overspending. According to the US Census Bureau, the average household spends around $3,300 each year on maintenance and improvements, so setting funds aside regularly can help avoid surprises and expensive borrowing.

The pros at Allstar Electrical Services work hand-in-hand with homeowners, designers, architects, and contractors to ensure your projects are done right, on budget and on schedule. Call us at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve been serving homeowners and businesses along Colorado’s Front Range since 2000 and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Lighting Tips

It’s Time to Switch to LED

Long-lasting LED lamps are the unquestioned leader in economically lighting homes and offices, and with more choices and lower prices there’s no reason to not make the switch.

Early LED bulbs were low on output and high in price, but that’s changed. Today you can get LED bulbs in every strength and color tone you had in older, less efficient tungsten and compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. And at prices that won’t scare you off.

Out With the Old and In With the New

With hot, inefficient tungsten bulbs getting scarce and the environmentally questionable CFLs you bought years ago reaching the end of their useful lives, the time has come to switch to LED. Most of the energy consumed by tungsten bulbs is wasted as heat, and even if you could find a CFL with pleasant-colored light, you still have the problem of disposing of them when they break or lose their output. The fluorescing powders and mercury they contain present environmental hazards making them toxic in regular trash, so they must be recycled properly.

Help Has Arrived

Customers served by Xcel Energy are being offered $3 discounts on select LED bulbs at participating stores, some of which also offer free CFL recycling. Xcel customers can go to this web page and enter their ZIP code to locate businesses participating in the program. Participating products are identified on the shelves with the discounted prices. No coupons, rebate forms, or other qualifications are needed.

Other utilities across the country have similar programs in place. Visit their websites for information.

Learn More About LEDs and Their Benefits

Allstar Electrical Services has several articles on our website about LED and lighting choices. These include:

LED vs. CFL - Which Is Better for Your Home?

Choosing the Right Color Light

Maximize the Impact of Your Lighting Retrofit

Let the pros at Allstar Electrical Services show you the many ways LED technology can be used in your home or business. We provide a full range of residential, commercial and facility electrical maintenance services, so call today to learn about our free audit at 303-399-7420.

We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

We also offer 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Next Gen Light Fixtures

Wander through a Home Depot lighting department and very little looks much different than it did 10 years ago. But jump online to either www.trendir.com or www.archiexpo.com, and you’ve entered the very definition of futurism.

Both of these websites are authorities on influential design trends and new age products including an astounding number of light fixtures—569,432 products on Archiexpo.com alone under architectural-lighting.

In the years since the lightbulb replaced the candle, lighting design advanced, albeit slowly. Interestingly, precocious Midcentury Modern lighting designers introduced designs that are still in use and/or are imitated today. The five iconic designers included:

  • 1935, George Cardwardine, the Original 1227 Task Lamp
  • 1948, George Nelson, the Saucer Lamp
  • Early 1950, Gino Sarfatti, the Sputnik Pendant Light
  • 1958, Paul Henningsen of Louis Poulsen, the PH5 Pendant Light
  • 1962 Achille Castiglioni of FLOS, the Arco Floor Lamp.

But a revolution is afoot in lighting design, and it’s all due to integrated LED lighting fixtures. 

This new type of lighting do not simply use LED lightbulbs, but are, in fact, LED fixtures in which the lighting functionality is integrated into the construction of the light fixture itself as a single unit.

LED-integrated fixtures are revolutionizing home and office new construction and remodeling projects so much so that LED-integrated fixtures are forecast to outpace LED-lightbulb ready fixtures by 2022.

When LED bulbs first came on the market, consumers found it hard to believe that bulbs could last 50,000+ hours. The savings is not only in fewer bulb replacements but in energy savings as well. ENERGY STAR® certified LEDs use 80% less energy than incandescent equivalents, saving more than $100 in energy costs over the lifetime of each LED bulb.

LEDs’ also produce less heat which introduces substantial opportunity for light fixture design. Traditional light fixtures had to be designed to accommodate the lightbulbs or tubes available. LED integrated fixtures can be as shallow as 1” deep. They can be molded free form. There is no limit to the creativity of design in the works today.

Take a look at examples of LED integrated lighting fixtures available from www.allmodern.com below. And then call Allstar Electrical for an appointment to ensure that your home or office wiring is as updated as your new choice in fixtures. Or email Allstar at gstone@allstarelectrical.com.

Holiday Home Surprises – And How to Avoid Them

Burnt dinners and family spats can certainly put a damper on holiday enjoyment, but according to the home improvement gurus at HomeAdvisor.com they don’t even make the top five list of unpleasant holiday season surprises.

Here’s their list along with how to prevent them and what to do when they occur.

  1. Toilet Backups
    You may know what your plumbing can handle, but when your home is full of guests you lose control over what gets flushed. Prevent embarrassing clogs and overflows by having your drains periodically (every 2 years or so) scoped and cleaned and remedy sluggish drains before guests arrive. When trouble strikes, have a plunger handy. If that doesn’t clear the drain, call a plumber.
  2. Appliance Failures
    While a balky washer or dryer can be a nuisance, a non-functioning stove, oven, or refrigerator can spell hosting disaster. If the appliance is tripping breakers on a 120-volt circuit, the problem could be an overload. Refrigerators, stoves, and ovens should be on dedicated circuits, so the trouble will most likely be with the appliance itself or the wiring feeding it. Ovens and stoves are typically 240-volts and any repairs should be done by professionals, as should any wiring issues regardless of voltage. On other circuits, overloads may be caused by added holiday lights and other electrical items. Try unplugging them and if that doesn’t solve the problem, call a pro.
  3. Power Outages
    There’s not a lot you can do to prevent outages on the utility grid, but you can do your part to prevent them by keeping your trees trimmed safely away from power lines so you’re not the culprit. Otherwise, your best bet is to be prepared. Have flashlights with fresh batteries and candles ready for lighting. Limit cell phone usage to preserve battery life—use a land line instead if you have one that’s working.  And follow safe practices when trying to add or maintain heat in your home. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has detailed information on coping with power outageson their website.
    If you experience frequent or prolonged power outages, explore auxiliary electrical sources. Backup batteries can provide limited power for a while, but you may want to consider backup generators instead. Take the time to learn the options and pick the best solution for you. An electrical professional can help you choose.
  4. Clogged Garbage Disposers
    Unclogging a disposer can be as simple as using a special wrench (it came with your unit) to loosen debris and extracting it (after turning off the power at the breaker) or as complicated as having your drain line snaked out. Follow your manufacturer’s directions on what to put in the disposer to prevent clogs and call a plumber when simple solutions don’t work.
  5. Furnace Breakdowns
    Nobody wants to shiver through the holidays, so be sure to have your furnace inspected each fall, keep its filters clean, and make any needed repairs before guests arrive.

Disaster preparedness is a year-round job and electrical readiness plays a huge part. Allstar Electrical Services offers auxiliary power solutions as well as rapid response radio-dispatched emergency services 24/7. Call 303.399.7420 or visit our website. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Holiday Lighting Safety Tips

One of the biggest causes of home fires is holiday lighting gone bad. Here are a few tips on how to keep your home both beautiful and safe throughout the holiday season.

INDOOR SAFETY

Don’t overload circuits

Typical household branch circuits are 15 amps, and this is plenty of capacity for normal household use, but adding large numbers of holiday lights and accessories, especially the larger C7 and C9 incandescent bulbs of yesteryear, can put more load on a circuit than it’s designed for. This can lead to annoying trips to the breaker box or fuse panel, but it’s also a warning sign that trouble is lurking. If you keep tripping breakers, if outlets or cords feel warm, or if you notice any off-smells around outlets or service panels, disconnect the lights and move them to another circuit to avoid creating a fire hazard.

LED lights come in nearly all sizes, colors, and shapes for holiday lighting, last longer, burn cooler, and draw much less current than incandescent bulbs. We highly recommend them for all your lighting needs.

Don’t exceed extension cord capacity

Extension cords are rated to carry a specific load. When that’s exceeded, the cords can become overheated, melting insulation and causing short circuits and fires. Feel your cords when all the lights are on. If they feel warm to the touch, replace them with higher capacity cords. Better yet, arrange your lighting so you don’t need extension cords at all.

Don’t run extension cords under carpet or rugs

Modern building codes require wall outlets to be spaced at least every 12 feet, but older homes may not conform to this, necessitating the use of extensions. Use them if you must, but realize that even a properly sized extension cord gets warm under load. When they’re run under rugs or carpet, this heat can’t dissipate and can lead to the same problems as an undersized cord.

Protect extension cords from pets and trip hazards

Dogs and cats love to chew on things, and an exposed cord can be a real temptation. Aside from the risk of accidental electrocution, gnawed-away insulation presents the danger of short circuits and fires. Pets roam the house at all hours, so check your electrical cords periodically for damage.

Run any cords safely away from traffic areas to prevent trip hazards (but not under rugs or carpet).

Don’t let your tree or wreaths dry out

With all the holiday chores, it’s easy to cut corners. One of the most overlooked tasks is keeping your greenery moist. Check the water levels in tree stands and containers and discard any vegetation that starts to turn brown or feels brittle to the touch before it becomes a fire hazard.

OUTDOOR SAFETY

Chances are your outdoor holiday lighting is in place by now, but presuming you survived setting it up, or at least have healed, there are still some things you need to watch.

Protect cords from damage

Make sure any cords are run safely away from hazards like snow and ice removal or vehicle traffic.

Eliminate trip hazards

Run cords away from places they could trip family and visitors.

Use only outdoor outlets with GFCI protection

Wet weather and electricity don’t play well together. Outdoor outlets are designed to keep connections safe and dry. Current codes require any damp area outlets to have GFCI protection to prevent electrical shock. That includes basements and garages, so don’t run cords from unprotected outlets in those area.

Be safe when hanging, maintaining, and removing outdoor lights

Make sure ladders are resting on firm footing and don’t overextend your reach. And stay safely away from power lines when using and moving ladders, especially metal ones.

The pros at Allstar Electrical Services want to extend our best wishes to you and your loved ones for a wonderful and joyful holiday season. We look forward to serving your electrical needs through the remainder of the year and many more to come.

Give us a call or visit our web site, allstarelectrical.com, for any of your holiday electrical needs, and for help on your projects in the coming year.

Christmas Tree Safety—A Tradition Worth Keeping

There’s nothing like the look and smell of a freshly-cut tree to evoke memories and holiday spirit. And part of that tradition should include making sure the tree stays in good condition until it’s time to take it down. This becomes especially important in places like Denver, where there’s a tradition of leaving holiday decorations up until the end of the National Western Stock show, which extends into late January.

Don’t Push Your Tree Past Its Limit

When properly cared for, a cut tree will last around four weeks before it starts drying out. During that time, it’s important to keep it watered. A tree with a 2-inch trunk will absorb as much as a quart of water per day during its first week or two; larger trees will use even more. Trees should be put in a stand with at least a one-gallon water capacity and be checked several times daily at first.

After a week or so, check it daily and never let the water level drop below the trunk. If you got your tree freshly-cut a few days before Christmas, it might make it through the Stock Show, but don’t put your home and family at risk by pushing it past its limit.

As you approach the second week, check the tree daily for dropped and brown needles. If you notice more than a few, it’s time to remove the tree before it becomes a fire hazard. Take down the lights and decorations and remove it from your house. Many communities offer curbside recycling for trees or you can take it to a recycling center on your own. Store the dead tree outdoors, away from structures and combustible materials until it can be hauled away.

Turn Off the Lights When You’re Asleep or Away

Even well hydrated trees can be fire hazards, and as they approach the end of their lives, Christmas trees become increasingly flammable. Tempting as it may be to have a lighted tree in the window throughout the night, there are too many risks to leave the lights and tree unattended. Save your all-night lighting for outdoors and put it on a timer so you don’t waste energy when no one’s awake to see it.

Don’t Become a Statistic

Residential fires and electrical accidents increase every year during the holiday season and into the winter months. Dried out Christmas trees, improperly installed indoor and outdoor lighting, and overworked electrical systems are major contributors to the problem.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International and the pros at Allstar Electrical Servicesurge you practice electrical safety not only at the holidays but year-round. And as the holidays pass into the new year, we wish you and yours a happy and safe year to come.

The pros at Allstar Electrical Services want to extend our best wishes to you and your loved ones for a happy, safe, and prosperous 2018. We look forward to serving your electrical needs throughout the coming year and many more to follow.

Give us a call or visit our web site, allstarelectrical.com, for any of your electrical needs, and for help on your projects in the coming year.

Planning Holiday Lighting

Whether you’re lighting a single tree or going full Griswold, it’s a good idea to plan ahead to be sure you have the equipment and electrical service you need. Do it now and you won’t be trying to string lights in sub-zero cold and wondering why your breakers keep tripping.

Look at Your Load

Holiday lights add to the load on your household current. Take a moment to add up the wattage of ornamental lights and other decorations you’ll be using to be sure they don’t overload your circuits. It’s a simple calculation—add up the wattage total and divide it by 120, the voltage of your household service. That gives you the number of amperes (amps) you’ll need to power the decorations. Chances are the number will be small if you’re just adding a few strands of lights or a wreath or two, especially if you’re using newer energy-efficient LED lights.

Then determine the capacity of the circuit you’ll be plugging into. Most household branch circuits are either 15 or 20 amps. You can tell by the number stamped on the circuit breaker (or fuse) that protects the circuit.

Unless you’re adding more than a few amps to the load, you should be fine, but don’t forget that there are probably other outlets on that circuit. If you have power-hungry appliances or tools on it, you may need to use a different circuit.

Use the Right Outlets and Cords

Electricity and water don’t mix. Lights and cords should be UL-approved for outdoor use and plugged into GFCI-protected outdoor outlets. If you use extension cords, know that long cords add resistance to a circuit, so be sure the cord you use is rated for the load you’re putting on it. Lightweight household cords should be avoided. They’re easy to damage and aren’t designed for outdoor use.

Use only proper GFCI-protected outdoor outlets; running cords through windows or doors is dangerous. A damaged cord can electrify a metal window or door, plus it breaks your weather seal, adding to your heating bill.

Work Safely

It gets dark early, so if you’re working late, be sure your area is well-lighted to avoid accidents. Better yet, put the work off until daytime. You can see better and it’s warmer.

Ladders are one of the most common sources of household accidents. Make sure your ladder is stable and don’t overreach. Moving a ladder beats calling an ambulance. Metal ladders are also great conductors of electricity. Avoid damp or wet areas, be careful with live cords, and pay attention to overhead lines.

Use approved clips and hangers, not staples that damage cords and cause short circuits.

If you’re not comfortable doing the work yourself, there are companies that will do it for you. Many even offer design services for your outdoor display.

Now’s the Time to Add Power

If you don’t have the outdoor power you need, or if your outlets are outdated, a licensed electrician can add outlets, circuits or any other services you may need. This is a job that should be left to the pros who have the knowledge and equipment to do the job right.

A little forethought and safe work habits are the key to hassle-free holiday decorating. If you have any problems or concerns about your electrical service, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to solve them for you.

Call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 for more information or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request a free estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Internet Safety for the Holidays

Electronic devices are certain to be at the top of most wish lists this holiday season. With so many things connecting to the internet, it’s important to keep your sensitive data safe from the growing numbers of internet predators.

The National Cyber Security Alliance, in coordination with the FBI and Homeland Security, offers these tips to stay safer and more secure on your home network and when using public Wi-Fi networks.

Use Antivirus Software and Firewall Protection

While this may seem obvious by now, these fundamental safeguards can be turned off, out of date, or expired. Be sure enable updates on all your apps and operating systems (automatic is best) and keep your subscription current. Many service providers include security products as part of their package, either free or at a discount. Antivirus and other security products are also available separately. Just be sure you have them installed, up to date, and functioning.

Use Strong Passwords

While they may be harder to remember, strong passwords are the best protection against hackers. The best passwords contain a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols like #, $, %, and =. They should be at least seven characters in length, and longer is better. If you’re concerned with remembering them, use a password manager, available online.

Use Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a method of confirming a user's identity where access is granted access only after successfully presenting two or more pieces of information. Some websites require it (banks, for instance), but many devices like phones only have it as an option. Besides text, other authentication options include facial recognition and fingerprint matching.

Only Shop on Secure Sites

To protect your sensitive data, only shop on sites with secure connections that encrypt or otherwise guard transactions. Secure sites have a closed padlock in the status bar and the URL will start with https:// instead of simply http://.

Avoid Public Wi-Fi Networks

Public Wi-Fi networks (coffee shops, rec centers, etc.) can be accessed by anyone, and with the right tools and knowledge, anyone can steal data you send over them. Some public spaces may have secure Wi-Fi hotspots that encrypt data on their network, but don’t take it for granted. Your internet supplier may have a list of secure hotspots, but if you’re not sure, it’s better to wait for a known secure connection than risk having your data stolen.

Stick to a Single Credit Card

If you limit your shopping to a single credit card, you can cut it off immediately if you suspect trouble. Don’t use a debit card. Unlike credit cards, debit cards connect directly to your bank account and funds are withdrawn immediately.

Don’t Click on Unknown Links or Email Attachments

Links, attachments, and even pictures can have malicious connections that can infect your devices and network. Only open files and links from trusted sources and not even then if the link seems suspicious. Email addresses can be stolen or cloned, so it’s best to verify any links or attachments before opening them. Ads and other commercial messages can be accessed via the company’s regular website, so don’t open a link in an email unless you’re certain it’s legit.

Stay Safe and Be Happy

The holidays are a time for joy, so don’t risk your happiness by being careless online.

Connectivity is essential in modern homes and offices and Allstar Electrical Serviceshas the expertise and experience to install or upgrade your home or business network safely and securely.

If you need to add or change a home network, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB.

Should You Consider Hiring a Lighting Designer?

The type and placement of lighting is important to the function and enjoyment of a home. It adds drama, affects moods and makes functional areas like kitchens, laundries, and workspaces safer and more efficient. And it’s too often neglected when remodeling or renovating.

A good lighting design includes choosing the products that are right for the room and its uses, choices that might not occur to you or your contractor.

Here are some benefits of having a lighting pro part of your remodeling plan.

  • They understand how lighting works to add beauty and functionality
  • They understand how proper (and improper) lighting affects things like plants, furnishings, and artwork
  • They personalize lighting to fit your tastes
  • They’re up to date on the latest technology and trends
  • They’re familiar with all types of fixtures and controls
  • They’re up to date on building and electrical codes

Lighting designers also play an important role in planning lighting needs for commercial and institutional spaces. Proper commercial lighting improves productivity, morale, and safety in workspaces, so consider hiring a professional as part of your design team.

Finding a Lighting Designer

Lighting designers can work independently and other professionals like architects, interior designers, and lighting contractors may be qualified lighting designers as well. Lighting designers aren’t licensed and certification isn’t widely adopted, so ask about the person’s experience and to see a portfolio of their work along with references.

The pros at Allstar Electrical Services work hand-in-hand with designers, architects, and contractors to ensure your project is done right, on budget and on schedule. Call us at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve been serving homeowners and businesses along Colorado’s Front Range since 2000 and are top-rated by the BBB.

Backup Generator Safety Tips

Coloradans know that power outages are a way of life. Careless drivers and construction crews knock down poles and cut into underground lines. Snow, ice, and broken limbs take down overhead lines and lightning knocks out transformers.

Most of the time, utility crews work to restore power in a matter of hours, even minutes. But when outages drag on for extended periods, especially in remote areas where roads may be blocked or power lines are hard to reach to repair, an annoyance can turn into a life-threatening situation. That’s why many Colorado residents and businesses choose to have emergency backup power.

Backup batteries can power a few critical items for a while, but lots of people prefer to have portable or permanent generators standing by. While these machines can be lifesavers in an emergency, if they’re not operated and used properly, they can also be deadly, causing an average of 66 deaths and hundreds of injuries every year.

Here are some tips to keep your generator safe and functional while you wait for the power to come back on.

Never Run a Generator Indoors or in an Enclosed Space

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is the leading cause of injury and death from household generators. Even smaller portable generators give off enough CO to be deadly if it’s concentrated by a closed or confined space. That includes garages, basements, work sheds and enclosed porches and patios. Deadly fumes are odorless and can seep into living spaces through gaps in doors, windows, and other structural breaches.

Keep Fumes Away

Keep generators outdoors at least 20 feet from the house; even farther from doors and windows. Make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors properly installed and that their batteries are fresh.

Operate Your Generator Safely

Water and electricity don’t play well together. Don’t run a portable generator in rain or heavy snow. If that’s not feasible, an online search turns up plenty of options for sheltering a generator outdoors. Just be sure whatever you choose is well ventilated to dissipate heat and provide air for fuel combustion.

Turn off the generator and let it cool before adding fuel to prevent accidental burns or fire from spills.

Don’t try to hook the generator to your household power unless you have a transfer switch installed by a licensed electrician. It’s dangerous and can cause major damage to your home’s wiring from back-feeding. If outages are frequent or extended, a transfer switch is a good investment in safety and convenience.

Otherwise, plug lights and appliances directly into the generator if you can. Use outdoor extension cords and power strips if needed. Make sure the cords and power strips are UL-approved, in good condition, and able to carry the load.

Plan Ahead

Keep enough fuel on hand for extended use and store it safely in ANSI-approved containers. Adding a gas stabilizer will extend its life, and if you don’t need it for the generator, you’ll have it handy for other uses. And maintain the generator so that it’s ready when you need it.

For more information about backup generators, see this article on the Allstar Electrical Services website.

If you have any problems or concerns about your generator or other electrical service, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to solve them for you. We offer homeowners, builders, and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.

Call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Are You Ready for Winter?

Winter’s coming and along with snowmen and sleigh rides, it brings its own set of hazards to your comfort and safety. But with a few precautions, you can look forward to keeping safe and snug when winter rolls in.

Here a few things to consider:

Keep Your Home Warm and Dry

Cold winds can blow through gaps around windows and doors raising heating bills and causing bone-chilling drafts. Caulking and sealing windows and doors keeps the cold air outside where it belongs.

Pick a warm dry day and seal around windows and doors with a good weatherproof caulk. Check door sweeps for a good seal and replace them if necessary. If you use storm windows, fall’s the time to put them up.

Check Your Roof and Gutters

Fall is also a good time to inspect your roof and gutters. Snow and ice buildup can wreak havoc on roofing and gutters causing leaks and weakening their structure. Even if the leaks don’t make it into your house, dampness encourages dangerous mold growth and reduces the effectiveness of insulation.

Keep your gutters clean so runoff can flow away and prevent ice dams from forming. If you have loose shingles or weak spots in your roof, have them repaired while the weather is good.  And don’t be tempted to address the problem with electric gutter or roof heaters. They may even encourage formation of ice dams.

Reevaluate Your Insulation

The best protection for your roof and gutters is to keep your attic cold in the winter with adequate ceiling insulation and ventilation. That not only keeps your living spaces warmer but lets snow and ice melt naturally, discouraging formation of ice dams and other problems. On Colorado’s Front Range that means insulating attics to an R-value of at least 49; R-60 in foothill and mountain areas. Don’t forget vulnerable pipes, either. Insulate them in attics, crawl spaces and basements.

Good insulation and seals will also help keep heat inside your home in the event of a power outage. For more information on insulating in Colorado, see these recommendations from Colorado State University Extension.

Have an Emergency Plan

When the power goes out, your life can change in a hurry. Keep flashlights and fresh batteries on hand. Use candles safely. Keep cell phone use to a minimum so as not to drain their power. They may be your lifeline. Some landline phones continue to work during outages, so keep important numbers written down in case you need to go low-tech.

Keep plenty of bottled water on hand and keep your refrigerator closed as much as possible. Most food will stay fresh for 4 hours or more in a refrigerator; 48 hours in a full freezer. See this article from Consumer Reports on safe food handling and cooking during a power outage.

Consider Adding Backup Power

Backup batteries and small generators may offer some emergency power, but prolonged outages call for more capacity. Gasoline-powered portable backup generators come in several sizes and configurations. Some may require professional installation to operate safely without damaging your electrical system. Be sure to shop carefully and have enough fuel on hand to run them.

Another option, especially in areas where outages are frequent or prolonged, is to install permanent backup generators. These should only be installed by a licensed electrician who can do so properly and up to codes.

For more information about backup generators, see this article about Why Coloradans Need Backup Power.

Choosing the right backup power supply and using it safely requires a knowledge of electrical circuitry and codes, so don’t risk injury, shock, fire hazards, or expensive repairs by getting in over your head. If you have any problems or concerns about your electrical service, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to solve them for you. We offer homeowners, builders, and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.

Is Your House Safe for—and from—Ghosts & Goblins?

Halloween is almost here and mobs of mischievous marauders are ready to descend on your castle. Some are welcome—some are not. Here are a few tips on how to keep the ones you want safe and the ones you don’t away.

Lights!

Outdoor lighting makes your home safe and welcoming for guests and discourages unwelcome visitors. Motion detector lights help family and friends navigate safely at night and put a spotlight on trespassers, alerting you to their presence and chasing them away.

Pathway lighting on walks and steps guides visitors and alerts them to tripping and other hazards while directing them to your door.

Solar-powered and some low-voltage lights are easy to install, but even low-voltage lighting requires a transformer connected to household 120-volt wiring. Be sure to follow instructions for safe installation and call a licensed electrician if you have any questions or concerns.

Cameras!

Home security is an increasing concern, and outdoor cameras offer an extra layer of protection. The choices vary from simple always-on recordings to state-of-the-art cameras that can be activated by motion, sound, and even the press of a doorbell button. Most can now be monitored on Wi-Fi connections and even controlled remotely. With a camera or two you can immediately know if the person coming up the sidewalk is a goblin or a porch pirate.

Action!

Take a few minutes to walk around your property. Are your outdoor lights working properly?  Do bulbs need replacing? Do photo cells and motion sensors work properly? Do you need to add additional lighting or cameras? Are lights and cameras pointing in the right direction?

Many of these tasks are DIY-friendly, but if you need AC-powered fixtures and switches, it’s a good idea to call a licensed electrician. 120-volt outdoor lighting and switches need weatherproof installation and GFCI protection to meet code requirements. Improper installation creates both shock and fire hazards. Electrical professionals know how to install them so they’re both safe and reliable.

If you have any problems or concerns about your electrical service, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to solve them for you. Our Residential Safety Blanket is a low-cost annual service plan that includes a thorough assessment of electrical issues before they cause problems along with preferred pricing and guaranteed same-day emergency service.

Call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 for more information or visit our website.

Electrical Safety Tips for Fall

Fall is a busy time for homeowners. The calendar is full of school activities, fall sports are in high gear, and pre-winter yardwork looms on the schedule. While it may be tempting to rush through your fall chores, haste can not only make waste, it can be downright dangerous, especially when working around electricity.

Here are some tips to keep your fall to-do tasks safe.

Look Up and Live

That’s the slogan your power company uses to remind you that danger lurks overhead when working around your home and yard. Always take note of overhead power lines when performing fall chores like cleaning gutters or trimming trees.

Contact with overhead power lines can result in injury or even death. When working with ladders or other tools and equipment, carry them horizontally and stay at least ten feet from power lines to avoid accidental contact.

Call Before You Dig

This is another mantra of power companies, and for good reason.

Fall is the best time to plant many trees and is a favorite time for landscaping since the summer heat is past. But up to a quarter of emergency calls to power and other utility companies are due to underground lines being cut or broken by hitting them while digging.

Most utilities offer underground line location and marking for free. Just call 8-1-1 a few days before you dig to schedule it. And be aware that power and gas lines that were installed by private contractors and homeowners may not be located, so be on the lookout for them, too.

Indoor Safety

Electrical problems cause over 47,000 house fires every year resulting in more than 2,000 deaths and serious injuries and $1.4 billion in property damage. We rely on indoor lights and appliances more in the fall and winter and with old fixtures, fuses, and breakers straining under the added load of new devices and seasonal demands, you need to be aware of the warning signs of trouble to come. They include:

  • Lights that flicker, dim or blink
  • Warm or discolored wall plates
  • A burning odor emanating from switches or outlets
  • Circuit breakers tripping often or regularly blown fuses
  • Receptacles that crackle, sizzle or buzz
  • Any mild shock or from appliances, receptacles or switches

If you experience any of these warning signs, call a licensed electrician to diagnose and solve the problem before disaster strikes.

And be sure to test the batteries in your smoke alarms and change the them when they wear down. Most alarms emit an intermittent chirp to warn you of weak batteries, but not all do, so perform a manual test monthly. Even AC-powered alarms have backup batteries in case of power failure, so check them too.

Guard Against the Silent Killer

While not strictly an electrical issue, carbon monoxide (CO) is generated by open flames, gas-fired appliances, gasoline-powered vehicles and many other things. Most gas appliances now use electronic ignition instead of standing pilot lights, so be sure they’re working properly and not letting unignited gas flow. Blocked chimneys and vents and closed garages can let this lethal gas seep into your home, so have your furnace, chimneys, and vents inspected every year before the heating season and don’t run your car or other gas-powered items in a closed garage or other space.

Install carbon monoxide detectors along with smoke detectors as recommended and maintain them per the devices’ instructions. That includes keeping their batteries fresh.

Taking a few simple precautions can help you enjoy our beautiful fall weather safely. And if you have any problems or concerns about your electrical service, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to solve them for you. Our Residential Safety Blanket is a low-cost annual service plan that includes a thorough assessment of electrical issues before they cause problems along with preferred pricing and guaranteed same-day emergency service.

Call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 for more information or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request a free estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Smart Homes: How Hackers Strike Your Home

As we load our homes with smart thermostats, remote access, and disembodied voices inside boxes that are always listening, these internet-connected devices offer increasing pathways for digital intruders to break into our homes. And they do it often without leaving a sign until mysterious charges appear on our credit cards or someone applies for a mortgage in our name a thousand miles away.

Who’s Listening…or Watching?

Hardly a day goes by without a story of someone whose privacy has been violated via their internet connection. And as listening devices like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home proliferate, the stories get even scarier.

While misunderstood verbal commands (“Alexa, turn on the lights”) are rare, they’re not unheard of. And even if your digital roommate doesn’t get confused, sophisticated means of waking her up and causing mischief are being perfected.

According to an article recently published in The Hill, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, described how they could embed hidden silent commands into online recordings on video or music sites that would wake up personal voice assistants and send them malicious commands without the user ever being aware.

Who’s Speaking?

Part of the problem is that most voice-activated digital assistants don’t have software that lets them recognize who’s talking to them. Once awakened, they just listen and do what they’re told without knowing who’s doing the talking. If a hacker tells them to unlock the door or turn on an indoor camera, they just do it.

It’s not just voice-activated systems that are vulnerable, either. With so many devices connected by Wi-Fi, less secure points can be attacked remotely, giving hackers access to your entire network, including sensitive personal information. Yes, your refrigerator can be your enemy.

What’s Being Done?

Major manufacturers are aware of these vulnerabilities and are working to remedy them whenever they’re discovered. For the most part, devices made by larger US and other large western companies are secure…if you observe their safeguards. But cheaper items, especially off-brand items made in Asia, don’t have the same security standards and sometimes leave out needed protective measures.

What You Can Do

Even relatively secure devices require some effort on your part to keep your home network secure. Change manufacturer-furnished passwords to your own, make them hard to crack, and don’t use the same passwords on multiple accounts. If that seems overwhelming, use a password manager to keep track for you. A quick internet search will point you to several reviews and sources.

Only buy devices from sources you trust. Major companies are constantly working to improve the security of their connectable products. Read product reviews that rate security measures. Every connected item is a potential entryway into your network, and cheaper isn’t always better when your personal security is concerned.

Only connect over a secure Wi-Fi network with a robust password and a good firewall. And consider turning off unnecessary devices when they’re not in use. You don’t need your assistant listening when nobody’s home.

Connectivity is the wave of the future and Allstar Electrical Services has the expertise and experience to install or upgrade your home or business network safely and securely.

If you need to add or change a home network, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB.

Is It Time for an Electrical Upgrade?

If your home is more than a couple of decades old, your electrical system may be straining under the load of modern appliances and electronics. This can lead to annoying trips to the breaker box, interference with both wireless and wired signals, and even serious safety hazards.

Here are some things to consider.

New Appliances

While most new appliances are Energy Star rated and more efficient than earlier models, that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t draw more current. This is especially true with electric ranges and double ovens but can also be a concern with additions like new air conditioning, larger electric water heaters, and even new overhead microwaves.

Each of these appliances needs to be on its own dedicated circuit, often with voltages and amperage higher than your existing system can provide.

Avoid the temptation to add higher capacity breakers or outlets since that doesn’t account for the capacity of the wiring that will carry the load. That can lead to overheating and devastating fires inside walls. Consult a licensed electrician before you add large appliances to be sure your system will handle the load and conform to electrical codes.

Renovation and Remodeling

Many homeowners are choosing to upgrade their homes rather than moving to new housing. A convenient, comfortable neighborhood, mature landscaping, and precious memories are all good reasons to stay put and bring your home up to date.

But many older homes simply do not have the electrical service demanded by modern life. There may be too few outlets, leading to dangerous overuse of adapters and extension cords.  Along with the demands of more appliances noted above, an older home may simply not have enough electrical service to handle the load of extra devices and living space.

Be sure to consult a licensed electrical contractor during your planning phase to avoid costly oversights and mistakes that could put your home and family in jeopardy.

Lighting—Indoors and Out

Lighting options are undergoing a major transformation. LED lights offer better quality light, use much less energy, and seemingly last forever. Smart switches and bulbs let you control your lighting with the touch of a keypad, giving you options that weren’t even imaginable a few years ago. But lighting plays a huge role in your comfort and safety, so choosing an electrical contractor at the earliest stages of planning will save money and headaches (sometimes literally) down the road.

Don’t overlook your outdoor lighting and electrical outlets, either. It can add hours of convenient, safe enjoyment year-round when properly planned and installed.

Bringing in licensed, professional contractors during the planning stage of upgrades and renovations lets you take advantage of their knowledge and experience.

The pros at Allstar Electrical Services are just a phone call away. We work hand-in-hand with contractors to ensure your new project is done right, on budget and on schedule. Call us at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve been serving homeowners and businesses along Colorado’s Front Range since 2000 and are top-rated by the BBB.

September is National Preparedness Month

Winter brings on a host of challenges for homeowners. They range from winterizing your house for comfort and energy savings to having a plan in case disaster strikes.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) designates each September as National Preparedness Month to remind us that we need to plan for the unexpected and be ready to meet the challenges it brings.

The Weather Outside’s Delightful—and Potentially Dangerous

Severe weather is a concern year-round, but it can be especially dangerous in Colorado’s winters. Heavy snowfall can disrupt power, damage property, and make roads impassable. Do you know how to keep warm and nourished during a prolonged emergency? Can you provide lifesaving medical care like CPR and first aid if help can’t get through?

Local citizens are often the first to offer help in an emergency, so it’s important to know how to react in advance to help your family and your community.

Learn Something New Every Week

This year each week of September has a preparedness theme. They include:

Week 1: Sept 1-8

 Make and Practice Your Plan

Week 2: Sept 9-15

 Learn Life Saving Skills

Week 3: Sept 16-22

 Check Your Coverage

Week 4: Sept 23-29

 Save For an Emergency

Saturday, September 15 is also designated National Day of Action.

The FEMA Preparedness website, ready.gov, has details about each week’s information as well as links to multiple resources in a variety of languages.

Preparedness Makes Perfect

Each area of the country has its own challenges disaster-wise. In Colorado those typically come from severe weather. High winds, tornados, wildfires, floods, and heavy snow and ice are seasonal concerns. Having a disaster plan, sharing it with your family, and practicing it will help you cope when an emergency occurs. And don’t forget adequate insurance coverage and emergency funds to get you through the aftermath.

Power Through with a Backup Plan

We can forget how dependent we are on electricity…until it goes out. Be sure to have adequate battery-powered devices like flashlights and radios for emergency information. Cell phones only work when their batteries are charged, so look into a portable recharger that doesn’t rely on external power. If you experience frequent or prolonged power outages, explore backup electrical sources. Backup batteries can provide some power for a while, but you may want to consider backup generatorsinstead. Take the time to learn the options and pick the best solution for you. A licensed electrical professional can help you choose.

Act Now for Peace of Mind

Knowing you’re prepared for whatever nature throws your way lets you face emergencies with a clear mind and the resources to handle life’s curveballs. National Preparedness Month is a great opportunity make the plans and gather the resources you’ll need.

 Disaster preparedness is a year-round job and electrical readiness plays a huge part. Allstar Electrical Services offers auxiliary power solutions as well as rapid response radio-dispatched emergency services 24/7. Call 303.399.7420 or visit our website. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Is Your Smart Home Vulnerable to Brain Damage?

Surge protectors aren’t just for computers anymore

You’ve probably had your computer hooked to a surge-protected power strip for years. Maybe even some of your other electronics. But how about your refrigerator?

Today’s so-called smart homes are loaded with sensitive electronics that can be ruined by a lightning bolt or voltage surge. Even if your home’s not all that smart, there are still plenty of items like big-screen TVs and other microchipped devices that can be wrecked by a power surge.

A Whole-Home Solution to Power Surges

Nobody wants to fit dozens of outlets with surge protector strips—although a few can be big energy savers—so electrical engineers have come up with a solution: whole home surge protection systems.

Unlike some lower-quality plug-in strips that can be knocked out by a single large surge, whole home surge protectors are designed to handle large surges multiple times. Not only do whole-home surge protectors guard vulnerable computers and accessories, they protect the increasing number of appliances, entertainment centers, gaming devices, HVAC units and security systems that rely on sensitive controllers to function. Even LED lighting can be affected. And one lightning strike or power surge can knock them out, sometimes for good. It’s not only annoying and expensive, but it can be potentially disastrous if you rely on them for protection and life-saving medical equipment.

Colorado Homes Can be Especially Vulnerable

Colorado has the second-highest number of lighting strikes in the US, only surpassed by Florida. And high winds, heavy snow, and iced-over power lines make outages almost routine across the state. Many residents rely on backup power sources for emergencies, but backup power only works on devices that haven’t been toasted by voltage spikes.

Don’t presume that major surges are only caused by lightning and downed power lines, either. Transformers can blow, affecting only a few homes, power can be knocked out by construction and traffic accidents, and heavy motors like air conditioners and shop equipment can create surges right in your own home.

Talk to a Pro About the Best Solution for Your Home

There are many whole-home surge protection devices on the market today. Most are inexpensive, in the $200-500 range. But they attach to the home’s main service panel and should only be installed by a licensed electrician who is able to run branch circuits that conform to electrical and building codes.

If you experience frequent or prolonged power outages, you may even want to consider adding a backup power supply along with whole-home surge protection. A licensed electrician is your best resource to help determine the best solution for your individual needs.

Devices also vary in their functions and capabilities, so it’s best to consult with an expert.

 Allstar Electrical Services installs whole-home surge protection systems quickly with minimal disruption. We deliver safe, quality results you expect and deserve.

Whatever your electrical needs, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Your Outlet Has a Story to Tell

You probably don’t give a second thought when you plug in an appliance to a wall outlet. And that’s a good thing because it means outlets in the US are mostly standardized and safe. But not always and not everywhere. Let’s take a look.

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and Building Codes

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) is a North American trade organization that represents electrical equipment and medical imaging manufacturers. It helps develop technical standards for safety and efficiency and advocates for their adoption. Its standards are in use in most of North and Central America and have been incorporated in both national and international electrical codes. These codes have been adopted by most local building codes, including the types of outlets permitted. US electrical plugs and receptacles (outlets) are identified as “NEMA-type” with other numbers and letters designating their specific use.

110-125 Volt Connections

US household voltage is either 120 or 240 volts. The normal household appliance voltage is 120 volts, 15 amps, which is what is present at most of your regular wall outlets. Those outlets can be either grounded or ungrounded, and the receptacle tells the story.

Ungrounded (NEMA-1) outlets have two parallel rectangular slots to receive a two-prong plug. NEMA-1-15 outlets have one slot is longer than the other so a matching plug can only be inserted one way, preserving the polarized current flow from feed (hot) to return (neutral). NEMA-1-15 outlets are no longer permitted in new construction but can be found in older building.

Grounded Outlets

NEMA-5-15 outlets have the same polarized slots but add a third, round receptacle that’s deeper than the slots and makes a positive grounding connection as well as enforcing polarity. They’re the standard in the US, Canada, Mexico, and Panama and are used in other countries as well. The grounding slot has typically been oriented at the bottom of a vertical installation, but now positioning it to the top is recommended. Receptacles can also be mounted horizontally without affecting their function. The National Electrical Code specifies the neutral (long) slot on top and the ground hole on the left in that case.

Some appliance circuits may be rated for 20 amps instead of 15 in order to supply heavier loads in places like kitchens and laundry rooms. These are designated NEMA-5-20 and have a small notch added into the left-side prong opening to identify them.

Tamper-Proof and GFCI Outlets

Ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection is required on receptacles in wet locations including kitchen appliance outlets, bathrooms, basements and most outdoor outlets.

All of Canada and 46 US states now require tamper-resistant outlets in new construction. Both GFCI and tamper-resistant outlets accept NEMA-5-15 style plugs.

High-Voltage Outlets (220-240 volts)

Heavy appliances like ovens, stoves, dryers, and electric water heaters, furnaces, and air conditioners are typically served by 240 volts. They also carry more current than 15-amp appliance circuits, typically 30-50 amps and each amperage has its own type of outlet.

240-volt outlets are larger, rounded, and have three or four slots depending on the age of the outlet. Since electricity is supplied to your home at 240 volts and separated into two 120-volt wires, early ungrounded 240-volt outlets had three slots, two at 120 volts for feed and a neutral. Modern outlets are grounded, adding a fourth hole for the ground wire.

Standard 30-amp outlets usually have two rectangular slots set at angles, a return (often L-shaped) and a grounding hole. 50-amp circuits have four slots, too, but the slots are usually parallel. But there are several types of outlets, including locking styles, so be sure your plug matches your outlet.

Confused? Call a Pro!

It’s important that outlets and connections be wired right and the variety can be confusing. Remodeling, renovations, and additions need top-notch electrical work, and Allstar Electrical Services delivers the safe, quality results you expect and deserve.

Whatever your electrical needs, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Tired of Electric Bills? 5 Low-Cost Ways to Stay Cool in the Summer

We have it pretty good here in Colorado, especially during the summer. When the rest of the country is sweltering in 90-degree heat and 80% humidity, even our hottest days are bearable thanks to low humidity and cool evenings. That combination lets us put nature to work for us without being slaves to expensive air conditioning.

Here are some things you can do to cut down on your summer cooling bill:

Keep Hot Air Out

Our bright Colorado sunshine is a mixed blessing. Allowed to stream in unchecked, it can turn enclosed spaces like cars and buildings into heat traps. Windows become radiators, so blocking the sun out keeps the heat from flowing into rooms.

The best place to start is outside. Shade trees, awnings, pergolas, anything that blocks the sun from striking your windows will keep the heat from intruding.

The second line of defense is your windows themselves. Low-E double- or triple-pane windows trap the heat between the glass. Adding solar-control window films adds UV protection for your fabrics and reduces solar heat gain. It can be a less expensive solution for large expanses of glass that aren’t shaded.

Finally, drapes and blinds trap heat near and prevent walls, floors, and furnishings from heating up. Even sheer drapes trap heat while letting light in. Louvered blinds let you control the amount of light while trapping at least some of the heat.

Bring Cool Air In

Turn off your air conditioner and open your house up in the evening. If you have good cross-ventilation, that may be all you need, especially if you’re away during the day. You can increase the flow of cool air with a box fan placed strategically in a window or next to a screened door. Facing it out will force warm air out and draw cool air in from the other open windows; facing it in will force cool air in and warm air out. Even better, a whole house fan will move large amounts of warm air out and cool off a house quickly.

Then trap that cool air in come morning by turning off the fan and closing the windows. Even on hot days your air conditioner will at least start out ahead of the game.

Keep the Air Moving

Even if you don’t like the strong breezes of fans, the subtle movements of a ceiling fan keep air circulating enough to make you feel cooler. We perspire constantly, even in winter, and as air moves across our bodies, that moisture evaporates, creating a cooling effect. It’s the wind-chill effect you hear about in the winter, but it happens in summer, too, as long as the humidity isn’t too high, which isn’t often an issue in Colorado. A whole house fan set on its lowest speed will have the same effect, as will a strong fan placed in an adjacent room.

Stay Moist

When it comes to cooling, moisture can be your friend. The wind-chill effect mentioned above is part of it, but any time there’s moisture on your skin, evaporative cooling occurs. While outdoor misting systems are frowned on (even sometimes prohibited) due to the amount of water they waste, keeping a misting bottle like you use for your plants will have the same effect. Why should your plants get all the attention? And of course the effect is heightened with a gentle breeze.

And don’t overlook yourself. Everyone in Colorado knows the importance of staying hydrated, but did you know that it also plays an important role in regulating your body temperature? Plain water is best, but most liquids will do the job. Just avoid beverages like caffeine and alcohol that dehydrate you, defeating the purpose.

Don’t Add Unnecessary Heat

Avoid using appliances like stoves, ovens, and dryers that add heat during the day. If you must, see that they are properly vented to the outdoors. An exhaust hood will pull heat out of your kitchen, too. And switching to LED light bulbs not only saves energy, it greatly reduces heat, as well.

When These Measures Aren’t Enough

There may be days when you need your air conditioning despite taking other measures. Using a programmable thermostat will keep your energy use to a minimum. Set it to a higher temperature when you’re away and add cooling half an hour before you come home.

What those temperatures are depends on your personal preferences, of course. The EPA and Department of Energy recommend no cooler than 78 degrees when the house is occupied and 85 degrees when you’re away. They say 82 degrees is right for sleeping. While that may seem warm, remember that a ceiling fan will add evaporative cooling while you sleep.

You may disagree but use those settings as a starting point and make changes in one-degree increments until you find the temperature that’s right for you. Give your system about half an hour to stabilize before making further changes.

Or consider sleeping outdoors on a screened porch. Just be sure to bring some blankets.

You’re in Colorado, after all.

 If you need whole house, exhaust, or ceiling fans installed, or any other electrical work, Allstar Electrical Services is ready to help. Give us a call at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB.

Bring a Little Light to Your Nights

Bring a Little Light to Your Nights

There’s not much to complain about summer nights in Colorado. All we’re missing is fireflies, or lightning bugs as they’re called them in the Muggy Midwest. But lightning bugs or not, a little extra lighting can make enjoyment of your outdoor spaces better—in both summer and winter.

Show Off Your Yard’s Beauty

Strategically placed landscape lighting can draw attention to attractive trees, plantings, and architectural features. It can be dramatic, spotlighting an individual plant, sculpture, or structure, or it can be subtle, imparting a soft glow to a tree or shrub, a bed of plants or a water feature.

Add Versatility to Your Living Spaces

Patios, decks, and outdoor kitchens call for different lighting at different times of the evening. Bright task lighting is needed for prepping and cooking. Medium-intensity is right for dining. And soft, low light is what you want for relaxing. By zoning your outdoor lighting, you can get the light you want where you want it. For multipurpose areas, dimmers are also an option.

Look at your layout and choose among the many options for your space.

Keep Things Safe

It’s important to keep your family and guests safe while they enjoy your outdoor living areas. Steps and pathways need to be lit to avoid trips and falls. With so many options available for path lighting, safe can be beautiful, too.

Plan for Year-Round Enjoyment

Heaters and fire pits can add many weeks of added outdoor living, but don’t overlook winter’s special attractions. The same trees and other features you highlight in summer have their own beauty in the winter. Two-way switches let you enjoy the outdoors from the warmth of a cozy home without braving the elements. Timers, photo cells, and Wi-Fi controllers are even more versatile.

Explore Your Options with a Professional Electrician

Outdoor wiring has its own set of considerations and concerns. High-voltage or low, incandescent, LED, or solar, a licensed electrician will know how to install it right and do it safely for years of enjoyment.

 Whether you’re working with an existing space or planning a new outdoor living area, Allstar Electrical Services delivers the quality results you expect and deserve. We work with you or your contractors to ensure your new project is done right, on budget and on schedule.

Whatever your electrical needs, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Are You Living with Vampires?

Werewolves aren’t real, and you may not believe in ghosts, but chances are your home is full of vampires. And just like in the movies, these undead creatures can seem friendly and charming to the point we like having them around. But unlike the mythical monsters, these ghouls don’t feed on blood, they’re nourished by electricity, electricity you pay for to the tune of hundreds of dollars every year. And their appetite is growing.

The Price of Convenience

Today we have the world at our fingertips. With a click or a tap we read the latest news, stay connected with family and friends, listen to personalized music playlists, and watch the movies and TV shows we want to watch, when we want to watch them. Our coffee is waiting in the morning and our refrigerator can tell us what we need to pick up on the way home.

But this convenience comes with a price.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, 30% of home energy use goes toward powering lights, appliances, and other devices. That can represent 50% or more of your electric bill. Refrigerators and air conditioning are the next highest consumers of electricity, and while programmable thermostats, low-energy lighting, and efficient appliances are great ways to save on your electricity costs, letting vampires run free can take a bite out of your wallet—$200 or more annually in a typical home.

Finding the Vampires

If you’re going to kill vampires, you need to know where they sleep. Here are some of their hiding places:

  • Flat screen TVs
    Potential annual cost: $160 each
    Flat screen “smart” TVs are loaded with features and many of them are working even when you turn your TV “off.” That’s because it’s not really off, it’s just in standby mode, waiting for a wakeup call. And running things in the background.
  • Gaming Consoles
    Potential annual cost: $75 each
    Like your TVs, gaming consoles are never off as long as they’re connected to power.
  • Computers
    Potential annual cost: $40 for desktops, $20 for laptops
    Computers actually have an “Off” switch but plenty of people never use it, leaving them on 24/7. Guess they feel the 47-second boot-up is time they’ll never get back.
  • DVRs and Cable Boxes
    Potential annual cost: $22 each
    This one’s tricky because they don’t work if they’re not on and that means missing out on programming that’s on when you’re not around. So $22 isn’t a lot to pay for the convenience, but, depending on your equipment setup, you probably only need one on to get the job done. And if you have secondary DVRs or Bluetooth devices, leave them off until you need them.
  • Smart Appliances and Devices
    Potential annual cost: maybe a little; maybe a lot
    You probably have more “smart” appliances than you realize. From coffeemakers to thermostats, anything with a timer or remote control is drawing current to do its duty. And with truly smart appliances, light bulbs, thermostats, and security systems gaining popularity, that load is increasing. It’s a tradeoff between cost and convenience; just know what you’re paying for and how much it costs.

Keeping Vampires Under Control

Garlic won’t work to keep these electronic vampires at bay, but switches and power strips will. Here are some ideas:

  • Use Power Strips
    This is a good idea under any circumstances since power strips with surge protection keep sensitive devices safe from voltage spikes. Use them to plug in multiple devices in your entertainment center or office that you can turn off without losing important functions. TVs, music and video players, printers, monitors, fax machines can all be turned off at the power strip until you need them. Plug devices like cable boxes and routers that need to be always on into a separate outlet.
    There are even “advanced” power strips that have features like timers and remote controls. Take a look at this infographic from the National Renewable Energy Lab for more information.
  • Use Switched Outlets
    If a power strip is inaccessible, plug it into a switched wall outlet. Then you can turn things off and on with the flick of a switch.
  • Set Shorter “Sleep” Times
    Computers, monitors, and even many TVs and sound systems have programmable sleep times. Instead of using factory defaults that can be half an hour or more, set them to shorter cycles and reduce power consumption during idle times.

The Bigger Picture

Living with vampires in your home is a tradeoff between convenience and savings. But it goes beyond that. Two hundred dollars a year may not seem like a lot, but when it’s added up over the millions of homes nationwide, it creates more than $10 billion in demand along with its associated infrastructure and environmental costs.

Allstar Electrical Services is committed to responsible, safe energy use without compromising convenience. If you need additional outlets, conversion to switched outlets, or any other electrical services, give us a call at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB.

GFCI Outlets Required: A Life and Death Matter

You can’t turn on the television these days without running across a home makeover show. How many of the Top 12 home remodeling shows (ranked by Insider online magazine) can you name:

  • Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
  • Flip or Flop
  • Flipping Out
  • Property Brothers
  • Love It or List It
  • Design on a Dime
  • Million Dollar Decorators
  • Queer Eye
  • Fixer Upper
  • Grand Designs
  • This Old House
  • Trading Spaces.

 Some people, myself included, binge on these Netflix and Hulu series culling ideas to use myself. The concepts are inspiring enough to get me off the sofa and surveying my surroundings. Maybe the most appealing factor is that the projects are completed within the one hour show. That never happens in real life!

 The National Association of Home Builders reported May 1, 2018 that bathrooms have overtaken kitchens as the room most remodeled in a home.

 Of course, the budget drives how deep a homeowner can go in remodeling any room in the house. Thumbtack.com, an online service that matches customers with local professionals, reports that bathroom remodels in the Denver, Colorado market run on average $3,000 to $25,000.

 Entry level remodeling projects like repainting and replacing the shower curtain rod are minimal investment. Plus, you don’t need professional certification to do either. But when it comes to changing out electrical parts—light fixtures and outlets—it’s time to call in a pro that knows the code.

GFCI outlets are required in all new construction, including remodeled parts of your home. The National Electrical Code (NEC) states that GFCI outlets are required for all 15 amp, 20 amp and 125 volt outlets or higher in bathrooms.

 GFCI outlets help prevent shock and electrocution. GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupter. GFCI outlets, also called residual current devices (RCD) cut off power as soon as any kind of power imbalance is detected. These outlets have two push buttons—“test” and “reset”—on the face of the outlet plate. If the outlet trips for any reason, just push the buttons to reset the electrical function.

 In July 2017, the story of a teen electrocuted in the bathtub in New Mexico while using her cell phone went viral. Just prior to her death, the girl snapped a photo of her phone hooked up to an extension cord and texted out the message below: 

That was her last text.

The phone was plugged into a non-GFCI outlet. Investigators believe the teen was soaking in the tub and touched the extension cord on the frayed part of the cord burning her hand and causing death by electrocution.

The distraught family has been active in promoting the warning to teens and people of all ages that water and electricity can be deadly.

Make sure your electrical sockets are located a safe distance away from the shower and/or bathtub.

Never use hairdryers, electric razors, electric curlers and flat irons, or other electrical devices—radios, tape players and televisions—in the bathroom when you are standing in or otherwise in contact with standing water.

Don’t use an electric heater in the bathroom unless it is hardwired into a circuit with GFCI and it should be installed in the wall or ceiling vs. free-standing.

Safety should be common sense. But people get careless. And it’s particularly important to repeat the dangers to remind children how to be safe in the bathroom.

If you have plans for a bathroom remodel or a whole home remodel, contact Allstar Electrical for a professional estimate. Allstar’s electricians are able to point homeowners to safe and effective choices. Call us today at 303-399-7420.

Xcel Test Smart Summer Home Savings

Xcel Energy, a utility that serves over 3.5 million customers in eight Western and Midwestern states, has announced a pilot program to test combining smart thermostats with multiple data sources to optimize air conditioning efficiency (and costs) this summer. It’s called the MyHome AC Rewards smart energy program and is being rolled out in the Denver and Minneapolis/St. Paul markets.

Smarter Than Smart

MyHome AC Rewards is a home energy management program that works with an ecobee® smart thermostat to integrate the device’s functions with Xcel usage data, weather forecasts, and other information sources to add an extra layer of energy-saving intelligence.

It uses the ecobee thermostat’s functions like comfort preferences, home-and-away schedules, and optional room sensors to learn your family’s energy use profile and combines it with Xcel data to find the best match between your usage patterns and the utility’s energy savings options.

Comfort Plus Savings

Using the ecobee data from your individual situation, MyHome is able to anticipate energy needs and tailor them to Xcel’s resources. According to Xcel, this provides:

  • Personalized energy efficiency insights and tips based on your unique energy identity
  • The ability to see savings projections and energy trends for your home
  • A more environmentally friendly way to consume energy
  • A more efficient and comfortable home for the summer

Thermostat Compatibility

The MyHome AC Rewards pilot program has been designed to work exclusively with the ecobee line of smart thermostats during the test period. If the program is successful, we expect it could be adapted to other smart thermostats, but Xcel has made no such representations.

Wiring Smart Thermostats

Most smart thermostats require what’s known as a “c-wire.” Also called a common wire, it provides a low voltage power source to operate the thermostat’s functions.

Many older homes with thermostats with mercury switches or battery-powered thermostats don’t have a c-wire installed. To check if you have one, open your thermostat cover and look at the wiring connections. If you see a wire connected to a terminal marked “C,” you have a c-wire. If not, it may be possible to use an extra existing wire if one is present.

Have Questions? Call a Pro

Smart thermostats can be expensive—some are $250 and up. Don’t risk costly mistakes if you’re not sure about installing one yourself.

The pros at Allstar Electrical Services are experts at smart home wiring. Give us a call at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment.

We also offer 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

More information about the MyHome AC Rewards program from Xcel Energy is available here.

Home is Where the Smart Is Part 5: Connectivity

In our previous post we explored the various types of home networks. But to bring the elements of a smart home together you need to get them talking to one another. In this article we’ll look at your options.

Three Ways Computers Communicate

The networked devices in your home are part of a local area network (LAN) and how they talk to one another is similar to a dinner party. One person can engage the whole table to give a toast, a group at one end of the table can converse among themselves, or two people can have a private conversation. Other than the private conversation, as long as you’re within earshot of whomever is speaking, you’re hearing the message whether you want to or not.

That’s why there are different devices for networking that sort out the various conversations at its table. Here’s a look at them and how they work.

Hubs

A hub is the simplest type of network connection. All it does is receive data and spread it to every connected device…like the toastmaster does at the table. That’s fine as long as everyone’s okay with their time and attention being monopolized. But what if you have a better use for your time than listening to a boring toast that has no meaning to you? Then you need a switch.

Switches

Like a hub, a switch is connected to every device on the network, but unlike many humans, it thinks a second before it speaks. By listening to network traffic, it learns who’s who, if they’re interested, and sends it to the desired recipient without bothering the other devices on the network. This is done using Media Access Control (MAC) addresses, unique identifiers for each device the switch has gotten to know (usually quickly) by watching who is speaking to whom. This cuts down traffic on the network, reducing bandwidth use and speeding up communication. It also limits communication to the intended recipients, so no bored guests or eavesdropping.

Switches have come down in price to the point they’re about the same cost as hubs, so unless you need a hub for a specific reason (see below), you’re better off with a switch.

Routers

If a switch is a smarter hub, a router is a smarter switch. Much smarter, in fact, since most routers are small computers themselves. They understand, manipulate, and route the data passing through them, similarly to a switch, but also perform other important tasks.

To use the internet, devices must have an ID known as an Internet Protocol Address (IP address) to identify it to other devices. The router will assign IP addresses to your various network devices (computers, smart phones, refrigerators, etc.) like a switch uses MAC addresses, but when it connects to the internet, it also replaces your local IP addresses with the one assigned by your service provider. Then using a process called Network Address Translation (NAT), the router determines what passes along the network and what doesn’t. Like a firewall, this prevents outside computers from talking to your devices unless you initiate the process, preventing unwanted intrusions.

So What Do You Need?

Most home networks will do fine with just a router. Your service provider likely has one included with your subscription package along with a wireless modem. And you probably pay a fee for it. The advantage is that you’ll usually get “free” upgrades and tech support. The downside is you’ll typically pay more than buying one of your own.

But before you rush out to buy a router to save money, be sure the device you buy is compatible with the system you’re on. And realize that your service provider may no longer offer support or upgrades, but your device manufacturer may.

Occasionally, smart devices like light bulbs and thermostats may also require a separate hub to integrate with your home network. Before you buy any smart device, be sure to check their connectivity requirements.

A Word About Security

Any network becomes vulnerable when it connects to an outside source like the internet. Regardless of your network type, it should be protected by a good firewall, antivirus software, encryption, and strong passwords.

If you need to add or change a home network, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB.

We also offer 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Home is Where the Smart Is - Part 4: Networking

As soon as you have multiple electronic devices communicating with one another, you have a network. But choosing the type of network to use depends on several things—who (and what) has access, what types of devices you have, and how secure it needs to be, among other things.

Here’s a look at some network types to help you make the choice.

What Is a Network?

First things first. A network is a communication path that allows computers, phones, and other devices to interact with one another. This can be accomplished through wiring, wirelessly using radio signals transmitted from one device to another, or a combination of both.

Wired Networks

In the early days of computing, this is how most things were connected. Telephone wires and various types of data cables ran from one device or place to another. The more things you connected, the more wires you had. And depending on how those wires were routed, things could get messy.

But before you dismiss wired networks as relics of the past, consider that they remain the fastest, most reliable, and most secure networks you can have.

Data usually travels much faster over wires than via radio signals. If the wires are properly laid out, there’s no chance of interference from electric motors, a neighbor’s network, or slow response times due to heavy network use. And since signals aren’t being broadcast, they’re virtually hack-proof.

That makes wired networks an excellent choice for moving lots of data reliably and securely. If you think a wired network is right for you, consult a networking expert and have the wiring installed by a licensed electrician to avoid expensive problems down the road.

Wireless Networks

There’s no doubt that wireless networks are much more convenient (and usually less expensive) than wired ones. They’re also vulnerable to more problems, from range and capacity to unwanted access.

Types of Networks

Networks vary in size from huge (the internet, cloud services) to tiny. Here are typical network types:

  • Personal Area Network (PAN)
    This is the simplest. It connects devices like printers and keyboards to a single central computer. It can only be accessed at the one central computer but can also connect to other networks. It can be wired or wireless, but wireless range is usually limited, such as with Bluetooth connections.
  • Local Area Network (LAN)
    LANs are networks located within a close geographic range. They can include home-area networks (HANs), school or campus-area networks (CANs), or commercial networks in offices and the like. All devices on the network can be accessed from multiple points, but the network itself is isolated from places outside the network. Of course external networks like the internet can be accessed with appropriate connections, too. LANs can be wired or wireless or a combination of both.
  • Wide Area Network (WAN)
    These span large geographic areas, from towns and cities to the whole wide world. They use multiple types of transmission such as phone lines, coaxial and optical cables, and radio waves. Those links are generally provided by phone, cable, and satellite companies as well as private companies that specialize in data transmission.
  • Private Networks
    Private networks are designed to restrict access to authorized users and to protect personal identity on the internet. They can be actual locked-down secure business networks (Enterprise Private Networks-EPNs) or Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) that use multiple links or “tunnels” to protect communications over open channels like the internet. VPNs usually require subscription to an independent service.

A Word About Security

Even a wired network becomes vulnerable when it connects to an outside source like the internet. Regardless of your network type, it should be protected by a good firewall, encryption, and strong passwords.

Network Connections

Networks need to have enough range and capacity to connect and transmit data, sometimes to multiple devices simultaneously. This is done through a router or sometimes a hub or a switch, which are simpler forms of routing devices.

Your choice of connectivity depends on the devices on the network and how you will use them. We’ll cover those choices in our next Smart Home article.

If you need to add or change a home network, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB.

We also offer 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Spring Storms Bring Electrical Emergencies

The recent windstorms on the Colorado Front Range are a reminder that winter isn’t the only time that weather emergencies occur. Colorado has the second-highest number of lightning strikes in the nation, surpassed only by Florida. The state ranked third in the highest number of large hail storms in 2014, and the Front Range has had numerous storms in which hail damage has topped $1 billion. And while tornados are mostly confined to the Eastern Plains, hurricane-force winds are common throughout the state.

Storm damage can be widespread or confined to a few individual homes or businesses. In either case, there are several things you can do to minimize damage and disruption to your electrical service.

Protect Against Power Surges

Besides outages, storms can cause surges in the transmission grid, and lightning strikes can do major damage to sensitive electronics. Experts recommend these measures to protect against power surges:

  • Make sure your home’s lightning protection system is properly installed, especially after roofing repairs, remodeling, or if your home is over 15 years old
  • Be certain your incoming electrical service and disconnect are properly grounded
  • Have other service connections such as TV and phone lines checked for proper grounding
  • Provide surge protection for electronic equipment and for telephone and cable/satellite TV lines connecting to the equipment
  • Alternatively, have a whole-house surge protector installed at entry points
  • Check your wiring to be sure all neutral (return) and grounding wires are properly attached

Protect Against Power Outages

Whether widespread or localized, power outages range from annoying to potentially disastrous. Here are some things to consider for protection.

  • Have backup power. It can be as simple as backup batteries for essential equipment, using a portable generator, or installing a whole-house emergency generator
  • Keep flashlights and a portable radio handy and have fresh batteries on hand
  • Turn off lights and non-essential appliances to reduce the load and prevent tripped breakers when power’s back. Things like refrigerators, air conditioners, and motors draw considerably more power to start up than they use to run
  • Unplug or turn off delicate equipment like computers and TVs or provide protection from surges when the power comes back on

Stay Safe

The safest place to ride out a storm is indoors. But you still need to take precautions.

  • Never use stoves, ovens, or grills as heat sources. They can overheat, causing fires, and carbon monoxide buildup can be fatal
  • During strong winds or hailstorms, stay away from windows and glass doors to avoid injury from breaking glass and flying debris
  • Stay away from downed power lines. High-voltage current can travel through standing water or even damp soil. If someone is injured or threatened, don’t try to be a hero; call your utility or emergency services

Electrical problems need prompt attention. Allstar Electrical Services offers rapid response radio-dispatched emergency services 24/7. Call 303.399.7420 or visit our website. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB.

Cutting Corners on Remodeling Can Get Expensive

As any fan of renovation or “flip” shows on TV knows, DIY construction is fraught with perils, especially when amateur fixers overestimate their abilities. “You get what you pay for” is as true in home improvement as anywhere, and with so many people choosing to upgrade rather than move, it’s important to know the right and wrong ways to save money.

Have a Plan and a Budget

Ideas are the fun part of remodeling, but before you swing a hammer, be sure you know what you’re getting into and how much it will cost.

Good measurements are key to a good plan. That includes appliances, cabinets, and flooring as well as utilities and fixtures. Moving plumbing, HVAC, and wiring can be expensive, so get estimates before you commit to a budget-busting idea. Do you really need to move that toilet? Put a sink in the new kitchen island? Relocate the laundry room? The answer may be yes but be sure to weigh the costs versus the benefits.

Stick to Your Plan

If you’ve done a good job of planning, this won’t be hard. But mid-project changes can be costly. It’s a lot less expensive to move plumbing, electricity and ductwork while walls are open. Plus, it saves time.

Hire Pros

When work goes beyond the basics, hiring professional contractors makes the job go faster, easier, and safer. They do this kind of work every day, have the right tools, and know building codes and standards.

That doesn’t mean you can’t do some of the work yourself, but when it comes things like plumbing and electrical work, leave it to the pros. They’re licensed, bonded, and insured to protect both you and themselves.

Don’t Overlook Permits and Codes

Permit regulations vary by jurisdiction, but if yours requires a permit and inspection, get them. If an inspector sees unpermitted work being done, they can shut the job down, require existing work to be torn out, and delay a project by days or even weeks.

Codes and standards are in place to protect you, your home, and your family. Follow the rules to save time and money. And if a contractor suggests ignoring permits to save time and money, don’t hire them. It’s an indication of disregard for your time, money, and safety.

Unpermitted work can also cost you dearly when it comes time to sell a property.

Expect the Unexpected

Even the best plans can get upset by unforeseen troubles. You don’t know what’s behind the walls until you open them up. Remodeling can uncover water damage, rot, termites, and asbestos, adding time and expense to your project.

Leave at least 10% in the budget for contingencies and don’t set unrealistic timelines.

Talk to Pros Before You Start

Like we said, changes and mistakes can be costly. When it comes to electrical work, they can be deadly, too. Bringing in licensed, professional contractors during the planning stage lets you take advantage of their knowledge and experience.

The pros at Allstar Electrical Services are just a phone call away. Call us at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve been serving homeowners and businesses along Colorado’s Front Range since 2000 and are top-rated by the BBB.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Born Too Late to Know

Let me start by saying that I rely on Home Depot. Online orders can be shipped direct to the location where they will be used. My in-store visits are for spur-of-the-moment needs…parts I overlooked buying and parts I didn’t know I needed to complete a project in the works, or I need to return what I bought that was not the right part.

I brought home 4 light fixtures, rather snazzy fixtures in fact, to replace the ceiling fixtures in 4 apartment closets. The 4-light LED flush ceiling mount dimmable spotlights in a sexy square fixture would last years. The downside, as explained the Home Depot salesman, is that when the LED lights expired, the entire fixture needed replacing.

Where’s the pull cord, my handyman asked. Geez, I’d overlooked that.

Back to Home Depot, first the returns desk then the lighting lanes. A kid wrapped in an orange apron asked if he could help. Please point me to the pull cord lighting, I asked. He walked me to the display of ceiling fan attachments. When I said nope, these are not ceiling lights, the smile on his baby face went flat and he confessed that he’d never seen a light that turned on with a pull cord except for a ceiling fan.

When a light fixture has a pull chain, a wall switch isn’t needed to control it. This means the wiring is simplified but it also means that you can't turn off the wall switch when replacing the fixture. Turn off the breaker. Once the power is off, however, the job is identical to replacing a fixture controlled by a wall switch. Attempting any type of electric wiring to a live circuit will cause serious injury.

If I didn’t bust a move and get back to the project site with four pull cord fixtures, my handyman was going to hit the highway. On the other hand, going online definitely would increase the chances of finding a sweet looking pull chain fixture. I didn’t have time to wait for delivery.

I tried to put my mind around a Plan B.

Another sales clerk, this one older with greying hair, asked if he could help. He knew his SKUs. He marched right to the shelf with two options: one a round globe (modern in a semi-tolerable way) and the other so unattractive it was downright ugly. The globe would have to do even though I wanted an exposed bulb to make changing the burned out bulbs easier.

The world has changed. People under 30 don’t know life without cell phones, credit cards, health insurance, and wall switches (the most modern being remote controlled.)

Best option: call the electrician, specifically Allstar Electrical. Had I made a call in advance Allstar’s Electrical team would have walked me through the entire selection process. You can even call on Allstar for an annual review of your household electrical needs, called the Residential Safety Blanket. This home safety audit is a preemptive move and guarantees same-day emergency repairs.

Contact Allstar today at 303-399-7420.

May is Electrical Safety Month

Electricity is an essential part of our lives. It powers everything from the smallest electronics to the largest appliances and tools. And with all that power at our command comes a need to use it safely and responsibly. That’s the idea behind National Electrical Safety Month, a program introduced in the 1990s by the Electrical Safety Foundation International.

Since then, the program has been adopted by the National Electrical Contractors Association and other organizations including OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

One of the main objectives of Electrical Safety Month is to provide homeowners with heightened awareness of electrical safety. The pros at Allstar Electrical Serviceswant to take the start of summer as a time to review common electrical hazards that exist both inside your home and out.

Know the Signs of Electrical Trouble in Your Home

According to Xcel Energy, house fires occur on an average of twice every day due to electrical failures or circuit breaker malfunction. Most of these fires can be prevented if homeowners recognize the signs of electrical trouble and address them before they result in tragedy. Those signs include:

  • Flickering or dim lights. This can be a sign of loose connections or faulty wiring.
  • Crackling, buzzing or sizzling sounds at receptacles are also signs of bad connections.
  • Warm or discolored wall plates. This is a sign of poor contacts or an overloaded circuit.
  • An acrid or burning odor. Faulty or overloaded wiring can overheat and melt wire coverings.
  • Frequent tripped breakers or blown fuses are clear signs of overloading.
  • Tingling or shocks from appliances, switches, or receptacles indicate serious wiring issues. Unplug appliances or turn off power to the source until the problem is solved.

If you experience any of these symptoms, turn off power to the affected area and call an electrician. The inconvenience is minor compared the potential for disaster.

Use Electricity Safely

Even “safe” wiring can present hazards if not used properly. Here are some do’s and don’ts.

  • Children and pets present special concerns around electricity. Remove temptation by child-proofing outlets and keeping cords away from pets that like to chew on things they shouldn’t.
  • Be sure extension cords are rated for the load they’ll carry and the place they will be used. Route them safely to avoid tripping hazards and damage.
  • Don’t use electric tools and appliances in wet areas including garages, patios, and lawns.

Stay Safe Outdoors

Overhead power lines and outdoor electrical equipment require special attention.

  • Stay at least 10 feet away from power lines when working outdoors.
  • Never touch lines with ladders, tools—or your body.
  • Call before you dig. Dial 811 for free underground utility marking and avoid digging near the markers.
  • Stay away from downed lines. Even damp soil can conduct electricity. Report downed lines or damaged equipment to your utility and call 911 in an emergency.

 Electrical safety is a year-round job and electrical problems need prompt attention. Allstar Electrical Services offers rapid response radio-dispatched emergency services 24/7. Call 303.399.7420 or visit our website. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB.

Home is Where the Smart Is Part 3: Lighting

Ever since electric lights made their way into homes there’s been someone, usually Dad, exhorting family members, usually kids, to turn them off. But now there is a host of clever devices to free Dad from light duty so he can concentrate on other things…like keeping doors closed.

These devices range from timers and sensors to voice-activated assistants awaiting your beck and call. Here’s a look at what’s out there to help you raise your home’s lighting IQ.

Timers and Sensors

Clock-based timers have been around for decades and can control everything from sprinkler systems to coffeemakers and table lamps. But their settings are fixed and they’re usually limited to corded appliances that plug into an outlet on the timer.

On the other hand, switches with passive infrared (PIR) sensors, which have been in widespread commercial use for several years, are making their way into more homes as focus on energy conservation awareness (and convenience) increases.

These devices use a motion detector similar to those on outdoor security lights. For indoor use they add convenience features such as manual override, dimmers, and a warning beep to let you know when they’re about to turn off.

They are especially convenient in areas like laundry rooms and workspaces where both your hands may be full when you enter a dark room. They’re inexpensive, fit in standard switch boxes, and are easy to retrofit. And while they may not save tons of energy, at least they give Dad one less thing to worry about.

Wi-Fi and Voice Control

Recent developments in home automation have given us a huge number of “smart” devices and ways to control them. Most rely on Wi-Fi networks, Bluetooth connections, and other networks to integrate computer, tablet, and smart phone apps with data-enabled items. Most recently, this includes light bulbs that can be controlled over home networks. They also integrate with voice-activated digital assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Now instead of yelling at the kids, Dad can simply ask Alexa to turn a light off. Controls are usually limited to single bulbs, but as smart bulb apps evolve we can see them becoming able to control the lighting in entire rooms in multiple ways.

Smart bulbs run around $30 each, and many systems require separate hubs to integrate with touch-screen and voice controllers. For more information about smart bulbs, see this article in our Resources section.

Energy Savers

Even if you’re not ready to “go smart,” you can be smart. The average home has fifty light bulbs and switching to low-energy bulbs will save over $300 annually on your electric bill as well as reduce the environmental impact of energy generation. And with the increasing options for LED lighting (and its rapidly dropping prices) you can tailor home lighting to the quality and comfort that’s right for you.

If you’re thinking about adding smart lighting to your home or business, take the time to learn the choices that are right for you. And if you need electrical work to support your smart home, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are just a click or call away.

Choosing the Right Color Light

We discussed what color temperature is and how it affects lighting in an earlier article. Now let’s take a look at how to use that knowledge to choose the best light color for different locations in your home.

Light to Work By

Called task lighting by design pros, it’s the light you use to see what you’re doing. That can be preparing dinner, reading a book, or making a quilt. Besides making work easier to see, having sufficient light reduces eyestrain and makes using dangerous implements safer.

Choosing the right light color for the job is important, too. A warm white light can reduce glare when reading as can using slightly less intensity than you need in kitchens and workshops, but too little can cause eyestrain. When color is important—painting or sewing, for instance—bright/cool white renders colors better. Jobs where precise color comparison is critical such as printing and paint selection use lighting in the 5000-5500K range, about the equivalent of late morning or early afternoon sunlight (high noon light reaches closer to 7500K).

Light to Relax By

When the sun is up, people tend to be their most alert. The light is cool and bright and energy levels are high. That’s great for getting things done, but not the best environment for relaxing. Warm lighting in the yellow-orange part of the spectrum mimics the colors of the setting sun and adds to a sense of calmness. Warm white is a good choice for lighting in living spaces and soft white works well in bedrooms and baths. Warmer light complements skin tones, too. Just be sure you have enough to see clearly, especially in bathrooms. You may even want mirror and makeup lights that are brighter and cooler for more accurate color rendering.

Light to Live By

Use lighting to compliment your surroundings. The color of your lighting can add to or detract from your décor. Cooler color schemes benefit from cooler color lights and warmer, darker decors look best in warmer light. Mismatching light and décor colors can dull both warm and cool color schemes. But even if your scheme is on the cool side, remember that warmer, softer light is more relaxing, so you might want to keep that option for when mood is more important than décor.

Lighting in zones can also add to the look and enjoyment of a room. Well placed ceiling lights can illuminate an entire room. Table and floor lamps add task- and place-specific lighting. And track, sconces, or spot lighting can be used to highlight focal points like artwork and feature walls. Separate controls let you vary the lighting in a room with multiple uses.

Match Your Lighting to Your Habits

Bright, cool lighting can get you off to a good start and keep you energized during the day. This can be beneficial for persons working at home, too. Our circadian rhythms, the internal clock we have, are programmed to wind down as the day comes to a close, so a warmly-lit home works with them to help us relax in the evening.

If you inhabit specific areas at different times of day, you can choose lighting to match your activities—cool bright light in the breakfast area, warm white in living and reading areas, and soft white in bed and dining rooms. Bright natural daylight can substitute for artificial lighting but remember it can get dark early in the winter.

A Word About Color Rendering Index

The Color Rendering Index (CRI) measures how accurately the bulb shows colors—are reds really red, blues really blue, etc. The rating is expressed as a percentage number between 0-100 with 85-90 offering good color rendition. When accurate color is paramount, art and fabrics, for example, bulbs with a CRI above 90 are critical. To qualify for Energy Star ratings bulbs must have a CRI of 80 or higher.

By the nature of how they generate light, fluorescent bulbs usually have low CRIs. To compensate, some use colored phosphors or sleeves to add to parts of the spectrum they lack. Incandescent and halogen bulbs have CRIs close to 100 but low-wattage bulbs have low color temperatures, causing colors to look warmer than they are. Some may have coatings to change their color temperature but that comes with a significant drop in CRI. White light LEDs use arrays of diodes that emit colors evenly across the spectrum making them very high in color rendering.

Choosing the Right Bulb Type

Energy-efficient compact fluorescent and LED bulb are replacing incandescent lamps in homes and offices today. Especially with fluorescents, that brings concerns about both color temperature and CRI. Read the bulb’s packaging to verify you’re getting what you want.

Use the information in this article as a guide to the best combination of intensity, color temperature, and color rendering index for your particular lighting needs. And if you need to add or change fixtures or switches, or to add or upgrade service, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

We also offer 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Lighting Certification for Your Commercial Space

LIGHTING CERTIFICATION FOR YOUR COMMERCIAL SPACE

USAToday.com reported in January this year that Tracy Lynn Garner, the woman convicted in the 2012 death resulting from Garner injecting the patient’s butt with silicone…the silicone you might use to caulk around your bathtub. Garner died after serving only 3.5 years of her life sentence.

Garner had no medical training and was not licensed to perform the procedure. No MD. No DO. No RN. No nothing.

Okay, that’s extreme, but true. The same thing could be said of any certification required to be considered legal.

It could be building code, like being UL listed.

I learned what UL-approval means the hard way. My nickel budget didn’t get me admission to the dime store when hunting down modern ceiling fixtures to replace four-foot long fluorescent ones that would have looked more appropriate over a basement workbench. In my hunt to track down fixtures to give this blah commercial space without windows some pop, I landed at www.beautifulhalo.com, a website that accepts purchases in 16 currencies. (Alert buzzers could go off appropriately at this point in the story.) Cheap and modern. Cheap and the right size. The only thing not cheap was the shipping.

When Allstar Electrical arrived on site to install and the first words out of the electrician’s mouth were, “We can’t hang these; they won’t pass inspection. They’re not UL-approved.”

So what does UL stand for?

The UL listing means the light fixture has been tested by United Laboratories and meets UL’s standards. One-hundred and twelve years ago in 1906, United Laboratories introduced the UL Mark to indicate products that had passed UL testing.

UL isn’t the only acceptable certification. While it is the most commonly used, ETL (Electrical Testing Labs operated by Intertek) also tests products to the same safety standards as UL. Both UL and ETL are Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTLs).

Inspections are one thing you don’t mess around with. When a tradesman pulls a permit, it is required that an inspector sign off on the work performed before the building can be occupied. Hold up a commercial building approval and it all rolls downhill. Move-in dates are delayed. Employee paychecks are too. None of it is good.

I trust Allstar. They’ve been hanging my lights since, well, for the past 20+ years. I’ve been thoroughly satisfied: The electrician shows up on time. The electrician doesn’t waste time. The electrician cleans up after he finishes his work. And Allstar’s pricing is modest. (There was a time I said to the electrician that I really believed they should charge more for what he was doing. He, in turn, smiled and thanked me for the work.)

The Color Temperature of Light-It Matters

You’ve no doubt heard of light being referred to as warm or cold but may not realize that the color of light is often measured in degrees of heat. But those degrees don’t refer to the bulb’s room temperature or how much heat it gives off. They refer to a piece of carbon burning in a physics lab.

William Thompson and Black Bodies

In 1848, physicist William Thompson proposed a temperature scale in which “absolute zero” was the starting point using increments based on Celsius degrees. The idea caught on and the scale was eventually named for Thompson’s aristocratic title, Lord Kelvin.

Experimentation determined that absolute zero, the temperature at which all normal molecular activity ceases, was 273°C below zero (-459.7°F), or zero degrees Kelvin (K). So by projection, water freezes at 273 degrees and boils at 373 degrees on the Kelvin scale.

What does this have to do with light, you may wonder. When physicists wanted a simpler way to describe color they measured the wavelengths of light radiated by a perfectly light-absorbent material like carbon lampblack known as a “black body” as it was heated to glowing. And they measured that temperature in degrees Kelvin.

The Temperature of Light

As those black bodies were heated, they began to glow, first as red around 3,000K and across the visible spectrum toward blue around 7,500K. You see a similar effect in the flame of a gas stove where the inner, cooler part of the flame burns yellow and the hotter outer tip burns blue. By comparison, the sun glows at an effective color temperature of 5,778K.

How Does Color Temperature Relate to Lig ht Bulbs?

You see descriptive words like soft white, warm white, bright or cool white and daylight on packages of light bulbs. Those are simply marketing terms for the color temperature of the bulb designed to make selection easier for consumers. While color temperature is a precise measure of a bulb’s color output, the descriptive terms are more subjective. But the subjective description is probably all you need when choosing a bulb.

Here’s how those terms relate to actual color temperatures:

Choosing the right color temperature bulb is important to getting the quality of light appropriate to a particular function. But other factors such as light output (watts or lumens), color rendering (CRI), and energy consumption need to be taken into account as well.

Lighting Pros Are In The Know

Lighting is an important part of creating comfortable home and work environments. The pros at Allstar Electrical Services are experts in designing and installing the right lighting for living and work spaces.

For both remodeling and new construction Allstar Electrical Services delivers the quality results you expect and deserve. We work hand-in-hand with contractors to ensure your new project is done right, on budget and on schedule.

Whatever your electrical needs, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Home is Where the Smart Is. Part 2: Heating, Air Conditioning and Home Comfort

We live in a connected world, and it’s making life easier, safer, and more efficient in a lot of ways. In our series on “smart” homes we’ll talk about the many ways connectivity can work for you.

Today, we look at heating and cooling features that add convenience while keeping your home cozy and efficient year-round.

Temperature Control

Programmable thermostats have saved countless BTUs and kilowatts since their introduction over thirty years ago, but new Wi-Fi technologies have taken energy-saving and comfort to a new level.

We’re already in a third generation and there’s more to come. The Nest line of thermostats led the way, but nearly all major manufacturers like Honeywell, GE, and Emerson have devices now along with innovative startups that are in the market, too.

With some thermostats, you don’t even have to program them. Just adjust the temperature to a comfortable level on the digital thermostat; it remembers the setting and when you set it. After a few days, it learns your heating and cooling patterns and takes it from there.

They Know When You Come and Go

Some even go further, using a smart phone app with GPS to know when you’re home or away and adjusts temperatures accordingly. Coming home early on a cold winter night? Some systems use a GPS technique called geofencing to adjust the thermostat so you won’t come home to a frigid (or sweltering) house. They will also alert you on your smart phone if your home gets too hot or cold, a nice feature to have if you’re away for extended periods.

Single Room Comfort

If you have cold or hot spots, companies like LG, Frigidaire, and GE have room heaters, air conditioners, and humidifiers that are W-Fi enabled.

They Play Well With Others

Most smart thermostats will integrate with other smart systems like security and lighting for complete home automation. And if you use voice controls like Amazon Echo or Google Home, many will operate over your Wi-Fi network or via Bluetooth. Plus, systems like Nest even track your energy usage and offer suggestions for increased efficiency.

Water Management

Rheem offers a full line of tank and tankless water heaters that are Wi-Fi enabled. Models are available for electric, gas, or propane hookups, and some integrate with Nest to know when to operate. And there are smart irrigation systems that know when your lawn needs watering on their own.

Confused? Give Allstar a Call

Whether it’s home automation, adding extra power, or electrical repairs, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are just a phone call away. We’ve been serving homeowners and businesses along Colorado’s Front Range since 2000 and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Whatever your electrical needs may be, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Next Up: Smart Lighting Solutions

Planning for Spring Home Improvements

A recent article in the Denver Post stated that Denver housing is about to become unaffordable. Citing mortgage tracking service HSH.com, the report says that the income needed to qualify for a mortgage loan for a median-priced home in the city is close to exceeding the median income of its residents, a condition only seen previously in cities like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Rather than taking on the budget-busting housing market, many Denverites are choosing to stay put and turn their present house into the home of their dreams. Whether it’s an addition, a new shed or garage, or renovating existing space, a big part of any project involves making sure your electrical service will meet the needs of modern living.

Take a Look at Your Wiring

Many people think that only very old homes need rewiring, but even homes built as recently as the 1980s may have wiring that doesn’t meet today’s building codes. That includes homes with aluminum wiring, a practice that was only discontinued in the last 20-25 years. The problem is less with the wire itself than with what’s connected to it. It takes an expert electrician to know what’s safe and what isn’t, so before adding or changing any electrical service, get the advice of a licensed electrician.

Make Sure Your Needs Are Met

Modern living needs access to power. Home offices and entertainment centers may need a dozen or more electrical connections as well as network wiring. Garages and work sheds need plenty of power for tools and lights, and it needs to meet current safety codes, too.

What about that new spa-like bathroom? Will it have heated floors and towel warmers? A steam shower or jetted tub? Smart toilet? Music and TV?

These all need electricity to work, so have an expert electrician plan along with you so you don’t come up short. It may be a matter of adding outlets and connections but adding more power may require extra service and subpanels.

Don’t Overlook Lighting

A ceiling light and a couple of table lamps don’t cut it in today’s home. Recessed lights and wall sconces are more purposeful and give rooms more character. Task and room lighting are musts for safe and functional workspaces in kitchens, workshops, and home offices, and remote-controlled lighting turns a home theater into a special place. With new LED lighting options and smart lightbulbs, well-planned lighting can be major design element in any room, and adequate wiring is a must.

Good Work Starts with a Good Plan

Remodeling, renovations, and additions need top-notch electrical work, and Allstar Electrical Services delivers the quality results you expect and deserve. We work hand-in-hand with contractors to ensure your new project is done right, on budget and on schedule.

Whatever your electrical needs, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Home is Where the Smart Is Part 1: Security

We live in a connected world, and it’s making life easier, safer, and more efficient in a lot of ways. In our series on “smart” homes we’ll talk about the many ways connectivity can work for you.

Today, we’ll take a look at security features that add convenience while keeping your home safe.

Electronic Locks

Did you forget to lock the back door? Want to save a trip home to let a repairman or unexpected company in? Electronic locks use digital codes as well as keys (or in instead of them in some cases). Pushbutton and touch pad locks have been around for years, but now you can get locks that operate remotely from your smart phone over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Lots of styles, features, and prices, so shop around.

Security Systems

Monitoring services for burglar alarms can get expensive and even rack up fines for false alarms. Many newer systems can contact you directly, letting you choose who to call. The higher initial cost is offset by eliminating monitoring and false alarm charges.

Want to see who’s at your door but don’t want to install obtrusive cameras or squint through a tiny peep hole? Replace your peep hole with a miniature camera. There are several models available in prices ranging from under $40 to well over a hundred, depending on features. Most fit in the same opening as your peep hole and are easy to install and set up. They’re particularly suited for apartments or HOAs that don’t permit external cameras. Check online ratings for the features you want.

Warning Devices

Intrusion alarms are very good at what they do, but what about damage caused by fire, fumes, and water? Everyone’s aware of the benefits of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, in fact most jurisdictions require them these days. Now you can get alarms that notify you on your cell phone when they detect a problem and let you decide how to handle it. Besides smoke and fume detectors, there are water leak detectors that can alert you to leaks and prevent thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. Prices and features vary widely, so shop wisely.

Next Up: Smart Heating and Air Conditioning—More than just a thermostat

Whether it’s home automation, adding extra power, or electrical repairs, the pros at Allstar Electrical just a phone call away. We’ve been serving homeowners and businesses along Colorado’s Front Range since 2000 and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Whatever your electrical needs may be, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Upgrade Your Bathroom Electrical for Extra Pleasure and Comfort

Bathroom upgrades are one of the most popular reno/remodel projects, and suppliers are ready to cater to your every whim. The whirlpool tubs of the 70s have given way to a new level of luxury unimaginable in the days of 8-tracks and pet rocks.

The 21st Century Bathroom

Today’s bathrooms resemble resorts more than powder rooms. They can have heated floors and towel warmers. Music, Wi-Fi, and TV. Hydro- and chroma therapy. Foot massagers and facial saunas. Or full saunas and steam rooms. Even a smart toilet for a soothing, hands-free experience. It can all be yours if you have enough space and money. And electricity.

The days are gone when all a bathroom needed were a couple of lights and a place to plug in a hair dryer. But too often, that’s all the room is wired for.

More Features, More Power, More Wiring

Nearly all these luxuries add load to your home wiring—sometimes considerably. And even some recent construction didn’t anticipate the power a full-featured bathroom would need. Older homes may not even have adequate shock protection. That’s why any bathroom remodel or addition needs the services of a licensed electrical professional.

Pros Take the Worry Out of the Washroom

Bathroom remodeling is no job for amateurs. A poorly designed bathroom is a dangerous place. Besides slip and trip hazards, there’s electricity that can cause injury—or worse. A licensed electrician will make sure that your bathroom electrical is safe and up to the demands you’ll be placing on it. And the time to get an electrician involved is at the beginning.

A licensed electrician will analyze the power needs of your new bathroom and add service if and where it’s needed. They’ll make sure everything is safe and up to code. And they can answer any questions you may have about your electrical needs.

When you’re thinking about a new bathroom or have any electrical needs, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

5 Easy Tips For Lowering Your Winter Energy Bills

Colorado winters are unpredictable. Temperatures can swing over a 100-degree range in January and February, and while playing a round of golf on Valentine’s Day isn’t unheard of, you can be assured that there will be bone-chilling periods, too.

With energy costs predicted to rise between 8 and 18 percent this season depending on how you neat your home, it makes a lot of sense to look at ways to save on your heating bills.

Here are some simple, inexpensive ways to do it:

Have Your Furnace or Boiler Checked by a Pro

If your equipment isn’t working properly, you’ll fight a losing battle with energy costs. Heating and air conditioning companies will inspect and clean your furnace or boiler to make sure it’s working safely and efficiently. The cost is usually under $100 and will likely save you that much or more over the course of a heating season as well as pointing out potential hazards such as carbon monoxide leaks.

Change Filters Regularly

A pro will change or clean furnace filters during a service call, but for optimum efficiency, they should be changed every few months—year-round if you also have central air conditioning. Be sure to use the size and type of filter recommended for your system and learn how to install them properly or they won’t do the job. While you’re at it, make sure your registers are set properly, clean, and not blocked by furniture or drapery.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

Lowering your heat when you’re away or asleep is an easy way to save on energy bills, and programmable thermostats make it simple. Even basic models let you set it and forget it, and “smart” thermostats let you do it remotely from your phone or computer. That’s an especially handy feature for people with irregular schedules. Some can even learn on their own. Many are DIY installations, but all involve electrical connections, so if you’re unfamiliar or uncomfortable working with electricity, call a licensed electrician. They only work when installed properly.

If you’re confused by all the choices, this thermostat buying guide from Consumer Reports may help.

Seal Air Leaks

Even a well-operating heating system won’t prevent uncomfortable energy-wasting drafts and leaks. Weatherproofing windows and doors with weatherstripping, caulk, or expandable foam and making sure attic insulation is covering joints and other points of infiltration will add comfort and savings. And don’t overlook your basement or crawl space. DIY-ers can turn on all the home’s exhaust fans and use an incense stick around doors, windows, and outlets to see if the smoke tries to escape. Or have a pro check with more sophisticated techniques to find and fix places you might overlook.

Add Insulation If Needed

Many older homes are under-insulated, and settling and shifting can happen even in newer structures. Re-insulating exterior walls can be expensive, but adding insulation to accessible spots like attics, basements,and crawl spaces is a project many homeowners can do themselves. If your floors or ceilings seem cold or drafty, adding insulation may be the solution. This article from Colorado State University Extension has recommendations for insulation and tips on installing it properly.

These simple tips will go a long way toward making your home more comfortable and energy-efficient year-round. And if you need help installing a thermostat or any other electrical services, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to serve. Just give us a call at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment.

Smart Light Bulbs Are Here

By now you know that low-energy bulbs like compact fluorescents and LEDs save electricity and last longer. But did you know that there are light bulbs that turn off and on and even dim themselves when you tell them to?

No, we’re not talking about a “Clapper” or even timers. The brains are in the bulbs themselves.

Smart bulbs can be operated through your smart phone or set to respond to verbal commands through devices like Amazon’s Echo or Google Home. And when paired with one of these gadgets, the bulbs get even brainier.

Smart Bulb Types

Smart bulbs produce light from LEDs and come in two basic configurations—single output and multiple output. Single output bulbs are just that—they’re white light, typically soft white, usually around 60-watt equivalent. But all are dimmable, so you can regulate them over a range of brightness.

Multiple output smart bulbs have a range of options including color palettes and output levels. Some even include preset and customizable mood and environmental settings. Others let you synch your lighting to music or on-screen dialogue in movies. Some offer a wide range of white light color temperatures from the warm glow of sunset to bright midday light. And a few even have built-in speakers.

Smart Bulb Controls

You have some choices of how to control your smart bulb(s). All come with controllers built in and apps that let you set them up to your control device(s) via Wi-Fi, ZigBee, or Bluetooth connections through a smart phone or tablet. To control the bulb(s), most require the use of a hub, available separately or as part of a package. With wireless connectivity, you can control the bulbs from remote locations and even tie them into smart home hubs and security networks. Some even include geofencing capability that uses GPS to trigger actions based on your location. Bluetooth-only bulbs don’t require a hub, but you have to be in range to operate them and offer fewer options.

Setup is easy; just download the bulb’s app and follow a few simple instructions. Not all bulbs are compatible with all connections, so read the packaging before you buy.

Talking to Your Smart Bulb

Most smart bulbs allow you to integrate their controls with smart home devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod, and Nest. Use the device’s app to “discover” the smart bulb(s), label them, and set their control parameters. It’s a one-time process that’s easy to do by following step-by-step instructions on the app. Then with voice-activated devices like Echo, you can simply tell your smart light what to do and when to do it.

Smart Bulb Costs

Smart bulbs’ costs vary mostly by their features. The bulbs themselves range from around $10-$15 for single outputs to $50 or more for fully-featured ones. If your smart bulbs require a hub, expect to pay around $25-$50 extra. Many manufacturers sell startup kits that include multiple bulbs and a hub for less than you’d pay separately. And you can add up to 50 bulbs to a single hub for the price of the bulb alone.

Operating costs are low, too. Since they’re LEDs, they use only 10-12 watts of electricity and last up to 25,000 hours. That’s over 20 years at three hours of usage per day.

Learn More About Smart Bulbs

There’s lots of information about smart bulbs on the internet, but this article by PC Magazine compares many popular brands and gives good information about various features and costs. One major brand not in the ratings is Sengled, and we think it’s worth a look, too. Many smart bulbs and systems are available at home centers as well as online.

If you’re thinking about adding smart bulbs to your home or business, take the time to learn the ones that are right for you. And if you need electrical work to support your smart home network, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are just a click or call away.

Winter Vacation Planning Tips

Whether you’re visiting relatives for the holidays or making a pilgrimage to warmer climes for the winter, here are some tips on how to make your home safe while you’re away and pleasant to return to.

Disconnect Energy-Wasting Electrical Appliances

Modern appliances usually draw some electrical current even when they’re off. This so-called phantom or vampire current can use a fair amount of energy over an extended period unless the item is unplugged. That includes TVs, Wi-Fi networks, computers, microwaves, coffeemakers…anything with a clock, timer, or internet connection. Turn your water heater to its low or vacation setting if it has one.

Keep a Lived-In Look

Burglars are opportunists who look for easy targets. Discourage them by setting timers on lights to have them come on and off at times the rooms would be in use. Set window coverings to make it hard to see inside without giving the house a barricaded look.

Be Wise About Water

Water causes millions of dollars’ worth of damage to homes every year, and if it occurs while you’re away, the result can be disastrous. Shutting off the main valve to your house is the best insurance, but it’s not always practical, especially if your home is heated by hot water or steam. You may also want to have running water for house and pet sitters.

In that case, turn off the supply valves to appliances like washing machines, icemakers, and dishwashers that have supply hoses that could burst while you’re away. And be sure to keep your house warm enough to avoid frozen pipes—55-60°F is the minimum. If you have water pipes on an exterior wall in the kitchen or bath, leave the sink and vanity cabinet doors open to let warm air reach the pipes.

Outdoors

Put vacation holds on mail and newspapers and have a reliable neighbor check for flyers and packages. In snowy climates, hire a snow removal service. It not only keeps the house looking lived-in, but may save you fines for not keeping sidewalks clear. Put photoelectric cells or motion detectors on exterior lights. You might even ask a neighbor to park their car in your driveway occasionally.

If you haven’t already, check your gutters and downspouts for blockages to avoid ice dams and other drainage problems. And be sure all your hoses are disconnected and faucets are turned off, preferably inside the foundation.

Make for a Happy Return

Clean foods that will spoil from your refrigerator and make sure all trash is emptied. Run a final load of laundry and dishes before turning off the water supply to those appliances. No one likes returning to a dirty house, so give it a good cleaning, make the beds with fresh sheets and put out clean linens in the kitchen and baths. If you’ll be gone for an extended period, consider hiring a cleaning service to have your home fresh and clean for your arrival.

Anticipate and Solve Problems Before Leaving

Check for leaks and drips in your plumbing and have them fixed. Replace washing machine and other supply hoses that are nearing the end of their useful life. For washing machines, that’s around five years, tops. Be sure your furnace and water heater are working well and set to your vacation settings. It’s a good idea to test your sump pump, too, especially if you’ll be gone during the spring thaw.

Check that outdoor lights function properly and add automatic switches if desirable. Test your indoor light timers for function and set them for the times you want.

If you have any concerns about proper operation or safety with plumbing, heating or electrical systems, call a pro to check them before your leave.

If you have questions or need help with your vacation preparations, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are just a phone call away. We’ve been serving homeowners and businesses along Colorado’s Front Range since 2000 and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Whatever your electrical needs may be, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Countertop Appliances Can Save You Money

Chances are you’ll be spending a lot of time in the kitchen over the holidays. And more cooking time means more energy consumption. It takes a lot of energy to boil liquids or roast meat and vegetables. Rather than heat up a burner or large oven for small jobs, these countertop appliances will do the job more economically—and often faster.

Here are a few ways putting countertop appliances to work can save you money, both on utilities and groceries.

  • Microwave Oven
    Your microwave oven is more versatile than you may realize. Besides popping popcorn and reheating leftover pizza, it can do a great job of steaming vegetables, baking potatoes, and heating liquids. And since it does it much faster than stovetops and ovens, it uses less energy in the process.
    Most vegetables will steam as well in a microwave as in a steamer basket. Simply moisten them and cook for a minute or two on high in a lidded container. Be careful to not overcook or the vegetables can lose their moisture and turn out leathery.
    Both white and sweet potatoes cook nicely in a microwave, too. Again, add a little moisture to keep the skins soft. Be sure to puncture the skin in several places so steam can get out—if you don’t the potato will likely explode and leave a mess to clean up. You’ll have your baked potatoes in a fraction of the time and energy use compared to heating up and baking them in a traditional oven. Click this link for more details.
    A microwave oven is great for heating liquids and even some baked goods, too. For a look at all the foods that cook well in a microwave, check out this exhaustive list at FoodNetwork.com.
  • Toaster Oven
    Toaster ovens are just downsized versions of the big ones. Most will hold 9x9 pans and some are large enough to cook even bigger meals. Some have convection heating for quicker, more even cooking, and a few even have rotisseries. Their smaller size means they take less time to preheat and less energy to maintain cooking temperatures. While they may not hold a full ham or turkey, they do fine on many other items. Plus, they can be used for everyday cooking once the company’s left. Don’t skimp, though. Look for high-rated ones for best results.
  • Slow Cooker
    Besides the set-it-and-forget-it convenience of slow cookers, they save energy compared to an oven, too. In addition to the fall-apart tenderness of meats and extra flavor infusion of long cooking times, slow cookers can also be used to cook rice, bake breads and make desserts. Here are some ideas from FoodNetwork.com.

While these appliances all save time and energy, they need outlets in order to function. Using several at a time can put a strain on circuits, especially in older homes. Current building codes require kitchens to have least two 20-amp, 120-volt small appliance branch circuits that feed GFCI-protected receptacles above the countertops, and those circuits can’t supply other outlets, including those for lighting.

If you need a wiring upgrade to take advantage of these energy-saving countertop appliances, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to handle it for you. We offer homeowners, builders and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.

Call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

The Right Way to Hang Outdoor Holiday Lights

If you’ve already hung your holiday lights, good for you. You’re one of those people who gets things done. And we presume you did it safely, or you wouldn’t be reading this. But in case you haven’t gotten around to it yet, or would like to see if you did it right, read on.

First Things First

Before heading out, take a moment to calculate the electrical load you’ll be adding and how you plan to deliver it safely.

  • Light Strings
    Inspect the strings for damage and test the lights. Burnt-out bulbs can be replaced, but don’t try to repair damaged wiring. Discard the string and replace it. There are recycling centers for discarded lights, including Denver Recycles. And make sure all your fixtures are UL rated for safety.
    Add up the total wattage of the lights you want to use and make sure the outlet(s) serving them will handle the load. Take into account other lights and appliances that are on that circuit, too, or you may have to reset a breaker every time the TV is turned on. LED bulbs take less power, so you can put more on a single circuit. For details, see our article on Planning Your Holiday Lighting.
  • Extension Cords
    Make sure your extension cords are UL-rated for outdoor use and will carry the load you’ll ask them to. Inspect them for damage and replace them if you find any or are unsure if they’re right for the job. Remember, size counts when it comes to extension cords, both length and wire gauge. And avoid stringing too many lights together. Their wire is thin gauge, and more than 2-3 strings can overload it, especially larger incandescent bulbs.
  • Outlets
    Any outdoor wiring should be plugged into GFCI outlets. It’s the law, and it’s there for your protection. Before you hang the lights, plug them in and test the outlet for proper operation. If it fails, call a licensed electrician to repair or replace it.

Hanging Lights Safely

Chances are you’ll be using a ladder to hang your lights, so check it for safety. Inspect for weak rungs or other damage, and look for UL certification and weight capacity.

  • Ladder Safety
    Make sure your ladder is on a solid, level surface. Don’t stand on the top two rungs and don’t lean outside the width of the legs to keep balance and gravity on your side.
  • Hanging Hardware
    Don’t use nails or staples to hang your lights. They can damage the insulation and create shorts and fire hazards. Instead, use plastic light clips. They’re cheap, safe, and can be found for all types of attachments, from gutters to roof tiles. Use plastic zip ties for heavier objects or where clips won’t work. For free-hanging objects like wreaths, consider battery-powered lights to eliminate cords.

Need Help? Call a Pro

If you’re concerned about the number or safety of your outdoor outlets, or have any electrical needs over the holiday season, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are just a phone call away. We’ve been serving homeowners and businesses along Colorado’s Front Range since 2000 and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Whatever your electrical needs may be, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Do-It-Yourself—Or Don’t?

DIY projects can be fun and rewarding, but unlike painting, carpentry and plumbing, electrical mistakes can be deadly. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few jobs that can be tackled by a reasonably handy homeowner as long as they have an understanding of wiring and electrical codes.

Electrical Codes

Electrical codes are designed to protect people and structures from danger. The City and County of Denver subscribes to both the National Electrical Code (NEC) and the International Building Code (IBC). All work done must conform to these codes, with any local amendments. While code requirements can be very specific and complex, most simple DIY projects are straightforward enough to make code compliance easy. Visit the Denver government website for details. Other jurisdictions have similar information, as well.

Permits

Permit requirements vary by jurisdiction and type of work. In Denver, “like-for-like” electrical work doesn’t require a permit. This would include replacing light fixtures, switches, and outlets on residential systems under 200 amps. New or relocated outlets or any service changes do require a permit, and any work other than like-for-like involving more than 50 volts requires an inspection. Some DIY permits may require an exam to demonstrate proficiency.

To Do or Not to Do?

If you read, understand, and follow instructions, simple things like adding a dimmer switch or replacing a light fixture should be within your ability to handle without requiring a permit.

Projects like adding outlets, fixtures, or circuits will require a permit and possibly proof of your ability to handle them safely.

Other projects such as high-voltage circuits, panel or service upgrades or anything involving complex wiring should be left to experts.

Need Help?  Call a Pro

If you have questions or need help with your projects, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are just a phone call away. We’ve been serving homeowners and businesses along Colorado’s Front Range since 2000 and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Whatever your electrical needs may be, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Planning Your Holiday Lighting

Did you know that the added holiday lighting in the US is observable from space?

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, the light intensity in US suburbs increases from 30-50 percent in the weeks leading up to Christmas. And that extra lighting costs money, both in decorations and in electricity. Here’s a quick look at some costs and considerations.

Electricity Costs

This table shows the costs of powering a typical 10-string outdoor lighting setup. It assumes the lights will be on for twelve hours a day for 45 days (540 total hours), and that you’re paying 12 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity. Rates vary by utility, so your costs may be different.

As you can see, LED lights cost only a fraction to operate compared with conventional incandescent lights. Looked at another way, you could run 70 strings of C9 LEDs for the same cost as 10 incandescents.

Light Costs

LED lights cost more than incandescents, but that one-time expense is spread over several years of savings. And since LED bulbs last much longer than incandescents, the combination of power savings and replacement cost can more than offset their initial price.

Safety and Convenience

A typical 15-amp household circuit should have no more than 1440 watts of continuous power connected to it (a 20-amp circuit can handle 1920 watts). That means that ten strings of C9 incandescents using 1750 watts would need to be on at least two separate 15-amp circuits. Since nearby outlets may be on the same circuit, you may need to do some investigating to locate an outlet on a different one. And since there may be other lights or appliances on that circuit, causing it to trip its breaker when the outdoor lights are added, large incandescent displays may require several separate circuits.

On the other hand, you can add those ten LED strings to an existing circuit with no more load than a single incandescent light bulb. Plus, LED bulbs burn much cooler than incandescents, reducing the risk of igniting dry vegetation that comes in contact with them.

Planning Your Lighting

Switching to LED lighting is both cost-effective and environmentally friendly. And don’t worry about disposing of those old light strings. There are recycling centers for them, including Denver Recycles.

If you have questions about holiday lighting or need help with other projects, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are just a phone call away. We’ve been serving homeowners and businesses along Colorado’s Front Range since 2000 and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Whatever your electrical needs may be, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Shocking Facts About International Travel

The holidays are right around the corner, and for many people that means travelling to exotic locales. And hardly anyone goes anywhere these days without electrical devices of one sort or another.

But electrical service isn’t uniform across borders, so before you melt your charger or turn your hair dryer into a Roman candle, here are some things you need to know.

120 or 240? Or Something Else?

There are two basic electrical systems on Planet Earth—120 volts and 240 volts of alternating current (AC). And two different ways the current is delivered—at 60 cycles per second (60 Hz) and 50 Hz. Within that are a range of actual voltages, but fortunately most devices can deal with minor differences. Generally speaking, here’s what you’ll run into:

  • North and Central America and Western Japan: 100-127 volt, at 60 Hz
  • Europe, Asia, Africa and the rest of the world: 220-240 volt, at 50 Hz

But there are exceptions, of course.

In Tokyo, Madagascar, and some Caribbean islands, you’ll find 100-127 volts at 50 Hz. This shouldn’t be a problem for your US-made devices…as long as the plug fits. More on that later.

The 220-240-volt systems in South Korea, Peru, the Philippines, Guyana and some states of Brazil are 60 Hz instead of 50. Again, cycles aren’t usually a problem as long as you get the voltage right.

But Can You Plug In?

As if voltages and cycles weren’t enough confusion, there’s also a bewildering variety of plug types. Each is designed to prevent things from being plugged into a system they weren’t designed for.

The three most widespread standards are:

  • "American" Type A (ungrounded) or B (grounded) plugs, with two vertical pins for 100-127 volts
  • "British" Type G (grounded) plug, with three rectangular pins for 220-240 volts
  • "European" Type C (ungrounded) or F(grounded) plug, with two round pins for 220-240 volts

Italy (Type L) and Switzerland (Type J) have grounded 220-240-volt versions of the Type C, as do France and Poland (E), and India (D). Fortunately, they also accept ungrounded Type C plugs, but the grounded versions aren’t interchangeable.

And Israel uses a Type H grounded plug with two angled rectangular current pins and a vertical ground.

What About Cycles?

The difference between 50 and 60 cycles won’t affect most devices. But if you have an analog clock, a motor, or a fluorescent lamp, check the product specifications before you travel. Some appliances, notably most computers, have built-in transformers that will operate on 120-240 volts and 50 or 60 cycles.

Plan Ahead to Avoid Trouble

If the voltage for your device is the same as where you are travelling, then you only need to concern yourself about the physical plug. But if the local voltage isn’t the same, you’ll need a transformer or converter to get the right voltage. You can find them online or at many electronics and outdoor sports stores. Several come with multiple functions to cover a range of needs.

Regardless, before travelling, you should verify the converters and adapters you’ll need for your trip. You can get a detailed look at https://wikitravel.org/en/Electrical_systems. You may even find that places that cater to tourists have multiple power options right in your room.

 

Wherever you’re headed, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services wish you a happy and safe adventure. And if you need help choosing the right products or with any other electrical issues, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Is It Time For A Home Theater?

As cold weather drives us indoors, a home theater can be a cozy retreat for entertaining family and friends. And with the holiday season right around the corner, fall’s a great time to add a home theater.

Home theaters can be rooms of their own, or they can be designed to fit in with other family activities. Here are some things to consider:

The Room

Will your theater be in a room of its own, or will it be in a multifunctional space, such as a living room or den? A dedicated room can be tailored for optimal viewing and sound, but a multi-use space may involve some compromises.

A separate home theater is designed for ideal viewing and sound conditions. It can be windowless and have theater-style lighting that lets you raise and lower the levels from movie-watching to cleaning up popcorn spills. It can also have theater-style seating with as much luxury as you want (or can afford), and incorporate sound-absorbing carpet and walls with dark, neutral colors that don’t reflect unwanted light.

That doesn’t mean that a living room or den won’t work as a home theater, you just may have to accept some trade-offs, especially with lighting and sound control. While drywall is decent at sound absorption, light-colored blank spaces, including windows and picture glass, reflect sound and light, as do hardwood and tile floors. Fabric curtains and rugs can help. But don’t let perfection stand in the way of good. Your movie nights will still be great.

The Screen

The screen size is important for comfort and enjoyment. Too small and you’ll miss details (or strain to see them), too large and you’ll be moving your head back and forth like watching a tennis match.

The ideal viewing distance is 1.5 to 2.5 times the diagonal width of the screen. So if you have a 60-inch screen, that would be 7½ to 12½ feet. If you’re choosing a screen size based on viewing distance, divide the distance to the screen in inches by 2 to get the best average screen size.

Large screen flat-panel TVs are most popular, with a wide variety of sizes and display types to choose from. For extra-large viewing, front-projection systems are an option in large rooms that can be kept dark.

The Sound System

Most home theater systems have what’s known as a 5+1 surround sound speaker system with five full-range speakers and a low-range woofer. Newer movie soundtracks are often recorded to provide sounds from specific areas of the room, so speaker placement is important. You should have three full-range speakers in the front of the room, placing the one labeled “center” directly above or below the screen, otherwise, it may sound like your characters are speaking off-stage.

You can experiment placement with free-standing speakers, but if you’re installing built-in speakers, it’s important that your installer understands acoustics.

While not technically a home theater sound system, a good-quality sound bar with a separate woofer can be an acceptable substitute, especially in smaller rooms.

Your Budget

The components and furnishing for a home theater can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the equipment and design you choose. Hardwired and built-in components can be difficult and expensive to change, but plug-in components and furnishings can be swapped and upgraded as your tastes and budget changes.

Room Construction and Furnishings

All of your components need to be connected through wires, cables, or wireless networks. Proper room lighting and controls are part of the installation, too. The ideal time to run wires and cables is when the room is being built and the wall cavities are exposed, but professional electricians can install them in existing walls, as well. It’s important to determine the types of wiring you’ll need and their placement to avoid interference. An electrician can help you plan ahead for the system that will meet your needs.

Allstar Knows Audio-Visual

The pros at Allstar Electrical Services have helped design and build hundreds of audio-visual spaces for homeowners and businesses throughout Colorado’s Front Range. We can configure your home entertainment center, office, or any other room so there is enough stable power to handle all of the devices. We can help you power and locate routers or signal boosters so that your wireless devices work flawlessly. We can even bring more power to your home if it wasn’t wired to handle modern loads. In the hands of our experts, a home built 100 years ago can be wired and cabled safely for all your current and future needs.

Allstar Electrical has served the Front Range for over 15 years and is top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List. We offer homeowners, builders and businesses reliable, professional work that is safe and up to code. Whatever your needs may be, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Besides a thorough explanation of our services and information about our company, you’ll find timely articles in our Resources section about the latest developments in the ever-changing world of electronics. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment.

We also offer 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Buyer Beware – Especially on the Internet

It’s never nice to have to tell a customer that they’ve wasted hundreds of dollars and hours of shopping time, but with more and more people buying on the internet, it’s becoming all too common. It happened to one of our regular customers, and she wanted us to tell her story so it wouldn’t happen to you.

Two Wrongs—Nothing’s Right

The client, a real estate investor, recently had us come out to install a ceiling fan and some sconces she bought online for one of her properties. They were sleek, beautiful, and she got them at a great price. They were also illegal.

There wasn’t anything wrong with the fixtures, and it was perfectly all right for her to have them—as long as she didn’t install them. Doing so would have resulted in code violations and possible disasters.

Heads Up

In the case of the ceiling fan, the good folks at the building department decided long ago that people should be able to live in a space without fear of having their scalps removed, so they require that fan blades be a minimum of seven feet above floor level. While this may still pose a risk to a handful of basketball players, the vast majority of people are well served by the rule. Unfortunately, the pendant for our client’s fan was designed for higher ceilings and couldn’t be adjusted, so its blades would be a hazard to persons even slightly taller than a munchkin. As a result, she had to repackage and return the fan at her expense and pay a restocking fee to boot. Plus she had to go through the shopping and ordering process all over again.

Size Matters

Most U.S. electrical codes require that wall sconces be securely attached to a 4” round metal junction box for safety. Her European-designed fixtures were made to fasten to 3” boxes, and while that may be OK half a world away, they’re too small to fit the larger US boxes. Back to the drawing board. And the return department.

What Can Go Wrong

Electrical systems and safety standards are not uniform around the world. Some of the differences are obvious—120 vs 240 volts, for instance. And plugs are designed for specific voltage and wiring systems with different pin sizes and configurations, so you may find yourself trying fit a round pin into a square hole.

But other differences can be more subtle, the mounting box difference for the sconces, for example. And even things made for similar voltages and plugs can operate improperly if they’ve been designed for a 50-cycles-per-second supply instead of the 60-cycle system used in the US. Many 120-volt, 50-cycle appliances will work okay on a 60-cycle system, but if it has an analog clock (they use the cycles per second to measure time), it won’t even be accurate twice a day. Cycles also can have negative effects on some motors and fluorescent lamps. Check the product specifications before you order.

How to Avoid Trouble

Most manufacturers take these things into account and make their products in multiple versions suited to different systems. Some appliances, notably most computers, have built-in transformers that will operate on 120-240 volts and 50 or 60 cycles.

Regardless, before ordering, you should verify that the item is made to operate on the US standard of 120 volts and 60 cycles. If it’s a plug-in item, verify that it comes with a US-compatible plug, too.

Hard-wired items—the sconces above, for instance—also need to conform to US electrical codes and specifications, including junction box sizes and wire types.

Play It Safe

Electrical, building, and fire codes are designed to make structures and products safe. Unfortunately, they’re not always observed, especially by people trying to make a quick buck, and if a licensed contractor or building inspector finds a non-conforming product, they won’t let you use it.

Look for products that have been tested and approved by reputable agencies recognized by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They include Underwriters Laboratories (UL), SGS North AmericaIntertekCanadian Standards Association (CSA), or FM Approvals (FM). Also check to see that your item conforms to local building codes if it’s to be permanently installed.

Still Confused? Call a Pro

The pros at Allstar Electrical Services have been serving homes and businesses since 2000. If you need help choosing the right products or with any other electrical issues, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area

Installing a Ceiling Fan? Make Sure It’s Done Right!

Ceiling fans are an easy and inexpensive way to add comfort to rooms year-round. They can provide a gentle breeze indoors and out in the summer and can keep cool air evenly distributed around a room. In winter, they keep warm air from collecting near the ceiling, eliminating cold spots and helping reduce heating costs.

The key to getting the most out of your ceiling fan is a matter of choosing the right one and installing it properly. With the number of choices available, picking the right fan for your needs and installing it can seem a little overwhelming. Here are some things to consider.

Size Matters

When it comes to ceiling fans, matching the fan blade size to the room is the first consideration. Too small and you’ll run the fan harder; too large and your room will seem like a wind tunnel. Here are guidelines from the American Lighting Association.

Room Size:
Up to 75 sq. ft.
Fan Blade Size:
36 inches or smaller

Room Size:
75 to 144 sq. ft.
Fan Blade Size:
36 to 42 inches

Room Size:
144 to 225 sq. ft.
Fan Blade Size:
44 to 50 inches

Room Size:
225 to 400 sq. ft.
Fan Blade Size:
50 to 54 inches

For larger rooms or rooms with high ceilings, blades as long as 80 inches are available.

Other things to consider include the fan’s air movement (measured in cubic feet per minute, or CFM), its reliability, energy efficiency, and its motor noise. You can find most of this information online to guide your shopping.

Location, Location, Location

Ceiling fans don’t change the temperature of a room, they just move air around. This can add a cooling breeze in summer and spread heat evenly in winter. Bedrooms, family rooms, and dining areas are good locations since that’s where we spend most of our time. Covered patios and pergolas can be more comfortable with a cooling summer breeze, too. Centering fans over beds and tables are the common choice. Just be sure the breeze doesn’t create a nuisance or the blades aren’t a hazard.

Keep It Safe and Convenient

Even slowly rotating fan blades can create hazards, so make sure your fan isn’t mounted too low. For low ceilings, get a flush-mounted model. Many kits come with a hanging rod that’s designed for average ceiling heights of 8-10 feet. For high ceilings, extension rods are available. Be sure the rod is compatible with the fan you buy.

Your choice of light and fan controls can make a difference, too. A single wall switch is handy, but if you have a light and fan combo, you may have to use a pull chain or second switch on the fan housing to operate each individually. You may not be able to use a dimmer for the light, either. Depending on your lighting needs, it may be more convenient to have a fan with its own controls on a separate circuit. Dual wall switches for separate light and fan circuits are available, but should only be installed by a professional electrician. And some fans come with remote controls, too.

Install It Properly

Besides getting the wiring right, there are some other things to consider. Brackets must be attached to ceiling structures strong enough to support the fan’s weight and that won’t transfer noise to nearby rooms. The fan must be balanced properly to avoid wobbling and vibrations. Electrical connections must be made to code to prevent overloading, fire and electrical hazards, and insulation mustn’t create overheating danger, as well.

Save yourself the headaches and hazards of ceiling fan installation by calling Allstar Electrical Services. We’ll see to it that you enjoy the benefits of your ceiling fan safely for years to come.

Urban Farming and Agricultural Grow Lighting

Recent changes in local laws have sparked interest in growing plants normally found in outdoor gardens in indoor settings. These plants require more light than is typically found indoors, causing a spike in grow light sales. It has also led to numerous electrical problems, from overloading and power outages to shocks and fires.

Most of these problems originate from overloading household circuits or faulty, substandard equipment—or both.

Don’t Overload Circuits

While homes may have 200 amps or more in total power available, branch circuits can be rated as low as 15 amps. Trying to run several thousand watts worth of lighting will cause them to trip breakers or blow fuses. Unfortunately, some people try to solve the problem by replacing breakers or fuses with ones with a higher amperage rating, which is not only illegal, but an invitation to disaster. Drawing more current than wiring is designed for causes overheating that can lead to fire inside walls and total loss of a structure.

Jury-rigged setups with nests of extension cords or, even worse, attempts to draw current directly from the main power supply not only risks fires, but are serious electrocution hazards.

Choose Safe Indoor Grow Lights and Equipment

Beyond wiring problems, the proliferation of indoor grow lights and other equipment has led to a glut of substandard products on the market. Many are manufactured by companies that don’t meet U.S. safety standards. Others are poorly made and consume much more power than is necessary.

Remember Lighting, Heating and Ventilation Needs

Growing food, flowers, or herbal remedies indoors can be a fun and productive hobby, especially here in Colorado where our outdoor growing season is short. But like any other hobby or business, it takes specialized knowledge to be successful. Don’t overlook your electrical needs in your plans. Light, heat, and ventilation are just as important as proper soil and nutrition to growing healthy crops.

Call Allstar for Professional Electrical Expertise

If you’ve reached the point of Impatiens with your indoor agriculture efforts, and think you’ve given it more Thyme that it’s worth, then get some Sage advice and electrical expertise from Allstar Electrical Services. We can fix it to operate safely and effectively if it’s Parsley done, or we can Mustard the expertise to get your urban farming installation right from the start.

Get started here by requesting a free consultation. We’ll even offer 10% off your next electrical service. Then relax knowing that your indoor urban agricultural setup is safe, efficient, and productive.

Why Colorado Residents Need Backup Generators

People who live and work in the more remote areas of the high country or eastern plains know that power outages can take a while to resolve. But what about urbanites? True enough, outages are usually dealt with in a relatively short (or at least shorter) time in the cities and towns, but even a few hours of downtime can be a big problem, especially if you’re one of the growing numbers of Coloradans who telecommute or run a home business.

A backup battery may be a temporary option for your computer or Wi-Fi network, but when you have a big project to finish or a house full of bored kids, a backup generator is a better solution.

Generators fall into three basic categories: portable, permanent, and hybrid. Choosing the best one for you is a balance between your needs and your budget. Here are some considerations:

Gasoline-Powered Portable Generators

By far the most common, portable gas generators are the least expensive and come in a variety of outputs to meet different needs. Properly sized, operated, and maintained, they’re a good choice for occasional outages, are budget-friendly, and can be used (carefully) by homeowners.

They also require the most work to set up and operate, and can be dangerous to use. If you’re considering a portable generator, read our article Tips to Keep Your Emergency Generator Running before buying. It has safety tips as well.

Permanent Installations

Long the choice for commercial locations, a permanently installed generator has several advantages for homeowners, too. Installed similarly to an air conditioning unit, they’re as close to a “set it and forget it system” as you can get. They’re normally connected to a natural gas or propane supply, so you don’t have to worry about storing potentially dangerous gasoline—or running out at the worst time. They have sophisticated controls and switches that automatically turn the unit on when an outage is detected and even cycle the generator periodically to keep in in good working condition and notify you when it isn’t.

They’re also the most expensive to buy and install, but are a very reliable source of power for places where minimizing downtime is important. Talk to a licensed electrician about your options and costs.

Hybrid Backup/Power Supplies

If you want a system that gives backup power for short periods of low wattage demand without the hassle of a portable generator, a hybrid might be right for you. Like a car battery charger, these devices are trickle-charged and store energy in batteries. They also have built-in AC inverters to run household appliances. You still need to plug individual cords into the units, but they’re virtually maintenance-free and can be used indoors as long as ventilation is provided in case the batteries release fumes.

Many are portable and can be used on job sites, as well. These are best for short outages with limited needs since they have low storage capacity, but may be a versatile solution if you only need minimal power to ride out an outage.

Allstar is Here to Help

Colorado residents learn quickly that power outages are a way of life. We have more lightning strikes than any state other than Florida, and while we don’t get hurricanes, our winds can sometimes rival them. Throw in heavy wet snows and ice storms and having backup power handy can add to your productivity and peace of mind.

Choosing the right generator and using it safely requires knowledge of electrical circuitry and codes, so don’t risk injury, shock, fire hazards, or expensive repairs by getting in over your head. If you have any problems or concerns about your electrical service, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to solve them for you. We offer homeowners, builders, and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.

Tips to Keep Your Emergency Generator Running

An emergency generator is a great option to have when the power goes out. It can keep the lights on, vital equipment operating, and the fridge running. It can even be a lifesaver, especially in remote areas where it may take days to restore power.

Here are some tips to help ensure it’s ready when you need it.

Have Plenty of Fuel and Accessories on Hand

Most emergency generators are gasoline powered, so the first thing you need is…gas. An empty can won’t do you much good. But there are some other things you’ll want to have, especially in extended use.

Generators put a lot of wear and tear on engine oil. You’ll probably need to change it after the first 25 hours and every 50-60 hours thereafter. Keep enough oil and filters around to last at least a few days along with the tools you’ll need and a way to dispose of the used oil.

A word to the wise: some generators can be damaged by running out of gas. They continue generating power as they come to a stop, and if there’s anything drawing current from them, the generator coils can demagnetize, rendering them useless and racking up a repair bill to have them remagnetized. Always remove any electrical load before shutting the generator down.

Keep Fuel Fresh and the Generator Clean

Stale fuel causes more starting problems than anything else. Fuel stabilizers can help, but don’t last indefinitely. At the end of storm season or for any prolonged period of disuse, empty the fuel tank and run the carburetor dry, following manufacturer’s instructions. Refill with fresh gas when next season arrives. It ensures easy staring and keeps the fuel system from gumming up. If it’s going to be used over a long period of time, start it and run for about 15-20 minutes every few months per your manufacturer’s instructions. Good advice for lawnmowers, too.

Size Your Generator Properly

Generators have two power ratings: one for sustained load, and one for peak load. The sustained load is how much stuff it will run in continuous operation. It’s the one you want to pay attention to. The peak or “starting” load simply tells how much power it can supply in short bursts to start things like refrigerator or furnace motors, not how much it can output over long periods. Pushing a generator beyond its “continuous” or “operating” load for more than a few seconds can cause it to burn out—figuratively and literally.

Keep Your Generator Safe and Secure – and Friendly

Needless to say (we hope), never run a gasoline-powered generator indoors or in an attached garage or porch. It puts out deadly carbon monoxide fumes just like a car.

Of course placing a generator outdoors has its own risks. First, you can get shocked if it’s not properly grounded, so sink a grounding rod and connect it to the generator.

Second, you can wake up cold one morning and find it gone. You can solve both issues by combining your ground with theft-prevention. It can be as simple as multiple ground anchors with hardened steel chains and heavy-duty padlocks, or as elaborate as a concrete slab with safety and security measures built in. You can even build an enclosure for it to keep the weather away.

When placing a generator outdoors, consider both you and your neighbors. They don’t want to listen to its racket any more than you do. And only use heavy-duty extension cords of 100 feet or less.

Extra Safety Tips

Store and Use Gasoline Safely

Fire codes usually restrict the amount of gasoline that can be stored in a house or attached garage—typically 10 gallons or less. While that may be enough to run the generator quite a while, it won’t do much good if it’s on the floor or has evaporated.

Instead of one big can that can weigh 60 or more pounds, store your fuel in smaller high-quality 5-gallon or smaller steel cans with easy-to-use trigger spouts to eliminate spills and over-filling.

Generator fuel tanks are always above the engine, so spilling onto a hot motor can be disastrous. Let the engine cool down for 15 minutes before refilling and don’t overfill. And keep a wearable LED headlamp handy in case you need to fuel up in the dark.

NEVER Back-feed Power

Trying to feed household circuits by running generator power into outlets is a recipe for disaster. Plus it’s illegal. Back-feeding power causes fires, shocks, and kills people every year, including family, neighbors, and electrical workers. You could even be charged with a crime.

The generator has multiple outlets for a reason. Run heavy-duty extension cords to different locations or have a licensed electrician install a transfer switch to safely feed power to your house.

By following these tips, you can be confident that your gas-powered generator will be safe and ready the next time you need it.

If you have any problems or concerns about your generator or other electrical service, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to solve them for you. We offer homeowners, builders, and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code. Learn more about the benefits of having a backup generator for your home here!

Generator Service: The Electrician vs. The Handyman

Some electrical installation and repair work can be done by someone with a basic understanding of how circuits work. While hazards exist with electrical work of any kind, things like replacing a broken light switch or adding a dimmer are within the capabilities of anyone who can understand and follow relatively simple instructions.

But more complex work such as adding circuits or replacing a breaker box is best left to the pros. Even minor missteps can lead to fires, and serious injury. This is just as important when working on auxiliary equipment like generators.

Whether a standalone unit or one that’s hardwired into a structure’s electrical system to provide automatic standby power, generators produce substantial amounts of current that, if improperly configured, can cause serious injury and damage.

That’s why it’s important to call a pro when installing or servicing a generator.

A License is More Than a Piece of Paper

Licensed electricians have an in-depth knowledge of electrical circuits and components plus the experience to install and maintain them properly. They have to complete four levels of apprenticeship that includes 6,000 hours of supervised training over several years before they are certified as journeyman electricians and allowed to work on their own.

The training doesn’t end there, either. Licensed electricians are required to undergo continuous education and testing to maintain their skills and knowledge of the latest advancements in technology.

Certification is Standard Nationwide

Unlike building codes that can vary from place to place, licensed electricians are a Red Seal accredited trade that must comply with the National Electrical Code (NEC). By imposing strict, uniform standards nationwide, the NEC ensures that all licensed electrical work conforms to industry-approved best practices for quality and safety.

Using Licensed Electricians Brings Peace of Mind

Licensed electrical contractors are insured for the work they do and also carry Workers Compensation insurance to protect customers against claims for on-the-job injuries. Unlicensed workers may not stand behind their work and can sue customers for injuries suffered at work.

Allstar is Ready to Help

Working safely on complex equipment like generators requires a knowledge of electrical circuitry and codes, so don’t risk injury, shock, fire hazards, or expensive repairs by having work done by unqualified persons. If you have any problems or concerns about your electrical service, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to solve them for you. We offer homeowners, builders, and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.

Whatever your electrical needs may be, call Allstar Electrical at 303-399-7420!

How to Stay Safe at the Pool and Spa this Summer

There’s nothing like a refreshing dip in a pool or spa on a hot summer day. Don’t let worn out or improperly installed electrical connections ruin the experience by following these tips:

Pool and Spa Electrical Safety Tips

● Keep electric cords and devices at least ten feet away pools, spas, and damp areas
● Never handle electrical devices when you’re wet (even from perspiration) or standing in water or damp areas
● Only use ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets to plug in devices that will be used outdoors. If one isn’t available, use a plug-in GFCI, available at home centers for around $15-25
● Make sure all outdoor outlets are covered to keep them dry
● Be sure all electrical equipment, including pumps and vacuums, is grounded
● Don’t locate pools or spas under power lines
● Don’t use outdoor pools or spas during thunderstorms or threatening weather

Don’t be a statistic

The Consumer Products Safety Commission says that on average there are 7-8 electrocutions or serious electrical shocks around swimming pools each year. Aside from fatal shocks, any shock can contribute to drowning; so be safe. Have a licensed electrician inspect, repair, or upgrade electrical connections around your pool, spa, or hot tub. Have them check outdoor switches and outlets to make sure they conform to the latest local and national electrical codes.

Working on wiring, switches, and outlets safely requires knowledge of electrical circuitry and codes, so don’t risk injury, shock, fire hazards, or expensive repairs by ignoring hazards. The pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to solve them for you. We offer homeowners, builders, and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.

Whatever your electrical needs may be, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420. Then use our handy on-line forms to request a free estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years, are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List, and offer 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Prevent Electrocution from Air Conditioners and Fans

Air conditioning season is here and it’s important to be sure your equipment is in good working order. It’s also important to know your limits to prevent electric shocks, fires, and other disasters caused by improperly servicing your cooling appliances.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission reports that 15% of product-related electrocutions occur when someone is attempting to repair a large appliance. Air conditioners, fans, dehumidifiers and other air conditioning equipment account for an estimated 33,000-plus emergency room visits annually. And while most of those injuries were cuts, scrapes and sprains, air conditioners and fans cause around 16 electrocution deaths a year.

Add to that roughly 11,000 air conditioner and fan related fires causing $200 million in damage each year, and you can see how important it is to keep your equipment in good condition and only trust their repair and maintenance to qualified persons.

Cooling Equipment Do’s and Don’ts

Keep yourself, your family, and your property safe by following these simple suggestions:

Do:

• Choose appliances with safety in mind
Appliances that overload circuits or require extension cords are both safety and fire hazards, as are any that don’t carry an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) or other accredited safety rating label

• Have hardwired appliances installed by a professional
Only experienced installers should connect appliances that don’t plug into an outlet

• Use portable appliances safely
Keep fans, room coolers, and other portable appliances where they won’t create tipping or tripping hazards. Don’t overlook places where pets can reach. And never use fans or other electrical devices near water or in damp areas.

• Have your air conditioner checked by a pro
Central air conditioners should be inspected and serviced annually by persons trained to do so. Smaller appliances can be cleaned and tested by homeowners, but any electrical or mechanical repairs should be left to professionals.

Don’t:

• Use indoor appliances outdoors or anywhere around water

• Use appliances with damaged cords or that don’t work properly

• Put fans or other appliances where they present hazards to children and pets(or adults, either)

• Try to repair damaged appliances yourself unless you’re familiar with how to do it safely

When in Doubt, Call a Pro

Working on appliances, wiring, switches, and outlets safely requires a knowledge of electrical circuitry and codes, so don’t risk injury, shock, fire hazards, or expensive repairs by ignoring warning signs or getting in over your head. If you have any problems or concerns about your electrical equipment, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to solve them for you. We offer homeowners, builders, and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.

Summer Electrical Safety Tips for 2017

As the days get warmer and longer, people head outdoors to enjoy the nice weather. As you stroll around the yard and the neighborhood, it’s a good idea to keep an eye peeled for changes that may present new hazards and remind yourself of safety tips regarding the electrical systems that are present all around us.

Here are some tips and reminders. Keep them in mind and share them with your family to help ensure your outdoor activities stay safe and fun.

Around the House

Keep Cords Safe

  • Keep electrical cords away from pools and ponds and don’t let them rest in places where water can collect.
  • If you have submerged lights or pumps, make sure any cords and connections are in good shape.
  • Don’t let connections become wet.

Look at Trees, Fences, Structures

  • Have any trees grown closer to power lines? They don’t have to be touching to be hazardous. Climbing kids or high winds can cause branches to bend into lines, so trim to avoid trouble. Kids like to climb fences, too, so if you’ve added one or made any structural changes that could be tempting, make sure they’re safely away from power lines.

Protect Outdoor Power with GFCIs

  • Building codes require all outdoor outlets to be protected with ground fault circuit interrupters. Springtime is a good time to update unprotected outlets and test existing ones to make sure they work properly.
  • If you’re connecting to an unprotected outlet, use a plug-in GFCI at the outlet or on an extension cord. They’re inexpensive, easy to use and available at any home or hardware center.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when using wet/dry vacuums or electric power washers.
  • Never handle electrical devices when you’re wet or standing in wet or damp areas. Even damp pavement can be hazardous.

Away From Home

Keep an Eye on the Sky

  • Colorado is second only to Florida in the number of lightning strikes each year. And across the nation, nearly 100 people are killed and 500 are seriously injured by lightning annually. When thunderstorms are in the area, stay safely indoors until danger has passed.

Keep Kites, Poles, and Other Objects Away From Power Lines

  • Always presume that power lines are energized and dangerous. Tethered items like kites can conduct current, including lightning, especially if they’re wet. Don’t throw shoes or other objects onto overhead lines, and never try to knock them down.

Be Safe Around Substations, Power Poles, and Downed Lines

  • High voltage can travel through water, damp soil, and wet wood, so stay safely away from any downed power lines. Never play in or close to electric substations. Their extremely high voltages can arc, especially in wet or damp conditions. If a person or animal has been shocked, don’t approach them, but call 9-1-1 immediately. You don’t want to become a victim, too. If you see a downed line, call your utility to let them know. Don’t climb on power poles. Ever.

When in Doubt, Call a Pro

Working on wiring, switches, and outlets safely requires a knowledge of electrical circuitry and codes, so don’t risk injury, shock, fire hazards, or expensive repairs by ignoring warning signs or getting in over your head. If you have any problems or concerns about your electrical service, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to solve them for you. We offer homeowners, builders, and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.

Whatever your electrical needs may be, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request a free estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Upgrading Your Electrical Panel - What To Buy?

As you add new household appliances and devices, you may discover that your home wiring is insufficient to handle the load. Individual branch circuits may be inadequate, or you may not have enough power available to begin with, especially in older homes.

You solve the first problem by adding additional circuits and the second by increasing the total power supply to your home. Either way, you may find that you need to upgrade your electrical panel, aka, the breaker box.

There’s a lethal amount of current coming into a panel, so replacing one is not a DIY project. The work should only be done by a licensed professional electrician. They may offer you some options, so here’s a look at the different types of panels and their applications to help you understand your choices.

Main Breaker Panels

A main panel has both the main breaker to shut off all power to your home as well as feeds for branch circuits and the breakers that protect them. The main breaker is a large double-pole circuit breaker that sits separately and is typically marked “Main” and has an amperage rating on it. This is how you can tell what your home’s overall load capacity is. This “all-in-one” design is typical in multi-unit buildings, but can be used in single-family dwellings, too. Many of these panels are installed indoors, protecting both you and the panel from inclement weather.

Main Lug Panels

Main lug panels don’t have a “Main” shutoff breaker. Instead, a separate shutoff switch is located elsewhere, usually near the electric meter. A benefit of this type of installation is that the shutoff can be outside and can be used in an emergency without needing to enter the building, while the branch circuit breakers can be indoors.

Sub-Panels

Sub-panels are secondary panels on a branch circuit from the main or lug panel. They typically serve a separate area like a workshop, guest house, or greenhouse, but can be used anywhere a branch circuit needs to have its own separate feeds. The branch circuit feeding a sub-panel needs to have an amp rating the same or lower than sub-panel’s total load. A sub-panel does not increase the load capacity of the main service, it merely re-routes it.

Transfer Switches

Transfer switches are a special type of sub-panel that feeds generator power to branch circuits in the event of a power failure. They can be automatic, transferring power from an auto-starting standby generator, or manual, requiring you to start the generator and manually switch to your backup system. Some generators have a built-in transfer switch that matches the rating of your home’s main panel.

If you have any questions or concerns about your home’s electric service, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to handle it for you. We offer homeowners, builders and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.

LED vs. CFL - Which Is Better for Your Home? What’s the Difference Between CFLs and LED Bulbs?

Fluorescent bulbs are gas-filled tubes with electrodes at each end. When current passes through the gas between the electrodes, the gas fluoresces, giving off ultraviolet (UV) light and heat. The UV light excites phosphors that coat the inside wall of the tube, giving off visible light once a certain temperature is reached. This takes from 30 seconds to as much as three minutes depending on the bulb’s design and is why CFLs take time to reach their full light output.

LED bulbs produce light by passing electric current through a crystal, causing it to glow. Different crystals glow at specific wavelengths, allowing LEDs to be made in various colors or combined to emit white light. Unlike fluorescent lamps, there’s no warm-up needed, so full-strength LED light is immediate.

Is One Better Than the Other?

Both LEDs and CFLs are major improvements over incandescent bulbs in terms of energy use, and both types have evolved to a point that makes them suitable for nearly any home use. Both types still only convert a fraction of their energy consumption to light, but they’re superstars compared to incandescents, which are about 2-3% efficient. A CFL is about 10% efficient, and an LED around 12-14%, but they both use far less energy to produce a given amount of light and last much longer.

Where LEDs Outshine CFLs

• LED’s aren’t toxic. CFLs contain 1-5 milligrams of mercury, which is highly toxic. Many places require special handling for their disposal.
• LEDs emit very little heat, whereas CFLs and incandescent lights release up to 80% and 90% of their energy as heat, respectively, and both can be fire hazards if used improperly.
• LED light is very pure. By combining different color diodes, an LED lamp can give off precise colors, unlike fluorescents, which rely on colored phosphors to approximate colors like daylight or warm white.
• LED light is directional. That means that bulbs used for downlights or task lighting don’t need reflectors or diffusers, increasing their efficiency.
• LED bulbs aren’t sensitive to temperature or humidity. Fluorescents may not work well in cold or extremely hot (over 120°F) environments and can be affected by high humidity.
• LEDs are sturdy. CFLs are relatively fragile and mercury or phosphors can escape when they’re broken. Plus, LEDs are not sensitive to frequent on-off cycling like CFLs or incandescent bulbs.
• LEDs reach full output immediately. CFLs take from several seconds to a few minutes to reach full brightness.

Is It Time to Get Rid of Your CFLs?

For all their shortcomings, CFLs are major improvements over incandescent bulbs in terms of energy savings and longevity. It would be a waste of money and resources to replace them as long as they’re doing the job you want.

On the other hand, if you’re replacing burned out incandescents or CFLs, LEDs are the way to go. They’re still slightly more expensive than CFLs, but prices keep coming down and may even be comparable by the time your CFLs give out. Plus, some manufacturers like GE have discontinued CFL production in favor of an all-LED line, and major retailers like and Wal-Mart have greatly reduced their stocks. IKEA has stopped carrying them altogether, offering only LEDs.

Let the pros at Allstar Electrical Services show you the many ways LED technology can be used in your home or business. We provide a full range of residential, commercial and facility electrical maintenance services, so call today to learn about our free audit at 303-399-7420!

How Does a Light Switch Work?

The light switch—it’s something we take for granted dozens, if not hundreds, of times every day. But if improperly wired, a switch can be an accident waiting to happen.

What Does a Light Switch Do?

An electrical circuit is just what the name implies—a more-or-less circular path through which electricity flows. If there’s a light in the circuit, the bulb draws the current through itself to cause it to glow before the electricity continues on its “circuitous” journey. Break that circuit, and the electricity stops flowing and the bulb doesn’t light up. Sounds simple enough. And that’s the function of a light switch.

What’s Hot and What’s Not

Electrical wiring circuits typically contain three wires. One is the feed wire—the source of the electrical current—and one is the neutral or return wire—the wire that carries the current back to the source, completing the circuit. The third wire is a ground wire to discharge any stray current safely. In electrical parlance, the feed wire is known as the “hot” wire and the neutral wire is usually referred to as either that or as the “return.”

The wires are marked with colored insulation to identify them. The hot wire will be usually be black. The neutral is normally white, but can be any color other than green (including black, unfortunately), and the ground, if there is one, will be either green or bare wire. If for some reason a white or colored wire is being used as the hot wire, it should have a piece of black tape attached to it.

A single-pole light switch has two or three terminals to attach the wires, one on one side with a brass screw for the hot wire, one on the other side with a silver screw for the neutral, and possibly one with a green screw for the ground wire. Some may also have push-in holes on the back, but those are more likely to work loose and cause problems. Use the screw terminals for a proper installation.

Why It Matters

Logic tells us that by breaking the flow of current at any point in the circuit will stop electricity from flowing, causing the light to turn off, and a switch is the easiest way to accomplish that. And that’s true. But what logic doesn’t tell us is that it’s important how that switch is wired.
A switch is designed to break the circuit on its hot side. That’s important because it prevents current from ever reaching the light or other device on the circuit. If the switch is wired “backwards,” with the hot wire attached to the silver neutral screw, in other words, the circuit is broken, but the socket remains energized, creating a shock hazard if you or any other conductor touch it while grounded. Connect the switch properly and the current will never reach the socket when the switch is the “off” position.

When to Call a Pro

There are other considerations when adding or replacing switches such as three-way switches or dimmers. Those will be addressed in future articles. Meanwhile, if you’re uncomfortable or uncertain about wiring a switch, be safe and call a pro. Working on wiring, switches, and outlets safely requires knowledge of electrical circuitry and codes, so don’t risk injury, shock, fire hazards, or expensive repairs by getting in over your head.

If you have any problems or concerns about your electrical service, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to solve them for you. We offer homeowners, builders, and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code. Reach us at 303-399-7420!

Should You Install a Smart Electric Meter?

The so-called “Internet of Things” is a hot topic these days, and is not without controversy. On the one hand, being able to see inside your house from your phone or tune into the Weather Channel on your refrigerator door has definite advantages—plus it’s pretty cool. At the same time, tales abound of home networks being hacked by everyone from cyber crooks to Peeping Toms.

Among the many things you can add to your collection of “smart” devices is an electric meter. If you’re considering switching to a smart meter—or if your utility company is pressuring you to do so—here’s a look at some of the pros and cons. First… 

What is a Smart Meter?

Smart meters constantly monitor the electrical usage at your home or business. They use algorithms to establish profiles of up to twenty different devices on your system and collect real-time data on use and performance. This information can be used by the customer in a variety of ways, from planning to identifying problems. Other devices, such as Xcel Energy’s Saver’s Switch, aren’t meters, per se, but switches that cycle off and on during times of peak energy use on the company’s power network.

What Are the Benefits of a Smart Meter?

Since the meter visualizes the power consumption of each monitored device, users can see when certain things are on, how long they’re on, and how often they’re used. They can use this information to make informed choices about how and when energy is used in their home or business. Since these devices are constantly monitored, a smart meter can also let users know when problems occur, such as a bad seal on a refrigerator or a failing motor causing that item to consume more energy than usual. Customers with solar or other alternate energy sources will find that readings are more accurate when they’re actually adding power to the grid instead of consuming it.

Smart meters benefit the power companies, too. Since they transmit data back to the utility, that data can be used to distribute power more efficiently and help users consume it less expensively. And since the meter is talking to the power company, they save money by not having to read the meter manually. 

Is There a Downside to Smart Meters?

The biggest concerns some people have about smart meters fall into two categories—privacy and “hackability.” Smart meters feed data back to your power company and show use patterns in greater detail than standard meters do. The data is customer-specific rather than anonymous, so if you have concerns about sharing that information, a smart meter isn’t your cup of tea.

The bigger concern, though, is the accessibility of the meter and its data to unauthorized sources through breaches in its security. Unfortunately, access to home networks through so-called smart devices can be relatively easy for hackers in the know. Appliances and some electronics are particularly vulnerable since manufacturers, especially of cheaper devices, may not build in strong enough security. This is less true of smart electric meters, but theoretically, anything is hackable with the right tools in the wrong hands.

Taking over a smart meter could result in inaccurate or fraudulent billing or even deliberate overloading of your wiring causing outages, damage or even fires. Likely? No. Possible? Maybe.

What’s the Answer?

Smart electric meters are the wave of the future. Power companies and environmentalists are big proponents, and there may eventually be penalties for choosing to not have one—if you even have a choice. The best advice for safety and security is to know what you have on your network and how to secure it properly.

The pros at Allstar Electrical Services have installed hundreds of electric meters in both homes and commercial properties, and can do the job efficiently, quickly and take care of all the connections with the local utility company. We can check your electrical system for proper load protection and look at your network to make sure it’s operating properly and securely. Call us at 303-399-7420 to find out more.

Eliminate Noise from Your Home AV System

Spending hundreds (or even thousands) on new AV equipment only to discover annoying hums, clicks or hisses coming from the speakers can turn excitement into frustration in a hurry. While a malfunctioning component may be the cause, the problem more likely comes from the multitude of electronics in your home. Eliminating the problem may be as simple as changing outlets, or it may require more elaborate measures. Here’s a quick guide to troubleshooting, starting with the simplest first.

Ground Loops

Electronic cables are shielded to block electromagnetic radiation from both entering and leaving the cable. The shielding is usually connected to the electrical system ground circuit, which is common to the entire electrical network, unlike individual branch circuits. When electronic components are connected to outlets on different branch circuits, a single-loop antenna is created which can pick up all sorts of electronic noise and transmit it back to the components. This can cause humming or buzzing in speakers or create banding on video screens. It is the most common cause of interference and can be corrected by breaking the loop.

The easiest way to break the loop is by powering all the components from a single AC socket. By plugging into a single power strip, surge protector or power center, the ground paths return to a single point, preventing a loop from forming. With the low power consumption of most modern electronics, the load should be well within the 10-15-amp capacity of household branch circuits. If the problem persists, check your components to see if it any has its own independent ground wire and make sure it is properly connected.

If you can’t power all the components from the same outlet—self-powered remote speakers, for instance—a hum eliminator or ground loop isolator may be the solution. They’re simple devices that reprocess the electrical signal to break ground loops and other forms of interference. Models vary in their features, so shop around for one that does the job you need. 

Other Problems

Ground loops may be the most common source of trouble, but AC line noise, cable-to-cable induction, or radio-frequency (RF) interference can cause problems, too.

  • AC line noise is caused by feedback from things like hair dryers, dimmers, blenders or worn-out fluorescent fixtures. You can identify it easily by simply turning those appliances or fixtures off and on to determine the source. An isolation transformer is one solution. Hospitals use them to protect sensitive instruments, and they work great for AV components, too.

    Inline uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) convert AC to DC and back again, so they eliminate interference. Good ones can be expensive, but they also have surge protection and battery backup, so they may be worth the cost.
  • Routing power wires next to low-voltage AV cable can cause induction that creates problems. Signals from HDMI and USB cable shielding can also leak and cause static but it can usually be eliminated with a ferrite noise suppressor. Many have them built-in (they’re the cylindrical bulges at the end of the cable) or you can buy one to attach externally. Looping twin-lead antenna cables can create electromagnetic induction and interference, too.
  • RF interference is everywhere. Cordless and cell phones emit it. So does wi-fi equipment. And computers do, too, even wireless mice and keyboards. That’s why computer cases and audio components have metal shells to block it. Most devices are designed to prevent it, but poorly made ones may not. Unfortunately, the only solution is to replace them with better-quality products.

If electronic interference is baffling you, or if you want to install trouble-free AV or electronic networks, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services can help. We can configure your home entertainment center, office, or any other room so there is enough convenient, stable, interference-free power to handle all the devices. We can help you power and locate routers or signal boosters so that your wireless devices work flawlessly. We can even bring more power to your home if it wasn’t wired to handle modern loads. In the hands of our experts, a home built 100 years ago can be wired and cabled safely for all your current and future needs.

Need to Troubleshoot an Electrical Issue? Call A Professional!

Just like there can be underlying causes for your indigestion or headaches, annoying electrical problems can be caused by things you can’t figure out on your own. But just like your doctor, professional electricians know what to look for, no matter how well they’re hidden or disguised.

Sure, there are some things a DIYer can do on their own, but are you sure that replacing an outlet or switch has really solved the problem? Maybe those flickering lights or frequent circuit breaks are symptoms of a more serious underlying problem—one that could end up causing damage, injury, or worse down the road. 

Pros Know What to Look For and Where to Find Trouble

Sometimes an experienced electrician can diagnose a problem quickly. Sometimes it takes a bit more sleuthing. Either way, they have the training and equipment to get to the root of the problem. 

Pros Can Fix Things Before They Get Serious

Sometimes spending a little can save a lot. Adding an extra outlet or two can reduce the need for extension cords that can overheat if not properly sized. It can also point out other more serious issues such as deteriorating insulation or improper grounding, either of which can lead to shock and fire hazards. Even major work is less expensive than replacing a burned-down house. 

Pros Can Help You Sleep Better, Too

Whether it’s literally—by adding comfort and convenience—or figuratively by knowing your home is safe and secure, a professional electrician can help make your life easier. 

Allstar is Ready to Help

Working on wiring, switches, and outlets safely requires a knowledge of electrical circuitry and codes, so don’t risk injury, shock, fire hazards, or expensive repairs by ignoring warning signs or getting in over your head. If you have any problems or concerns about your electrical service, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to solve them for you. We offer homeowners, builders, and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code. Call us at 303-399-7420 to get started!

Electrical Safety in Windy Weather

High winds cause all sorts of problems with electrical systems, and in Colorado, we see them all. From hurricane-force blasts roaring across mountaintops and through passes to tornados and microbursts on the plains, windstorms account for millions of dollars’ worth of damage in the state every year, and downed power lines are a leading cause of wildfires, especially during extended dry spells. Along with economic losses, windstorms frequently cause injury and loss of life.

Staying Safe in High Winds

Strong winds can create numerous hazards, from flying debris, downed trees and power lines, to building collapses. The safest place in a windstorm is indoors, so take shelter inside and avoid windows, which can be shattered by flying or falling objects. Reduce risks by bringing loose objects inside and securing things like trashcans and patio furniture that can be blown about.

If you can’t get indoors, the next safest place is in a vehicle, although that comes with its own risks. A stationary car gives a fair amount of protection from flying objects and reasonable safety from falling debris, but there’s much more window area to shatter than in a building, and even a heavy vehicle is no match for a tornado. If a tornado strike is imminent, you’re safer outside a vehicle. Find a low spot, lie face down, and cover your head with your hands. Avoid sheltering under an overpass or bridge; besides creating traffic hazards, the winds can actually be higher due to channeling and can carry dangerous debris.

Driving in High Winds

Strong gusts can push a vehicle out of its lane, so always keep both hands on the wheel and be ready. Stay alert to the traffic around you and keep a safe distance away, especially from high-profile vehicles and trailers, since they are more likely to swerve or even flip in high winds.

If winds are causing unsafe driving conditions, pull off the road away from trees, power lines, or other objects that can fall onto your vehicle. Stay in the vehicle and turn on your hazard flashers so other drivers can see you.

Dealing with Power Lines

Never try to retrieve objects that have become caught in overhead lines. Their voltage is extremely high and can arc as far as ten feet or more. Never touch anything resting on a line such as a tree; even wood can contain enough moisture to conduct high-voltage electricity.

Stay well away from downed lines. Their charge can travel through snow cover and damp ground as well as standing water. Never try to move someone who is being shocked if they are still in direct or indirect contact with a live power source; you can also become a victim.

If you’re inside a car that’s in contact with power lines or in an electrified area like a pool of water, stay there and avoid touching any parts of the vehicle’s frame. Call 911 and roll down a window to warn anyone who might approach the vehicle. If you don’t have phone service, honk your horn to alert someone to call for help. Stay in the car until help arrives unless there’s a fire. In that case, open the door carefully, jump out without touching any metal parts or other hazards, and get safely away.

Help is a Phone Call Away

If high winds have created a danger to life or property, call 911. When objects are caught or resting on power lines, call your utility’s help line. And when you need repairs to your electrical system, or if you just want to be sure you’ve weathered the storm safely, call Allstar Electrical Services.

Allstar Electrical has served Colorado for over 15 years and is top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List. We offer homeowners, builders and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.

When trouble strikes, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Combat Dryness with a Whole House Humidifier

Colorado’s semi-arid climate is particularly noticeable in the winter when furnaces heat up outside air and squeeze the last few drops of moisture out of it.

Indoor humidity can drop to 15% or less at a mile high, causing dry skin, throats, and eyes along with startling shocks of static electricity. It can aggravate asthma, allergies, nosebleeds and sinus problems as well as make everyone more susceptible to colds and flu.

Humans aren’t the only things to suffer from desert-like dryness, either. Pets, especially birds, are affected, as are musical instruments, furniture, floors, and even paint and wallpaper. Dry air feels cooler than moist air, too, so you end up raising the thermostat, adding to both the dryness and your heating bills.

Fortunately, the solution is simple and relatively inexpensive, especially if you have a forced-air furnace.

Benefits of Whole House Humidifiers

Whole house humidifiers are easy to install and can actually pay their way with lower heating bills, not to mention the added comfort they provide. Generally placed in your furnace’s ductwork, this type of humidifier uses a water connection similar to a refrigerator icemaker’s to add water vapor to the outgoing air. A humidistat regulates your home’s humidity level, similarly to a thermostat, keeping it in the 30-50% range that’s ideal for comfort without reaching a level that can encourage mold and other problems associated with too high humidity. It’s much more convenient than room humidifiers,which have to be filled up and cleaned regularly and typically don’t monitor humidity levels. It’s also less likely to harbor harmful bacteria and mold, even while requiring less frequent cleaning.

Choosing the Right WholeHouse Humidifier for Your Home

You can install a whole house humidifier on both new and existing heating systems. There are even some that work with radiant or baseboard heating. But it’s important to install a system that’s sized right for your home and has controls that let it function optimally.

The pros at Allstar Electrical Services can help you choose the whole house humidifier that’s right for you. We offer homeowners, builders and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Whatever your electrical needs may be, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Is Your Electric Fence Affected by Dry Winter Weather?

Colorado winters can be extremely dry. Snowfall can be unpredictable and can melt away and evaporate quickly in our intense high-altitude sunlight. The dry weather has an especially large impact on farmers and ranchers, not only on crops and livestock, but farm equipment, as well.

An important part of that equipment for many ranchers and farmers is their electrical fencing, and extended dry weather can cause it to lose its effectiveness in keeping livestock where they need to be. This can be a concern to users of electrical fencing in urban locations, too. 

Poor Grounding from Dry, Cold Soil

An electric fence works by completing an electrical circuit whenever an animal (or person) touches it. The electricity passes through the animal into the soil and back to ground rods to create a complete circuit and give a shock. Dry soil can cause electric fence systems to lose effectiveness due to poor grounding. Its charger/energizer won’t work at full capacity unless it’s grounded properly, and soil that’s dried out doesn’t ground as well as when it’s moist. Cold soil is also a worse conductor than warm, adding to grounding concerns in the winter. 

Proper Spacing and Maintenance for Ground Rods

Properly spaced and maintained ground rods are essential to maintaining enough voltage on fences to act as an effective deterrent, especially under adverse soil conditions. Generally, that means having at least 3 feet of ground rod per joule of the energizer’s output capacity. If rocky or loose soils make it hard to effectively ground a standard fence system, a two-wire system that includes a ground wire spaced away from the hot wire can deliver a shock on contact without the need for grounding rods along its perimeter. 

Ongoing Maintenance Practices for Electrical Fencing

Ongoing maintenance is important to keeping any electrical fence in proper operating condition. Aside from dry weather concerns, damage from lightning, high winds, broken or rotted posts, and intrusion can occur. Electrical components and insulators need to be checked for proper operation, as well. Proper current must be maintained in order for the system to be effective and to guard against overcharging the fence, something that can cause severe injury or even death to both animals and people.

Facility Maintenance Services for Above and Below-Ground Fencing

If your electrical fencing needs service or upgrading, Allstar Electrical Services offers facility maintenance services for both above- and below-ground fencing and other electrical systems.

As a leading service contractor in Colorado, Allstar Electrical offers 24-hour, 7-day service for our facility maintenance and manager partners, not only in metro Denver, but all along the Front Range. We even offer some services statewide and nationally. Allstar responds to all service requests within 24 hours and the same day for emergency requests. With a designated project manager handling your account, you can count on reliable, dependable whenever and wherever you need it.

Allstar Electrical has served Colorado for over 15 years and is top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List. We offer homeowners, builders and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.

Call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 during business hours or visit our websiteanytime. Besides a thorough explanation of our services and information about our company, our website has timely articles in its Resources section about the latest developments in the ever-changing world of electronics. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment.

Dangers of Childhood Lead Poisoning and How to Prevent It

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have determined that there is no safe level for lead in young children’s blood. Even extremely low levels have been shown to have irreversible, life-long effects on IQ, academic achievement, physical development, and attentiveness.

To prevent lead exposure, the CDC warns that children and pregnant women should not be present when repairs or renovations are underway in housing built before 1978, when lead was banned from paint. That includes any activities that disturb old paint or involve cleaning up dust or debris after such work is completed. It’s also why any work should be done by an EPA Lead-Safe Certified Firm.

But the dangers of lead exist elsewhere, too, and parents, caretakers, and doctors need to be aware of them and take steps to prevent lead exposure before it happens. Here are places where danger lurks and how to avoid it: 

Homes Built Before 1978

Almost all of these homes contain lead-based paint. As the paint wears, its dust contains lead that can be breathed in or ingested. Sanding or scraping the paint also releases dust, and paint chips can be attractive to curious youngsters who may even decide to eat them.

Loose or deteriorating paint should be removed and replaced by an EPA Lead-Safe Certified contractor. Temporary barriers such as contact paper or duct tape can be used to block children’s access. Wet-mop floors and wet-wipe horizontal surfaces every 2-3 weeks. Keep windowsills and wells clean since opening and closing painted sashes is especially likely to leave lead-contaminated dust.

Lead in Plumbing

Some older homes may have water pipes containing lead. The only way to eliminate the hazard is to replace the pipes. In the meantime, you can lower the risks by only using cold water taps for water used for drinking, cooking, and other food preparation since hot water will allow more lead to escape into the water. 

Lead in Toys and Painted Furniture

While U.S. regulations ban lead paints on these items, some imported toys and furniture may escape detection. Stay alert to any recalls, and only buy from reliable sources. Even safe toys can be contaminated with lead from dust, so keep them clean and wash your children’s hands regularly.

Other Dangerous Items

Imports including candles and even some candies can contain lead, as can some folk medicines and home remedies. Again, watch for recalls and know what you’re buying. And if your work involves using lead or lead-based materials—stained glass work or making bullets, for instance—be careful to not bring contaminants into your home on clothing, shoes, or other garments and tools.

If you’re concerned with preventing lead exposure, especially to children under six and pregnant or nursing women, the CDC has many educational resources available, including this easy-to-understand infographic

Use an EPA Lead-Safe Certified Contractor

When it’s time to repair, remodel, or renovate your home, always use an EPA Lead-Safe Certified contractor.

Allstar Electrical Services is proud to be an EPA Lead-Safe Certified Firm and we fully support the education and prevention goals of the EPA, CDC, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Our electricians undergo extensive training on how to identify potential hazards and prevent lead contamination on any work they are called to do.

Don’t risk your family’s health and safety by hiring underqualified contractors. The pros at Allstar Electrical Services offer homeowners, builders and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code. Call us today at 303-399-7420!

Colorado Lead Regulations for Renovations

Earlier, we pointed out the need to use a Lead-Safe Certified Electrician to be sure your electrical work conforms to EPA lead safety standards. At the state level, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has its own set of rules and regulationsfor working with lead and lead-based materials and lead contaminated environments as well.

In 1997, the state legislature developed a comprehensive plan to reduce elevated levels of lead in the blood of children and put measures in place to control lead hazards in residences and child-occupied facilities. Those measures include:

  • Pre-Renovation Education
    Contractors, property management staff, and anyone involved in maintenance or renovation that disturbs more than 2 square feet of painted surfaces in housing or child-occupied facilities built before 1978 are required to distribute the EPA pamphlet “Renovate Right” to all occupants before starting. They may be required to post signs describing the work, and are required to retain records for three years.
  • Reinforcement of Lead Disclosure Rules
    Landlords are required by Colorado law to disclose if lead paint has been used on the property. It is their job to keep the paint in good shape and be sure that any work conforms to lead safety regulations. They only have limited responsibility, though, and tenants and homeowners have individual responsibility, as well, as described in the Colorado Renters Guide.

The ultimate goals of these regulations are to:

  • Identify, test and treat children who are at risk of lead poisoning
  • Educate parents and the public about the risks of lead poisoning and its prevention
  • Identify and control sources of lead in the environment

Allstar is an EPA Lead-Safe Certified Firm

Allstar Electrical Services is proud to be an EPA Lead-Safe Certified Firm and we fully support the education and prevention goals of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Our electricians undergo extensive training on how to identify potential hazards and prevent lead contamination on any work they are called to do. We’re also members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and the American Subcontractors Association (ASA) as well as the Independent Electrical Contractors Association (IECI) and actively participate in their education and training programs in order to bring our customers the latest in safe, quality electrical contracting techniques.

Don’t risk your family’s health and safety by hiring underqualified contractors. The pros at Allstar Electrical Services offer homeowners, builders and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.

Whatever your electrical needs may be, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Why You Need an EPA Lead-Safe Certified Electrician

You’re probably aware of lead concerns with paint and plumbing, but did you know it’s a concern in electrical work, too? 

The Lead, Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule

Reducing lead levels has been one of the most successful health goals, with anover 90% decline in blood lead levels since the mid-1970s. But the research that has accompanied it has discovered that even small amounts of lead can be harmful, especially to young children. Even ordinary maintenance and renovation activities can create harmful lead dust. That’s why The Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule establishes requirements for firms and individuals performing work that disturbs certain types of painted surfaces. 

Who the Rule Affects

Part of the Rule includes education and training that leads to a certification, and that certification is now mandatory for any company or individual who performs work that disturbs paint in housing and child-occupied facilities built before 1978. It includes residential property owners and managers, general contractors, and specialty contractors, including painters, plumbers, carpenters and electricians.

Allstar Electrical is an EPA Lead-Safe Certified Firm

Allstar Electrical Services is proud to be an EPA Lead-Safe Certified Firm. Our electricians undergo extensive training on how to identify potential hazards and prevent lead contamination on any work they are called to do. We’re also members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and the American Subcontractors Association (ASA) as well as the Independent Electrical Contractors Association (IEC) and actively participate in their education and training programs in order to bring our customers the latest in quality electrical contracting techniques.

Professional, Safe Electrical Services in Denver

Don’t risk your family’s health and safety by hiring underqualified contractors. The pros at Allstar Electrical Services offer homeowners, builders and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.

Whatever your electrical needs may be, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Does Your Home Have Enough Branch Circuits?

If you’re remodeling, adding on, or doing a full fixer-upper, you need to know if your existing electrical service will safely handle any new loads your project will add. 

First Things First

In order to supply power, you need to have power, and many older homes simply don’t have enough for today’s loads. The main service panel (the one where the power feed enters your home) will state its capacity in amperes (amps). Depending on your home’s age and size, this could be anywhere from 60 amps to 200 or more amps. If your service is less than 100 amps, you should consider upgrading, especially if you have (or are adding) things that draw a lot of current such as electric ranges, dryers, and water heaters, or central air conditioning and electric heat. A 60-amp circuit can only supply one 240-volt appliance and a limited number of branch circuits. 100-amp service can supply several 240-volt appliances as well as enough branch circuits for a medium-size home. 

Code Requirements and Restrictions

General living spaces (living rooms, dens, offices, bedrooms) need 3 watts of power for each square foot of space to supply basic lighting and outlets. Since that’s only 2.5 amps per 100 square feet, several rooms can be supplied from a single 15-amp circuit. But specialized rooms have specific code requirements.

  • Kitchens must have at least two 20-amp, 120-volt small appliance branch circuits that feed GFCI-protected receptacles above the countertops, and those circuits can’t supply other outlets, including those for lighting. An electric range or oven will need its own 240-volt dedicated circuit of sufficient amperage to handle its current load.
  • Laundry rooms must have one 20-amp, 120-volt circuit of their own, separate from lighting and receptacles in other rooms. Any outlet within 6 feet of a sink must be GFCI-protected. If you have an electric clothes dryer, it will need a dedicated 240-volt circuit.
  • Bathrooms call for a 20-amp, 120-volt branch circuit with GFCI-protected outlets. This circuit can supply outlets in multiple bathrooms, but not lighting, fans, or any outlets in other rooms. Alternately, a GFCI circuit can supply all of the outlets in a single bathroom, including lighting and fans, if no single load exceeds 10 amps.

Other specialized rooms such as workshops, garages, or sheds have their own code requirements, so be sure you understand your local building codes. While it may seem that electrical and building codes are needlessly complex and restrictive, they’re written with one goal in mind—safety. And it’s always cheaper to do it right the first time rather than to do it over.

Working on wiring, switches, and outlets safely requires a knowledge of electrical circuitry and codes, so don’t risk injury, shock and fire hazards, or expensive repairs by getting in over your head. If you have any doubts about the project, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to handle it for you. We offer homeowners, builders and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.

Whatever your electrical needs may be, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.

Laundry Room Electrical Wiring

If your remodeling or expansion plans include a laundry room, there are some specific requirements that you need to know. 

Circuit Requirements for Electric and Gas Dryers

The first thing to consider is the clothes dryer. Will it be electric or gas? That determines whether you’ll need both 240 and 120-volt outlets. An electric dryer needs a dedicated 240-volt, 30-amp, 4-prong receptacle to handle the load of the heaters along with the motor and fans. Code requires that circuit to be dedicated—exclusively used for that appliance only.

gas dryer only needs power for the motor, fans, and controls, so it can run on a 120-volt circuit, same as the washing machine. And while both appliances can be on the same outlet, that outlet needs to be on its own designated circuit (a designated circuit can have multiple outlet taps, but only at one location). If you’re only connecting the washer, you’ll need a 120- volt, 20-amp designated circuit. Laundry rooms with unfinished walls, such as in basements or garages, may need metal boxes and conduit for their wiring. 

Special Circuit Requirements

Other laundry room circuits have special requirements, too. For instance, any 120-volt outlet within six feet of a laundry or utility sink must be GFCI protected, as must alloutlets in a potentially damp area such as a basement or garage. Many building codes also require enclosed laundry rooms to have low-energy (fluorescent or LED) lighting or an occupancy sensor that turns off the lights when the room is unoccupied for more than a brief time. Rooms must also be adequately ventilated. Check your local codes for specifics.

Work Safely with Electrical Wiring

Working on wiring, switches, and outlets safely requires a knowledge of electrical circuitry and codes, so don’t risk injury, shock and fire hazards, or expensive repairs by getting in over your head. If you have any doubts about the project, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to handle it for you.

Call us at 303-399-7420 to learn more and request an estimate.

Need the Power Off? Use an Electric Circuit Breaker Finder!

Ever find yourself doing a little solo DIY electrical work and need to turn off a circuit? Then you go to your electrical panel and the breakers are mislabeled, illegible or unmarked. The MacGyver way is to plug in a radio and start flipping switches or yanking fuses until the radio goes off—preferably before your kids yell at you for killing their PlayStation midgame. Then, when you’re finished, you get to reset all the digital clocks and timers throughout your house, presuming you didn’t fry anything with a power surge.

Well, along with nearly everything else these days, there’s a new, better way to locate the right breaker or fuse. It’s called a digital circuit breaker finder. Pros have been using them for years, and for about the cost of a couple’s night at the movies, you can have one, too.

Cost and Features

There are several digital electric circuit breaker finders on the market that range in price from under $40 to several hundred, depending mostly on features. Basic circuit breaker finders are two-part tools—one part is a transmitter that plugs into an outlet on the circuit in question, and the other detects the transmitter signal at the service panel breaker or fuse. Even the basic models vary in design and ease of use, though, so it’s worth shopping around. 

Extra features can include live wire detectors, electric meters, and circuit tracers that can come in handy on remodeling and demolition projects. Durability is also a factor in pricing, with professional models running more than light-duty homeowner versions. But even the cheaper ones get the job done, so search the internet for sources and ratings. Chances are you’ll find one at your local home improvement center or hardware store, so don’t hesitate to ask the clerk for circuit breaker finder recommendations, too.

When to Call the Pros

Working on wiring, switches, and outlets safely requires at least a basic knowledge of electrical circuitry, so don’t risk injury or shock and fire hazards by getting in over your head. If you have any doubts about the project, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to handle it for you.

Don’t risk your home and family with unsafe wiring. Allstar Electrical has served the Front Range for over 15 years and is top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List. We offer homeowners, builders and businesses reliable, professional electrical workthat is safe and up to code.

Before trouble strikes, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.