You May Get a Charge Out of This!
Electrical Issues for New & Remodeled Homes
Story By Carolin Santangelo
Galveston Island has recently been the victim of inconsistent, at best, and total loss of, at its worst, electrical power. A buildup of salt corrosion on wire connections and at transformers has been the culprit in interruptions of service. The lack of rain is certainly detrimental to landscapes and agriculture, as well as risk of wild fire, but who knew how it also could affect electrical service.
When the loss of power first occurs, our initial fears are “How long will the power be off?”, “How hot will it get?”, then later, “What will it do to my electric appliances and fixtures when the power returns?”
There are a few things that you should consider whether building or remodeling, and separately, that you can do to upgrade your home’s existing electrical systems. One of the good things is a generators, in the market you can different option of generators for sale.
A whole house surge protector can be installed in your home to minimize power surge damage. This is not a $10 to $20 power strip that plugs into the wall. The whole house surge protector is a moderately priced piece of hardware, priced as little as $200. Its installation by a licensed electrician will cost about the same. The investment could save a lot of grief and costly appliance repair or replacement in the long run. Installation is required in circuit breaker slots on the electrical panel; installing two 20-amp breakers will provide the best protection, or a 220 volt 20 amp breaker can be installed.
A couple of years ago, after several power outages at our home, we had to replace the digital control panel on a brand new double oven. We subsequently had a surge protector installed. After recent outages, I found that our wine chiller would not come back on, a big disappointment; though after some investigation, we discovered that it was not the chiller, thank goodness, but that the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI or GFI) had tripped. The wine chiller is now performing just fine; too bad the wine may not be saved!
GFCIs may be considered for installation in any older house that does not have this protection. GFCIs monitor electricity flowing in a circuit, switching off if the current flowing from the circuit differs from the amount returning to it. Residential code has required GFCI protection since the 1970s, which are required for exterior locations, baths, garages and kitchens. These are meant to trip, and interrupt electric service, to protect from electric shock. Even if GFCIs are installed, keep an eye out for repeated interruptions in certain circuits, as they will wear out over time. Hair dryers and space heaters are notorious for tripping GFCIs. Luckily, they are easily replaced. Test GFCIs by plugging in a light and looking closely at the outlet to see a TEST button. Push the test button, which should kill the power to the light. Pressing the reset button will place it back in service. GFCI’s cost about $10 each but must be installed by a licensed electrician.
A much bigger investment in electrical power, and one that many clients are now including in their plans, is a stand-by generator. Cost of equipment alone can be $5,000 or more. The generator is connected to house wiring and to an alternate fuel source. It automatically powers essential appliances in case of a catastrophic weather event such as lightning, tornado or hurricane that interrupts local power service. It runs on fuels such as gas, diesel (usually for industrial service), natural gas or LPG. Where natural gas (NG) service is available, this is a convenient alternate source. Where NG is not available (e.g. parts of the West End), propane tanks provide an alternate fuel source.
The stand-by generator automatically transfers the house back to utility lines when power is restored. It will offer higher power levels than a portable generator, potentially powering your entire home’s appliances. This eliminates rotating a portable generator’s power to various appliances, especially if you can’t be on site at all times. Corrosion-resistant aluminum housing is available on some models, to keep saltwater corrosion from deteriorating its enclosure. It can be installed on a mechanical platform much like air conditioners are installed on raised houses, above the Base Flood Elevation and must be installed by a licensed electrical professional.
These considerations for your home may ensure comfort as well as the longevity of your expensive appliances. Check with a licensed electrician for more details, or consult with your builder in preparation for new construction or remodeling.
Seaside Home Design, LLC endeavors to educate Islander readers regarding a full spectrum of home design and construction issues; products and materials and construction techniques; particularly those specific to seaward construction, and also profiles interesting custom-home design projects. Carolin Santangelo is a home designer and owner of Seaside Home Design, LLC. Contact SeasideHome@windstream.net, or (409) 632-0381, or visit www.SeasideHomeDesign.com.