Do I Need A Subpanel?

Friendly Advice from Your Local Electrician About Installing an Electrical Subpanel in Your Home

Why and Where You May Need a Sub-Panel

Before you begin installing a subpanel in your home or request this service from your local electrical contractor, ask yourself if you really need one. Here we share some insight from our electricians as they give us reasons to install a subpanel in the home, which type of subpanel is recommended, and where you should put a subpanel.

electrical subpanel installed by penna electric
Electrical Subpanel Installation by Penna Electric

Your home is powered from the electric company via the service entrance. Wires feed an electric meter and quite often a disconnect before entering your home’s electrical panel. This panel may be a fuse panel or a circuit breaker panel. These panels have certainly changed over the years. Either way, its job is to protect the home’s wiring from overload via either fuses or circuit breakers. The fuses are designed to take a predetermined amount of current and then the fuse link will melt.

That’s why we say the fuse blow and circuit breakers trip. Circuit breakers, on the other hand, have predetermined limits also, but trip when they exceed the limit and are able to be reset. This makes circuit breakers reusable, while fuses are a one-time thing.

Quick Tip: Electrical Sub-Panel Installations Should Always Be Peformed by a Licensed Electrical Contractor.

Sizing subpanels to the need of your anticipated load can be tricky. You’ll need to consider the amount of available power load you’ll need and what the main service has to offer. For instance, If you have a 200-amp main service, you’ll have no problem adding a 100-amp subpanel to feed a shed, garage, barn, etc. or a 60-amp subpanel to power lighting and general-use outlets in another section of your home. But if you only have a 60-amp service, to begin with and want to add a 60-amp subpanel, you’ll have to upgrade your main panel first to allow such a distribution addition.

When adding a sub panel, I suggest adding at least a 12-slot circuit breaker panel.

This should provide ample room for lighting and general circuits. However, if you plan to add many 240-volt appliances like central air conditioning, baseboard heaters, water heaters, ovens, ranges, or 240-volt window air conditioners, then a circuit breaker panel with more opening may be required, as well as a circuit breaker panel with more openings and a larger main breaker rating.

Subpanels provide a convenience of lessening circuit wiring runs to a minimum by centrally locating the panel, which also lessens the voltage drop that would occur on smaller wires over a long distance. You can see the advantage of running a larger set of panel feeder wires to the area the power distribution is needed, rather than run multiple wires long distances.

Subpanels and main panels alike have specific rules that need to be followed according to the National Electrical Code (NEC). All electrical panels must have a minimum of 36 inches of clearance in front of the panel, 30 inches of clearance across the face of the panel, and a minimum of 78 inches above the floor. If you can picture an invisible phone booth with an electrical panel on one wall, you’ll have a good idea of what is required. Now the NEC goes a little farther in requirements than that. The panel must be mounted in a dry location and have easy access to it. Only attach a panel in an area that is not exposed to flammable materials and never mount it where it is exposed to moisture like a bathroom or indoor swimming pool area or the like.

One last tip about adding a sub panel, whenever dealing with electricity, always turn off the power before you begin any project.

If the power is off, you won’t get shocked. It only takes a minute to shut off the power, but it only takes a split second to get shocked and possibility injured from contact with electricity. Don’t become a statistic. Think about it, it will take you longer to tell me why you won’t shut off the power to the panel than to actually turn it off, walk back to the project, and be safe. Practice safety every day and stay alive!

If you are a homeowner or business owner within a 20 mile radius of Redondo Beach and are looking for the best electrical contractor in the South Bay, then call Penna Electric. Our crews are always standing by. To schedule an estimate for a free quote performed by an actual qualified electrician, please click here to contact us.

4 Questions Restaurant Owners Should Ask When Hiring an Electrician

commercial electriciansWhether remodeling or opening for the first time, hiring the right commercial electricians is a big part of your business’s success. But for those in the restaurant and bar industry, it is even more important that the electrical contractor services that you hire be familiar with the specific needs of a restaurant.

This guide is designed to help you decide which of the commercial electricians you are considering is up to the challenge of working on a restaurant with nothing more than four questions and a five-minute interview.

  • Question One: How familiar are you with the current code?
    Anyone who has worked in a bar or restaurant understands the importance of complying with safety requirements. These codes are the best tool to prevent any sort of electrical problem and can also prevent any accidental electrocution.
  • Question Two: Have you worked on a restaurant before?
    Many contractors believe that a restaurant kitchen and a home kitchen are the same thing, but that can’t be further from the truth. A properly arranged kitchen needs to be able to power dozens of appliances all at once and must be very carefully protected against accidental water (or marinara sauce) spills. That requires a layout and electrical design that will allow you to spread the burden across many circuits, as well as ground fault circuit interrupters, not just on outlets within six feet of a sink as in a conventional kitchen, but throughout.
  • Question Three: What’s the biggest difference in the way you wire the kitchen vs. the dining room?
    While the kitchen may be the area most prone to electrical hazards, the dining room comes with its own unique requirements. The dining room will have to be able to support a myriad of different light fixtures, preferably with as many independent light controls as possible — that flexibility is what will allow you to dim the lights of the private dining room without affecting the main room or the bar. GFCI outlets must also be placed in a way that is conducive to building your POS stations.
  • Question Four: Do you offer flexible service hours?
    You could be talking to the best electrician in the world, but if they only offer their services during normal business hours, they will not be of much use to you or your business. That’s because the vast majority of restaurants operate outside of business hours, some going well into the night. If a problem arises in the middle of a busy shift, you want to know that someone will be there to help you get back on your feet as fast as possible.

Restaurant and bar owners face a wide range of concerns when building or renovating a restaurant. Working with qualified commercial electricians who understand your needs can greatly reduce some of that stress.

How to Know When You Can’t Install a Light Fixture Yourself: a 5 Minute Guide

light fixture installationThe Do It Yourself movement is hardly new at this point, but it is still going strong across the nation. Something about doing the work yourself, really shaping your house into a dream home, appeals to the American psyche.

There are many jobs around the house that don’t require the assistance of licensed electricians: light fixture instillation is usually one of those cases. But not always.

There are a number of factors that might mean you should consult an electrician when attempting to install a light fixture. In this five-minute guide, we will teach you how to recognize the two biggest clues that you need a full service electrician for your light fixture installation.

  • Step One: Check the Amperage
    The first thing you need to do is find out the amperage, or the strength of the electrical current that is sent from your home’s circuit. Then, compare that with the wattage needed by your new light fixture installation.

    If the wattage is too high for your circuit’s amperage, then you either need to find another light fixture, or you will need to run an additional wire from your circuit breaker to the fixture. Because of the difficulty of this task, and the peril that it creates when done incorrectly — after all, 20% if house fires are the result of faulty outlets and cords — you should hire a licensed electrician for this task.
  • Step Two: Determine If Your Wiring Has High Heat Insulation
    While the insulation of your wiring might not seem like a big concern, the fact is that many light fixtures today absolutely require it. Without the proper insulation to the wiring, the insulation will begin to deteriorate and crack.

    If you have an older home that has not had it’s electrical wiring renovated, then you should consider reaching out to an electrician in order to avoid the myriad of issues that might arise for the wrong sort of wires.

It’s easy to understand the DIY craze. It allows you to take full ownership of your space and make it your own. But not every job can or should be performed by an amateur electrician.

When in doubt, it is generally best to contact an electrical contractor for any project around the home. Electricians have years of experience and the knowledge that can keep your family safe, even for a task that is as simple as a light fixture instillation.

Think Your Old Home Can’t Be Ultra-Efficient? This Harvard Initiative Begs to Differ

electriciansAt the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities, a new green housing initiative has been launched. The twist? Unlike most such initiatives, the HouseZero Project plans to convert a home from the 1920s into a no-emissions, ultra-efficient home.

“In the U.S., most of our building stock has already been built,” professor of architectural technology and the leader of the CGBC program, Ali Malkawi, said to Curbed.com. “We’re shattering the belief that you need to build new buildings to be efficient. We want to show how this can be replicated almost anywhere, and solve one of the world’s biggest energy problems, inefficient existing buildings.”

In order to achieve their goal of an ultra-efficient 1920’s home, the HouseZero Projects is planning to undertake the following steps:

  • Solar Vents: Create a thermal uplift to draw cool air from the basement when warm.
  • Maximized Window Shape: Allows more light in during the winter, and limits it during the summer, both to reduce need for artificial lights during the day and also maximize heat.
  • Install a Geothermal Heat Pump: Let’s the home be heated or cooled by the steady temperature of the planet.
  • Solar Shingles: Allows the little need of energy be met by an onsite production.

The project is essentially designed to be a how-to for homeowners with less-than-efficient buildings to renovate their home and make them more sustainable. Of course, these changes should not be attempted on your own. The Electrical Safety Foundation International recommends having an electrical contractor or electrician evaluate any home over 40 years old, some even say over 15. Such large-scale renovations should be done only in close collaboration with licensed electricians.

There is also the factor of cost. The process by which the HouseZero Project is renovating their home is indeed cost prohibitive for many Americans, but the point is less to provide an absolute road map that must be followed in one fell swoop, rather something that homeowners can pick and choose from when they have the funds to make renovations.

As the HouseZero site says: “While a homeowner may not be able to implement every aspect of HouseZero, applying one or more of its components could positively impact its environment, the health of its occupants, and building operating costs.”

If you are looking to make your home more efficient, talk to the Electricians at Penna Electric Today

5 Tips for Beautiful, Safe, and Efficient Outdoor Lighting

electrical contractorWhen most people think of electricians they think specifically of the interior needs of their homes. But electrical contractors can be just as helpful when you are planning any exterior lighting or landscaping renovation.

With summer beginning — at least officially — in the next few weeks, we wanted to take a moment to give some of the tips and tricks to maximize the energy efficiency, safety, and appearance of your exterior lighting.

  1. Professional Light Fixture Installation
    Light fixtures, especially those with a unique design or even custom built, are becoming a popular landscaping feature. Whether it is mounted on the ground or hanging, it is important to have a professional install those features. This will help ensure the feature is water tight, and that the right cords are being used.
  2. Use a Timing Switch
    Forgetting to turn off the light when leaving a room is a cardinal sin of conservation. Now imagine having to worry about leaving the lawn lights on by accident during the day! Installing a timer is a great way to avoid careless mistakes.
  3. Add a Dimmer
    In ancient times, the moon was worshiped for the mysterious way it seemed to grow, then wane until it vanished. Today, that same quality is a burden to the exterior lighting of millions of people worldwide. Installing a dimmer switch allows you to adjust your lights, brighter on nights when the moon is absent, dimmer when the moon is full and you need less light.
  4. Use LEDs
    No only do LEDs lights rated by Energy Star use up to 75% less energy and have been known to outlast incandescent lights, working 25% longer, but they offer you a great deal more design and color variations.
  5. Take Care With Wires
    While some exterior lighting options run on batteries, many still need to be plugged in to function. But even if you use the lights and wires meant to be used outdoors, they can still pose a challenge: poorly concealed wires can cause tripping accident and wires too close to water features still have an electrocutions risk. When in doubt, speak to an electrician.

Hopefully, this guide has given you a few ideas about how to light your outdoor space safely, efficiently, and beautifully.

A Homeowner’s Guide To Electrical Safety

electrical contractor servicesMismanaging your home’s electricity can lead to potentially dangerous situations, causing fires, outages, and other issues. With some basic knowledge, however, every homeowner can ensure that their electric features are working properly and safely. Aside from hiring a professional electrical contractor, be sure to follow these simple steps for electrical management.

    1. Inspect Your Outlets: While you may not pay attention to your outlets in your daily life, there could be issues happening under the surface. Inspect your outlets regularly by placing your hand on the plate, feeling for any heat. If they are warm to the touch, there may be too much electricity going to them.

 

    1. Watch Your Lights: Flickering lights are usually a sign that your electrical panel is acting up or that your home’s circuit is overloaded. If a basic lightbulb change doesn’t fix the issue, be sure to call an electrician for a more thorough inspection.

 

    1. Have A Fire Extinguisher: Electrical fires cause a total of $1.5 billion in property damage every year, so be sure to have a working extinguisher on hand to quickly handle any flames.Remember to never throw water on an electrical fire, as this will make it worse. And of course, if the flames spread too much, get out of the house and call 9-1-1.

 

    1. Use The Correct Wattage: When selecting lightbulbs for your lamps, be sure to check the wattage on the box. Choosing too high of a number could cause the light to overheat, which could be dangerous. If you notice that a lightbulb is smoking, turn off the light and take the bulb out right away. This is a sign that the wattage is too high and you need to buy a new bulb.

 

  1. Manage Your Wires: Keep wires tucked away and untangled, preventing them from breaking or snagging. Also be sure to check for exposed wires regularly and replace any that are worn out. Every wire should fit tightly into every outlet, so be sure to try wiggling your wires after installation.

Remember: The most important safety measure that you can take is hiring electrical contractor services. These professional electricians will inspect your home, spot any safety breaches, and recommend repairs and replacements. Investing in this maintenance is key to keeping your home and family safe.

DIY vs. Professional: Why You Should Always Hire a Licensed Electrician

electricianYou might think a Do-It-Yourself electrical project is a good idea, especially if you just opened a large stack of bills. But not only would you be wrong, but you would also run a serious risk of being injured by the end of your attempted DIY electrician work. There are just over 583,500 electricians currently working in the U.S., and there’s a reason each and every one of them spent years being trained and licensed to do this important work.

If you’re experiencing electrical problems at home, then all you need to do is call one of them. Here are a few more excellent reasons why you should be hiring licensed electricians for all of your home and business electrical issues.

Training
In most cases, an electrician in Los Angeles working with connections greater than 100 volt amps must be certified by the state of California, and similar regulations apply in most states. This process includes passing a test and either completing an apprenticeship program or completing at least 8,000 hours of work for a certified electrical contractor.

Licensed electricians have the proper training to carry out any kind of electrical work you might need done around your home. Lighting fixture not working? Faulty outlets making you nervous? If you don’t know what the root of the problem is or how to fix it, you need to call a licensed professional who knows exactly what they’re doing with your home. Not only will they have prior training, they very likely receive ongoing training that consistently serves as a refresher. This isn’t knowledge that can be replicated simply by watching a DIY tutorial on the Internet!

Insurance
Do you have the kind of insurance that would make you safe if you performed DIY electrician services in your home? No? Then you probably shouldn’t attempt to re-wire that light switch. A full service electrician will have the necessary insurance to perform tasks in your home and provide full coverage for you. Your homeowner’s insurance may cover certain issues, but it also usually requires that you hire a licensed professional for any work performed.

Referrals
If there’s one thing a licensed professional can offer, it’s testimonials of their successful work. Asking for references is an important step to take when you’re seeking out any licensed professional, especially one doing work on your home. If you’re doing the work yourself, the only review you have to rely on is your own, and that’s not always the best or most objective source.

Permits
Very simple fixes may not require a permit from your county or municipality, but if you are undertaking a serious renovation, appliance installation, or new wiring, then you likely need the proper permits for this work. Chances are you do not know how to apply for nor obtain this kind of permit, and any work you do without one could lead to fines, injuries, and other legal problems.

For all these reasons and many more (specifically, electrocution), hiring a licensed professional to handle the electrical work around your home or business could very well be the best decision you ever make. Instead of struggling with issues you don’t know how to fix or muddling your way through DIY electrical repairs, you’ll have a guaranteed solution.

Electrical outlets with four spaces and two of them have chords plugged in.

Best Strategic Places to Install Outlets

If you walk into the average home, you’ll find outlets scattered around the room near the baseboards. Sure, they get the job done, but placing outlets in this way isn’t very convenient.

Why are outlets installed this way? Well, contractors will install outlets only where they need to in order to pass the safety inspection. Minimizing outlets also helps them save money. Outlets aren’t installed with the homeowner in mind, but you’re the one who’s going to be stuck with those outlets for years!

Having many strategically located outlets is important because it allows you to live life your way. Their placement doesn’t have to mess with the aesthetic beauty of your home either!

Here are some of the best places to put outlets that will make living your life much more convenient.

  1. Outlets above shelves and tables

Many people put their phones, laptops, and tablets on a shelf or table when they are at home. Why not charge those devices while they’re sitting there?

Entry outlets placed above shelves or tables make convenient charging points, ensuring you never leave home with an uncharged device.

  1. Floor outlets

Ever walk into a room and see wires crisscrossing the floor? These wires destroy the aesthetic appeal of the room, in addition to causing a tripping hazard. Floor outlets can solve this problem.

Install a few extra outlets near the floor and eliminate the need for extension cords. You can even consider installing outlets directly in the floor, to further reduce tripping hazards.

  1. Wall-mounted outlets

Wall-mounted TVs are common in many homes today, which means unsightly cords drooping down the wall to the outlet. You can eliminate the need for such cords by installing a wall-mounted outlet that specifically caters to your TV.

Your TV area will remain clean and uncluttered because you can also use the conduit hidden in the wall to connect your TV to other electronic devices, like DVD players and gaming systems.

  1. Bathroom outlets

From electric razors to hair dryers and straighteners, you can find a lot of electronics in the bathroom. The trouble is, the bathroom can be humid and wet, so paying special attention to bathroom outlets is important.

It is convenient and safe to have specific outlets dedicated to each item. For example, you can have outlets on both sides of your sink so that two people can use electric devices at once without an extension cord.

  1. Outlets for the kitchen

Homebuilders will always have outlets ready for large kitchen appliances, but you might have to install outlets for small appliances on the kitchen counter.

You can have countertop outlets powering toasters, teapots, and blenders. You can also dedicate other strategically placed outlets to power laptops, phones, and TVs. Outlets can be installed on walls, under kitchen cabinets, and directly on the counter, depending on the placement that works best for you.

  1. Outlets for your office at home

Computers and tablets and printers, oh my! Home offices sure do have a huge number of electronics!

These devices run simultaneously, which means extension cords and power strips are common. Unfortunately, these cords are inconvenient, they make an office look messy, and they can even be dangerous.

Instead, place outlets above the desk in your office to eliminate the mess of cords on the floor. Install as many outlets as you need to make sure that every electronic device in your office has its own dedicated outlet and you can avoid the power strips and extension cords altogether.

If you’re looking for a few extra outlets in your home that will make living life easier, call Penna Electric. Our knowledgeable, experienced staff will get your electrical work done right the first time, every time.

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Circuit Protection: Too Important to be an Afterthought

Today’s electronics are getting prettier, smaller, and faster, creating a challenge for electricians and customers who are compelled to fit everything into a smaller electronic environment. When you add circuit protection to this small design, the story gets more complicated for those looking to safeguard their electronics, appliances, etc.

The problem of over-current and over-voltage is still an afterthought for most people. However, a simple contact between your nylon shirt and the computer can result in a crash due to electrostatic discharge.

The same level of protection you give to a multi-million-dollar substation is also required to protect your little sub-circuit. It is crucial to protect the tiniest circuits to make them safe for users. Protecting your circuits is imperative since it gives any electrical installation a long life in addition to keeping you safe from electrical shock due to over-voltage.

Just like Murphy’s Law states, anything bad that can happen will happen. If your circuit is designed with faults or without protection, problems are bound to happen either within the system or from an outside source. Circuit protection mainly aims to safeguard against loss of functionality while minimally or not affecting the core functionality of the circuit system. This protection covers three key areas: variations in the mains voltage, protecting against high voltage and lightning, and protecting against electrostatic discharge.

Causes of Problems:

  1. Internal Problems: short-circuit, which causes over-current or a current overload, and transient voltage spikes causing over-voltage. These events can negatively impact the sensitive circuits resulting in damage or loss of function if not handled in time.
  2. External Problems: can be caused by lightning interference, which can induce electrical surges inside the electronics; this surge can travel from the outer conductors on the grid to the electronics in the home.

In short, circuit protection is there to protect your electronics, appliances and more. If you want things up and running and have very little chance for down time don’t ignore the need for circuit protection. At Penna Electric we are able to service circuit breakers, upgrades along with a full range of other servics for our customers to make sure they are safe and happy.

If you are in need of any type of electrical repairs or installation, call Penna Electric. Our knowledgeable, experienced staff will get your electrical work done right the first time every time.

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Lighting the Way: Scientists Develop Solar-Powered Cement to Light Up Roads and Save Electricity

A lot of energy is consumed on a daily basis for both public and private purposes. Currently, many people are looking for renewable energy sources to save non-renewable sources and reduce the cost of energy. The governments of almost every country are supporting these steps and inspiring people to opt for renewable energy whenever possible because of the money it saves and the environmental campaigns it supports.

In recent decades, people from all over the world have started using solar energy for many different purposes. But now, a new and exciting way has emerged for solar energy to be used for the public interest: solar-powered, fluorescent roads.

Lighting for roadways might seem basic and simple. In reality, though, it requires a huge amount of energy. Streetlamps demand a lot of electricity, and that energy racks up heavy costs on a daily basis. To manage this situation, scientists at the Michoacán’s University of the San Nicolas Hidalgo in Mexico have suggested a revolutionary solution that will not only reduce the energy cost, but also save electricity by using renewable resources.

So what’s the plan?

Renewable energy is not new. We have been using solar energy to save electricity for quite some time. The Michoacán’s researchers have gone a step further. They have created a light-emitting cement to save energy. This solar-powered cement will absorb solar energy throughout the day, and this solar energy will be released in the darkness of the night, reducing or eliminating the need for electric lighting. In this way, roads, vehicles, bicycle lanes, and highways can all be lit naturally.

The project took nine years to show a result. Dr. Rubio, one of the scientists involved in this project, sought to engineer a variety of cements that would allow light to be absorbed. Cement contains crystals that make it opaque; if they could remove those crystals, they could be on their way.

Rubio’s team tried to modify the microstructure of the cement to get rid of these opaque crystals to get a complete gel substance. If they are able to produce the gel substance on its own, it will absorb solar energy during the daytime and release the energy in the darkness of night for up to 12 hours. Currently, solar-powered cement can emit only green or blue light.

What they developed starts out, like regular cement, as a dust-like concoction that dissolves in water. When mixed with water, the solar-powered cement takes on the consistency of hair gel, and, when it dries, it is much stronger and resilient.

Most fluorescent materials are currently used in plastic, and these plastics can last for about three years. But the new cement these researchers invented can stay useful for up to a hundred years. In addition, the intensity of the light can be controlled to make the driving easy for travelers.

The solar-powered cement produced by Rubio and his team is ecologically sound as it is made of clay, dust, and sand. The team has received a lot of appreciation and worldwide recognition for this new invention, which provides another step in the progress of renewable energy.

If you are in need of any type of electrical repairs or installation, call Penna Electric. Our knowledgeable, experienced staff will get your electrical work done right the first time every time.

 

IMAGE CREDIT: Courtesy of Pim Hendriksen