SAFETY TIPS
Brought to you by Good Connections Electric Inc.

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in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia, Canada.

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Here are some of the SAFETY TIPS that were published in the Mayneliner and the Active Page monthlies over the years. 
Some of them may contain information that is out of date now.
(Copyrighted by River Judd except where noted.)

DOWNED POWER LINES and TREES ON POWER LINES

BASEBOARD HEATERS NEAR BEDS etc

EXTENSION CORDS vs. DOORS

HEAT LAMPS

RADIANT ELECTRIC HEAT PANELS

MORE on RADIANT ELECTRIC HEAT PANELS

IN THE TUB and other common sense secrets....

LIKE A BIRD ON A WIRE...

TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT

THIS IS A TEST ...

"TRAILER FOR SALE, OR RENT ....

STAYING ALIVE - while recycling

UPDATE on RADIANT ELECTRIC HEATING

HOME GENERATORS for POWER OUTAGE

GROUNDING and PEACE of MIND

POWER SURGES and WATER PUMPS

SMOKE ALARMS

HALOGEN LAMPS

DO-IT-YOURSELF WIRING

DO-IT-YOURSELF SAUNAS

 

 

SUMMER LIGHTING STORMS EAT ISLAND GOODIES

TOASTY WINTER SNOOZING

WINTER-STORMS-R-US

DOWN TO THE OCEAN - with TOOLS

POT LIGHT POSSIBILITIES

STRESSED-OUT LIGHT BULBS

STANDBY GENERATORS REVISITED

SUMMER LIFESAVERS

HARMONIOUS CORDS 2

WELL SEASONED APPLIANCES

WINTERIZE YOUR HEATERS

COLD WINDS A-GONNA BLOW

'TIS THE SEASON to be CAREFUL

ARE YOU ALARMED?

The MOST DANGEROUS ROOM

PRE-CRUISE MINI-CHECK

DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING?

ROCK PAPER SCISSORS - FIR?

GENERATING DISASTER

SWITCH ON YOUR GARDEN - SAFELY

 


DOWNED POWER LINES and TREES ON POWER LINES are a common occurrence hereabouts.

The main danger is twofold:
1) the voltage is
100 times higher than in your light bulb,
2) where the wire or tree touches the ground the voltage dissipates only gradually for several meters around the contact point. Walking in this area can give you dangerous shocks up your legs. Stay away and call Hydro or the Fire Dept immediately.

Stay in your car if you have hit the tree - wait for help.

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BASEBOARD HEATERS NEAR BEDS etc

The element in your friendly home baseboard heater is capable of very much higher than room temperature. That is it's method of heating air quickly. The problem is it can get hot enough to burn household materials like paper and cloth.

Although there is a high temperature cutoff device inside the heater it is important to let the room air circulate through the heater.

A common problem is heaters that are installed beside beds close to a wall where bedding can fall unnoticed and block the air flow.

If the cutoff were to fail a fire would be possible.

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EXTENSION CORDS vs. DOORS

As many a small child has discovered through unwitting experiments with little fingers, hinged doors and windows can exert tremendous pressure.

When cords get pinched between door and frame the insulation between the conductors gets very thin. Fires love to start right there.

Another chilling thought is that wire pinched in metal door frames could make the whole frame 'hot' - and you too!

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HEAT LAMPS

They sure are great in a cold bathroom - quiet and innocent enough looking too. Properly installed there fine but watch for these points:

1) There must be proper clearance between the metal enclosure of the light and the wood frame of the house (this depends on each manufacturer),

2) The lights must not be installed over the swing area of doors - they can burn the top of the door.

3) Keep towels, curtains, etc away.

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RADIANT ELECTRIC HEAT PANELS

Radiant electric panels in the ceiling can be punctured by screws and anchors used to hang plants and decorations. This could possibly disable a large section of heating. It could also connect the screw and planter (and you) to live voltage.

If you have had these panels installed since NOV 3/93 the government requires that you contact your installer to determine which brand was used; one of the brands has been recalled due to fire hazard.

And from the future: The research is definitely not complete, but some investigators are questioning the wisdom of living inside so large an electric field. They are worried about the effects of 60 cycle energy on the nervous system. We shall see....

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MORE on RADIANT ELECTRIC HEAT PANELS

This issue is partly a re-iteration of a previous one since second home fire has been reported.

In B.C., radiant electric panels in the ceiling are now limited to 18 Watts per square FOOT maximum. This applies to flexible thin-sheet radiant ceiling panels. In addition, manufacturers must now have a representative certify that the installation methods and materials are appropriate.

If you have had radiant heating panels installed since Nov. 3/93 you must have your contractor ensure that the product used is NOT marked as "THERMAFLEX SCOTLAND", or "AZTEC-FLEXEL". This product has a 22 Watt per square foot rating.

Contact your builder or electrician for more information on this topic.

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IN THE TUB and other common sense secrets....

Just to make sure that everyone does, in fact, know about these basics lets me repeat them.

If you come in contact with house electricity when you are touching water you are in serious danger of injury or death from shock. The reason is that water facilitates conductivity at the point of contact and may also provide the path to ground the electricity is seeking.

If you are IN the water (pool, tub, sauna, etc.) the body contact area is huge and thus extra dangerous. So please don't use radios, lights, or any other appliances that plug into house current near any of these areas. Reaching for them from the tub or having them fall in by accident is what we all, including the ambulance crew, don't want. Battery radios, etc. are safe to use there.

In the kitchen do not touch the sink or plumbing while operating counter appliances. Outside, use a Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI) outlet to supply the cord. New houses have these by code. If your older house doesn't any handy person can easily swap the old one for the GFI outlet (aprox $15) after turning off the breaker.

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LIKE A BIRD ON A WIRE...

Those overhead wires that feed your house have a characteristic that is unusual for the rest of the house wiring. The amount of current that they can supply before their circuit protection cuts in would truly boggle your eyes to see. Ditto for heat and flailing wires. This is because one circuit supplies a few houses.

Spots to watch for include that new verandah (etc.) roof you added which had to push the overhead cable "just a little bit...", or trees that have grown to touch the wires, or poles that have sagged and dropped the wires on some structure. The friction will eventually wear the insulation thin.

Too bad you won't know just when to get the popcorn and neighbours out to watch the fireworks. So keep the birds safe and the volunteer firefighters at home with the Canuks, eh?!

PS. If you can touch the wire from your window, deck or walkway please get this remedied. The Code says they must be 12 feet above pedestrian surfaces and out of reach from the balcony, etc.

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TO EAT OR NOT OT EAT

The Nth commandment of Her Majesty's Health Department runs something like "Thou shall not eat re-frozen flesh of the beasts", Watts that got to do with electrical safety you say?

Consider: Young Johnny is playing with his Nintendo creating zero muscle heat in the basement and soon flicks on the plug-in space heater (1500 watts). As usual when he leaves the room for lunch the heater is left on. The freezer in the next room comes on sooner or later and pop goes the breaker. Mom comes home, heater's off, no problem.

Dad comes home late next day, light won't come on, flips the breaker on, turns the heater off, goes to bed, freezer happily re-freezes the septic mush that has melted during the day. Mom feeds the crew from the freezer two weeks later, the ambulance crew cleans up the pain and suffering, you get the picture....

Nth commandment of Her Majesty's Electrical Department is "Thou shalt have a separate breaker for each freezer or fridge" Thus when things thaw because of a tripped breaker the next person to raid the icebox will see the problem.

New wiring must be done to this standard. The danger spot occurs when you bring home that neato freezer from the rummage sale and plug into existing wiring with other outlets on the circuit.

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THIS IS A TEST ...

Can you say 'Ground Fault Interrupter' with a straight face? or without a little twinge of what-the-heck-is-it-anyway? GFI's (Jiffys) are smart little gadgets that provide state of the art protection from shock for us humanoids.

We all know about fuses and circuit breakers that protect wires and equipment from too much current, eg. 15, 20, 40 amps. But it only takes 20 thousandths of an amp across our hearts to injure or kill us. So obviously we need TWO KINDS OF PROTECTION - one for people and one for hardware.

GFI protection is for people using electrical equipment while standing on the ground, or concrete or touching grounded metal like sinks. Ditto especially for swimming pools and hot tubs.

GFI's come as breakers in your house breaker panel or as wall receptacles (much less expensive but just as good). In both cases they have a TEST button which like should be used ONCE A MONTH (or before each use of the hot tub).

For you teckies, the way they work is by detecting the difference between outgoing and incoming current in the circuit. If there is more that 10 milliamps difference (which may be going through you) the circuit is disconnected until you press the RESET. This could happen through leakage in the appliance, cracked insulation on the cord, or moisture on the surfaces of both.

One of our more useful pieces of scientific endeavor, GFIs are easily installed and can even be used in older houses that do not have a ground wire in the receptacles.

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"TRAILER FOR SALE, OR RENT ....

No, Roger, this is not a Country and Western song title but a title info for you bargain hunters out there in building site land.

If you are planning to electrify a trailer for use while building on your nifty island lot, please heed the following. The trailer needs to have CSA approval FOR ELECTRICITY i.e.. there must be a "Z240" designation on the manufacturers CSA sticker.

If not your electrician will need to upgrade the wiring to present standards. The main problem with trailers is the thinness of the walls providing less than housing standard minimum protection. Nails and screws in the walls for siding, pictures, phones, etc. can do wonders for your hair style if they puncture the cables. Also, if there has been a lot of vibration or damp/wet conditions the insulation may not be good enough any more.

So before you but that beauty with the so-fine cheap price...

(This is part of a series of safety issues presented as a public service by Good Connections Electric.)

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STAYING ALIVE - while recycling

For us here in the land of yard sales and the rummage blowouts here are some un-shocking reminders about old electrical gadgets.

An electric tool may work with the third-wire grounding plug snipped off but your kids don't want you using it (unless you've been nasty to them recently). If connections come loose inside and short to the housing your skin becomes a conductor and you become irritable, or worse.

Old brass lamps can have insulation that has rotted away. Even the brass pull chains can conduct.

Inspect any cords that have repair tape before using and replace plugs that have loose prongs or cracked cases. With your fingers, make some tight bends in cords and replace any with frayed or cracked insulation. If you're not sure take your new treasures to an electrical store for a safety check.

Safe Recycling Everyone!

(This is part of a series of safety issues presented as a public service by Good Connections Electric.)

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HARMONIOUS CORDS - while recycling

Power cords, power cords. Love 'em, hate 'em. Have you ever noticed how a cord can reach furtively out and snag nails, chairs, cats and peanut butter sandwiches that weren't even in the room before you tried to pull just 1 foot farther from the top of a ladder?

Cord sizing is easier though. They come in AWG sizes #18 (small), #16, #14, #12 & #10 (large). Larger conductors have less resistance per foot to electrical current which means you lose less pressure (voltage) in the cord on the way to your tools.

If tools seem sluggish the cord wire may be to small or too long. Also, due to magnetic principles, motors supplied with reduced voltage try to make up for it by increasing the current, even to the point of burn-out under load.

Stores commonly undersize cords but the size is usually on the label.

The PORTACABLE catalogue suggests:
total current in cord total cord length wire size
  5 amps   25 feet -  #18,      100 feet  - #14
15 amps   25 feet -  #14,        50 feet  - #12,         100 feet -  #10

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UPDATE on RADIANT ELECTRIC HEATING

DISCONNECT ORDERS from B.C. GOVERNMENT

Yet another house fire has prompted our Electrical watchdogs to order disconnection (not removal) of the following types of ceiling heating panels:

All Aztex-Flexel rated 22 watts per sq.ft.

All Thermaflex ceiling panels rated 22 watts per sq.ft.

All Flexwatt radiant heating panels.

Further, all new installations of any radiant ceiling panels may not be more than 18 watts per sq.ft.

Support for consumers has been arranged by the Ministry of Housing for issues such as safety, insurance, class action legislation,.... Please call (800) 407-7757.

Personally, I believe that the large area of electric field broadcast from room surfaces is a hazard to humans. The research on this is not conclusive but concern is mounting. However, the excellent benefits of radiant heating can be obtained safely from fluid filled tubing systems powered the fuel of your choice - gas, oil, wood, electricity, solar,...

Have a Safe New Year

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HOME GENERATORS for POWER OUTAGES

'Tis the season... for the great Tree vs. Hydro Playoffs, what with all the wet roots and heavy snow and winds. So how to hook up that trusty, standby generator to keep the lights on?

SAFE METHOD: through a TRANSFER SWITCH installed to code specifications.  It disconnects the house supply from Hydro and then connects it to the private generator. And away you go as long as there's gas and the neighbours don't hate your noise.

HAYWIRE METHOD: get an extension cord with a MALE plug on BOTH ends and plug  the generator into any house receptacle. 
Nifty Results: 
1) dangerous live male end that the kids get to play with by pulling out the cord.
2) power gets feed back though the Hydro lines, the transformers pump it back up to 14,000 volts, then out to the downed high voltage lines and POOF one less Hydro line worker. Not a good way to downsize Hydro!!
These are universally regarded as Very Bad Things.  Don't let your parents try this at home, kids!!

Please get it done right.

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GROUNDING and PEACE of MIND

Ever wondered about those pesky ground rods and thick wires that trip you up in your flower beds actually do?
They have two main functions:
1) When wires come loose inside an appliance and touch its metal covers, the ground conducts current into the earth, which blows the breaker. This renders the circuit dead and thus safe for humans.
2) Preventing 'Galloping Voltage'. The transformer on the pole outside your house provides 120 volts between its two output connections. One is tied to 0 volts by a good ground connection and the other is thus 120 volts - good for your toaster.

However, if the ground fails, the transformer is just as happy to give you any other two output voltages as long as they are still 120 volts apart - like, say 12,000 and 12,120 volts. This will make your toaster, and you very unhappy, or worse.

If you see that your ground rods or wires are removed or damaged please get them repaired ASAP.

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POWER SURGES and WATER PUMPS, or Just when you thought you were safe underground.

Did your submersible pump die after a thunderstorm?

Overhead power lines are subject to extremely high voltage surges during electrical storms. These are caused by direct lightning hits as well as induction by passage of charged clouds or air over the lines.

Since underground pumps are so well grounded in the water, they provide an excellent path for the surge. Pump windings can be weakened or destroyed in the process.

Many pumps built in the last 5 years have lightning protection built in. Check with your pump supplier.

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SMOKE ALARMS - small device, big responsibility.

Building codes require one on every floor of a house, placed outside the bedroom doors, and they must also be powered by the house wiring. For island realties it's a good idea to have some others that are battery powered for those stormy nights. But remember they're only as good as the battery replacer.

They have problems with below 5 degree C temperatures, with above 90% humidity, with dust and bugs. If they are too close to fluorescent lights they can give false alarms and induce nearby humans to rip them off the ceiling. Not good for safety.

Vacuum them once a month to remove bugs and dust. Test them one a week by pushing the button on the lid while having someone else verify that those on other floors sound at the same time. Dispose of them safely; they are often radioactive inside.

A little pain to avoid a monstrous one.

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HALOGEN LAMPS- worlds smallest heaters

Those new, stylish, .. and tippy ... Halogen floor lamps are starting to cause fires when they fall over. For example, contact with a cotton comforter results in flames in a few minutes. Even the lower 300 watt bulbs are 300 degrees C as opposed to a 150 watt (huge) incandescent at 150 C. New, safer lamps are coming that won’t ignite cheesecloth after hours of contact but they’ll be hard to spot from the older ones.

If you have a 500 W bulb consider a lower wattage. However, Consumer Reports recommends returning the lamp to the vendor or keeping the lamp away from combustible furnishings. These lights don’t mix at all with toddlers!.

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DO-IT-YOURSELF-WIRING

Strange as it may seem, it is possible to ruin all your new wiring by tightening the cable connectors. Well, actually, OVER-tightening. Those nifty connectors that fasten the various cables to outlet boxes and breaker panels can easily be screwed down so hard that the plastic insulation just flows away from the conductors. And, voila, shorts and fire. This is especially true when you have the wrong type of connector for plastic cables, like those designed for armoured cables (flex). "Just snug" so they won’t pull out is all that’s needed.

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DO-IT-YOURSELF-SAUNAS

Before you (re?)design your wonderful little home sauna for domestic bliss, please consider the following notes from a CSA Fire Inspector. Fires have resulted from:
Cedar bench placed on top of the heater, heater left on overnight - Poof!
Heaters located too close to the wall - hey, cedar is good kindling, remember.
Heater installed without legs over wood floor - no cooling ventilation - Shazaam!
High temperature cutout sensor placed outside the sauna - keep your thinking caps on!
Paper stored in unused sauna, heater turned on by accident - 911!
Shower head above heater - Over time corrosion damages metal parts leading to shock hazards.

Installed to manufacturers specifications these little delights are safe so do it right and enjoy. Us fire fighters prefer that YOU do the sweating.

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SUMMER LIGHTING STORMS EAT ISLAND GOODIES

Voltage spikes from on high and also those generated by BC Hydro love to gobble up the innards of your TV’s, microwaves, computers, stereos, etc. These pointy headed nasties travel along both the POWER and PHONE LINES so you need to protect yourself from both if you have modem, fax or expensive telephone equipment.

CALL US FOR SURGE PROTECTION

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TOASTY WINTER SNOOZING

Ah, those chilly nights under a warm Hudson’s Bay blanket with your teddy bear. Or how about an electric blanket if the power doesn’t depart in the night. Well, okay but remember to not get too cozy with it so it gets crumpled or stretched. The insulation around the conductors inside must remain in top shape for everyone to be happy. Other no-no’s: No washing, no getting wet, no spots in the blanket that feel way hotter than the rest of the blanket, no using a blanket that doesn’t respond to it’s controller setting. Sleep tight!

PS. Author’s opinion: There is mounting concern that Low Frequency Radiation (including 60 cycles) may be harmful to humans. We’ll just have to wait for the jury on that one though.

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The WINTER-STORMS-R-US Safety Refresher.

Just a few reminders about life in Wind-er Lotus Land:
If power lines are down:

If your refrigerator or freezer loses power:

If a power outage occurs in your area:

Keep your candles in a place you can find them in the dark!!

(Just for fun this time, I got some of this info off the Internet from the Tampa Bay Electric Company in Florida!)

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DOWN TO THE OCEAN - with TOOLS

So there your are putting the finishing touches on your old favorite boat. Oops, just knocked the electric drill into the water. Hey, it's still attached to the cord and you can pull it up. Well, okay, but only if your family has no further use for you. Better Idea: Unplug the extension cord from the wall first. Water and electricity don't mix.

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POT LIGHT POSSIBILITES for ‘Do-It-Yourselfers’

Since pot lights live in ceilings they MAY have to deal with vapour barriers and/or insulation. If your application has either of these the pot you choose must have a sticker showing they are rated correctly. Unrated pots are for use in uninsulated ceilings like basements.

As for HEAT LAMPS, check with an electrical contractor or Inspector before installing one of those hot numbers

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STRESSED-OUT LIGHT BULBS, part 2.  (See last month for Part 1.)

One easy thing to try after checking for socket corrosion and bulb wattage is trying a 130 volt bulb. They are less sensitive to spikes from Hydro or nearby large motor's starting-up.

Also, try using another bulb manufacturer. Possibly there was a bad batch of lamps from one supplier or one batch with the voltage mislabeled.

What's more likely, though, is vibration. For example, incandescent fixtures near doors, especially on the face of a garage. The vibration from the opening and closing of the door snaps the hot filaments.

You could mount the fixtures on a piece of rubber to isolate them from the vibration, or change to compact florescent fixtures. The second option will stop the short life problem and create more light for less energy.

There is quite a bit more to the topic of short lived bulbs so call us if you still have trouble.



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STANDBY GENERATORS REVISITED

You probably know by now NOT to us an extension cord with two male ends on it to power your house from a generator when Hydro is off.  (Dead Hydro linemen is the theme here).  But here's a twist for the summer season.
Let's say you've got the motor home plugged into the house for visitors when the tree next door takes out the power lines.  So you start the motor home generator and then notice house lights come on.  Newer designs should prevent this but always make sure.  Unplugging the house during generator operation will ensure safety.

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SUMMER LIFESAVERS

GFIs, Ground Fault Interrupters, are nifty devices that let the full circuit current through to your appliance while performing a Death Defying Act.  If the electricity flowing into the circuit differs by even a slight amount from that returning, the GFI will quickly shut off the current.  If the stray current happens to flow through you, you will feel a shock but the device operates very quickly to prevent electrocution.  So this summer when you are mowing and weed eating make sure the circuit is protected at the receptacle or the breaker panel with a GFI device.  Electricity loves moist grass and leaves.

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HARMONIOUS CORDS 2

Summer time tasks take us outside with those trusty extension cords for mowing, building, irrigation and "lawn tenting" for the kids.  Here are some things to remember.

Make sure the third prong of a three-pronged plug has not been broken off. Its purpose is to protect you from shock if something goes wrong with the tool you are powering.

No exposed conductors! Make sure the cord jacket is in good shape.  Keeping a loop over you shoulder may help keep the mower away from the cord.

Many cords sold are too small for larger mowers or saws, etc. #18 and #16 wire are not rated for the full 15 amps that the breaker supplies. Turn off electrical products if a cord overheats. Ask for #14 wire if for large motors.

Check the breaker size.  The maximum is 15 amps for the regular parallel blade plugs we're used to.

Use only weather-resistant heavy gauge extension cords marked "For Outdoor Use."

Unplug the cord when not in use.

If an electrical tool falls into a pool or pond, unplug it first. Do not reach into the water for it.

Use a Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI) breaker or receptacle to power all outdoor and wet location uses

Plus, remember safety glasses for tools and long pants & boots for lawn mowers.  Our Ambulance attendants would rather be at the beach. 

Safe Summer Everyone.
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SUMMER'S LITTLE VISITORS

A magical trip to Granny's house can be a highlight of a toddler's summer but because kids are not often around Granny's house have unprotected wall receptacles.  These just happen to be exactly at exploration height for small hands with pins and other metal pokers. 
Childproof Electrical Outlet Covers plug into or screw onto the outlets to keep kids safe.  Check out a few hardware stores for varieties and prices.

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WELL SEASONED APPLIANCES

As we head into Fall this month and wetter times please remember to be safe when you are using powered tools outside.  Check that the insulation on your electrical cords are not cracked or separated from the connectors - no bare conductors, please!  Cords need to have the third ground prong still functional or be the polarized type (one prong wider than the other) for double insulated tools.  If you are vacuuming your car outside make sure it is the Wet/Dry type if there is any water involved.

Use a Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI) breaker or receptacle when using the tool on grass or earth of if the area is wet. Press the TEST button on your GFIs ONCE A MONTH and replace if it does not trip.  Press the Reset button to reconnect power.  It is easy to add a GFI if your receptacle doesn't have one.

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WINTERIZE YOUR HEATERS

Okay, I'm not trying to rub it in (on this glorious 1st day of fall) but it actually is time to think about cooler temperatures to come.  How about that plug-in electric heater or two that you put in somewhere to solve a temporary freezing or dampness problem?  Is it in danger of being tipped over, or covered by adjacent things, or having its cord caught in the door?
Consider an installed heater that can solve all these troubles and keep you warm & safe.  They also run on 240 volts (instead of 120) and thus keep your breakers from blowing.
Call your Electrician for styles & prices


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COLD WINDS A-GONNA BLOW

... and your trusty generator may be needed soon enough.  Now's the time to check some out some important things:
1) Is there a safe connection to the circuits that you use?
- extension cords in good repair to the devices you operate
- or better, a generator receptacle in the house wall to take the generator power to a Transfer Panel.  This panel ensures that power enters the house from only one source - generator or Hydro.
DO NOT USE A CORD WITH 2 MALE ENDS to go between the generator and a house receptacle.  It's cheap but very dangerous with a live male plus it will send power back out to the Hydro lines and electrocute the linemen who are trying to fix the trouble.

2) Check the oil! - should be done every day of operation,
Check air filter if present,
Check that the exhaust will not get into the house and no hot surfaces are near wood or rags, etc.

3) Can you start the generator? - pull cord available, battery charged, gas in the tank, gas in another gas can, flashlight, spare flashlight.
Do you know how to operate the controls - gas, choke, on /off switch - some machines have them scattered all around the engine(!)

It's a good idea to keep very little gas in the tank and add a stabilizer to it so since it can get very old and gum up the works.  Have gas available from a portable tank that you use for other engines during the year.

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'TIS the SEASON to be CAREFUL

..and that goes for electrical common sense too.
Keep your tree well watered so it doesn't become tinder dry and NO LIGHTS on METAL trees, please!
A major culprit in Christmas time fires is poorly constructed extension cords.  Check that there is a ULc or CSA sticker on cords and power bars.  Many of the cheap, imported ones are not tested by these organizations and have caused much grief in the last few years.
If you're hanging lights outside make sure the cords are approved for exterior use and keep them away from metal roofs and siding. If the insulation gets nicked the whole roof could become live. And use GFI style receptacles for outside lights and cords.
 

One third of all deaths related to electricity derive from plugs and cords!
In the last 7 years 2 million shoddy cords have been recalled in the U.S.
 
 

Always use polarized plugs (one blade is bigger than the other, and heavier cords if many smaller ones are plugged in to it.
To be safe, turn off the lights while you sleep.
No tragedies please, just when all the family folks, big and small, are getting together.
And have a loving Holiday Season All.

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ARE YOU ALARMED?

Its March, Spring is coming, you're itching to get into the garden but the rains are still with us and you're bored crazy.
Okay, how about passing the time with a little safety task - Check Your Smoke Alarms.  Battery powered or direct wired, these little house helpers need to be tested for their ability to sound the alarm. 
Hold a burning stick of incense or a cigarette close to the edge of the alarm so the smoke can drift into it.  When it goes off fan it with a newspaper to clear the smoke - and the noise.
If your alarms are direct wired have a friend check that they all sound at the same time when one goes off (or get your sneakers on and catch a little exercise sprinting around the house yourself).
Change the battery once a year if the alarm has one.  If the alarm starts beeping every minute or so it is trying to tell you the battery is getting low.
A dead alarm is worse than no alarm.

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The MOST DANGEROUS ROOM

... is the one that contains your electric (or other) cook stove - the kitchen - because of the risk of fires.  Good news is most kitchen fires can be prevented.

Deep frying leads to a lot of these home fires. Oil or grease can heat up very fast and catch fire. For those who enjoy fried food in the cold weather, this means taking a few simple precautions. Above all, never, ever leave cooking unattended. It's safest to fry food in a CSA certified electric deep fryer with a temperature control. If you must use a sauce pan or frying pan, heat the oil slowly. Always turn off the heat as soon as the cooking is done. Built-up grease can easily catch fire, so clean your burner pans and stove top regularly.

What if grease catches fire in the kitchen? You should have a fire extinguisher nearby for this type of emergency, in addition to a working smoke alarm.  Never try to put a grease fire out with water. If possible, cover the pan with a close fitting lid to smother the flames; you may use baking soda on shallow grease fires. Turning off the breaker for the stove can help but sometimes the panel location is not known or it is covered with an expensive picture.  Use a tapestry instead.  It can be thrown aside in an emergency.

If you can't control the fire immediately, get yourself and your family out fast, and call 911 from a neighbour's phone.
 
adapted from a Canada Safety Council article



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PRE-CRUISE MINI-CHECK (Third Article on our Marine Electrical Series)

-battery top surfaces clean and dry
-acid (electrolyte) level up to plastic liner inside holes
-'at rest' battery voltage is 12.1 to 12.8 Volts
-engine cranks properly for 5 seconds with each battery alone -- battery voltage is above 9.5 Volts and steady, while cranking
-starter and winch motors get 9.0 Volts or more while operating
-external connections clean, sealed from moisture, and positive terminals are covered
-alternator drive belt(s) tight and in good shape
-compasses not affected by operation of any of ship's electrical equipment -- check on two perpendicular headings (e.g., N and W)
-LORAN, autopilot, VHF, RADAR, etc. continue to operate properly when other electrical systems are turned on,
   except starter or winch motor
-if propane or gasoline are used on board, appropriate sensing devices are installed to warn of leaks
-Spares
  fuses (check electronic devices for internal fuses)
  bulbs
  VHF antenna that will connect directly to radio
  alternator belt
(These items are re-prints from an excellent, extensive article by Robb Zuk available at http://www.islandnet.com/robb/marine.html )

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DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING? Compasses, boats and wiring.

Any DC current flow and most electronic devices can affect magnetic compasses if they're nearby so check readings with power on and off.  AC current does not affect compasses
? no wires carrying heavy current near the compass
? no single wires near compass

The switch-panel's main ground wire and the alternator output wire are examples of potential problems because they carry a lot of current and they often run alone. When both positive and negative wires of a circuit run together, their opposite magnetic fields tend to cancel each other out.
? if wiring is nearby, keep both circuit conductors tightly twisted together
? no speakers, swinging needle meters, transformers, ignition coils, or other magnetic devices nearby

Speakers often contain powerful permanent magnets. They should be at least 1.5 m (5') away from any compass.
? no metal objects nearby unless they're non-magnetic

Steel and iron usually cause most of the problems. Stainless steel and aluminum should be OK. All nearby metals should have their effect checked by moving them closer and farther from the compass.

(adapted from an excellent article by Robb Zuk, Saltspring, Marine Electrical Check List, 1990, 1996)

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ROCK PAPER SCISSORS - FIR?

Which one wins? Electricity or wood? That depends on what you want to see.  If it is a shower of sparks, burning trees and a truck full of sweaty firefighters I'd place my bet on wood.  Tree trunks, that is. the kind that rub your overhead service wires in the wind until  all the insulation is worn off. 
On our forested islands the rules for tree and wires are:
Branches - trimmed back 5 feet all around the overhead wire
Trunks that cannot bend in the wind - 2 feet from the wire.
This keeps the wires from suffering abrasion due to wind, snow, ice and settling earth.

Take a look now before winter sets in and see if it's time to call your local tree maintenance worker.  (see the ads in the island phone books)

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GENERATING DISASTER

Here's a quick way to endanger the lives of your family & friends.  Take an extension cord, cut the female end off and replace it with a male plug.  Now plug one end into your generator and the other end into a receptacle in you house.  Voila, power in your house, yes, but that's not all. 

You also have a dangerous bare mail plug with bare contacts ready to fry you & your kids fingers, or much worse!.
Plus you  have now created a sure fire disaster for the Hydro workers that come to fix winter storm damage.  Your 120 volts gets sent out and transformed into 14,000 volts !!! up on those bare wires they are repairing for you.

BETTER SOLUTION: Get your local Electrician to install a wall mounted receptacle for your unmodified, safe extension cord and a TRANSFER SWITCH to protect the Hydro workers.  It's just part of life on our Islands.

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SWITCH ON YOUR GARDEN - SAFELY

Okay, Gardenheads, I know you're itching to get at it out there; maybe even got some seedbeds or transplants on the go in a heated space.
Here are some things to remember:
Electricity in the garden has two main enemies: dampness and shovels.  If you want to heat your seed bed with in-soil cables or just provide a receptacle for lights or a space heater make sure you use cable that's rated for damp locations (eg. NMW style). 
If the cable runs across the ground dig down 1.5 feet and bury it out of harms way.  The digging is easy now and later your wire will be covered with grass etc and subject to accidental damage with hand tools. 
Always use a GFI receptacle to protect yourself and your family from shock in damp areas.  All that lovely water around you make you a target for leaky electrons. 
Play it safe in your green paradise.

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