The Electrical Blog

Static Electricity and How It Affects Business Electronics and Data

Posted by James Rockhill on Wed, Jan 27, 2016


Nearly everyone remembers taking a balloon as a kid, rubbing it on your sweater or a woolen blanket, and holding it above your head to make it stand on end. It was fun to play with static electricity when you were younger. We’ll even admit that it’s fun to rub your feet on a rug and deliver a shock to an unsuspecting passerby. However, while those games may be fun for children, there are worse consequences to static electricity. Here’s what you need to know.

Potentially Dangerous Static Shocks

The same static electricity that was fun when you were a kid can be potentially dangerous in the wrong situations. One such situation is when there is gasoline or another airborne flammable material in the air. In those situations, the sparks from static shocks can ignite the airborne gas, causing a potentially dangerous explosion. Static shocks can also, in very, very rare situations, be potentially dangerous to people with pacemakers.

Static Electricity and Electronics

While it is highly unlikely that you would be injured as a result of static electricity, even though it is possible, it’s far more likely that electronics including computers and other office machinery, could be damaged by static discharge.

Basically, electrostatic discharge, or ESD, is a tiny, miniature version of lightning, and it can be just as destructive on the micro level of circuit boards. The energy from the shock travels through the nearest object, in this case the circuitry of the electronics, and destroys critical elements along the way.

While this is the literal equivalent of the electrical storm in a tea cup, there are ways to prevent damage to your equipment from static electricity:

  • Technicians working on electronic equipment should use an ESD wrist strap, which helps to dissipate charge away from the circuitry.
  • Avoid placing synthetic materials such a plastic and polystyrene near electronics. These materials are commonly the cause of static discharge.
  • Avoid using compressed air to clean circuit boards.
  • Only use non-static forming sprays on electronics.
  • Treat carpets to prevent static buildup, and invest in static proof mats if you still have trouble.
  • Restrict access to computers and other electronics to staff or contractors who have experience in working with them, and who know how to prevent static discharge.
  • Regulated humidity system.

Static charges can destroy electronic equipment. So can power surges and electrical storms. Take precautions to avoid damage by static electricity to your delicate electronics, and speak to your commercial electric company to make sure that your office and business premises is adequately protected against power surges. Surge protectors, ensuring that your building and electrical systems are properly grounded and setting up “Zones of Protection” within your facility can all keep your equipment, electronics and people safer.

This is particularly important for items like your server, where critical data is stored. The simple fact is that unregulated, unexpected power is bad for your electronics and equipment, whether the cause is your feet on the carpet or a lightning strike during a storm. It’s always better (and cheaper) to be safe, rather than sorry.

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Topics: lightning protection, electrical contractor, commercial electric

6 Ways Your Old Wiring Could be a Commercial Fire Hazard

Posted by James Rockhill on Mon, Jan 11, 2016


Even when your business is housed in an historic building, or one that was built more than 25 years ago, chances are you don’t think about the wiring and electrical in your building. It’s hidden behind the drywall and plaster, after all. That may be one of the reasons why so many fires in older buildings are caused by their aging electrical. Here are some of the hazards of having old electrical systems in your business:

  1. Knob and Tube Wiring

Older buildings tend to have what is known as “knob and tube” wiring. This in itself is not an issue, until it’s altered, chewed by rodents or otherwise compromised. Then it becomes one of the leading causes of electrical fires, according to insurance companies.

  1. Low Amp Wiring

Another major electrical fire risk factor is that old wiring can sometimes be rated for lower amps than is required by modern appliances and business equipment. This can result in the overloading of circuits, which can also cause electrical fires. Replacing breakers with arc faulty circuit interrupters can be one solution to wiring problems like this in older premises.

  1. Poorly Modified Wiring

In older buildings, particularly those from the early twentieth century, it’s not uncommon for wiring to have been tinkered with over the years—often by people who had no electrical training. This can mean that there are loose live wires, badly executed connections and other problems lurking behind the walls of your commercial building.

  1. Old Insulation on Wire

Insulation on older wiring tends to be less than perfect. Over the years, it may have been chewed by animals, damaged by screws or nails being placed in walls, or simply become brittle or disintegrated from age. This leaves the wire at the core of your wiring exposed, and that can lead to sparks and fire.

  1. Faulty Breakers

It’s not only the wiring that is a fire risk in older buildings. If your commercial panel hasn’t been upgraded recently, then it’s entirely possible that the switches and breakers that make up the circuits might be faulty too. If they’re not working correctly, your electrical system won’t do what it is supposed to do, and it may be downright dangerous.  

  1. Poor Electrical Design

Poor design is another major problem for older electrical systems. Depending on the age of your building, your electrical system may have been designed to meet codes that were in force 50 or even 80 years ago. Codes and standards have changed a lot since then, and there’s a good chance that your electrical wiring would not pass an inspection—if you had to have one.

The truth is, your building doesn’t need to be very old to have outdated electrical work. If it was built in the 70s or earlier, there could be some electrical concerns hiding in your walls. If you’re not sure, then the best idea is to have a qualified commercial electric company take a look, and make sure there aren’t any major fire risks.

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Topics: electrical contractor, commercial electric, electric company

Alternative Energy in Brief: Power Generation Today

Posted by James Rockhill on Wed, Jan 06, 2016

Alternative-Energy-in-Brief-Power-Generation-Today.jpgVery often these days, we are caught up in how we use power, and what it costs. However, while those things are important, there are also some new, fascinating ways that countries around the world are generating power. Here are some of the green ways that electricity is being produced around the world:

Wave Farms

Wave farms use equipment installed off or near shore, on the ocean, to capture the energy of waves, and turn that energy into power. It may sound like something out of a sci fi novel, but it is already being used in the UK, Portugal, Russia and the USA!

Geothermal Power

Geothermal power plants use tunnels drilled deep into the earth to heat water and create steam. That steam is used to power turbines, which then generate power. That might sound strange, but there are twenty-four countries that generate power from geothermal sources, with several (including Iceland!) generating more than fifteen percent of their power this way!

Parabolic Trough Solar Farms

Parabolic trough solar farms use curved sections of metal, bent into a “parabola” to collect solar heat, and reflect it onto a pipe filled with fluid which then flows to the power plant, where it is used to heat water and create steam, and the steam generates electrical power. Parabolic trough plants are widely accepted including in the US, and the world’s biggest one, generating 354 MW, is in California!

Photo Voltaic

Photovoltaic power, also known as PV technology, is the type of solar power we are all most familiar with. These are the solar panels that we are all used to seeing. However, with improvements like thin film technology, PV solar power is becoming more accessible and affordable, and is likely to increase in popularity.

Wind Farms

Wind farms are another one of the more common alternative power generation sources, and it is a common sight to drive past dozens of turbines silently generating power along the highway in many parts of the world. Did you know that many countries, including the UK, have many of their wind farms on the ocean? Rather than take up a little land, they have opted to take up none!

Power from Sewage

In India and elsewhere in the world, plants have been constructed that capture methane gas from sewage travelling to treatment plants. That gas is used to power generators, which create electrical power!

Going off Grid

With green building being such an important consideration these days, more and more building owners are considering taking their commercial buildings fully or partially off the grid. While you may not be able to use wave or geothermal generation in a commercial building setting, you can definitely use solar and wind technologies to power some or all of your building systems in a more cost effective, more environmentally friendly way.

A commercial electrical company can certainly advise you what you need to install to meet your needs, and how to integrate your alternative power sources with the power you get from the grid.

 3 Signs Your Data Comm System Needs An Upgrade

Topics: commercial electric, power quality, electric company

Data Matters: How to Protect Computers against Power Fluctuations

Posted by James Rockhill on Mon, Jan 04, 2016

Data-Matters-How-to-Protect-Computers-against-Power-Fluctuations.jpgMost people do not think of power and data at the same time. We have become so used to having computers around, and so used to them storing our information, entertaining us and helping us to connect that we hardly think of them as appliances at all. However, since computers rely on power to operate, electrical supply and electrical problems can have a big effect on them. In this article, we look at the relationship between your commercial power supply and your data, and offer tips to reduce risks.

How Power Affects Computers

It is not only when there is an unexpected power outage and you lose the work that you were busy with that power affects computers. Computers are complex electronic machines, with delicate circuit boards and components. Many of those components can only cope with a particular voltage, which means that power spikes can overload them, resulting in component failure. When components in your computers fail, eventually the whole computer will fail.

Aside from physical damage that can and does occur when power supply is not stable, software can also be corrupted, work lost and even networks disrupted. Worse yet, if your data server is not properly protected, you could lose the hub of your computer network because of power issues.

Protecting Computers Against Power Fluctuations

There are several steps you can take to protect the computers in your commercial building from power related problems, including:

  • Invest in surge protectors. These look like regular power bars, but they have built in fuses. This means that when there is a power surge, the surge protector is fried instead of your computers.
  • Invest in UPSs – Uninterruptible Power Supplies. These are essentially large batteries that are installed between the outlet and your electronics. They charge while the power 

 3 Signs Your Data Comm System Needs An Upgrade

Topics: electrical contractors, commercial electric, power quality

When it is Your Build, Electrical Contractor Choice is YOUR Call

Posted by James Rockhill on Mon, Dec 21, 2015

When-it-is-Your-Build-Electrical-Contractor-Choice-is-YOUR-Call.jpgMany residential (and some commercial) customers don’t realize that when they hire a general contractor to build their home or commercial property, they are essentially assuming the role of procurement and overall project manager, and that they have a say in hiring and firing sub trades on their project. Here is what you need to know.

Your General Contractor Is Your Employee

Whether you are working with a small homebuilder or a larger commercial general, the contractor you hire to build your home or commercial building is in a very real sense your employee for the duration of the project. They might take care of the details for you, but in the end, you will always have veto rights on decisions related to your project, if you choose to exercise them.

Not All General Contractors Act in Your Best Interests

Many general contractors are entirely fair, ethical and above board, and provide great service and a superior end product. However, every once in a while, you will find one who allows personal relationships or politics to cloud their judgement, and that may affect the advice and service they can offer. Sometimes it is because they are doing a favor for a friend or a family member, or sometimes it is a personality clash that causes it, but these kinds of politics should never be allowed to influence your building project.

Your General Contractor Has a Duty

Your general contractor has a duty to honor your wishes as the client, as well as to provide the very best clear, unbiased advice and assistance. That may mean that they can make recommendations, but again, if you decide to choose a different supplier, sub trade or service provider, and you are paying the bill, then they have a duty to accommodate your wishes.

When You Have a Relationship with an Electrical Company

One of the most common issues we hear about in our business is when a general contractor ignores their client’s wishes to use or consider a particular electrical contractor. Essentially, they force their clients to use their own sub trades, including electrical contractors, plumbers and other service providers. In many cases that works out, but in some, the client ends up with subpar work that is delivered late or is not to specification. You should never be forced to use any service provider if you are not completely comfortable.

What You Can Do

Whether you choose to use the electrical contractor recommended by your general or not, you have a right to make informed choices, and, since you are paying the bills, you are entitled to hire any sub trades you choose.

Consider approaching contractors you are considering using directly for estimates or comparison quotes, and discuss them with your contractor. If you want to use a contractor other than the one they have recommended, insist on it. After all, as long as you are writing the checks, and it is your name on the blueprints as the client, it is your decision - and you are entitled to request to see subcontractors competitive quotes too.

Make sure that you do not sign any contracts with any general contractor where they have stipulated that they have the right to choose sub trades, or you may find that you are stuck with their decision.

Finally, if you do know and trust a great electrical company, and you are planning a build, why not flip the script and ask them which general contractors they recommend? After all, they have insider knowledge!

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Topics: electrical contractor, commercial electric, electric company

3 Things You Need to Know About a Commercial Panel Upgrade

Posted by James Rockhill on Mon, Nov 30, 2015

If your business has grown, or you have replaced old equipment with new, then you might already have outgrown your current commercial panel. Likewise, if your building was built in the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s, there is a good chance that your commercial panel might be using outdated technology.

Both of these scenarios can be dangerous and frustrating, if you are not getting consistent, reliable power supply from your panel. Here are a few key factors you need to know about a commercial panel upgrade.

  1. Signs Your Panel Needs an Upgrade

Just because your panel is old or you have expanded your business that does not automatically mean your panel needs an upgrade right away, but there are a few key warning signs that you should not ignore:

  • If the panel looks old, wiring looks worn, and you can no longer make out the labelling on the breakers, then there is a good chance your panel is a senior and due for retirement.
  • If there are any burns or scorches, or signs of corrosion inside the cabinet, then your panel may not be safe and definitely needs to be inspected and probably upgraded as soon as possible.
  • Any humming or fizzing sounds from the panel are also a big red flag.
  • Finally, if you notice excessive heat, that is a sure sign that all is not well.

In addition to physical signs on the panel, you might also have experienced flickering lights, fuses that blow, or more frequent than normal circuit breaker trips.

  1. The Commercial Panel Upgrade Process

When you decide to upgrade your commercial panel, the first step is to contact a licensed commercial electric company. They will probably arrange to visit your building to assess your needs, and take a look at your current system.

When that is done, you will receive a quotation or estimate for the replacement or upgrade, and once you have accepted that, the work will begin. Usually, the replacement will be planned to ensure that there is minimal power interruption. If you can schedule it for a weekend, even better. Check with your contractor.

  1. Planning Ahead Is Wise

While you are upgrading your commercial panel, it is a good idea to discuss any future changes to your power needs with the commercial electric company doing the installation. It is always wise to allow for a little expansion in your electricity plans later on, rather than replacing your panel with the bare minimum that will do the job. That way, when you do need a little extra power from your panel, it is already on hand, waiting for you.

Commercial panel upgrades should only ever be done by licensed and experienced electrical contractors. Not only is it unsafe to work on any type of power unless you know what you are doing, you may also have trouble with insurance or a future sale of your building.


Topics: commercial electric, licensed electrician, electricity plans

A Guide to Wired Smoke Alarms for Commercial Properties

Posted by James Rockhill on Tue, Nov 24, 2015

When most people think of smoke alarms, they think of the battery operated alarm units installed in their homes. However, while those are certainly the most common type of smoke alarm, there are also hardwired smoke alarm options that are much better suited to commercial and industrial applications.

Never Forget to Check or Change Batteries

One of the biggest benefits of a wired smoke alarm for a commercial building is that you never need to worry about checking or changing the batteries in the unit, since they run of the main power in the building. That having been said, most of these units also come with a long life backup battery, which means that they continue to work in the event of a power failure. Those batteries typically last for around ten years.


Hard-wired smoke alarm systems are ideally suited to installation in commercial building settings because the units can be linked, so that if the alarm sounds in one part of the building, it will sound elsewhere too. This is especially useful in large buildings where people are spread out over a large floor area.

Hard-wired systems can also be integrated with other systems in your building, such as a building management system.

Visual Cues

Another benefit of hard wired smoke alarm systems is that they can be connected to commercially available strobe lights, that offer visual cues of an alarm to hard of hearing people or people working in noisy environments. In many cases, these types of systems are a health and safety requirement.

Installation, Repair and Replacement

Because hard-wired smoke alarms connect directly into the main power in your building, a qualified electrician must install them. This can either be done when your building is being constructed, or later on as a retrofit.

Likewise, if your smoke alarm requires repair or replacement, you will need to have a licensed electrician carry out the work for you, to ensure that your electrical is not damaged in the process.

Cost Versus Value

Hard-wired smoke detectors tend to be more expensive than portable battery powered versions. However, they are also usually better at detecting problems earlier on, which can be a big plus in a busy commercial setting where time is of the essence in an emergency.

These units also need less frequent maintenance and no annual checks, and in most cases, OSHA and insurance companies will require these types of units for safety and security reasons. In fact, the legal implications of a faulty smoke alarm, in the event of a fire, far outweigh the cost of a good system.

If you are still using battery powered smoke detectors in your building, or if you suspect that your hard wired system may not be working correctly, be sure to contact an electrician sooner rather than later. Your building safety relies on finding and fixing any issues as soon as possible.

 3 Signs Your Data Comm System Needs An Upgrade

Topics: commercial electric, licensed electrician, security lighting

A Quick Guide to Choosing Light bulbs

Posted by James Rockhill on Mon, Nov 16, 2015

When Thomas Edison perfected the first commercially viable electric lightbulb in 1879, he probably had no idea that a couple of hundred years later, there would be so many variations on his idea. However, there have been many leaps and bounds in electric lighting since then, and there are hundreds of different types of lightbulb on the market today. Here is a brief outline of the most common types.


Incandescent bulbs are the closest to Edison’s original design, and they are the classic lightbulb that we all know. This bulb uses a tiny filament of the metal tungsten, super-heated until it glows, to create a soft, yellowish light. These lightbulbs are the cheapest to purchase, and offer between 700 and 1000 hours of light. They are not very energy efficient however, and in most cases, there are other options that are a better choice.


Fluorescent lightbulbs have been around for a long time too, and most people are probably familiar with their bright, ever so slightly greenish light, and the annoying flicker they make when they are not working properly! They provide what is known as daylight equivalent light, and they are cheap to purchase and run, which makes them a great choice for lighting large areas like offices and basements. 


Halogen bulbs offer the closest to natural white light, and they can be incredibly bright. Which is why they are often used in floodlights, work lights and film studio lighting! They burn incredibly hot, and are not cheap to purchase, but offer better energy efficiency than incandescent lightbulbs.


CFL’s, or Compact Fluorescent bulbs, are one of the newer types of lightbulbs, and are known for their energy efficiency. They last up to ten times longer than incandescent, and can cut lighting power bills down greatly. These bulbs are available in a variety of strengths, colors and other options, and are great for residential or commercial applications where energy efficiency is important. They do, however, contain trace amounts of mercury, which means they need to be treated with care. They also need to be recycled carefully when they do eventually burn out.


LED lightbulbs are the new kids on the block, and they have come a long way over the past few years. These bulbs use a technology called “light emitting diodes” to create lighting that is extremely energy efficient with less heat build-up and much longer overall lamp life - up to 10 times longer than fluorescents and far longer than incandescents. LED light bulbs are initially more expensive, yet the cost is recovered over time by lowering your electrical and air conditioning costs.

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Topics: commercial electric, commercial lighting

A Matter of Phases: Understanding How Commercial Voltages Work

Posted by James Rockhill on Tue, Nov 10, 2015

In the USA there are a number of standards and regulations that govern commercial and residential electric. These guidelines and regulations have been developed to ensure that power supply is as safe and reliable as possible, but it can be confusing to work out which type of power is which, and what the various terms mean. Here is a cheat sheet with explanations for commonly used terms.

AC Power

AC power, or alternating current, is the term that describes a type of electrical power where the current changes direction frequently. Essentially, the current does not flow in one direction only, but rather, it doubles back on itself in cycles. Cycles are measured in Hertz. This is the type of power you will most commonly find in your building, and in the USA, it is most likely to be 60 Hertz.

DC power, which is what most batteries use, stands for direct current, or power that only flows in one direction.

Single Phase versus Three Phase

Single-phase power, which is most commonly used in residential applications, is a type of electrical power where all of the voltages of the electricity vary in unison. In other words, all of the waves or cycles of the power occur simultaneously. If you drew them on a piece of paper, they would all be on top of each other, making a single line. In the USA, phases are often divided, resulting in what is known as split phase power.

Three-phase power, on the other hand, has each of the three phase cycles occurring sequentially, or after each other. Each one is out of sync with the other by one third of their cycle, and if you were to draw this pattern on a sheet of paper, you would have three distinct waves or cycles. Commercial and industrial power is normally three phase, and it is capable of powering much bigger, much more current hungry equipment stably and consistently.


Voltage is the difference in electrical potential between two points. It is measured using a voltmeter, and in most cases, all you need to know is how much voltage a particular installation or piece of equipment requires to operate.

Electric supply in the US is usually 120 or 230 for most residential applications. Most household plugs are designed for 120 volts.

In commercial and industrial applications, several different voltages are used, including 208, 240, 480 and 600 volts. The voltage required for a particular application will also vary according to the power requirements of the building or installation.

Designing and Installing Commercial Electric

Commercial and industrial electric is complex, with many factors involved to ensure that the power supply for your shop, factory or warehouse is adequate for the work you do. Generally, electric systems for these types of buildings will be designed by an engineer, based on a specific set of requirements, and installed by a commercial electrical contractor. Because there are so many complex elements that make up commercial and industrial electric, and because there are strict regulations to ensure safety, you should only ever have any work done on commercial electric by a qualified, certified commercial electric contractor.

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Topics: commercial electric, licensed electrician

6 Electrical Upgrades to Consider During a Commercial Renovation in ColoradoSprings

Posted by James Rockhill on Fri, Oct 30, 2015

Renovations are a necessary evil most businesses have to go through eventually. If your business is growing, your building and its capabilities have to grow with it. Ideally, you'll include enough innovation in your upgrade to keep from having to repeat the process for a number of years. The best upgrades include innovations aimed toward the future as well as needed improvements for today.

Before you finalize your plans, be sure to discuss these (and any other) changes that you want made in your commercial electric power and lighting.  

Large Kitchen Appliances 

When changing a building's use from commercial sales to food service, wiring for large kitchen appliances is almost certainly necessary. If you're adding a kitchen to any kind of commercial space, you'll probably need three phase power, as well as additional outlets kitchen appliances such as ovens, deep fryers, and even walk-in freezers will use much more power than a typical retail space includes. Wire your kitchen area with more power outlets than you think you'll need. If your business takes off, you don't want to have to spend all that new profit on another upgrade in a couple of years. 

Dedicated Circuits

If your business includes any kind of computer usage or computerized cash registers, your data and power usage is only going to increase as the years go on. Dedicated data circuits ensure that generalized power surges are less likely to damage electronic equipment than if they were all on one circuit with the rest of your equipment. Separate the areas of your business, including areas of high data usage, into a line of dedicated circuits that will help to ensure stable power quality all the time. Your information is your businesses lifeblood, and you can't afford to lose it to something as simple as someone plugging in a coffee maker at the same time as the printer is working.


Heating and air-conditioning are likely a big part of your power usage, and are likely to remain so in the future. The newer thermostats with timers and smart technology can pay for themselves in a surprisingly short amount of time. By changing the time and temperature the furnace and air conditioner work and coordinating it with your workday, you can save a substantial amount of money on your power bill. Have your electrical contractors update the wiring to the systems, as well as leaving space for future smart technology. 

Code Compliance

Building regulations can change as quickly as local governments do, and it's difficult to make sure your business is up to code at all times. A new business renovation is the ideal time to make sure your entire business is up to electrical code. Repair or replace any older wiring you have, older circuit boxes, and any other fixtures that may not be compliant. It may seem like an extra expense to do this upfront, but it can end up being much less expensive than the fines the city can levy on you.

Capacity upgrades

If your business has been growing, or if you're changing the usage of your building, you may need a greater load capacity in the building. Wiring is set up into circuits, and each one is designed to carry a certain amount of power. Once you try to increase that power, you run the risk of overloading the system, creating power surges, are even starting electrical fires. Have your electrical contractor reconfigure your wiring into new circuits designed to hinder larger electrical loads. It's a good idea to have him look at the circuit breaker box at the same time, to determine whether it needs to be replaced, as well.

 3 Signs Your Data Comm System Needs An Upgrade

Topics: electrical contractors, commercial electric, power quality