The Electrical Blog

Backup Generator or UPS for Your Business? A Look at the Pros and Cons

Posted by James Rockhill on Mon, Feb 01, 2016

0026.jpgThere are few things that are more disruptive to a business than interrupted power supply. Whether your business relies on computers alone or complex machinery, it cannot operate without power. In areas where power failures, blackout or brownouts are common, or where equipment uptime is critical at all times, that means that you need a backup plan. The two primary options are a backup generator or a UPS system. Here are the pros and cons of each.

Pros and Cons of Backup Generators

Backup generators use propane, gasoline or diesel to generate power, and they are available in a range of sizes, from small portable units that can power one or two items, to large, wired in versions that can power an entire factory or warehouse. Smaller units are relatively easy to come by, and simple to operate, while larger generators can take time to arrive from a manufacturer, and will definitely require professional installation.

The downside to generators, aside from their fuel requirements, is that there is a lag between the power going off and the generator starting up. That lag can be as much as thirty seconds, depending on the size and configuration of the generator unit. Generators can also be noisy, give off fumes, and while they are usually fairly simple machines, you will still have to have a contractor inspect them from time to time.

Pros and Cons of UPS SystemsUPS2.jpg

UPS systems, also known as Uninterruptible Power Supplies, are essentially very sophisticated batteries that are installed as an element of your power system. While the power is on, they charge on the current flowing through them, building up a store of power, and when the power goes out, they continue supplying power from the backup they have built up.

There is no lag or delay with UPS systems, which makes them great for critical installations where power must be stable at all times. They are also available in a variety of sizes and types, including personal UPS systems, which can be used to ensure that computer systems remain on long enough to shut down safely (well worth the investment for any business) to large units that can power your whole building.

UPS systems tend to be expensive, and they get more expensive the longer the battery back-up time provided. Because they are based on batteries, they can also be trickier to maintain and service.

A Hybrid of Both

If you are looking for a solution that offers the best of both worlds, you could design your backup power supply to power critical systems using UPS power, while other elements of your business run off a backup generator. There are many possibilities, and if you are concerned about power quality and backup power, it’s a good idea to discuss your needs with an electrical company, who can advise you about your options.

You may even decide to install backup solar or wind power, or to use some other method to power just the elements of your business that cannot be interrupted.

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Topics: electrical contractor, licensed electrician, electrical troubleshooting

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

How to Improve Office Lighting in Your Company Premises

Posted by James Rockhill on Wed, Jan 13, 2016


Many people don’t realize the effect that light has on us, but the truth is that humans are enormously photo sensitive. It is light and dark that determines our Circadian rhythms, and sets our body clock. That explains why office lighting quality is proven to affect productivity (not to mention a documented OHS concern in many occupations.) If you suspect that your office lighting is affecting performance, then there are several things you can do to improve the situation.


  • If you don’t already have energy saving lighting installed in your office, make sure that you design new lighting systems to take advantage of CFL, LED and other technologies. They can save you a bundle on energy costs.
  • If your office has flickering fluorescent lighting, be aware that this may trigger epileptic seizures. 
  • Understand that different tasks require different levels of light to ensure alertness and productivity. For instance, the minimum lighting requirement for computer work stations is 50 foot-candles. More complex tasks require more complex lighting, to ensure that work can be carried out safely.
  • Note that age and vision can also affect lighting requirements, and many older people require a minimum of 70 foot-candels to work properly.
  • Good lighting design is a matter of ergonomics, and require a combination of indirect overhead lighting, movable direct task lighting and natural light, in the correct proportions, to ensure safe and comfortable working conditions.
  • The color of your lighting (warm, cold or otherwise) is another factor that contributes to safe and healthy workplace lighting design.

How to Be Sure Your Lighting Works

In many cases, commercial building lighting design was done years or even decades ago, and there’s a good chance that your commercial property is being used differently today than it was then. It’s a good idea to talk to both an electrical contractor and a lighting specialist to devise a lighting and electrical plan, to bring your building back into the light.

A lighting designer will inspect and measure the lighting in your building, and make recommendations to bring it up to standard, while your electrical contractor may need to upgrade electrical, add outlets or fixtures or move them around.

Why You Need to Make These Changes

As mentioned before, lighting is critical to wakefulness and productivity in your office or commercial building. It can even influence customers shopping habits! It’s also a health and safety issue though, and if your commercial lighting is not up to standard, particularly where complex or dangerous tasks are being carried out, you could find yourself in hot water.

If you suspect that your lighting needs a boost, talk to your commercial electrical contractor first. They may be able to work with your existing installation, and improve the quality of lighting that you have, and that can be more budget friendly. If you do need an expert, they should be able to tell you, and very possibly recommend a good one.

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Topics: electrical contractor, LED retrofit, commercial lighting

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

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

How to Achieve HVAC Energy Savings for Your Colorado Springs Business Premises

Posted by James Rockhill on Tue, Sep 01, 2015

how-to-achieve-hvac-energy-savings-for-your-colorado-springs-business-premisesYour business has certain energy needs throughout the year that can't be avoided, with heating and air conditioning among the most expensive. Colorado Springs winters call for increased heating bills for months at a time, but air conditioning is crucial during steamy summer months. Electric bills can make or break your budget, but there are ways to lower your bill during every month in the year. Consistent small fixes can add up to big savings if everyone in your company pitches in and helps. 

Keep the Filters Clean

Keeping your filters clean and switching dirty ones for clean is probably the easiest and least expensive way to keep control of your HVAC costs. Clogged filters will make your furnace and air conditioner work harder, using more energy to do the same job as before. New filters only cost a few dollars, and can be changed out literally in seconds. Buy two filters each time you shop, so you'll always have a spare on hand. 

Sign a Maintenance Contract

Contact a certified HVAC specialist and get your company a contract for yearly maintenance.

You'll get:

  • a check-up on your entire system,
  • advice on ways to save even more money,
  • a tune up before air conditioning season in the spring and before furnace time in the fall, and
  • regular maintenance throughout the year. 

All machines need to be taken care of for them to work at their peak performance. Making sure your system is working right is one way to guarantee a lower energy bill. 

Control Sunshine Access

Reducing the amount of sunlight that shines into your building can create significant savings in your air conditioning costs. As the sunlight comes into the room, it raises the ambient temperature, making your air conditioner work harder. Depending on your business building, various methods will work such as:

  • Solar film that darkens windows and reduces available sunlight
  • Awnings that shade windows through the hottest parts of the day
  • Landscaping in the form of trees or bushes planted in front of windows to shade the sun
  • Curtains and blinds that block the windows

In the winter, the opposite tactic will help your power bill. Open windows wide and allow as much sunshine inside as possible. Solar heat can raise the interior temperature by a surprising amount, and every degree counts when it comes to saving money. 

Insulate Adequately

Once you get the temperature comfortable inside, it doesn't pay to allow the warm or cool air to escape into the outside. You may not be able to tear into your walls to insulate the building, but you can help by using weather stripping around all the doors and windows. This allows you to manage when you want the fresh air to be let into the building and when you want to stay sealed up, comfortable in your controlled environment. 

Install Fans

Ceiling fans can cool a room enough so that you don't have to turn on the air conditioning in many instances. On days when it's just beginning to warm up, a cool breeze may be all you need to keep the air inside comfortable for customers and staff. Surprisingly, a fan can do a lot of good in the winter, as well. Heat rises, and the heat from your furnace will gather near the ceiling, leaving the lower part of the room cooler. Turn a ceiling fan on its lowest setting so that it gently wafts the warmer air downward. You'll heat the room enough so that you may be able to turn down the thermostat.

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Topics: electrical contractor, commercial energy savings