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.

 3 Signs Your Data Comm System Needs An Upgrade

Topics: electrical contractor, licensed electrician, electrical troubleshooting

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 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

Lighting Ideas for Colorado Springs Retail Spaces

Posted by James Rockhill on Thu, Nov 05, 2015

If you want to maximize your retail income, you've got to do everything possible to entice your customers to come in and stay. Sure, having the right inventory is a great first step, but the environment in which you display it can make all the difference. If your retail space has got the right ambience, customers will love the shopping experience in your store. One of the most important parts of an indoor environment is the lighting. Lighting creates mood, highlights products you want to emphasize, it generally adds to the flavor of your store. Give up on those tired old florescent lights. Add new lighting fixtures for increased store traffic and great personality. 

Mood Lighting 

Shopping is an emotional experience for many people, and the level and color of lights can certainly affect emotions. When your shoppers like the way the inside of your store looks, they make an emotional connection. This connection will draw them to your store over and over again, giving you a growing group of repeat customers. Lower environmental lighting will give a cozier feeling, making the customers feel more at home. This relaxed feeling will have to counteract the stress that usually accompanies spending money. In addition, colored lights can emphasize holidays or occasions. Install lights in a pink shade to encourage Valentine’s Day purchases, or hang a sparkling disco ball over party clothes. Your customers may not realize it, but your special lighting is putting them more in the mood to buy.


Install downward facing spotlights over merchandise you want to emphasize, impulse purchase collections, high-end merchandise, and checkout areas. Your customers’ eyes will subconsciously go toward these areas, making them more attractive to them as buyers. If you have a product you want to push, place it under one of your spotlights. 


Sure, your sign is a way to let customers know you're there. But more than that, with the right kind of display, signs can add to mood lighting and create a fun environment. Buy one-word neon signs in fun colors, and hang them on the wall to emphasize merchandise. Words such as "new" or "hot" will give your retail space modern edge while drawing the customer’s eye. Obviously, this idea won't work for staid furniture stores, but for clothing stores, card shops, tourist areas, and even eateries, they can be a fun addition to your indoor decor.

Green Lighting

If your retail store emphasizes green living or renewable culture, add green fixtures to emphasize your commitment to the environment. Use CFC lightbulbs, LED lights, or other low impact lighting fixtures. These lighting methods will lower your carbon footprint, save on your power bill, as well as showing your customers that you practice what you preach. It's a win-win, savings on your power bill and more ecologically minded customers for your store. An LED retrofit is a great way to upgrade lighting and save money long term.

Safety lighting

Lighting additions to your retail space don't have to be decorative. Adding safety lighting fixtures can enhance the shopping experience. Install outdoor pedestrian lighting if you have sidewalks on your property. Install or improve the lighting in your parking lot, using LED lights for more visibility.  A licensed electrician will be able to run new wiring and add lighting wherever you need it.

Add bright lights to the front of your store, to make your storefront look more welcoming. With outdoor lighting, you’re sure to see more evening customers.

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Topics: licensed electrician, LED retrofit

6 Ways to Reduce the Environmental Footprint of Your Colorado Springs Business

Posted by James Rockhill on Tue, Oct 27, 2015

Reducing the environmental footprint of your business can seem like a huge task, but going green doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Unless you're creating your Colorado Springs business from the ground up, incremental changes are probably the best way to turn bad habits into good ones. Employees are more likely to embrace change if you don't demand a list of new rules. Every change you make reduces your footprint. Try one each month to increasingly work leaner and greener.

Use Digital Documents

Instead of printing out paperwork and mailing it to clients or customers, do the work online and save yourself a step as well as some money. Use Adobe Acrobat to digitally sign documents, file them away on thumb drives and in the cloud, and make digital backups on external thumb drives. Instead of using paper invoices, send email versions using PayPal, Fresh Books, or some other accounting invoicing software.


Kill the Vampires

Computers, coffee makers, and cell phone chargers continue to draw power while plugged in, even if they're not being used. These “energy vampires” can add up to a significant portion of your power bill. A sleeping computer uses as much power as one you're using during the work day. Make a habit of unplugging all electrical devices and appliances before going home for the day. Using power strips makes this an easier job by combining multiple appliances on one central plug. If you haven’t already, it may also be an idea to get your electrical panels, wiring and other elements inspected and tested. Faulty electrics are not just a safety hazard, it can also cost money in fried appliances or equipment!


If you're in the market for new business equipment, check out Freecycle in your area to see if anyone's giving away equipment that you can use. Many businesses list used and unneeded equipment on this site, simply to make room in their business. Check local businesses to find out if you can create a barter group in the neighborhood. By trading goods and services instead of buying new, you're saving both manufacturing costs and the impact of shipping goods across the country.


Newer LED bulbs only use about a tenth the power of incandescent or fluorescent bulbs. Change out the bulbs in your ceiling lights, task lighting, and even your outdoor lights. By changing your bulbs and putting them on a timer, you'll reduce your power usage by a surprising amount. Since lighting is usually the largest percentage of your power usage, new bulbs are the smartest investment you can make, green-wise. If you want to make any big changes to the lighting in your building, be sure to hire a licensed electrician to avoid costly problems.

Water Usage

People usually think of electrical power when they talk about their environmental footprint, but water conservancy is an important part, too. Check your plumbing lines to make sure you don't have any leaks. Replace any pipes or faucets that leak. Install low-flow aerators on your faucets to reduce the amount of water flowing at any one time. Institute a water conservancy policy at work: ban running water while cooking, encourage sensible usage, use mops and buckets instead of spraying kitchen floors at the end of the night.


Make it easy on your employees to get involved with a recycling program. Put recycling bins near every trash can so it's conveniently obvious. Place paper recycling boxes under every desk. Consider adding a worm compost bin outside the back door if you have a lot of food waste, even if it's just everyone's lunch leftovers. Refill printer cartridges instead of throwing them away and reusing them. If you have a drop-in pod coffeemaker, use the refillable cartridges instead of wasteful single-use types.

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Topics: commercial electric, licensed electrician