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

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

Can Your DataComm System Handle Your Needs?

Posted by James Rockhill on Tue, Jan 19, 2016

0016.jpgIt used to be that if you heard someone talk about “data” you assumed they were in the software business. Not anymore! No matter what industry you’re in, your business runs on data—on information. It doesn’t matter if you’re in retail, construction, manufacturing, food service, finance, the medical industry, or software: you need reliable access to run your business effectively.

Another thing that’s changed over time is the systems that are required to handle all the data we use. There was a time when all you needed to do was to run a cable from one computer to another and you had your “network.” Today’s systems are a lot more complex—and require skill, training, and experience in order to install them properly.

At Berwick Electric, we employ qualified and experienced project managers with BICSI RCDD certification, as well as a team of highly trained technicians who are dedicated exclusively to data communications. Their training and experience enables them to come up with solutions for your unique industry requirements.  We also offer a wide range of data communication services that include: 

  • Fiber Optic Cabling Systems
  • CAT5E and CAT6 Structured Cabling
  • Systems Integration
  • Photovoltaic Wiring
  • Computer Cabling
  • Telephone Cabling
  • Voice and Data Cabling, Termination, and Testing
  • Intrusion Detection (Security)
  • Full Voice and Data Systems
  • Public Address Systems
  • Professional Sound Systems
  • Uninterruptible Power Systems

Our dedicated DataComm division can provide turnkey solutions that include full design, installation, and regular service of your communication systems.  And we’re constantly training and re-educating ourselves to keep abreast of the needs of a wide variety of industry applications.

So whether you’re building or remodeling a commercial property for yourself—or for tenants—we can help you be sure you’ve got the data communication systems in place that deliver what today’s businesses need to succeed.

Give us a call today at (719) 632-7683, or send us a note at for more information about how we can meet your specific DataComm needs.

 3 Signs Your Data Comm System Needs An Upgrade

Topics: Colorado Commercial Electrical Company, commercial datacomm installation

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 Is a Bargain Not a Bargain When Bidding a Commercial Electrical Job? The Hidden Costs of a Low Bid.

Posted by James Rockhill on Thu, Jan 07, 2016


Everybody loves a bargain. Nobody wants to pay more than they have to for products or services—even if you’re responsible for a huge commercial building or rebuilding project. Chances are you’ve got a tight budget to work with and if you can save a few dollars it takes a little of the pressure off.

There are times, however, when a “bargain” is really no bargain at all—especially when you’re involved in something as complex as installing the electrical system in a commercial building.

We’ve all heard that you get what you pay for. Quality doesn’t come cheap. And while pricing needs to be competitive, accepting a bid based on a low price alone can really come back to hurt you—especially when there is so much riding on  the results.

Safe and consistent power is essential for businesses, whether it’s your business that will be occupying the space you’re furnishing or whether you’re finishing the space for a tenant. If you have safety or quality issues with your electrical system, your business won’t function well.  Or if your tenant constantly has complaints about the system you had installed, he or she could easily move out. Either way, that costs you money. And chances are, it will cost you more than you saved on the low installation bid.

Of course, there’s also the issue of meeting codes. Electrical codes are complex—and they change all the time. The most recent National Electrical Code Handbook contains 1,270 pages!  You want to make sure you’re dealing with a company that knows how to install to those codes. In addition to safety concerns, you can end up paying hefty fines for non-compliance—and paying again to have your system brought up to code.

Generally speaking, the two biggest factors affecting the price of your electrical installation are materials and labor. Material costs aren’t going to vary that much from one supplier to another.  That means differences in pricing (for the most part) are going to come down to the people who install for you. Contractors who simply “run wire” for you are going to be cheaper than skilled and trained workers who make sure that the job is done right and that it’s up to code.  Berwick Electric's apprentices are required to complete a five (5) year program consisting of 250 hours per year of schooling and 8,000 hours on-the-job-training administered by our Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC.) The JATC also offers Journeymen Wireman (JW) upgrade training.

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Topics: Colorado Commercial Electrical Company, bids on commercial electrical work

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

Will Your Commercial Electrical Contractor Play Well with Others?

Posted by James Rockhill on Fri, Jan 01, 2016

Will-your-commercial-electrical-contractor-play-well-with-others_.jpgIt’s always a good idea to hire an expert for an important job. Sometimes, however, experts can be a little hard to work with because their knowledge and expertise can make them a bit unapproachable. They don’t really play well with others.

When you’re hiring an electrical contractor, you want to get the best around. You want someone with background, knowledge, and experience. But it’s important that you find a commercial electrical contractor who also plays well with others, and who understands that—while his or her work is absolutely critical, it’s part of a bigger plan.

We’ve been doing Commercial, DataComm, and Residential electrical installations since 1921; not only in the Colorado Springs area, but also nationally and even internationally. We know that nobody installs a sophisticated electrical system just so that they can show it off to their friends and colleagues. The electrical system has to work with the rest of your commercial building to deliver the power you need to run your business efficiently.

We also know that in order to make that happen, we need to work hand-in-glove with your general contractor as early in the planning process as possible. If we don’t, you won’t get the results your want. So we’re happy to bring our skill, knowledge, and experience to the table and work with others to achieve the best possible solution for you.

The general contractors we’ve worked with seem to appreciate that approach as well.

We had done several projects over the years in Colorado Springs and had heard very good things about Berwick Electric. It was our first experience working with them and they proved to us through the course of the project that they were the true professionals that we had heard about. They were the quiet, unsung heroes during the project.

Darrell Eastwood
Vice President, Operations
Saunders Construction, Inc

It’s all about working together to provide you with a superior overall experience in your commercial building. And besides—playing well with others is a lot more fun!

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Topics: Colorado Commercial Electrical Company, work with general contractors, electrical installation experts

Undesirable Antiques: When Your Wiring and Electrical Belongs in a Museum

Posted by James Rockhill on Wed, Dec 30, 2015

Undesirable-Antiques-When-Your-Wiring-and-Electrical-Belongs-in-a-Museum.jpgMany people choose the charm of older buildings over the cookie cutter look that some new developments offer. They like the old architectural features, and the quirks. What they probably do not like, or would not if they considered it, is old, potentially dangerous wiring. Let us face it – it is far more interesting to work in a building with a history than something that was slapped together with cinderblocks a handful of years ago.

The problem is, wiring is not something you see unless you open up walls in most cases, and it may not be up to code, which means that most people who buy or rent in a historic commercial building have no idea they’re at risk until something goes wrong. Here is what could go wrong with old wiring, and how to limit the risk:

Knob and Tube Wiring

Knob and tube wiring was a popular type of wiring, often for residential buildings. However, with many of today’s commercial buildings having a history as residences and vice versa, you really never know what you are getting. Most knob and tube wiring out there is about eighty years old, and likely not in the best shape. If you are considering buying a commercial building from a bygone era, make sure that you get an electrical contractor to inspect the wiring, and make sure that you will not be facing the replacement costs.

What Happens to Old Wiring and Electrical?

Many people think that old wiring is bad just because people did not know what they were doing. That is not entirely true, and theoretically, many correctly installed antique electrical systems could hold up against modern electrical perfectly well – if it were not for rust, rot, rodents and wear and tear. All of those things add up, however, and result in numerous problems, including:

  • Poor or missing insulation, which means potential exposure to live wires.
  • Shorts that could potentially be fire hazards.
  • Lack of or poor grounding.

In addition to these general problems, old wiring is sometimes not capable of running modern lighting, appliances, and computer systems. This can lead to overheating and fire hazards. 

What Should You Do Before You Purchase a Historic Commercial Building?

If you are considering buying a historic commercial building, then it is critical that you have a detailed, in depth inspection of the electrical system before you make any decisions. Use a commercial electrical contractor who knows what to look for and where, and who can give you an estimate of the costs to replace old, potentially dangerous electrical and wiring.

Once you know what you are dealing with, there are two options: negotiate a drop in price from the owner, or accept that you will need to pay for the electrical replacement out of pocket. Because if you do decide to buy the building, leaving old wiring in place is just not a viable option.

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Topics: power quality, commercial lighting, electrical repair