Monday, June 23, 2014

Labeling (mapping) your electrical service panel (aka breaker box)

Map Your Electrical Circuits
Mapping the circuits in your home is done to verify or identify which circuit breaker in your service panel controls what branch circuit in your home.  Follow the steps below:
1.     Sketch Your Breaker Box (Service Panel) - Draw a quick sketch of the breakers in your service panel and assign a number to each circuit breaker in your panel.    
2.     Draw a floor plan of your home.  Use a full sheet of paper for each floor.  (see example below)
3.     Note location of all devices - Using the codes listed; record the location of all receptacles, switches and lightsAlso show, by using a dotted line, which switch controls which light.  Note: Make sure all receptacles are working and turn all light switches to the “on” position.
4.     Turn off Breaker # 1 – turn off the power to the first circuit by switching off the breaker. 
5.     Find all devices with NO power - Walk through the house, checking lights and receptacles.  If a light doesn’t work or a receptacle does not light your tester the device is on that circuit.  Note: Do not forget the garage, attic and outdoor lights and receptacles. 
6. Mark on your floor plan - On the map write a 1 (or corresponding number) next to each dead receptacle, switch or light.
7.     Mark your circuit breaker - Write a short description of the circuit on an adhesive label and place it next to the breaker.
8.     Turn the first circuit back on.
9.     Repeat Steps 4 through 8 - Map the remaining circuits by repeating the steps above for each breaker in your service panel.  NOTE:  It may be easier to color code each circuit once you have completed the mapping.
Completed Mapping of Circuits
10.  Store completed map – Place the completed map of your circuits in a plastic sleeve and secure it on the inside of the door to your service panel for easy access in the future.

How power reaches your home - an overview

Residential Wiring – Overview
How power reaches a home - Power plants produce large amounts of electricity.  This electricity is transported to sub-stations throughout a region at a very high voltage.  The electricity eventually reaches a transformer.  The transformer converts the high voltage electricity into 120 volts and is transported via power lines, above or below ground, to the home.


The current enters the home first through the electrical meter and then into your service entrance panel or breaker box.  The service panel contains circuit breakers (also known as “overcurrent protection devices”).  Some older homes have service panels which contain fuses.

The homeowner’s interaction with the service panel should be only to switch off and on either the main power or power to individual circuits.  This is done by actuating the main breaker, which controls all the electricity supplied to the home, or an individual circuit breaker, which controls electrical power to specific areas within the home also know as branch circuits.

Circuits in the home (AKA Branch Circuits)
A “branch” circuit is an individual circuit that “branches” from the service panel (breaker box) to receptacles, switches, light fixtures and other devices.
There are three types of branch circuits in your home:
Lighting Circuits:   general purpose circuits that power all of the light fixtures as well as receptacles.
Small appliance circuits: circuits that power receptacles for small appliances and power tools in the kitchen, laundry and workshop.
Individual appliance circuits: circuits which are each dedicated to a single major appliance such as an electric range, electric clothes dryer or whole house air conditioner.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Maintaining your the 'bones' of your home

Maintaining the Structure of Your Home
Water is probably the greatest enemy of the structure of your home.  Uncontrolled water entry can cause problems from your foundation to your roof.  Most of the maintenance tasks for the structure of your home focus on controlling the accumulation and flow of water to direct it away from your home.
Roof and Gutters
  • Clean gutters and downspouts on a regular basis
  • Check downspouts, landscaping, walks and driveways to be sure that all water flows away from the house.
  • Inspect your roof and make repairs immediately.  You can inspect your roof from outside or look for problems by inspecting from inside the attic.  Check closely around penetrations through the roof surface.
  • Trim back any trees, shrubs or other plants away from your home.  Tree limbs that scrape against your roof in the wind can cause serious damage.

Exterior Walls
  • Check and repair caulk around all doors and windows to improve energy efficiency andprevent water entry.
  • Caulk, maintain and/or repair all outside coverings: siding, brick, stucco etc. to prolong life and prevent water entry
  • Painted exterior surfaces should be repaired and touched up as needed to prolong life and reduce damage to the underlying material caused by water and sun.
  • Trim back any plants that hold water against your house like ivy, shrubs or bushes which can cause premature deterioration of the exterior walls and finish of your home.

  • Modify landscaping to direct all water away from the foundation.
  • Direct downspouts away from the foundation. It is recommended that downspouts be
    extended from 4 to 6 feet away.
      The distance the downspouts extend is not as important as the location to which they direct the water. The extension should direct the water to a portion of the landscaping that will allow water to run away from the house and foundation.
  • Repair cracks in concrete walls, floors, driveways and walkways. This will prevent water entry that can cause additional damage during freeze thaw cycles