Npower Electrcial Services

Expert Tips

Safety switches and surge protectors - Do you know the difference?

Both safety switches and surge protectors spring into action in the event of an electrical problem, but they play entirely different roles in your home.

Safety switches

A safety switch (also known as an RCD) is basically your insurance against electric shock. It is designed to prevent injury or death by monitoring electricity flow and detecting faults in your electrical system. If an electrical current leak is detected from faulty switches, wiring or electrical appliances, it will automatically shut off the electricity supply within 300 milliseconds. Installing a safety switch is an inexpensive way to protect everyone.

Surge protectors

A surge protector (or surge arrester) is designed to protect electrical appliances and devices from voltage spikes. It attempts to limit the voltage supplied to an electric appliance by blocking anything above a safe threshold. Surge protectors safeguard your appliances and wiring from voltage surges, such as those that happen in lightning strikes.

6 easy ways to save money on your electricity bill

It’s always great when you can save money without too much effort and there are simple things you can do around your home to reduce your electricity bills.

6 simple ways to save:

  1. When you aren’t using electrical equipment and appliances, turn them off at the wall as they still use power when they are on ‘standby’.
  2. Don’t make your fridge too cold. Your fridge compartment should be below 5˚C and your freezer should be set between minus 15˚C and minus 18˚C. For every degree colder, your running costs can increase between 2-4%.
  3. If the sun is out, use your clothesline to dry your clothes rather than your tumble dryer; and if you do have to use the dryer, make sure you clean the lint filter after each load.
  4. Replace incandescent or halogen lights with energy-saving LED lights and remember to turn off lights when you are last to leave any room.
  5. Make sure your dishwasher and washing machine are both full before you turn them on.
  6. Make sure the seals on your electric oven are in good condition so the heat doesn’t escape; and use your microwave when possible as they use far less energy than ovens.

You can also change to Synergy’s Smart Home Plan by using less power at peak times.

Reduce your lighting bill up to 75% with LED lighting

It’s never been easier to save money and lower your environmental impact - simply by switching to LED lighting in your home. Here’s why.

Great for your budget

In Australia, lighting accounts for 10% of the average household electricity budget. By replacing the lighting in and around your home with LEDs instead, you could save up to $500 a year on your energy costs. And the more lighting you have, the more you’ll save.

Great for the environment

LEDs last much longer, they don’t contain dangerous chemicals and are also recyclable. In fact, you can reduce your carbon footprint significantly simply by switching.

Here’s why LED lighting is so much better than halogen or incandescent lighting.

  • LED lighting is enormously energy efficient. It uses 80% less energy than halogen/incandescent bulbs.
  • LEDs stay cool. 95% of the energy in LEDs is converted into light with only 5% wasted as heat. In comparison, halogen/incandescent bulbs release 90% of their energy as heat.
  • LEDs will last about 10 times longer than a halogen bulb.
  • LEDs don’t contain any toxic compounds or elements like mercury and are also 100% recyclable.
  • LEDs are also very tough. They are made from sturdy materials and components that can stand up to harsh weather, shocks, vibrations and abrasion.
  • They offer great design tips as the colour, shade, brightness and distribution of light can be controlled for soothing, uplifting or energising mood lighting.
  • LED lights are bright immediately and they can also be turned off and on as many times as necessary without affecting their performance, even over the long term.
  • LEDs can work with low voltages, so they’re ideal for outdoor use.

Ask your local electrician about upgrading to LED lighting.

4 signs that your home may have faulty electrical wiring

Faulty wiring is one of the five most common causes of electrical fires. Fortunately, there are a few warning signs, so the problem can be fixed before it causes any major damage.

1. Your safety switch keeps tripping

It’s common for a safety switch to occasionally trip; after all, that’s what it’s there for - to shut off the power if your system is overloaded. However, if your safety switch trips a few times a month or more, it’s a sign that there may be a problem with your home’s wiring.

2. Flickering, buzzing or dimming lights

Another symptom of outdated or damaged wiring is flickering, buzzing or dimming lights. Perfectly safe wiring can occasionally do this, but if your lights are constantly dimming or flickering, again this may be a wiring problem.

3. Power points which are hot

Many electrical appliances generate heat during operation. However, a power outlet should never get hot.

4. Burning or acrid smells

If you can smell any burning, smoky or odd odours it could be coming from your wiring. Burning smells often mean that there might already be some fire damage.

If you notice any of these signs, then call your local electrician. This is one job you can’t investigate yourself and must be left to a registered professional.

Install power points with an inbuilt USB charger and keep your devices fully charged

If yours is a typical household, then everyone will have at least one phone. Add these to the rest of your devices (such as tablets, smart watches, Go-Pros and bike computers), and trying to keep them fully charged quickly becomes a daily challenge.

The good news is that your local electrician can now replace or install new power points with inbuilt USB chargers. They will charge your phone and devices faster and will free up space for other devices.

A USB wall socket is almost identical to a standard power point, except for one key difference: in addition to the three-pronged sockets where we usually plug in our chargers, there are inbuilt USB ports (usually 2 but it can be more). This means that our devices can be plugged directly into the wall socket (no charging plug required!).

Up to 3 x faster charging

The inbuilt USB charger allows devices to charge at their maximum speeds. Typically, USB sockets are 2-3 amps, which supply more current and allow faster charging than your plug-in USB charging plug. Why wait four hours to charge your phone when you could do it in two?

Free up space for other devices

With the USB charger built into the power point, you can free up space for other plugs. No unplugging the kettle, lamp or other chargers - there will be room for everything.

Other benefits include:

  • Keeping your office workspace tidy
  • No more searching for a USB charger
  • Longer lasting than a charging plug

Different USB wall charger options

There are a wide range of products available to choose from. The most common are:

  • Double power point with single USB charger
  • Double power point with double USB charger
  • Quad power point with double USB charger
  • Double USB charger
  • Quad USB charger

Install them where they are most needed

It’s best to install the new power points/USB chargers where your devices are typically used or left to charge. This could include:

  • Bedrooms (especially if you have teenagers)
  • The office or study for charging as you work
  • The kitchen, so you can keep charging while searching online for your favourite recipe
  • Near the TV so you can charge while streaming your show

Prepare your working-from-home area with extra power points and efficient lighting

Many of us are now working from home but not everyone was prepared for it to happen so quickly. While you might be ‘making do’ life will be easier if your work area is properly prepared.

Extra power points
Avoid the use of power boards. They are easily overloaded and can damage the devices that are plugged in, cause electric shocks and even start a fire. A simple solution is to have extra power outlets installed or single power points changed to double or quads.

Test your safety switches
With everyone staying home, the pressure put on your electrical circuits will have increased. Check your safety switches in your meter box to make sure they are working. They should be checked at least once per year.

Improved lighting
Replace inadequate lighting with LEDs. LED lighting is known for performance, energy-efficiency and long-term savings. It has also been shown that installing high-quality LED lights can create a healthy work environment and increase productivity.

Your local electrician is still working so give them a call and they’ll be able to offer some help and advice about what will make your working space comfortable and efficient.

Silent means safe

If you can hear a buzzing sound coming from a power outlet, it’s a sign that something is wrong. It could be dangerous so you should stop using it and call an electrician. When working safely, the electricity in your home shouldn’t make a noise. But loose prongs, outlets or fraying wires can cause the current to jump and produce a buzzing sound.

The right light bulb

It’s important that you always use the correct light bulb for the fixtures in your home. If a fixture is rated for a maximum of 60 watts, anything higher will draw more power through the wires than it can safely handle. When this happens, the fixture may heat up during prolonged use and eventually burn out. If you need brighter lighting, have your light fittings changed to accommodate a higher wattage bulb.

Q: I can sometimes hear a crackling sound when I use my light switches – is this normal?

A: The sound that you're hearing is called arcing and indicates that the contacts within the switch have worn down. This is a problem that will only worsen over time. The contacts continue to get worn down and this results in a build up of resistance and heat. In most instances, arcing is also accompanied by distinct burning smell. When the contact points in the switch get heated up, the plastic parts in it start melting and this is what causes the smell. This indicates a fault in the switch and it’s important you call in an electrician to replace it, as soon as possible.

Q: Why are my power outlets hot when I touch them?

A: Anything that is connected to power and feels hot is a problem. Electricity naturally creates heat, but that heat should not permeate through your fixtures to the point where they are actually hot. Warm is normal. Hot is not. The problem could be anything from the appliances you are plugging in, to the outlet being broken, too much demand on the circuit or damaged wiring. Whatever the cause, it should be checked out by a licensed electrician who will be able diagnose the problem and fix it.

Q: My downlights have started to go out for a while and then come back on again.

A: Recessed lighting (like downlights) are equipped with safety devices that cut out power to the light when it gets too hot. This could be caused by a high wattage on the bulb, insulation in the ceiling which is too close to the bulb or they have been installed incorrectly. First check that you are using the correct wattage of bulb for the light. If you are, then you should call an electrician as any other reason could be dangerous and even cause a fire.

Q: What causes an electrical surge?

A: Electrical surges can be caused by anything from lightning strikes and faulty appliances to poor quality electrical wiring. An electrical surge only lasts a microsecond, but if they happen often, they can cause damage to the electrical components in your home, especially computers, TVs, DVD players and sound systems. If you experience frequent surges, it could be an electrical device causing the problem. Try unplugging any cheaply-made devices or power-boards to see if this helps. Installing a surge protector can also help extend the life of your electrical equipment. A surge protector should not be confused with an electrical safety switch, which has a different purpose. The safest option is to call a licensed electrician to check out the problem and make sure everything is operating safely.

Q: Why is my light switch hot?

A: If your light switch is hot to the touch, you have a problem. This is not normal and could mean that there are serious wiring issues hiding behind your walls. Your best course of action is to get a licensed electrician to check the problem.

Q: My light bulbs don't seem to be lasting very long. What's the problem?

A: There are a number of reasons that light bulbs are not lasting as long as they should. These include the wattage of the bulb being too high for its purpose, insulation being too close (for example in downlights), bad wiring on the circuit or in the mains, too much total wattage on one dimmer switch or a poor connection on the circuit. As with anything electrical, it's best to consult a licensed electrician who will find and solve the problem.

Q: Our circuit breaker keeps tripping and we can’t figure out the problem.

A: One of the most common causes is overloaded power points. Try removing devices such as phone chargers when they’re not in use, as they continue to draw power. Spread your appliances around the power points in your home, rather than having them all connected in one place and never daisy chain power boards. You could also ask a qualified electrician to install more power points to spread the load.

Q: Now and again my overhead lights flicker. What's causing this and how do I fix it?

A: Flickering lights can be caused by a number of things. These include a dimmer switch that isn't compatible, a loose connection somewhere in the electrical circuit or a faulty light switch. Problems such as these should always be inspected by an electrician as what's causing the lights to flicker could pose a fire risk.