Author Archives: Admin

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Foyer Chandelier Installation

Chandelier Installation

How much does it cost to install my new chandelier? This is a very common question we get and I’m sure there are many folks out there trying to figure this out as well, hopefully this little guide helps.

Chandeliers are some of the most expensive and often exotic fixtures that exist in residential homes. They range from simple 2lb hanging fixtures to 300lb crystal adorned pieces of art. Before we begin, make sure whatever company you have installing the chandelier is a electrically licensed with full insurance (use a handyman or moonlighter at your own risk).  Chandeliers are heavy and they can fall if not installed properly!

So lets get to it: “How much to install (or replace) my chandelier?” I can tell you as a seasoned professional who has personally installed hundreds of chandeliers, it would be unwise and irresponsible to give a promised number when it comes to chandeliers.  There are far too many variables, we can’t see through the phone to what your situation is. Here are some things to consider:

1.) Where is the chandelier located? Is it over a table with a regular 8-foot ceiling, or is it 20+ feet up in a foyer? Do you have a chandelier lift installed?

-If the chandelier is in a foyer and there is no chandelier lift installed, scaffolding needs to be erected in the foyer to safely install a new chandelier.

The good news is that a chandelier should last you decades and you don’t need to do it frequently. With that said, erecting scaffolding takes time and costs money. It is safe to assume at least $500.00 for just assembling and disassembling the scaffolding at the beginning and end of the day.

2.) How large is the chandelier?

-Bigger fixtures require more time, more intricate fixtures can take days (We have installed a 300lb chandelier with over 1500 crystals that took 2 whole days).

-Many small fixtures purchased at a local Home Depot or Lowes can often be installed within 1 or 2 hours provided the box and wiring is existing.

3.) Is there a switch leg and box installed for the chandelier?

-Running power and installing a switch leg to control the chandelier is a whole different topic, sometimes easy and inexpensive, sometimes difficult, invasive, and costly.

-An old box exists: Sometimes old plastic boxes are best to be replaced with proper fan/chandelier rated boxes that are rated to hold 150lb fixtures.

-A new box and wiring are in place: This is a common scenario with new homes. The building electrician will install blank covers and/or inexpensive “builders fixtures” and then another electrician will come in and install the customer purchased finishing fixtures.

Bottom line:

If you have a chandelier that needs replacing and you know the box is in good shape or you have a new box and wiring here’s a good rule of thumb that I’ve put together over the years and applies far more times than it doesn’t;

Expect the cost of installation to be close to the cost of the fixture that you purchased.

Perhaps this is the sole reason I sat down to write this up.  If you just bought a $7000.00 chandelier, don’t expect to have it installed for $200.00, likewise if you have a $80 chandelier, it shouldn’t cost $500 to install it.

Hopefully this helped to shed some light on your chandelier buying and installing situation. Good luck!

Chandelier install with flame bulbs


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General Contracting

When taking on a big project, many folks wonder if they should take on the role of General Contractor. Our company is in a position in which our customers are General Contractors and homeowners alike so we’ve seen a lot over the years.

As a trade professional who deals with professional General Contractors, not-so-professional General Contractors, and homeowners who oversee their own projects, I think I can give some great insight from a third party birds eye view to help with this decision. Lets use GC for General Contractor from here on out to make life easier for us both.

There are many things a good GC should do to earn your money.  They are getting paid to oversee the project at hand. That means taking responsibility if subcontractors don’t show up, for mistakes made on the job, ordering and picking up materials, and very importantly subcontractor timing.  For a job to go smoothly and have a happy ending, they must precisely and consistently explain to the client and subcontractors what is to be done. Done correctly, it is absolutely a full time job.

So do you GC yourself? If you have the time to dedicate to searching out great trade professionals, will to admit that you make mistakes, and have a developed ego to pay for mistakes you may have made, then yes. Depending on the size of the project, expect to spend a few hours each day explaining to subcontractors exactly what it is you want. The following pitfalls apply both to hired GC’s and homeowners who take the job by the horns, learn from these before you make the same mistakes!

Pitfalls we have seen:

  1. Poor timing: If you time something poorly, for example schedule the sheetrock to be installed before the electric or plumbing is completed and inspected, be prepared to undo that and pay for the mistake. DO NOT forget about inspections when it comes to electric, plumbing, and any other trade inspections that may be required in your town. DO the research to find out what it is you need. Hint; these go by the name of Underwriters Certificate, Permit, CO, and many more”
  1. The blame game: “It’s the masons fault,” “The plumber never told me…” “The electrician was supposed to…” Stop right there and accept the responsibility and the hard truth that you are not well enough versed in the many facets of the project. All of these things are 100% the responsibility of the person GC’ing the job. If it is you as a homeowner and you can not take responsibility for these things, hire a reputable GC. If you’ve hired a GC, fire that person and hire a reputable one.
  1. You’ve hired a not-so-professional GC: Each day a different plumber or electrician is on the job, the GC tells you that there is a hold up because the painter accidentally painted the wrong room, or the tiles went down before the floor heat and now you need more tiles. PAY ATTENTION to these things and have a talk with your GC, these are tell tale signs that something is awry. Again the GC NEEDS to take responsibility for these problems, NOT the trade professionals. That is exactly what you are paying them to do.
  1. “General Contractors are crooks anyways!”: Sure, depending on your attitude and who you deal with this can very well be the case. There are as many GC’s out there who are looking to cheat someone out of money as there are professional, honest GC’s. Crooks exist in every corner of this world from contractors, lawyers, politicians, and priests, so get the idea out of your head that ALL GC’s are out to get you and profit from your naivety.

 

What to look for in a good General Contractor:
A good GC will have years of experience. They will admit they do not know everything about everything, specifically ALL trades, but they will definitely know the flow of how jobs go and probably a good amount about many trades. Most likely they will have their own crew of carpenters who do framing, sheetrock, tape, and spackle. They will make time to answer your questions and be honest about how everything is going.  Here’s a little list of the good and bad things to look for:

Good:
-10+ years of experience
-Licensed and Insured (they don’t just say it, they can prove it)
-Completion of similar projects with pictures and happy customers to show for it
-Open to suggestions, glad to explain why something can or cannot work
-Dedicated work vehicle such as a van or box truck that is clean and neat with the contractor’s information and DOT information on it.
-Provides drawings or even blueprints for the job to flow smoothly

Bad:
-“We do everything, I know everything” (seriously, huge red flag here)
-Forgets to call you back
-Too busy to oversee the job personally
-No specification of who is doing specialized trades work (Plumbing, Electric)
-Frustrated by questions you may have
-Expects you as the homeowner to know what’s going on

Bottom line
One last important point I have here: find reputable contractors by referrals, don’t count on internet ratings, you’re not looking for the best burger in town.  Hire a responsible, experienced GC if you’re expertise is far from anything in the construction trades. Whether you GC a job or hire a professional, don’t expect everything to go exactly as planned from the inception of the project. Unforeseen things come up when walls and floors and fixtures are removed, it’s part of owning a house and the journey to getting exactly what you want. Go with it, ask credible people and do your research. Its better to ask a stupid question than to make a stupid mistake. Be patient with your project and let it be fun, good luck!

 

Mike Lombardo


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Heated Driveways

Don’t like shoveling snow in the winter? Neither do we.
As technology evolves, it has become much easier and cost effective to install electric heating units in driveways and walkways so that one does not need to shovel/snowthrow/plow to remove snow.

It’s critical to turn on a heated driveway/walkway system before it begins snowing, but what if you’re not home? We have designed a system of wireless switches and contactors that get the job done from any smartphone.

Below are some pictures of installed systems during the installation process and then after, during a snow storm.  If this is something you’re interested in, give us a call and we can give you more information on the process.

Driveway Heating Relays and remote switches

Heated Driveway during snowfall


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Aluminum to copper wirenuts

Aluminum Wiring

We get more questions about aluminum wiring here on Long Island than anything else related to electricity in homes.  There are many websites out there with good yet often impractical information on aluminum wiring. We’ve been doing this for 38 years and to date have never had a problem with how we remedy aluminum wiring!  Hopefully after reading this we will have shed some professional light on this topic.

Quick History lesson
Aluminum wiring was used in homes from the early 1960’s through the mid 1970’s because the price of copper skyrocketed.  There is no set definite year of when Aluminum wire was implemented.  Before and during the beginning of the Vietnam War, the private (American) copper-mining industry lost a large portion of its equity and influence on copper and copper prices due to various international affairs1.  Contractors and builders in the business of building houses needed an alternative and in the early 1960’s, aluminum wire was approved to be used in residential home wiring and went in to production.

Is aluminum wiring bad?!
It sure wasn’t for the pocket of the person building/wiring the house in the 60’s and 70’s! It was widely used from roughly 1965-1975 because the price of copper became extremely high. Although there certainly have been many an electrical fire from Aluminum wiring, these conditions are very often caused by preventable instances; overloading the circuits, poor workmanship, and dissimilar metals (specifically in pre-1972 Aluminum wiring) are among the top contenders for the failure of aluminum wiring. If you suspect your home was built with aluminum wiring manufactured from before 1972 (built between 1965-1972), it is most definitely worth having it looked at. A study conducted by The Franklin Research Institute on behalf of the Consumer Product Safety Commission CPSC revealed that homes “built before 1972, and wired with aluminum, are 55 times more likely to have one or more wire connections at outlets reach “Fire Hazard Conditions” than homes wired with copper2”  At the very least, make it a long term plan to rewire the house.

Aluminum wire remedies
If you’re reading this, I’m sure you’ve already read through some of the other articles on what to do for aluminum wiring, most websites exclusively recommend the following:
1. Rewire the house/aluminum circuits
2. COPALUM crimps
Lets talk about why these are nice to read about but not practical.

1. Rewiring the house: If you purchased a home built in these time periods, you likely (not definitely) purchased a house for less than $500k (as of 2017). That said, you probably do not want spend another $200k to gut your home simply because you found out there is aluminum wiring in the house. (Please note, home inspectors are not electricians by any stretch of the imagination. Some certainly have great knowledge, but some really should not even attempt to make electrical remarks)
It can, however, be worthwhile to do this if you have a heavy use circuit (ie. you use it for a vacuum, tv, or something frequently) and there is clear attic access above or clear accessible basement access below.

2.  COPALUM crimps: If you can find someone who still does this and also want to pay the same price to have a fancy crimp on aluminum wires as you would to have a whole new circuit pulled, go for it.  The chances of both of these are slim to none.  COPALUM is a system created by Tyco Electronics in which one needs to take a class on how to do their “cold weld” and then rent a special machine that only they make.  It costs roughly $2000.00/month (not including the cost of attending the “training) for an electrician to do COPALUM crimping plus the cost of the actual crimps.   You usually can’t even get the crimping machine in to the work space you need to make the repair making it that much more impractical.  Many folks call us and are disheartened when I tell them we do not do this. In 38 years, we have not met another electrician on Long Island who does this residentially, lets agree that COPALUM is officially debunked.

What to do, what not to do:

Do call a licensed electrician

Do determine if it is more cost effective to run a new circuit or to remedy what you have

Do ask the electrician to check other receptacles in the house, particularly the neutrals

Do plan to eventually rewire the aluminum circuits

Do NOT attempt to pigtail yourself, I’m all about DIY but you don’t have much play with aluminum wiring, it breaks very easily and if you break it too far back you’re going to have to cut the wall and/or run a new line to that outlet box/light fixture/switch, leave the responsibility with a licensed electrician

Do NOT be reactive, if you are aware of aluminum wiring in the house, it is far more worth it to spend a little bit of money and have it remedied, even for peace of mind alone. Don’t wait for it to be a problem.

 

Best Overall Remedy:

Copper-aluminum wire nuts: Decent 3M or Ideal Copper-Aluminum wire nuts are not cheap when compared to regular copper to copper wire nuts but when used correctly they are great.  Proponents of COPALUM and other CPSC “approved” methods tend to ignore the fact that copper-aluminum wire nuts exist.  Not only do they exist, but when used in accordance with the instructions included with the product provides a safe, effective, legal, and permanent solution to the problem of connecting copper conductors to existing aluminum branch circuit wiring.”3

“The IDEAL Model #65 TWISTER® AL/CU Connector complies with the N.E.C. Section 110-14b for aluminum to copper connections, and Federal Specification W-S- 610E, is UL 486C Listed, UL 467 Listed, UL 94V-2 flame rated, CSA C22.2 #188 Certified, and rated 105C (221F) for use in all branch circuit and fixture splicing applications.”3

Feel free to leave us a comment or question.  If you’re on Long Island and need aluminum wire remedied/replaced give us a call at 631-242-2970 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. Thanks for reading!

References:

  1. https://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/copper/240798.pdf
  2. https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/516.pdf
  3. http://www.idealindustries.ca/media/pdfs/products/twister_al-cu_compliance.pdf
  4. ibid

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LED Dimmers

A common service call that we have been encountering lately pertains to the burning question: Why can’t I dim my new LED lights?

While true that they will last a very long time, provide a great light color, and use drastically less energy, you will likely have to change your dimmer switch if you are wanting to dim your new fixture.  We explain this to lots of customers, the logic is simple.

A very common, incandescent (we’ll call it regular) dimmer is a 600 Watt Dimmer.  At 60 watts per bulb, you would be looking at being able to dim no more than 10 lights.  Now what happens when we change the bulbs that were consuming 60 watts of energy to bulbs that consume less than 10 watts of energy?

Let’s use the hypothetical situation and assume our old 600W dimmer was being used to its full capacity and dimming 10 incandescent light bulbs operating at 60W each.  Now, we replace all 10 of those bulbs with LED bulbs (or fixtures, retrofit fixtures, etc.).  Now we are consuming less than 100W of energy.  There is not nearly enough resistance for the old dimmer to “see” the new LED bulbs.

LED Dimmers

Before and after installing and LED dimmer on a customers fixtures

You may be thinking, “but what if I had only 1 incandescent bulb? It still works and only consumes 60W!” This dives a little bit deeper into the mechanics of how an LED bulb works versus an incandescent bulb.  There is no filament providing resistance in the LED bulb which is why the single incandescent bulb at 60W will work with no problem on the regular dimmer.

The solution is very simple.  Have a licensed electrician install a dimmer specifically made for the LED fixtures or bulbs that you wish to dim.  There are many different types.  For household applications, Lutron makes some great units and even has a light control tool on their website here.  They have built in an adjustment control on many of the units to adjust the amount of dimming when mixing bulbs or for personal preference.

There are also commercially available LED dimmers for LED troffer lights, such as the very common 2×2 and 2×4 ceiling grid models.  In most applications that we have encountered thus far, another set of wires for the dimmer control often needs to be run, it is not as simple as replacing the unit and dimmer. It is a great added option to the commercial LED world to be able to control the ambiance via a commercial LED dimmer.

Thanks for reading, we hope you now know more about LED dimmers than you did before.  Feel free to leave us a comment with questions or comments.  We love to hear from our website visitors!


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Installing an outlet, installing a receptacle, how to install an outlet

How To Install an Outlet

You probably found this page because you are looking to install or replace an outlet right?

That’s awesome and we’ll show you here how to do it the right way in just a few steps.  However, you should always have a professional electrician inspect your work before buttoning it up, this stuff is serious and can be dangerous just like anything else in life not done correctly.

Firstly, an “Outlet” is technically defined as a hole in the wall of your house with a wire sticking out.  Many times it is in reference to a receptacle; a “receptacle,” which is what we’re going to be installing is the device that electrical appliances are plugged in to.

Enough talking, let’s do it:

1.) Ensure that your circuit breaker that supplies power to the area you are working on is in the off position.  You will need a “tick tester” like the one in the picture below to do this.  This is very important and please take this seriously, if you are not a professional electrician do not attempt to change the receptacle when the power is on.  As little as 1/1000 of an Amp can kill a human if current crosses the thoracic area.

I’m going to assume you have a receptacle that has been removed or that it is a new box and you have the insulated Romex coming through the box at least 6″.  Feel free to click any of the pictures below to get a zoomed view.

Installing an outlet, installing a receptacle

2.)  You’ll see three colored screws on your receptacle. Each color screw corresponds to a wire color and function. Let’s make this easy:

  • Gold Screws = Black Wire (Hot leg, the wire supplying power)
  • Silver Screws = White Wire (Neutral wire, the wire bringing the power back to the panel)
  • Green Screw = Bare copper or Green wire (The ground wire)

Installing an outlet, installing a receptacle, how to install an outlet

2.) If you’re replacing a receptacle, there is always the possibility that  the wire colors that you see in your old receptacle do not correspond to what I have just listed above.  For example, you may have a red wire on the gold screw.  There are a variety of reasons this may have been done on purpose but for the scope of this “how-to,” put the wires on the new receptacle just as you see them on the receptacle you’re replacing.  Now would be a good time to take out your smart phone and snap a picture of how the old receptacle is wired.

 

3.) If you’re using new wire, strip the tips about 5/8″.  You can always trim it if you strip too much.   Now you will be bending the wire to fit around the receptacle screws.  Needle nose pliers and wire strippers are great for this.  Side cutting pliers (“dikes”) may also be used but take care not to damage the tip of the wire.

You’ll want to make sure that the “hook” you create is just big enough to fit around the screws of the receptacle.  Not the head of the screws, but the shaft.

Installing an outlet, installing a receptacle, how to install an outletInstalling an outlet, installing a receptacle, how to install an outlet

4.) For safety purposes, we’re going to start with the ground(Bare copper or green), then the neutral(White), and lastly the hot (Black).  Work the hooked wire onto the screw.  You’ll want the open end of the wire to be situated in such a way that as you tighten the screw, the hooked wire will also tighten down.  If you are looking at the screw from above, this will always be to the right (See Below).

Installing an outlet, installing a receptacle, how to install an outlet

5.) Repeat this process for each of the three wires.

6.) Now its time to put the receptacle into the box.  Technically, according to the National Electric Code (NEC), there is no “correct” way to insert a receptacle in terms of ground up or ground down.  Personally, and I think professionally also, it is wise to fasten the receptacle with the grounds facing up (see below).  Why?  Good question, if the device you have plugged in wriggles out a bit, you will have some of the metal on the male plug exposed.  Now suppose something falls on this that is conductive in nature such as a metal picture frame.  If it hits the hot and neutral at the same time, the circuit will short out and could present a potentially dangerous situation.  If that same object falls and hits the ground pin of the male plug end on the way down, there will be no short, just a broken picture frame.

Installing an outlet, installing a receptacle, how to install an outlet

7.) To facilitate this process, bend the wires accordion style behind the receptacle.  If you have a 20A receptacle (12G wire) or many wires on the receptacle this will be more difficult.  Patience and tenacity are key here, try not to be too rough with the wires and don’t damage the jacket of the wire with a sharp object when trying to push them in, even the tip of pliers can damage the jacket.

8.) Screw the receptacle into the box so that it is flush with the wall.  Sometimes, this can be tricky, you want the receptacle to be flush with the wall when you put the cover plate on.  You may have to adjust the depth of the receptacle so it will fit just right with the cover plate.

Installing an outlet, installing a receptacle, how to install an outlet

9.) Screw on the cover plate.  Be careful with this part, if the cover plate is not nylon it may break if you tighten the screw to much.  If the plate doesn’t fit well, don’t force it, take it off and adjust the receptacle screws and position of the receptacle.

Installing an outlet, installing a receptacle, how to install an outlet

 

That’s it! You’ve done it, feel free to leave a comment or ask any questions you’d like.  Thanks for reading!


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