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Dispelling Five Popular Electrical Myths

Serving Families Throughout Clackamas
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Electric power makes our homes capable of so many different things. We have light that we can turn on and on with the flip of a switch, heat we can turn on and off at will, as well as distribute evenly throughout our homes, and appliances that do everything from keeping our food fresh to washing our clothes faster and better than ever before. However, while electricity makes all of these things possible, we have found that a number of homeowners don’t fully understand just what electricity is, how it works, and what they should be doing to keep their homes and families safer.

In this blog, our electricians will focus on five common myths, errors, or misconceptions they have encountered over the years and explain the truth about a lot of them. It may turn out that something you believed for years may not be wholly-true after all.

Turning Something Off Means It Doesn’t Use Electricity

You hit the power button to shut off your TV, switch off your coffee maker, and make one final sweep of your home to make sure everything inside is turned off before leaving home for a two-week vacation. You return home and a few weeks later discover that your postman has delivered an electric bill, including charges from your time away. You were gone and everything was turned off… how could you still owe for electricity?

The answer is simple: shutting something off doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t using electricity. In fact, electronics like TVs, streaming boxes, cable boxes, DVD players, computers, and data drives are notorious for continuing to use energy even while in their shut-off state. Sometimes these devices don’t actually shut off at all, instead opting to go into a “low-power” state where they use a fraction of the energy but are able to continue to use background processes. If you really want to stop using electricity, you need to completely unplug something from the wall. Without this connection, your device can’t actually use the energy.

Keeping a Light on Saves More Energy than Turning It Off and Back On

This is a common misnomer that is particularly centered around fluorescent lighting, or those long tube lights that flicker a lot when you first turn them on. The reason being is because they do actually consume a lot of energy to turn on—igniting the gasses inside the bulb requires more energy than it takes to sustain the reaction and keep them going.

However, the tradeoff here isn’t all that big. In fact, the boost in current it takes to start the reaction is so small that it’s essentially inconsequential to your monthly energy bill. Likewise, it only exists for these types of bulbs. Other types of lighting, including traditional incandescent and modern LED lighting, do not suffer from these “startup penalties” and thus you’re always going to save energy by turning the lights off.

Household Currents Aren’t Strong Enough to Kill You

We hear this one on occasion. People are sometimes led to believe that the current flowing through our walls isn’t all that dangerous because utility providers and people in general wouldn’t want a dangerous quantity of energy flowing through their homes. It’d be too much liability and too dangerous for the average person. Well, unfortunately, we have news for you: it very much is at dangerous levels.

Throughout North American, the energy running through the walls of the average home is anywhere from 110 to 120 volts, and high-voltage connections (like the kinds used for HVAC equipment and high-energy appliances like electric dryers) will run anywhere from 220 to 240 volts. Either one of these levels can be fatal with prolonged exposure. Of course, you’ve probably heard stories of people who have been shocked by their outlets and lived to tell the tale, and that’s certainly possible. However, that voltage will hurt pretty badly, and it has killed people before. Likewise, it becomes far more dangerous when mixed with water.

Rubber Handles Make It Safe to Touch Metal Tools to Live Wires

On a similar note to our last myth, we’ve heard people say that tools with insulated rubber handles make it okay to touch and handle live wires without shutting them off. This is far from the truth. The rubber on the handle does act as an insulator, or a material that limits electrical conductivity. However, it isn’t nearly enough to protect you from the energy traveling through your electrical lines. If you plan on working on any part of your electrical system, you need to shut off that particular circuit before doing so to remain safe and fully protected.

You Can Plug a 3-Prong Plug Into a 2-Prong Outlet by Removing the Third Prong

Okay, so technically this one isn’t a myth. Removing the third rounded lower prong from a plug will allow the plug to fit into a two-prong outlet. Should you do this? Absolutely not. This is absurdly unsafe for you, your home, and your electrical system. The third prong, known as your grounding prong, is an extremely important safety device that allows excess current and voltage to safely flow away from the source and out to your grounding circuit.

Think of your grounding circuit sort of like a pressure regulator valve on a plumbing line. When too much water or pressure builds up in a line, the pressure regulator valve dumps the excess water through a drain line, where it can be disposed of safely. Without this regulator, pressure could build up in your water lines, eventually causing them to burst. With an electrical circuit, a surge of electrical “pressure” could cause wires to overheat and melt, shielding to burn, and significant damage to your electrical components attached to that particular circuit.

Got a problem with your electrical system? Have it serviced by the experts from A-TEMP Heating, Cooling & Electrical by calling (503) 694-3396 today.