Time for a Backup Generator

Posted by John on June 30th, 2015

This past Tuesday, the Philadelphia Region was slammed with a windy summer storm that knocked out our neighborhood’s electricity for days. We were without power until this past Saturday. No fun. Since we moved here from the city five years ago, we’ve lost our power maybe once a year and for never longer than a day or two. Even during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, we didn’t lose our power.

purchase a generator

During the storm last week, we were able to borrow a portable backup generator from a kind neighbor who had extras. Surprisingly, this was my first experience using any type of portable generator system.   We kept it out in the back yard and ran a couple extension cords through a window to keep the fridge going and to do some laundry.  That setup worked pretty well until it started raining. Turns out, generators are electrical devices and they don’t like getting wet. Go figure.  Unable to effectively keep it dry, I had to turn it off and bring it inside the garage until the storm passed. This time of year with the heat and the humidity, it could rain everyday or every other day.

When it rained and we weren’t using the generator, we resorted to putting all of the refrigerator contents into a cooler packed with ice. We kept the freezer section closed, which supposedly will keep the food cold for up to 48 hours. We’ll see, I’ll let you know if I accidentally eat any spoiled meat.

A few of my neighbors that have portable generators also have an outlet on the outside of the house they can plug the generator into. This setup allows them to power the entire circuit breaker instead of running extension cords through a window. With the circuit breaker powered up, they can then choose which circuits to turn on. If you want lights and the refrigerator powered up, no problem. You can turn breakers on and off depending on what you’d like to power.

Here’s what that outlet and power cord looks like (thanks, Ed):

generator outlet


generator cord

There are a couple drawbacks to this option. Since the plug is for a portable generator, it’s not designed to sit out in the rain so you’ll need to either safely cover it somehow or bring it in. Guess when your power is most likely to be knocked out? You guessed it, during a rainstorm.  Once the storm is over though, you’re good to go.

The other issue is the size. You can get portable generators up to 17,500 Watts. If you want to power up your central air conditioner, you’ll probably need 17,500 Watts and for that size you’re looking at spending around $3k-$4k just for the unit.

The unit we borrowed from our neighbor was 3250 Watts and it was plenty big for a fridge and lights. You can get a decent sized portable generator for under $1000 no sweat.

The other option available is a whole house unit. This type of generator will sit permanently in one location and will be hard wired into a box next to the main breaker panel. They can run on propane or natural gas as opposed to gasoline, which is used on the portable generators. The whole house backup generators will monitor your circuit breaker for a power outage and then power themselves on automatically. You can then select which devices to provide power to. If you hook it up to a natural gas supply line in your home, you won’t ever need to run out during a storm and add fuel. Power goes out, generator kicks on and you’re back in business. They can be sized from 10,000 Watts on the low end up to 22,000+Watts on the higher end.

generac generator

(20kW Home Standy Generator via Amazon.com affiliate link)

Obviously, the advantage here is a nearly uninterrupted power supply. If you get a generator big enough, you can keep the AC on. Since it’s designed to never be moved, it can take abuse from the weather and the elements. Some of them perform their own maintenance and will let you know if you need to change or add oil or call for a service appointment.

The big downside to this type of option is the price. The equipment costs around $4k and up not including installation costs, which I could handle.

The big question: Is it worth it? Can we get by with a $500 unit and just run some extension cords? If we install the outlet outside, am I okay with running out for gasoline every day or bringing it into the garage if it rains? This is one of those questions that everyone needs to answer on their own. What’s your pain threshold?

Today, I’m not a fan of no AC, frequent rainstorms and no lights. I’m also not a fan of paying $4k for something I may not need that often.  So, we’ll see. Definitely doing something, just not sure which option yet.

What would you do? What would you do if the price wasn’t an option? Maybe I need to sell some more books!! 😉

Stay tuned, because you know I’m going to show you how to install this piece once I buy something.


Posted in Electrical. Tagged in ,,

3 DIY Projects that STILL Save Me Money

Posted by John on March 29th, 2015

Most of the home improvement projects I’ve done around our home are one-time savings events.  I’m doing the work once and saving money over hiring a contractor one time.  There are a few projects, however, that continue to save me money even though I finished them years ago.  In this post, I’ll share with you three DIY projects that still save me money well after the work has been finished.

1.  Reverse Osmosis System.  Lisa and I installed a reverse osmosis system under our kitchen sink back in 2012 and since then it’s saved us hundreds of dollars.  Instead of purchasing bottled water or using a Brita, the reverse osmosis system has a dedicated tap that we use for drinking water, coffee, tea and even cooking pasta.  How much money it saves depends on how much bottled water you’d normally go through, but here’s an example.  If the average adult drinks 8 servings of 8 oz. of water per day and you have two adults in the house, that’s something like 120+ cases of bottled water in a year.  If a case of Dasani costs $4, then that’s $485 per year in bottled water.  The Whirlpool reverse osmosis system we installed cost $146 and will cost anywhere from roughly $99 to $133 per year to maintain (replacement filter costs).  That represents a savings of approximately $339 the first year and $350 to $385 each additional year.  Those numbers don’t even include water used for tea, coffee or cooking.  That’s just drinking water.

reverse osmosis

2.  A Whole House Surge Protector.  How does a surge protector save you money?  If you ever get a power surge or a power outage, your electronics can be damaged if they are not properly protected.  The year we moved into our current home, we had three or four power outages.  Before the power went out, the lights would flicker on and off for a few seconds.  When that power is flickering, it could be going above and below the amount your electronics can safely handle and cause it to fail.  One option to protect your equipment is to connect your computer to an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), which can usually filter out those power spikes as well as provide a backup power source to give you time to safety turn off your computer.  An UPS is a smart idea for computers, but for the rest of your home a whole house surge protector can be a smart idea to help prevent damage to flat screen televisions and other electronics and appliances.  It gets installed directly to your circuit breaker box and will filter out those power surges from affecting your home.  It’s much cheaper to purchase and install a surge protector then to replace all of your electronics.

3.  Outdoor Lighting Timer and LED Bulbs.  By now, if you aren’t using LED or compact flourescent light (CFL) bulbs then you know that you are spending more for your lighting costs than you should.  Despite the fact that we were using LED bulbs for our exterior garage lights, we were still wasting energy by having them on all day.  We would try to turn them off in the morning and off again in the evening, but it’s an easy chore to forget.   The longer the lights are on, the quicker they’ll burn out and there’s no reason for them to be on during the day.  To correct this issue, we installed a lighting timer to automatically turn the lights on and off for us.  It was fairly simple to wire up and now we don’t have to worry about it.  The lights will last longer and we get the added security of a well lit house at night.  Boom.  Time and money saved.




How are your home improvement projects saving you money?

Posted in DIY Projects,Electrical,Plumbing. Tagged in ,, , ,

How to Install Old Work Lights

Posted by John on May 7th, 2014

Our home office remodel is going really well.  We just finished the joint compound work, the ceiling has been primed and painted and just this evening I finished installing the ceiling lights.  I just realized I owe you a complete list of every task we’ve completed and have planned for this space, that way you have a better idea of where we are.  I think I’ll save that status list for next time.

In today’s post, I’m showing you how to install old work lights.


coffered ceiling

If you’re not familiar with the term “old-work,” let me take a minute to explain it.  Old work is a term that describes the type of electrical work being performed or the type of electrical equipment being used.  In addition to “old-work,” there’s also “new-work.”  What’s the difference?  Good question.  New work refers to electrical work that is being performed on a completely unfinished space, like new construction for example.  New work electrical boxes are designed to be nailed right to an exposed stud BEFORE the drywall gets installed.  New work boxes are super easy to install in new work applications.  There are also new work light fixtures that get installed between overhead joists.

Old work on the other hand is for electrical work that is being done in a finished space.  The equipment is designed to be slipped into finished walls and ceilings.  Since you can’t nail an electrical box to a stud if the wall is covered with drywall, an old work box is designed to simply bite onto the drywall.  If you wanted to, you could always knock down the drywall to get access to the studs and then use new work boxes.  Depends on the situation.

In our office, we’re using old work for our overhead lights and receptacles (we had to move two outlets).  The overhead lights are being installed in a portion of the ceiling that’s already been finished.

The process to install the old work lights starts with the wiring and cutting the holes in the drywall for the lights.  I prefer to use 4″ halogen lights for nearly all overhead lighting applications.  Big fan of the smaller look and I love that the lights gimbal so they can be directed around the room.

box tabs

I’ll prepare my light fixture by removing one of the connector tabs from the attached electrical box with a screw driver or pair of pliers.

plastic romex connector

connector in box

Next, I’ll pop in a plastic romex connector to protect the wire from rubbing against the metal box.  You can also use the metal romex connectors.  A connector is absolutely required, otherwise the romex wire could rub against a sharp edge or burr on the box and cause a short.

pull cables into box

With the connector snapped into place, I’ll pull my wire through it until there is a few inches into the box.  Obviously, I have the power off at the breaker.  At this point, I stripped back my outer romex shield and wired the light to the house cable.  I’m not going to show that step, but if you’re interested in learning how to make electrical connections, I suggest you learn from someone in-person.  There are a ton of useful articles online as well as some great YouTube videos on wiring, but nothing beats some live, one-on-one training.

push light into hole

When the wiring is complete, I snap on the box cover and push the light into the hole in the ceiling.  Tabs extend out from the light housing and grab onto the drywall preventing it from falling back out of the hole.  The tabs actually keep the light fairly snug against the ceiling.

light baffle

Last step is to just snap in the halogen bulb and finishing cover.

coffered ceiling lights

The room looks completely different with all four overhead lights illuminated.  Gives the space a whole new feel.

In our next post, I’m going to share with you a new tool I bought to save a TON of time with the ceiling paint.  I love it so much, I’m going to use it on the walls.

Have you ever worked with an old-work electrical device or do you prefer the new-work stuff?

Posted in DIY Projects,Electrical,Lighting. Tagged in ,, ,

Tips for Passing an Electrical Inspection

Posted by John on March 13th, 2014

Just this morning, my local township electrical inspector stopped by and reviewed the electrical work I had performed for our home office improvement project.  He gave us a passing grade, which means I officially have approval to cover the framing with drywall and finish the room.  He pointed out a couple changes I need to make before he returns, so I do need to take care of those issues.  This is probably the third or fourth time he’s been out to our house for an inspection so I’ve learned to prepare for the things he likes to see.


9 Tips for Passing an Electrical Inspection

If you are considering attempting your own electrical work on your next project, I implore you to apply for electrical permits from your local government.

Applying to do my own work was a simple process.  In this case, all I did was fill out a couple of simple forms where I stated my name, address, the scope of the work being performed (adding 4 recessed lights) and the estimated cost of the work related to the permit.  After about two weeks, the township called me and let me know my permit was approved and ready for pickup.  I paid a $61 fee to the township and got started on the rough-in work.  Once I complete the rough-in work, I schedule the inspector and he pays me a visit.

The most anxiety inducing part of this process is the rough-in inspection, but if you follow these general guidelines, you’ll be much more likely to pass the first time.

1.  Ask the Inspector First.  When you schedule the inspector, try to actually have a conversation with him or her about what they expect to see and what pitfalls you can avoid.  All inspectors should be looking for the same checks, but some have additional requirements or pet-peeves that can fail you.  Checking with them first is a great way to establish a name to a face and get a sense of their general requirements.

2.  Don’t Add Any Devices.  During the rough-in inspection, there can’t be any devices on the circuits you are adding. No outlets, no lights, no switches, nada, nunca.  If you are adding an outlet to an existing circuit, then the NEW outlet should also not be installed either.  The rest of the outlets on that circuit that were originally there are probably fine, but if you disturbed the wiring in any outlet, it shouldn’t have a device for the inspection.

tie grounds

3.  Tie Your Grounds Together.  In each outlet or electrical box location, the ground wires should be tied together.  This is something my inspector noted today.  Don’t tie anything else together though.  The hot and neutral leads should remain separate.

fire block

4.  Fire Block.  Any holes or penetrations from one floor to the next or from one wiring passage to the next needs to be blocked so as to prevent a fire using the hole as a breathing hole or chimney.  Typically, you can use fire block expanding foam (which is bright orange in color) or regular fiberglass insulation to fill or plug these kind of holes.

plug holes

5.  Plug Holes in Boxes.  This one was new to me and I’ll have to fix it.  The electrical box I used have these bendable tabs where the cable enters.  Well one of these tabs snapped off.  The inspector told me I need to plug it.  I’ll probably use insulation and jam it in the hole here.

proper breaker

6.  Use Correct Breaker.  Another correction I’ll have to make is the circuit breaker I installed.  The breaker in this application needs to be an 15 amp Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) and I had installed a regular 15 amp breaker.  The AFCI’s prevent arcs and are required on all circuits that feed living spaces (I think).  You can buy AFCI’s in any hardware store and they are several times more expensive than regular breakers.

7.  Don’t Power the Circuit.  Although the wires for the new circuit can be tied into the new breaker, the breaker needs to remain off or unpowered.  It shouldn’t be powered up until all the devices are installed.

wire nuts

8.  Cover the Wires with Wire Nuts.  All the wire ends need to have wire nuts on them even if they don’t have any exposed conductor.  Same goes for the ground wires.

9.  Secure Cables with Staples.  Cable runs need to be secured to framing every so many feet with cable staples.

That’s pretty much all I have for the rough-in inspection.  If you have any others, please leave them in the comments.  If you’ve never done your own electrical work, then I suggest you work with someone more experienced before you attempt it yourself.  Be safe and good luck.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it. 

Have any inspection horror stories?  I’d love to hear those too, so leave them in the comments section.

Posted in DIY Projects,Electrical. Tagged in ,, ,

Wiring for the Office Lights

Posted by John on March 10th, 2014

In this post, you’ll learn 

– How to use chalk lines to mark for center

– How a compass and a drywall saw are used for ceiling light holes

Late last week, I got a call from our local township that our electrical permit was approved.  Right after I picked it up, I got started.   When I last left off, the coffered ceiling was all framed out.  We decided to go with four lights in the room: three in the center section and one over where the desk will be located.  Let me start by showing you how I marked and cut the locations for the lights, since it’s a fairly useful trick to learn.

Wiring for the Office Lights

The three lights that would be in the coffered ceiling section of the office would be centered in the middle of a few of those ceiling squares.  To make marking the center of the squares easier, I snapped a chalk line from opposing corners.

marking the center

Where the two lines intersected is the center of the box.  Next, I used a compass and drew a circle 4″ in diameter, which is what was required for the lighting fixtures we bought.

can light circle

After the circle was drawn out, I used a hand held drywall saw to cut the hole out.

cutting circle

With all the holes cut out in the ceiling, I proceeded to run some Romex cable in the tracks created by the coffered ceiling I-beams to each hole location.  As required by code, I also stapled the cables to the structure every few feet.  Later on, before the rough-in inspection, I’ll fill in those holes in the framing with fire block foam.

wires run

Just to give you a little more details on the wiring… I used 14-2 sized Romex.  That means it’s 14 gauge wire with 2 conductors.  14 gauge is used for 15 amp circuits and therefore needs to be tied into a 15 amp breaker.  This lighting is going on it’s own circuit, which is created when I add a new breaker in the breaker box.  The breaker box I own is a Square D brand box and the 15 amp breaker I buy needs to be a Square D breaker in order to install properly.  It’s kind of a waste to be adding an entire circuit just for four lights, so I’ll probably tie in additional basement lights into this same circuit whenever we get around to finishing the basement.

As I mentioned, the office will have four lights, with three being controlled by one switch and the fourth light getting its own dedicated switch.  I’m locating those switches in a place where I previously had a switched outlet for the office.  I’m removing the switched outlet setup and just adding these two new switches for the overhead light.

Because I’m adding this coffered ceiling framing, it made running the wires to these lights considerably easier than if I didn’t have the framing.  Without the framing, the wires would need to come up inside the walls and into the joist space.  To pull that wire through, I’d have to cut holes in the drywall and the ceiling in multiple locations.  Overall, it’s be easier NOT to do the coffered ceiling, but since I’m already doing it, the wiring is made easier.

At this point, I’m ready for my rough-in inspection.  Once the inspector passes the work, I’ll be given the go-ahead to start drywalling the bare wood.  He won’t need to come back until the room is completely finished.

This isn’t the first time I used a chalk line to help me with my electrical work.  I also used in when we installed an additional outlet in the dining room.  If you’re interested in how I ran cables, definitely check that post out as it goes into more depth than this post.

Thanks for reading.  If you enjoyed this post, please share it. 

Posted in DIY Projects,Electrical,Lighting. Tagged in ,, ,

Workbench Charging Station

Posted by John on September 2nd, 2013

We hope all of our American friends had a safe and enjoyable Labor Day!  Our weekend was filled with family visits and some much needed down time.  Today we’re going to show you how we finished up our new garage outlet and how we added a workbench charging station.

Let’s start with the garage outlet.

Last week we had our rough-in inspection from the township electrical inspector.  It went well.  He passed us so we can “device out” the work, which means add the new outlet.

To power the new outlet, we tapped into the power from an existing GFCI outlet in our basement.  I had to remove this basement outlet as part of the rough-in work and show the inspector I ran the cable properly to the box and tied it in appropriately.

gfci outlet box

After inspecting this box, he recommended I increase its size to accommodate the additional cable.  The box already had three cables going to it and this new circuit added a fourth.  Thus, he wanted to see a slightly bigger box.  So, I had to untwist all my cables, pull them out of the box, take the box off the lumber and then add a bigger box.

The new box is considered “new work” whereas our garage outlet is “old work.”  The difference is the basement outlet box is being directly attached to a wall stud.  The garage outlet was placed into a finished drywalled space.  The new box is also plastic and has a couple 1/2″ tabs that help me position the box onto the studs.  The box shouldn’t be installed flush with the studs, but 1/2″ further out for future drywall.

outlet box on framing

This new box wasn’t that much bigger than the first, only by a couple cubic inches.  Here’s a side by side comparison of the old grey box next to the new blue one.  I believe the grey box is 18 cu. inches and the blue one is 20 or 21 cu. inches.

outlet box sizes

The box was then rewired as before and since I had the go ahead to device out the project, I reinstalled the GFCI outlet.

gfci outlet

With the basement outlet wired, I installed my garage outlet, turned the power back on at the breaker and checked to make sure the circuit worked okay.  That’s it for the electrical portion.  In a few weeks, I’ll call the inspector back for the final inspection.

Now let’s take a look at the workbench charging station.

The only other outlet we have in our garage is on the far wall so any battery chargers for cordless tools had to sit on the floor, which wasn’t terribly convenient.  Getting them off the floor and onto the workbench was the goal.

I started by picking a spot on the workbench where my chargers would be located then drilling a hole in the workbench top with a hole saw.

workbench hole

I ran the charger power cables through the hole so the top will be less cluttered.

charging station

Next, I mounted a $5 power strip I bought at Lowes to one of the legs of the workbench.  Then I just zip tied all the cables together and plugged them in.

workbench charging station

So now all I have to do is flip the red switch on the power strip whenever I want to charge my tools.  I also looked into buying one of those 10-12 outlet benchtop power strips instead.  That’s a great option too, but it was $30 and I thought this option would be more a little more practical.   $25 cheaper isn’t a bad thing either.

We are fast approaching the end of our summer long garage improvement series.  We only have a couple projects left: adding another application of epoxy to the garage floor and painting the interior door and steps.  There are a few yard projects I also want to knock out before we get into October, but we’ll go more into those in another post.

How are you wrapping up your summer?  Are you looking forward to Fall or are you desperately hanging on to every last summer day like me?  Bought any pumpkins yet?

Posted in Electrical,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,,

Install an Electrical Outlet in the Garage

Posted by John on August 25th, 2013

When we built our home back in 2010, we had the option of adding as many additional electrical outlets as we wanted among some other bells and whistles.  Code requires a minimum number per so many feet, but any more than that bare requirement came out of our pocket.  In retrospect we probably should’ve added a few more.  We did spend some effort trying to figure out where the TVs would be located, so we could put the cable jacks in the right place, but we never thought twice about the outlets (priorities, priorities).  So, I’m going to install an electrical outlet in the garage for my workbench and it’ll be the third outlet I’ve added since we moved in.  The first was for our buffet lights and the most recent was for our sitting room TV.

As with all of my electrical posts, I’m not going to show you how I actually wire the outlet.  That part is pretty straight forward and there are tons and tons of videos and websites that show that info.  The world doesn’t need another post on how to wire a receptacle.  However, I will show you the whole process I follow from start to finish.

Let’s start with the location where I’m adding this outlet: under the workbench.

workbench outlet

My goal here is to have an outlet right under the workbench where I can plug in a power strip. Then I’ll be able to keep my battery chargers right on top and not on the floor.  You may notice the hole that’s been spackled next to my compressed air pipe.  That hole was my first attempt at getting the air pipe through the wall.  That plugged hole on the garage side doesn’t do me any good for this new outlet, but the hole on the basement side does help.  I’ll be able to use it to run the cable into the garage.

wire through stud

So, I know where the outlet is going to be located, that’s my first step.  Now to determine where to get the power from and how to run the cable from the power source over to the hole.

I have one GFCI outlet on the other side of my basement.  It’s got one cable coming in with the power and two others going out to other receptacles.  I can tap into the power here.

gfci outlet

Since I’m installing this outlet in a garage, the outlet will need to be ground fault protected.  There are essentially two ways to get that protection.  I can tap into the power going TO this GFCI outlet and install a full-blown GFCI outlet just like it in the garage.  OR I can tap into the power on the load side of this GFCI outlet.  GFCI outlets, the new ones anyway, have a line side and a load side.  The line side is where the power from the breaker box goes.  The load side is where additional outlets can tap into.  Those outlets that tap into the load side are then ground fault protected automatically and a regular non-GFCI receptacle can be used instead.  Our kitchen backsplash has a similar setup.  We have one GFCI outlet in the corner and the next two or three outlets are the regular kind, but they all have ground fault protection from the first GFCI outlet.  I’ll probably opt to tap into the load side and use a regular style outlet for the garage.

Right above the outlet is a cable stacker.  Code requires the cable to be secured every so many feet either with staples or with these stackers.  These stackers have open spaces in them so I can just run the new cable through it.

romex cable holder

Since all the cables going into and out of the GFCI outlet  are white 14 gauge cables, I’ll use one as well.  You can buy spools of Romex NM cable from your local hardware store.  It’s not terribly expensive.

So I’ll start the cable run by turning off the power to the GFCI circuit, leaving a couple feet of slack near that outlet and running the cable through existing cable stackers until I get to the basement ceiling and then across the basement towards the hole.  At one point I encounter an area without any cable stackers and I need to use electrical staples instead to hold the wire up.

electrical wire staple

cable stapled

I’ll staple the cable to every other stud along the way.  Once I get near the hole, I’ll stop and let the slack hang out for a while.

wire hanging

Now for some garage work.  I’m using a “old work” style receptacle box, which is designed for remodeling type work like we’re going here.  If the garage didn’t have drywall yet, I’d be using a “new work” box instead.  I hold the box against the drywall and with a pen I trace out the outline of the area I need to cut for the hole.  Be careful here.  This old work box has tabs on the front that stick out from the top and the bottom.  Those tabs need to extend past the hole otherwise the whole outlet box will slip into the hole.

old work outlet

old work outlet 2

With the outline of the opening traced, I use a hand held drywall knife and a box cutter to cut an opening.

outlet hole in wall

Time for a test fit. I make sure the box fits snuggly into the opening.

outlet in wall

Okay.  The box fits nicely.  I remove the box from the hole and return to the basement.

This part can be tricky.  From the basement, I need to push the wire through the hole and try to get it to move up the wall so I can pull it through from the garage by hand.  Since this was a relatively short run, I was able to jam it into the hole and pull it out from the garage without much effort.  Luckily, my hand barely fits into the outlet opening.  Although, for a minute there I was considering making this a double outlet just so I could fit my arm down a bigger opening.

I pulled all of the slack out of the cable into the garage.

cable through hole

Clearly could’ve used a shorter cable for this.  That’s a lot of slack!  No problem though, I cut off the extra cable leaving around 10″-12″ from the hole.

Now let’s prep the old work box.  This box has bendable tabs where the cable gets inserted.  One of the tabs will need to be bent out of the way for the cable to push through.  These tabs don’t come off in old work boxes since they are designed to hold the cable and prevent it from slipping out of the box.

old work box

I push the cable through the tabs and insert the box into the opening.  Old work boxes have screws that when tightened will grab the drywall from the back keeping it firmly in place.

finished outlet

Later this week I’ll strip back the shielding and add some wire nuts for my rough-in inspection.  After I pass the rough-in inspection, I can install the outlet.  Then I’ll have to call the inspector back for a final inspection.

One last thing.  Those holes in the basement lumber need some fire blocking.  Fire blocking is essentially insulation that prevents air from going through those holes to feed a fire.  Very important to add it.

Instead of fiberglass insulation, I’ll use some fire block spray foam.

fireblock foam

The foam just gets squeezed into the space around the wire as it goes through the wood.  I’ll also add some to my compressed air piping.

fire block foam

So this whole process seems a bit long, but all together, it only took me about an hour to finish.  Actually, even with the permit fee, this costs about half of what the builder wanted to install one.

Posted in DIY Projects,Electrical. Tagged in ,,

Finishing Up the Flat Screen TV

Posted by John on February 5th, 2013

So it’s been around a month or so since we started setting up our sitting room. We added a couch and finished hiding the HDMI cable now we’ve just finished up the work on the power cables for our flat screen TV. We really enjoy the space so far. It’s nice to have a place to hang out upstairs without being in bed.

Last time we left off on this project, I had run a power cable to the new outlet location.

hiding flat screen tv cables

Since then, I’ve had my work inspected and was cleared to device out the box. Instead of installing a typical outlet, I added a receptacle designed to accommodate the TV plug.

flat screen tv outlet

The recessed outlet permits the plug end to avoid hitting the back of the TV. Here’s what the wall looks like now..

flat screen tv outlet 2

Once the TV was back on the mount, I used a simple zip tie to keep the long TV power cord up and out of the way.

flat screen tv hiding power

All done.

flat screen tv hiding power

Before I started this little cable hiding project, I thought I could pull it off for around $30 as compared to the Powerbridge install we did at a neighbor’s house for $90.

Here are the rough material costs. I didn’t keep receipts.

-HDMI Cable boxes (the orange ones in the wall) $8
-HDMI Cover plate $14
-Outlet box $4
-Recessed outlet $13

That’s a total of about $39. Close. Now I didn’t include any tools or cable since I already owned them nor did I include the permit cost. The permit for the dining room outlet was only about $20. For some reason, the township charged me $60 for this one. I was expecting to pay $20. So, all told, I spent about as much as the Powerbridge. Oh well. In any case, this dual box approach is a little more flexible for smaller TVs compared to the one larger Powerbridge box.

So now we have to add some furniture. More on that next time 😉

Posted in Electrical,Home Decor. Tagged in ,, ,

Hide a Flat Screen TV Power Cable

Posted by John on January 21st, 2013

Hey everybody!  Hope you all had a great weekend.  Lisa and I had a fairly busy couple days.  We picked a paint for our daughter’s bedroom and I started cutting it in.  We love the color.  I’m not sold on how it looks with the carpet quite yet, but we’ll see how it looks once the room is all setup and staged.

In other news, our permit to add an additional outlet behind our sitting room’s flat screen TV has been approved and I’m ready for our rough-in inspection.  In case you were wondering what the general process is for pulling an electrical permit..

1.  Plan work and come up with a rough estimate for the cost of the material.
2. Apply for electrical permit at local township office.
3. Receive go-ahead from local township or a call back for more info.
4. Do the rough-in work without adding any devices (switches, receptacles, etc)
5. Have rough-in inspected.
6. Device out (add outlet, switches)
7. Have finish work inspected.

We’re at step 4.  Here’s how it went…

Hide a flat screen TV power cable:

Last time we posted, we cut the hole for the outlet behind the TV.

flat screen mount after

To my delight, this interior wall happens to have studs that are 24″ on center (oc).

flat screen mount after

I was able to find the stud locations by tapping on the wall and using a stud finder.  I also popped off the phone jack and peaked into the wall space with a flashlight and a small mirror.  So, since there are no studs between the lower power outlet and the new outlet, I won’t have to remove any additional drywall.  I can simply “snake” the new cables from the lower box to the upper hole.


I remove the bottom outlet and snake the push the wire through the bottom box and up the wall.  The wire I’m using is stiff enough to get pushed fairly easily.

power tv cables

The top hole will receive an electrical box specifically designed for renovation type work or walls that you don’t want to open up.

old work electrical box

The box pushes into the wall and two screws are tightened, which flip tabs up that grab and squeeze the drywall.  Before the box is inserted however, the wire is run through the box.

old work electrical box insta

With the box firmly in the wall and the wire pulled through, the excess slack is cut off, leaving about 6″-7″ of wire hanging out of the box.

The new wire is then spliced into the bottom box’s wiring.  I’m not going to show that part. You can find a how-to on that part on YouTube.

So now we’re all set for the rough-in inspection!  Can’t wait to knock this out so I can get on with the sitting room furniture.

Posted in DIY Projects,Electrical. Tagged in ,, , ,

Outdoor Light Timer

Posted by John on October 21st, 2012

Hey guys!  Hope you’re all doing well.  We had another not so productive weekend, only got a couple small things done.  Small steps though, right?  This week, I’m hoping to get to fix some cancerous rust on my Jeep and maybe get some more work on the garage shoe rack.  Yesterday I installed a light switch timer for our outside garage lights.  We discussed these very lights a few months ago when we replaced the regular filament bulbs with LEDs.LED-garage-lights-1024x682


I bought this outdoor light timer switch from one of the home improvement stores MONTHS ago… maybe even a year ago.  As part of the effort to clean this garage mess up, I finally installed it.  It took about 30 minutes.  If you’ve never done electrical work before, I don’t recommend you start with this one.  It’s not overly difficult, it’s just a little different than most single pole switches or outlets that you may already have in your home.digital-light-timer-1024x682


It’s also a little more difficult to work on boxes that have two switches in it.  The wires can get kinda crowded.  It went in okay though.  No major problems.  The switch cost around $20-$30 and can probably be installed by a licensed electrician for maybe $150 more.light-timer-switch-1024x682



If you haven’t noticed, these switches are programmable.  Once the power was back on at the breaker, I set the time and then entered the schedule for the lights to turn on and off automatically.  No more leaving it on all the time and no more having to go out into the garage and turn it on and off.  The best part about these switches is its added security.  Even if you’re not home, the lights will activate, making it look like you’re home.  Plus, this particular model has a “random” mode that will turn the lights on and off occasionally.  That’s perfect if you’re going to be away for a few days or weeks.  Even though they’re programmed, you can still tap its pad and control it manually.

It’s a small project, but I’m happy to have finally wrapped it up.

Any small projects hanging over your head at the moment?

Posted in Electrical,Garage and Tools,Lighting. Tagged in ,, , ,

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