We hope that you have made it through Hurricane Ian safely and that your home did, too. The presence of the first hurricane in the Charleston area for some time (the last time we remember evacuating for a storm was 2019) brought up the presence of an important topic: Generator backfeeding.

Many of you with portable generators have had an electrician install an inlet, which gives you the ability of powering your home during a power outage. Most likely you have some sort of panel or interlock kit that ensures you don't turn on your main breaker and your generator breaker at the same time. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case, opening the door to a very dangerous scenario.

What you must do when turning on a portable generator, no matter what, is make sure your main breaker is always off during the power outage. If you leave your main breaker on while powering your portable generator, you do something called "backfeeding" into the utility grid, which causes an extremally hazardous and fatal situation for linemen working on the power lines. The same transformers that step down power (stepping down power means changing high voltage from the power lines to the usable 120-220 V voltage in our homes) will do the exact opposite when backfed: Converting your home's 220 V into THOUSANDS of volts, sent back to the lineman.

When these linemen are working, they assume the power is shut off because they bet on the house's utility power being shut off, not realizing an alternate source (your portable generator) is being fed into the grid and creating power. When the lineman then interact with the power lines, this can cause fatal electrocution, arc blasts, and many other forms of danger.

To avoid the possibility of the above situation and to keep our utilitymen and women safe, the best thing to do is to have a transfer switch installed before you utilize a portable generator. Some situations may not allow for a transfer switch to be installed (like if your main panel does not have a main breaker), so at the very minimum, just be SURE to turn off your main breaker before turning on your portable generator, as the consequences if you do not can be deadly.

Andrew & the Gloudeman Electric Team

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LED bulbs have come quite a long way since their first iteration--in fact, some of the first LED bulbs were invented in the 60s and cost a whopping 200 dollars per bulb!! Read on for what to expect in today's LED bulbs and why we recommend switching your halogen bulbs out for them.

LED bulbs give off what's called a "wattage equivalent", meaning they give an amount of light that would be equal to the VISUAL wattage of an old style halogen bulb. Say you switch a 65-watt halogen bulb (which pulls 65 watts and creates 65 visual watts of light) in your house for a 65 watt EQUIVALENT LED bulb: The new LED bulb would only pull an actual 9 watts for the equivalent of 65 visual watts, saving you SIX TIMES more heat and power were you to use a traditional halogen bulb!

Some of you may believe that LED bulbs only offer a certain light tone, but fret not, today's LED bulbs offer a variety of different color temperatures. The most commonly used LED bulb nowadays is almost visually exact to the halogen bulbs used back in the day which would be labeled as “soft white” or “warm white," which is a nice yellowish tone. Any brighter than that would be labeled “daylight" and is also available if desired. Nonetheless, LEDs will save you energy in the long run and save your fixtures from crackling and turning a nasty brown from the excess heat halogen bulbs pull.

As a "Not LED related" bonus suggestion: In addition to replacing halogen bulbs with LED bulbs, an extra recommendation would be adding motion detector switches for bathrooms. These can aid guests and homeowners when using the facilities without needing to search for a light switch; the lights will simply come off and on automatically with a pre set time limit.

We hope this was helpful--thanks for reading!

Andrew & team

Gloudeman Electric, LLC

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Challenger Breaker Panels were installed in thousands of homes in the 1980s and 1990s. Most of the issues in these panels were actually caused by their breakers. Issues from these breakers include:

- Insufficient tripping (not tripping when there is an issue present)

- Overheating

- Melting

- Sometimes: House fires.

Issues I have personally witnessed with these breakers and panels include:

- Dryers losing power

- Intermittent light flickering

- Live breakers which should have tripped

- Melted breakers

- Power issues

- So much damage to the bus bar that the panel had to be replaced

Although these breakers were recalled, many homeowners are not even aware that their panel could be an issue.

Here are some images of one of the Challenger panels I replaced due to overheating/melting of breakers which ruined the bus bar:

Identifying a Challenger Panel: If you want to check if your panel is a Challenger panel, you can check your breakers. The breakers should say Challenger, or if you open your panel door, there should be a brand label listed as Challenger. If you're unsure, you can send us an email and we would be glad to identify your panel brand for you. If you do have a Challenger panel, we do recommend replacing the panel, or at minimum replacing the breakers (if the bus bar does not have damage), as they do pose significant risk.

Challenger isn’t the only panel brand with dangers. Other hazardous panel brands include: Zinsco, Pushmatic, and Federal Pacific. If you have any panels under these names, please hire a licensed electrician to at least have a look. If you do not have a panel with this brand, it is still a smart idea to get your panel bus checked to ensure that there is no corrosion, rust, or other damage.

To read more about these recalls, here's a link to another good article: CLICK HERE.


Lead Electrician Gloudeman Electric, LLC

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