Troubleshooting Home Electrical Issues: A Quick Guide

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Whether you’re a new homeowner or you’ve been dealing with homeownership issues all your life, it’s helpful to know how to troubleshoot home electrical issues. In the course of your time owning a home, you’ll inevitably end up encountering a wide variety of issues related to the electricity flowing through your house. In order to help disseminate education on these topics, we’ve created a guide featuring some of the most common issues that homeowners run into with regard to electricity and their homes.

Flickering Lights
Troubleshooting home electrical issues involves knowing how to address a wide range of electrical problems in your household.
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Frayed Electrical Cords
Sometimes flickering lights can be a symptom of frayed electrical cords.
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Tripped Circuit Breakers
We've all done it — we trip a circuit breaker because we use too much electricity from a single outlet.
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Flickering Lights

Troubleshooting home electrical issues involves knowing how to address a wide range of electrical problems in your household. Flickering lights can indicate any number of things, but they most often result from a weakened connection between the lights and the source of electricity. These issues are important to take seriously, they can indicate the source of eventual arcing, potentially resulting in sparking, overheating, and fire. In many cases, your best bet will be to thoroughly inspect your electrical cords to ensure there are no loose or corroded connections causing the problem. In addition, be sure to check if there are any frayed electrical cords — sometimes these can be a determining factor in lighting that persists without flickering.

Frayed Electrical Cords

Sometimes flickering lights can be a symptom of frayed electrical cords. This is something that can be fixed in fairly short order, however it does require a bit of handy work to get right. If you notice frayed cords or exposed wires on any of your electrical appliances, this is a sign of unsafe wiring. Be sure to avoid using these items until they are fixed — but be on high alert, since fixing these wiring problems can also often be a highly dangerous activity. In most cases, you’re better off requesting the assistance of someone who has undergone the rigors of an electrical training program and the licensing requirements that such a profession entails (a topic we’ll return to later).

Tripped

We’ve all done it — we trip a circuit breaker because we use too much electricity from a single outlet. Thankfully, this issue is as common as the fix is straightforward: Simply locate your circuit breaker and flip the switch that has been tripped due to overuse. Remember that circuit breakers are there for your safety! In order to prevent an electrical fire or disaster, breakers close (or “break” or “trip”) the fuse switch when a homeowner has exceeded the voltage that the breaker was designed to handle. In order to prevent this from happening in the future, you’ll need to identify exactly what ultimately led the circuit to fail. Sometimes, that can entail tracing a short circuit.

Tracing a Short Circuit

Tracing a short circuit is probably the most challenging home electrical issue to troubleshoot. Because the source of a short circuit could be any number of different things, this problem is a multistep process. First, turn off all the wall switches, and then unplug every appliance from the outlets stemming from the dead circuit. Then, reset the circuit breaker and the fuse. If the circuit still goes dead right away, that could indicate that the problem lies in a short circuit in a receptacle or switch.

After resetting the circuit breaker or resetting the fuse, check to see if the circuit trips. If the new fuse does not blow immediately, you’ve likely encountered the source of the problem. The result could be that there is a short circuit in a light fixture or a receptacle controlled by the switch — or it could be that there is a short circuit in the wiring of the switch. In such instances, you’ll need to replace or repair a faulty switch, fixture or wiring; this is a task oftentimes best suited to a professional.

Finally, if turning on a wall switch does not cause a problem, then the trouble is likely to be in the lamps or appliances. In order to test each one individually, try plugging these in one at a time. Then, move some of the devices to another circuit. If the circuit still goes dead after you simply plug in a device, then you have likely identified the problem. Be sure to check the cord first, however — and consider having an appliance repair person check the appliance’s switch and other electrical parts.

Conclusion

Although electrical shortages are not uncommon in the world of home ownership, there is no shortage of content online about troubleshooting home electrical issues. At the end of the day, one needs to know enough to get the job done — and that includes staying safe. Electrical trade programs such as those offered by Chicago’s Coyne College have grown in popularity in recent years, and there is scarcely a better way to ensure the solution of your electrical needs than by employing the services of a graduate of an electrical trade program.

AC Repair and Troubleshooting Guide

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If it’s 90 degrees outside and humid, you undoubtedly look forward to being nice and cool in your airconditioned home. What would you do if the air conditioning suddenly went out? Would you know how to do AC repair? Take a look at this AC repair and troubleshooting guide because it could show you how to fix AC problems—and save yourself a lot of money.

Before you begin your residential air conditioner repair, you should know what the HVAC system contains and how the parts work:

  • Air return: the vents on the walls that allow air to return to be cooled
  • Exhaust outlets: similar to a stove fan, it draws out hot or humid air through ductwork, allowing fresh air to move in
  • Filter: the inexpensive cardboard-backed filter that traps contaminants like dust, pollen, and mold
  • Ducts: a network of passageways that transports air in or out, conditioning it as it flows
  • Compressor: the motor in the outdoor unit of a central AC system that circulates the refrigerant through the coils to cool your home
  • Coils: the evaporator coil (inside the house) pulls heat through the air to cool it; the condenser coil (outside) regulates the temperature of the AC’s refrigerant
  • Blower: activated by the thermostat, it engages the fan and blows the cooled air throughout the house

Common AC problems and what to do about them

Problem:

  • High energy bills
  • Limited airflow from vents
  • Ice on refrigerant lines
  • Poor cooling
  • Water leaking from AC unit

Potential fix:
Check your air filter. Does it look clogged? Covered with dirt and dust? Replace the filter. Most are cardboard frames around foam or mesh that trap the debris. A good rule of thumb is to replace it every 30 to 90 days.

Problem:

  • AC not working/won’t turn on
  • Warm or hot air (not cool) coming from vents

Potential fix:
Make sure the thermostat is on “cool” and not “heat.” Also, check the electrical panel and look for tripped circuit breakers. If the one for AC is marked “off,” then try turning it “on.”

Problem:

  • High energy bills
  • Warm air coming through vents
  • Inadequate cooling
  • Lots of repairs

Potential fix:
Check your outdoor AC unit. There could be trapped debris or dirt. Try rinsing it with a hose on a gentle setting. If there’s a thick layer of dirt on the condenser, you should call a professional.

Problem:

  • Icing on refrigerant lines
  • Blower motor issues
  • Damaged compressor
  • Frozen evaporator coil
  • Poor cooling

Potential fix:
Check the supply vents inside your house (even in the unused room) to see if they’re covered or blocked. Vents that are intentionally closed actually cause more problems and don’t save energy.

Maintenance tips that could help your AC work efficiently

  • Check and replace air filters regularly.
  • Keep the outdoor unit free of debris and dirt and remove anything that might block the airflow.
  • Remove the condenser’s fan cage and use a wet or dry vac to clean away debris.
  • Clean the fins and straighten bent ones with a butter knife; then brush and hose the inside.
  • Clean the drain pan on the interior unit.
  • Change the blower filter every six months.
  • Dust the evaporator coil with a soft brush and spray it with no-rinse coil cleaner.
  • Clean indoor registers and air ducts with a damp cloth and vacuum away dust.
  • Listen for odd noises and see if there’s a loose bolt or debris caught in the outdoor unit.
  • Turn off the humidifier’s water supply in the summer or turn it back to 35-45 percent.
  • Give it a break when temperatures are not extreme and turn off the cooling; use the fans instead.

Just like with most things of value, if you properly maintain your HVAC system it’s probably going to work more efficiently and last longer. If you schedule regular checkups, you may be able to avoid costly air conditioner repair.

Interested in HVAC training programs in Chicago? Contact Coyne College and train to become an in-demand HVAC-R technician in less than a year.

Things to Know About Commercial HVAC Systems

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Both residential and commercial HVAC systems serve the same purpose: to cool, heat, and ventilate. However, as you would expect, commercial or corporate HVAC does it on a much grander scale. They also vary in terms of mechanisms and parts.

What is an HVAC system supposed to do?

All HVAC systems strive to keep temperatures comfortable, which is generally around 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, they aim to keep indoor humidity consistent at 40-60 percent and air quality high, with CO2 less than 1,000PPM (Parts Per Million). That means that of one million gas molecules 1,000 would be carbon dioxide, and the other would be other gases.

Although there are different types of commercial HVAC systems, they all operate similarly:

  • Air conditioner units lower temperatures by expelling hot air through HVAC refrigeration or water-cooled systems.
  • Heating systems do the opposite, using water, radiator coils, or gas to heat the air.
  • Ventilation systems use fans to circulate the air and pass it through filtration systems to clean it.

How do commercial HVAC systems differ from residential systems?

Residential systems are less complicated than commercial systems and differ significantly:

  • Size: As you would expect, commercial systems are much larger than residential systems. They also have different thermostats, condenser fans, compressors, evaporators, blowers, and dampers.
  • Location: A residential HVAC system is usually placed outside the house or on the roof, in some locales. A commercial system, on the other hand, maybe located in a building’s swamp cooler or on the roof. The latter is a great space saver, which also makes for better noise control and easier access for maintenance.
  • Drainage: An individual AC unit may just have one drain or drain tray, but a commercial system has many pipes and drains to collect condensation.
  • Mechanism: This depends on both the structure and location. A residential HVAC system is usually a standalone unit, but commercial systems are generally modular. The parts in a commercial system are located in one spot, making it easier to upgrade or replace them.
  • Equipment: A commercial system is often massive and customized for the most efficient and heating for the size of the building and its use.
  • Costs and maintenance: Commercial HVAC systems are much more expensive because of their complexity, and they should be installed, serviced, and maintained only by experienced commercial HVAC contractors and technicians.
What is an HVAC system supposed to do?
All HVAC systems strive to keep temperatures comfortable, which is generally around 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
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How do commercial HVAC systems differ from residential systems?
Residential systems are less complicated than commercial systems and differ significantly:
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What are the different categories of commercial HVAC systems?
Building size can often determine what type or combination of HVAC system works best to heat and cool it.
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What are the different categories of commercial HVAC systems?

Building size can often determine what type or combination of HVAC system works best to heat and cool it. Although there are variations, most can be narrowed down to three main categories:

  • Single split system: Popular and affordable, this system is often found in smaller commercial buildings and allows for individual heating and cooling control of each space. If it’s an office building with a server room for computer equipment or a restaurant, this would be ideal. This system features a combination air conditioner/furnace that passes air through refrigerant lines and circulates it via air ducts. However, for each space you want to control, it requires a separate outdoor unit.
  • Multi-split system: Up to nine indoor units can connect to one outdoor unit, resulting in better energy efficiency and a smaller outdoor footprint. Sensors detect temperature changes and can be adjusted as needed. However, multi-split systems take longer to install and can be more expensive.
  • VRF (Variable Refrigerant Flow) or VRV (Variant Refrigerant Volume) systems: These work best in large mixed-use buildings, such as big office buildings or hotels, where both heating and cooling of different spaces could be needed at once.
Is there an industrial HVAC installation guide?

Many business owners know they need to get a new HVAC system, but they may have little knowledge of HVAC. They might also have trouble understanding the installation quotes or equipment requirements they get from commercial heating contractors. If they follow a few guidelines, they may be more confident when choosing a contractor and/or commercial HVAC system:

  • Ask for a complete breakdown of costs. When you talk to potential contractors, have them submit price quotes that cover all aspects of installation, from start to finish.
  • Learn about the latest heating and cooling technology, system types, and manufacturers. Compare systems, costs, and benefits.
  • Remember to include the cost of ductwork in your installation budget. Ductwork and piping can add a lot to installation costs, so you need to budget for them if you can’t use existing ducts and pipes.
  • Budget for system controls, such as thermostats. Depending on your building’s size, you could need dozens—or hundreds—of thermostat control points.
  • Talk to your contractor about regular maintenance. Getting a new system installed can be costly, but not planning for regular maintenance can make it even more expensive. Ask your contractor if they guarantee their parts and labor and if they include scheduled maintenance services.
How do you become HVAC technician?

You can enroll in a Coyne College HVAC program to get hands-on instruction from industry professionals who will teach you to install, troubleshoot, and service domestic and commercial HVAC-R systems. Earn your diploma in as little as 42 weeks. You’ll be prepared for a rewarding, in-demand career that O*NET OnLine reports will grow 11 percent—much faster than average for other jobs—through 2028. Illinois expects to see job growth of 13 percent.

Contact Coyne College Chicago today to get the HVAC training you need to succeed.

Do You Need to Update Your Home’s Electrical Wiring?

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A 2019 report by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states faulty wiring was the second-leading cause of residential fires in the United States between 2012-2016. That’s alarming—especially since it is preventable. It also can run up your electricity bill. Could electrical updates save your home—and keep more money in your pocket? Here are some considerations to help you decide.

When do I need to update the wiring?

Not all unsafe wiring is old; it may just be damaged, worn, cracked, or corroded. Any of these may be signs you need to update the electrical wiring in your home to ward off the likelihood of an electrical accident or fire:

• Loose connections
• Frayed cords
• Pinched, pierced or cracked wire insulation
• Overheated wires or cords
• Damaged electrical appliances
• Wiring that rodents may have chewed

Everything seems to work, so why would I update my home electrical?

Is your home more than 40 years old? There are wiring risks in older homes that could signal a need for updates. Most homes built before the 1940s used knob and tube wiring that ran along and through the building’s frame: one black charged wire and one white neutral wire. Electrical tape placed around ungrounded soldered wires formed splices and wire connections. Insulation prior to 1960 was made of rubber that was known to crumble or flake. If the insulation became worn, was incorrectly installed, or was covered with regular building insulation material, it could be dangerous and not up to NEC—National Electrical Code—standards.

Although NEC was established in 1897, it is consistently upgraded and provides the latest regulations regarding electrical wiring, overcurrent protection, grounding, and installation of equipment. Following code doesn’t always require replacement of wiring—especially if you live in a historic home. If local code allows it and your wiring needs work, you can splice the old knob and tube wiring with a new NM (non-metallic) cable if you use a junction box, which protects wire connections. Even if your house was built as late as the early 1970s you could have a safety hazard if your wiring is aluminum, rather than the standard copper. Aluminum connections can loosen and cause fires.

How do I know if my wiring is ok?

If you have no idea when your wiring was inspected, it’s a good idea to have a professional electrician check it for wear and tear. This can be especially helpful if you’ve experienced any of the following:

• Frequently blown fuses or tripped breakers
• Flickering lights
• Tingling sensations when you touch an appliance
• A burning smell that persists from an appliance or room
• Warm, sparking or discolored electrical outlets
• Two-prong (rather than three-prong grounded) outlets throughout your house

How long does the electrical wire last?

The copper wire used for electrical wiring today can last 100 years. The problem is with the protective sheathing or insulation, which can wear down a lot sooner. It’s the type of sheathing that determines how long the wiring lasts, which is usually 50 to 70 years.

Are there any other clues that I should update the electrical wiring?

If you are keeping up with technology via computers, flat-screen TVs, air conditioners, and trendy gadgets, you might not be getting enough power to run them efficiently—or effectively. Standard household power used to run on 60 amps, but today’s devices need 200 amps of power. If you don’t have it, you could cause damage to expensive equipment. Power strips and additional outlets can help, but they may not be enough to protect your equipment and could create a safety hazard.

What do I need to do before selling my house?

If you plan to put your house on the market with outdated wiring, it might not pass inspection. You would be faced with costly repairs—and you might lose potential buyers. Updating your electrical may help you get the most money from your home sale. These updates could help get you a better offer:

• Solid copper wire and adequate grounding throughout your home
• 200-amp wiring rather than 60-amp
• Grounded outlets that all accept three-prong plugs
• Multiple outlets in each room
• A circuit breaker panel rather than a bulb-style panel
• GFCIs (ground fault circuit interrupters) put in “wet” locations (bathroom, kitchen, garage, basement)

In addition, if you arrange for an electrical inspection before your house goes on the market, you may be able to prevent potential sales issues.

electrical-wiring-training-coynecollege-Chicago
My home does have issues. How much will it cost me to update the wiring?

Where you live, the size of your home, and how much needs to be done could all impact the price of updating electrical wiring. It’s not cheap and could run into the thousands of dollars for total wiring replacement. The best time to do the updates, though, would be if you’re doing a remodeling project because contractors will be around knocking walls down or accessing the wiring anyway. If you’re lucky, you may just need to add circuits and repair damaged wires, switches or panels.

How can I become an electrician?

Coyne College Chicago can provide you with the hands-on electrical training and individualized instruction you need to prepare for an in-demand career as an electrician. Enroll in the Coyne College Electrical Construction & Maintenance program, and you’ll learn about residential and industrial wiring systems, troubleshooting, and power systems analysis. Choose from day or evening classes that accommodate your schedule.

Contact Coyne College to train for a career as an electrician—a career O*NETOnLine predicts will grow faster than average of other occupations through 2028. It pays well, too: median wages in Illinois in 2019 were $27.01 hourly and $56,180 annually.

Why Should You Choose Trade School over College?

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Have you ever thought that you’re not cut out for the college lifestyle? Do you want to pursue a career sooner rather than later? Maybe you don’t want to spend four years of your life partying or sitting in impractical classes you don’t enjoy when you could be training for a career that you love. If so, then trade school might be a great investment for you. Trade school careers are good options for those who want to learn a solid skill – like nursing or working as an electrician or plumber – and, best of all, many of these careers are quite high-paying considering the time you put into the schooling vs. the entry-level salary you receive when you graduate. Why chose trade school over college? Here is an overview of the benefits of attending trade school and what your career options might be depending on the trade you pick.

Trade School vs. College

1. Trade School

Trade school once carried a stigma of a school that is more advanced than high school but still not quite college. If you choose trade school vs college, you’re likely looking at two years of full-time school in a practical, career-oriented line of work like electrical or HVAC technology, medical assisting, construction, or nursing. Degrees conferred at a trade school will likely be certificate programs or Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degrees.

2. College

When most people talk about going to “college”, they mean a four-year public or private institution. Degrees conferred at a four-year institution are usually a Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, or perhaps a Bachelor of Fine Arts if you study a creative subject like film, studio art, or creative writing and you create a portfolio for your senior project.

Benefits of Choosing Trade School

If you’re a millennial, you’ve probably grown up hearing from your parents that you need to “make good grades and get into college”, not “college or trade school”, but what if you are not academically inclined or you have no patience for literature, foreign language, and theory? Maybe you’ve got a gift for practical thinking, or you might have an intuitive understanding of welding or how electrical wiring works.

  1. Career Path
    Though there is much benefit to a liberal arts education, it’s not always a practical choice to attend a four-year college and major in English or Philosophy. Majors like this, unless you have a solid career plan, might leave you high and dry and scrambling for unrelated work after you graduate. The demand for essential workers such as electricians, nurses, pharmacy technicians, and plumbers are needed to help keep communities running.
  2. Apprenticeships
    If you choose a four-year college, the closest thing you might get to a modern apprenticeship is an internship, during which you might be learning the tricks of a new trade, like working at a news station or creating important spreadsheets, or you might be fetching coffee and taking notes in meetings. At a trade school, you can take advantage of genuine vocational school training. You’re learning a real-world skill, after all, and there’s no room for a nurse who doesn’t know his or her vital signs or an electrician who doesn’t understand the basics of household wiring.
  3. Lower Tuition
    Many trade schools boast affordable tuition rates. For example, in 2019-2020, the average college tuition paid was $41,426 at private college, and on the lower end, $11,260 for in-state residents at state schools. In comparison, two-year colleges and trade schools might cost you about $7,345. Combining this lower overall cost with in demand careers makes trade school a great bet – especially in these uncertain, post-COVID times.
vocational-school-chicago

Popular in Trade School

Medical Assistant or Pharmacy Technician

These two trade school jobs are likely to provide great entry-level pay, exciting career options, and a lot of flexibility. Do you see yourself working in a pediatrician’s office? How about filling prescriptions and communicating with patients about their medication regimens at a local, family-owned pharmacy?

There are numerous options for medical assistants, who can work in the front of the office or in the back, where they might process patient histories or even take patient vitals, like heart rate and blood pressure.

Pharmacy techs have the responsibility of communicating with both pharmacists and patients to make sure their medications are correctly filled, and they can get patients’ help from a licensed pharmacist if needed. If you want to pursue this career, the time is right: the median salary for medical assistants is currently $34,800 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and job growth is rated at 23% over the next 10 years.

Electrical Technology

Electricians are often in high demand as they have a specific set of skills that might include installing and repairing construction wiring in both commercial in residential developments, working with lighting, or maintaining electrical control systems. Their current median salary is $56,180 per year and job growth is projected at 10% for the next 10 years.

If you’re the type of person who envisions going to school to learn what’s necessary for a job, working immediately after graduation, and making a great starting salary, then trade school might be right for you.

Contact Coyne College to discuss admission for a trade school in Chicago and to begin planning your future today.

Everything You Wanted to Know About HVAC Installation

hvac-installation-guide-coynecollege

An air conditioner operates by taking in warm air and pulling it over a coolant system. In an HVAC system, there is also a heating component that can be adjusted depending on whether you want your home to be cooler or warmer.

HVAC Installation Guide

The air conditioning unit is a key component of your HVAC system, especially during the summer months when the temperatures start to soar. It is important to maintain the air quality to ensure your comfort and maintain your home’s energy efficiency. If planning to update or install a new system, then this HVAC installation guide can help you select a properly sized unit, connect the air conditioner to your central heating system, determine the cost of installation, and find the best location for your AC unit.

Sizing Up the Air Conditioner

The size of the unit makes a crucial difference in terms of air quality. If the unit is too small, then the air in your home cannot be properly treated. A unit that is too big can risk undermining energy efficiency and may even shut off before the air has fully run through the system. When considering how to install an air conditioning unit, it is best to consult with a technician on everything, including matters of unit size.

The heat gain of your home also factors into the size of the unit. When inspecting your home, the technician will determine how much heat is filtered into the living space. Everything from the placement of doors and windows to the position of your home in relation to the sun affects the heat gain calculation. Knowing how much heat is regularly retained by your home will help the technician select the most energy-efficient unit for your space.

Keeping Your Home Energy Efficient

Energy efficiency is determined through the SEER, or season energy-efficiency rating, which your technician will calculate during the inspection. The rating varies depending on much electricity the air conditioner uses to operate. Higher SEER ratings mean a lower cost for you, and the technician will ensure that your HVAC system continues to maintain your home’s energy efficiency.

The Best Place for the AC Unit and Thermostat

Any AC system is liable to make some noise, so you want to consider keeping the new unit tucked away from you and your family. Try to avoid placing the unit’s outside components near any bedrooms, as this might cause some annoyance in the future. The technician will know the best place to install the unit so that you can maintain the peace and comfort of your home.

You also want to think carefully about where to install the thermostat, which allows you to set the temperature in your home and regulates the entire HVAC system. It is best to keep the thermostat indoors and away from any draftiness that could affect its readings of the overall temperature. The thermostat should also be kept away from ducts, which will direct air toward the device and likely tamper with temperature readings. To improve energy efficiency, you can install a smart thermostat that automatically adjusts the temperature reading to create optimal living conditions.

HVAC Installation Guide for Homes with Central Heating

If you have a central heating unit already in place, a technician only needs to make a few modifications to your system. There should already be a duct system that connects to your furnace or central heating system, and the air conditioner simply needs to be introduced to this ductwork. It is important to have a technician check to make sure that the ducts are properly connected. Otherwise, the system could possibly leak and reduce energy efficiency.

Even with existing ductwork, you might need to make some changes to your system to make sure that the new unit can properly function in relation to the heating system. Possible alterations include having your furnace or heating system altered to accommodate the introduction of the air conditioner and modifying the duct system so that quality air is spread effectively and efficiently through your home.

central-hvac-heating-installation-guide
Installing New Ductwork

No HVAC installation guide would be complete without addressing what do if your house needs an entirely new duct system. Not every home has ductwork built-in, but this is not a problem for a trained technician. If your home needs to be outfitted with new ductwork, then your technician will create a floor plan and determine how to complete the installation in an unobtrusive way as possible. The best places to put ducts are spaces that are hidden from view such as closets or if you have multiple floors, attic ceilings. The technician will make sure that every aspect of your HVAC system is installed without making major renovations to your home.

The Cost of Energy Efficiency

With any new installation come cost considerations. There is not a set price for this type of renovation, and the cost of installing a new unit varies and depends on multiple factors:

  • Size of your home
  • Quality of insulation and electrical system
  • Number of doors and windows
  • Condition of ductwork

A technician will inspect your home prior to completing the air conditioning installation and can provide a cost estimate. The technician will check every element of your existing heating and cooling system to determine what is best for your home.

hvac-installation-expertise-coyne-college
Build Your Expertise

There are many considerations to keep in mind when installing a new air conditioning system. As temperatures start to rise, you will want to have the perfect HVAC system to control the air quality of your home. With the help of an HVAC installation guide and a trained technician, you can ensure that your home is comfortable, energy-efficient, and ready to take on the heat. In addition to seeking out a technician, you can learn more about the finer points of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning by registering for HVAC programs at Coyne College. Our instructors have the expertise and help you become a top technician. Heating and cooling systems are an integral part of any building’s infrastructure, and through our training programs, you can gain expert-level knowledge of these essential systems.

Warning Signs of Faulty Electrical Wiring

faulty-electrical-wiring-signs-coyne-college

Faulty wiring can be very dangerous. In the United States, wiring problems are responsible for tens of thousands of house fires every year. Fortunately, the majority of wiring-related accidents could be prevented by inspecting for faulty wiring and fixing it before a major issue emerges. The following faulty electrical wiring signs will help you find and address problems.

1) Visibly Damaged Wiring

It may seem obvious that any visible wire damage is a problem. However, many people overlook seemingly minor damage thinking that it won’t cause an issue. Even if the wire is mostly in good shape, it is better to fix it promptly than risk the potentially serious consequences.

Some issues to look out for include frayed wire ends. Another common problem is bite marks on the wiring. Bitten wires often look fine other than some cosmetic damage. However, sharp teeth can often sink a lot deeper than you may expect. If you find a home pest problem, consider checking the nearby wiring carefully for any damage.

2) Scorching or Discoloration

Look at outlet points around the property. Any strange colors, scorching or other evidence of burning indicate that there are some electrical problems.

Typically, this means that the wiring connected to the outlet is getting overly hot. You may also notice distortion of the faceplate of the outlet. Similarly, if you can feel heat coming from the outlet, that is a clear indication that it is heating up.

It probably comes as no surprise that hot electrical wiring is a bad thing. While it is normal for wiring to get slightly warm when used consistently, it should not be so hot that it is uncomfortable or that it causes any damage to the outlet plate. Stop using the outlet immediately and try to find the problem.

3) Frequent Blown Fuses/Breaker

If the fuse keeps blowing or the breaker keeps tripping on a circuit, that is a sign that something isn’t right. It could simply be an indication that you are overloading the circuit. However, good wiring should make this relatively difficult to do under normal operation. So, it could be a sign that there is a wiring problem.

In a well-wired property, using every outlet on a circuit should only be an issue if you are using an appliance or other item that has very high power demands. Typically, appliances such as dryers and HVAC are wired on special circuits to accommodate this demand.

Another reason you may be causing the breaker to trip is that there are too many multi-outlet extension cords on the same circuit. Again, this won’t usually be a problem unless you are egregiously overloading the circuit. If there are no obvious excess demands, there may be an issue with the circuit.

Damaged Wiring
Even if the wire is mostly in good shape, it is better to fix it promptly than risk the potentially serious consequences.
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Scorching or Discoloration
Look at outlet points around the property. Any strange colors, scorching or other evidence of burning indicate that there are some electrical problems.
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Frequent Blown Fuses/Breaker
If the fuse keeps blowing or the breaker keeps tripping on a circuit, that is a sign that something isn’t right.
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4) Excessively Messy Wiring

Electricians don’t need to make their wiring completely neat when they install it. There are no technical benefits to organized wiring nor drawbacks to messy wires. So, a little disorder isn’t necessarily anything to worry about.

However, the organization of the wires speaks somewhat to the quality of the work. Someone who is meticulous about keeping things orderly is more likely to be careful with the wiring. Conversely, an excessive mess may indicate a slapdash job. This is not a hard and fast rule, but it can be an indicator.

5) Unusual Sounds

Another one of the most important faulty electrical wiring signs is sound. In particular, buzzing is an indication that something is amiss. Normally, an electrical current should produce no noise that is audible to the human ear. However, when a wire is damaged, a prong is loose or some other issue exists, the current may jump and creating a buzzing noise.

You may also be able to hear your lights flickering even if you can’t see the problem. This indicates that the current isn’t quite flowing smoothly. Even minor issues can cause undue stress on the system and may result in a bigger problem down the road.

6) Burning or Other Unusual Odors

Similarly, strange smells are an indication that you may have electrical problems. The most common odor that you can expect is a burning smell. It is probably not a surprise that this should be investigated and resolved quickly. After all, the most common danger of wiring problems is electrical fires.

Any source of burning smell or smoke should be fixed quickly. However, if the problem is significant enough that there is clear burning on the sheathing, you should disconnect everything from the circuit and manually trip the breaker. The problem is severe enough that it could cause imminent danger.

Other odd smells should also be investigated. They could be the result of burning producing an unfamiliar smell. They could also have other causes. Regardless, it is best not to ignore anything that seems out of the ordinary.

7) Flickering or Dimming Lights

Light fixtures should only require a relatively small amount of power to run at full brightness. Therefore, if your lights are flickering or dim, it could be a sign that there is some faulty wiring.
The problem could also be that the lights are sharing an outlet with a major power consumer. Appliances that have heating or cooling elements tend to be the most electricity-hungry. Consider unplugging any appliances on the same circuit to see if that resolves the problem.

You could look into moving the lights to another circuit. Additionally, if removing the appliance from the light circuit does not fix the problem, try changing the bulbs and/or plugging in a different light fixture. If none of these changes resolve the issue, you may have a deeper problem.

Take the First Step Toward a Career as an Electrician

The above faulty electrical wiring signs will help you identify a problem with the wiring in your home or business. If you want to learn how to fix these problems yourself, consider getting an education to become an electrician. This could be your first step towards a reliable and rewarding career. Coyne College offers programs such as electrical construction and maintenance. Learn more and apply online today.

A Brief History of HVAC

history-of-air-conditioning

Air conditioning is something we take for granted, but when it’s on the fritz we certainly take notice. Have you ever thought about the history of air conditioning? Who was the inventor of air conditioning?

AC history (the beginnings)

In the 1840s, long before electricity was invented, John Gorrie, a Florida doctor and inventor thought cooling might be the remedy for fighting disease and keeping people comfortable. He came up a system of interior cooling that involved transporting huge blocks of ice from frozen lakes and streams in the north to cool hospital rooms. The logistics were unreasonable, so he experimented with refrigeration and devised a machine that made ice using horsepower, wind-powered sails or steam. He was granted a patent for his ice-making machine in 1851 but never saw it come to the marketplace, as his chief financial backer died. However, his work laid the foundation for modern-day air conditioning.

When was air conditioning invented?​

Willis Carrier, who worked as an engineer at the Buffalo (NY) Forge Company, was given the task of solving a big humidity problem in a Brooklyn publishing company that made magazine pages wrinkle. He designed and patented his “Apparatus for Treating Air” that used cooling coils to either humidify the air by heating water or dehumidify by cooling water. He ran tests to perfect his technology and then built and patented an automatic control system that regulated the humidity and air temperature in textile mills. With the success of his apparatus, he realized that other kinds of businesses could benefit from temperature and humidity regulation, so he left Buffalo Forge and formed his own company—Carrier Engineering Corporation—with six other engineers. The AC invention date—1902—is credited to Carrier.

Willis-Carrier-Ac-inventor

When was the term “air conditioning first used” and how big was the first AC unit?

In 1906, Stuart Cramer, who was a textile mill engineer, was the first person to coin the term “air conditioning.” The first residential unit was installed in 1914 and needed a room of its own: it was seven feet high, six feet wide and 20 feet long. One of these early units carried a price tag of $10,000 to $50,000, which translates to $120,000 to $600,000 at today’s rate of exchange.

What other major achievements in heating/cooling history followed?

Just two years later, in 1904, organizers of the St. Louis World’s Fair used mechanical refrigeration to cool parts of the Missouri State Building that housed fair events. It was able to circulate 35,000 cubic feet of air per minute and gave the public its first glimpse of cooling used for comfort. That same year, theaters began using a modified heating/cooling system that utilized refrigeration equipment to force cool air through floor vents. The problem was that lower areas were too cold and upper areas were too hot and muggy.

When was the first furnace invented?

We’ve talked about cooling, but heating is equally important. Benjamin Franklin invented the cast iron Franklin stove in 1742, which was a predecessor of the furnace. Until 1885, most homes were heated by wood-burning fireplaces, but a riveted-steel coal furnace transported heat by natural convection via ducts from the basement furnace to upper rooms. Cast iron radiators were invented around the same time and enabled homeowners to heat their homes with a coal-fired boiler that could deliver hot water or steam heat to radiators in every room. In 1935, the first forced-air furnace was introduced and used an electric fan to distribute coal-heated air through the home’s ducts; gas- and oil-fired versions followed.

How else did Carrier influence HVAC history?

Carrier’s company installed the first well-designed cooling system for theaters in Los Angeles in 1922. Air was pumped through higher vents, which resulted in more equally distributed cooling. On Memorial Day in 1925, Carrier introduced a centrifugal chilling system at New York’s Rivoli Theater: a breakthrough in HVAC inventions. Although it was more reliable and less costly than previous systems, it was still too big and expensive to use wide scale.

Was Carrier the only name associated with air conditioning?

Frigidaire and General Electric both appeared on the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) scene within a decade of Carrier’s big achievement. In 1929, Frigidaire debuted a split-system room cooler that was shaped like a radio cabinet. Although it was small enough for homes, it was but too heavy required its own condenser. A year later, General Electric patented 32 prototypes for improved self-contained room coolers. In 1931, H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman invented the first room air conditioner; it sat on a window ledge, similar to portable units today. Around the same time, General Motors synthesized CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) coolants, the world’s first non-flammable refrigerants. Although they helped with cooling, CFC coolants were later linked to ozone depletion and phased out in the 1990s.

What’s the story of the modern air conditioners we’re familiar with?

Since 1947, AC units became more compact and cheaper. In that year, 43,000 systems were in use. By the 1960s, most new homes in the United States were built with central air conditioning. By then, electric air conditioner window units were affordable and had come down in price from the early days; a 1938 Chrysler unit cost $416. By 2009, the Energy Information Administration reported that 87 percent of all American households—about 100 million homes—used AC units.

Why is air conditioning important?

We know that air conditioning helps keep us comfortable, but it also saves lives. Between 1960 and 2004, heat-related deaths in the United States were 80 percent lower than they had been in the previous 59 years. Air conditioning played a major role in reducing those numbers.

How can I learn more about HVAC?

You can enroll in HVAC technician programs at Coyne College Chicago. You’ll get hands-on instruction from industry professionals that will teach you to install, troubleshoot and service domestic and commercial HVAC-R systems. Earn your diploma in as little as 42 weeks at Coyne College and you’ll be prepared for a rewarding, in-demand career that O*NET OnLine reports will grow 11 percent—much faster than average for other jobs—through 2028. Illinois expects to see job growth of 13 percent.

Contact Coyne College today to get the HVAC training you need to succeed. It’s going to be a hot summer. Learn about some HVAC summer preparation tips.

Learn the Basics of Home Electrical Wiring

home-electrical-wiring-installation-guide

Electrical wiring can be tricky—especially for the novice. That’s why it’s usually best to hire a professional for anything other than a simple job. Otherwise, you could risk injury, damage or fire. If you do plan to complete a DIY project that has an electrical component, there are some basic things to know about wiring installation.

Understanding electrical wiring

Since the 1940s, any house built (or any older home that has been rewired) has had to follow an electrical code: the NEC—written with safety in mind. NEC code identifies types of electrical wires and electrical cable types by color. When you remove a switch plate, you’ve probably noticed yellow, white, black, red or green wires. They are not there to be decorative; each serves a specific purpose, and some don’t play nicely with others.

How to electrical wires

When you’re doing wiring installation, you need to identify the parts of the wiring cable, the non-metallic electrical cable: the outer sheathing (the jacket) and the inner wires. The colored “wire” you see—the green, black, red, blue or white—is actually the sheathing that covers the inner copper wires. If you look closely, you’ll see markings stamped on the sheathing to let you know the number and gauge of wires inside. The color of the sheathing lets you know what each wire does.

The following is sort of an electrical wire types chart:

  • Black wires or “hot wires” carry live electrical loads from the electrical service panel to an outlet, light or other destination.
  • Red wires are also hot wires used to interconnect smoke detectors, so that if one alarm goes off, all the others do as well.
  • White and gray wires are neutral wires that connect to the neutral bus bar, which attracts current and carries it throughout the house. Don’t let the “neutral” part fool you because they can still carry a charge—especially if the current load is not balanced.
  • White wires wrapped in black or red electrical tape are also hot wires. The tape just lets you know that the white wire, which is normally neutral, is being used as a hot wire instead.
  • Green wires connect the grounding terminal in an outlet box and run it to a ground bus bar in the electrical panel, giving current a place to escape to the ground in the event a live wire touches metal or another conductor. Green wires can only connect to other green wires but can still be live if the electrical system is faulty.
  • Bare copper wires are the most common type of grounding wires.
  • Blue and yellow wires, although not usually found in non-metallic (NM) cable, are sometimes used as hot wires in an electrical conduit. The blue ones are travelers that might be in the switches at both the top and bottom of a staircase to control the same light.
Black Wire
Carries live electrical loads from the electrical service panel to an outlet
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Red Wire
Used to interconnect smoke detectors, so that if one alarm goes off.
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White and gray wires
Are neutral wires that connect to the neutral bus bar, which attracts current and carries it throughout the house.
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What type of wire is used for residential?

Most modern homes use nonmetallic (NM) cable that consists of two or more wires wrapped inside the colored sheathing mentioned previously. The package of wires usually contains one or more hot wires plus a neutral and a ground. To accommodate wiring in an older home or if your wiring just needs work, you can splice the old wires with new NM cable using a junction box that protects wire connections. The larger circuit wires carry circuit voltage that can be really dangerous to touch. If you don’t know what kind of wires you have, consider them all to be dangerous.

DIY wiring and switching tips

If you have the confidence and want to tackle a DIY wiring job on your own, you need to be prepared with information and tools.

  • Have the proper tools. These might be a multimeter that tests electrical voltage and a combination sheath/wire stripper.
  • Familiarize yourself with the different wires. Make sure you know which colored wire goes where and their purpose to avoid electrical shock and to safely wire your home.
  • Have more wire than you need. Make sure it stretches at least three inches outside of the electrical box.
  • Patch drywall with big plates. Did you make the hole in the drywall too big? Fix it with an oversized electrical plate.
  • Pay for quality. Don’t scrimp on the quality of switches and outlets.
  • Check the voltage before you touch wires and circuits. The multimeter will let you know if they’re safe to touch.
  • Do your research. Watch YouTube video tutorials.
Electrical wiring mistakes to avoid

An electrical “oops” moment could be really serious, causing short circuits, shocks or fires. These are a few common mistakes you’ll want to avoid:

  • Never connect wires outside of electrical junction boxes. If there’s no box, add one and connect the wires inside it.
  • Remember the three-inch minimum on wire length. Don’t cut your wires to short. IF you do, add six-inch extensions.
  • Never leave sheathing unprotected between frames, as in a ceiling installation. Staple it to a 2×2 or use metal conduit if the wire runs along the wall.
  • Avoid loose switches or loosely connected outlets.
  • Never install a three-slot receptacle without a ground wire.
  • Don’t recess an electrical box behind a wall surface. Instead, add a wall extension.
  • Secure cable with a clamp so wire insulation doesn’t cut or fray.
Common household electrical problems

If you have old wiring, you probably have a whole set of issues. One of the more common ones is frayed insulation because there was no grounding, and the wiring wasn’t made to handle today’s heavy-duty appliances. There are several other common electrical problems that are not restricted to old wiring:

  • Frequent surges caused by lighting, damaged power lines, or faulty appliances or wiring
  • Dips in power supply because of faulty devices (or those made of poor-quality materials) connected to the power grid
  • Light switches that don’t work correctly
  • A circuit breaker that trips frequently
  • An overloaded circuit breaker
  • Shocks
  • Lights that are too bright or too dim
  • High electrical bills
  • Lightbulbs that burn out too often
  • “Possessed” recessed lights that go out and then come back on
How to

If you have proper electrical training, you should be able to handle most projects. Have you thought about becoming an electrician? According to O*NETOnLine, the projected job growth for electricians through 2028 is faster than average for other occupations. Consider enrolling in electrical construction and planning programs Coyne College Chicago. You’ll get the hands-on electrical training and individualized instruction you need to prepare for an in-demand career as an electrician. You may also want to consider electrical construction and maintenance (ECM programs) in Chicago.

Curious? Contact Coyne College for more information.

Common Misconceptions About Trade Schools

misconceptions-about-trade-schools

There’s a certain stigma that has surrounded trade schools for a while: that they somehow provide an inferior education that is only good for those who can’t do anything else. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s debunk some common misconceptions about trade school.

Trade schools are for people who aren’t smart enough to get into college.

That is simply untrue. According to U.S. News & World Report, there are at least 100 colleges that accept 90 percent of those who apply; some even accept all who apply. Trade schools offer focused education and teach many skills that are relevant to even those who study in four-year colleges, such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, pride in workmanship.

You can’t get a high-paying job if you go to a trade school.

If earning an average of $47,230 right out of school is low, then I guess that’s right. But how many four-year college grads can’t get jobs in their field and are working as baristas? Some of the highest-paying trade school career options pay well over that average salary:

  • Dental hygienist ($71,970)
  • Electronics repairer ($55,610)
  • HVAC technician ($57,250)

A trade school degree is not a real degree.

It’s true that you can opt for a diploma or certificate program from a trade school, but many offer two-year associate degrees; some even offer four-year bachelor’s degrees. In some cases, a diploma or degree from a trade school is a steppingstone to continuing education. For example, if a student earns a diploma in medical assisting, there’s no limit to where that person’s career can go. They will have a strong foundation that could lead to any number of careers: nursing, accounting, administration and more.

If you learn a trade, you’re stuck with it throughout your entire career.

It’s true that your education is focused on a particular trade and the skillset that goes with it. However, many technical skills overlap. For example, someone who studies to become an HVAC technician will learn some basic electrical and welding, as well as essential workplace skills. A pharmacy technician will learn about anatomy, billing, records and medical ethics and could work in a variety of locations. Who knows where it could lead?

Credits don’t transfer to a four-year school.

It’s true that some students study at a trade school with the intention of finishing their education at a traditional college. Just ask the university if they accept transfer credits. They may only apply to certain majors, but you can learn the specific requirements before you enroll.

Trade schools aren’t challenging.

Yes. Major universities with heavy academics have some very challenging programs, but trade schools teach students to be workforce-ready on day one of their first jobs. The hands-on training students receive is valuable. Every student is challenged with new tasks that mimic what they will do in the real world. Many also are required to participate in externships that actually get them into the field to practice in a real company.

You can’t get financial aid if you go to a trade school.

That is also untrue. Most trade schools offer financial aid for those who qualify, and many even offer scholarships. Depending on the trade and the demand for workers, some employers will pay a student’s tuition if they agree to work for them for a certain length of time.

There’s no job placement at a trade or technical school.

Most trade schools offer job placement services and have staff available to help students learn to interview, write resumes and apply for jobs. Many schools also offer job fairs and invite local employers to come meet with students who will graduate soon.

These misconceptions have given trade schools a bad reputation.

In reality, many young people are seeing the value of attending trade school and not a traditional college—especially when you consider cost, length of the program and job availability.

How much does it cost to go to a trade school?

The cost is significantly less than a four-year college. The average trade school education costs $33,000—sometimes less than the cost of a single year of college. If you multiply that by four, you get $132,000, which also comes with significant student debt that can last nearly the length of a career!

What are some of the advantages of a trade school?

The trades are in demand. Many trades workers are nearing retirement age, and people are needed to fill their shoes. If you learn a trade, there are short-term programs. You could complete your program in a few weeks or months as opposed to a few years. Imagine that you’re 19 and just completed a nine-month HVAC technician program. You start working immediately.

Let’s say you earn $50,000 a year. Your friend, who is also 19, decided to attend the state university and has three more years to go. By the time he or she graduates, you will have worked for three years and made $150,000. Deduct the $33,000 for the cost, and you’re $117,000 ahead of your buddy who has earned $0 and paid $132,000 in tuition. Now, who’s the smarter of the two?

How to Trade school

It’s easy. You need to have a high school diploma or a GED and fill out an application. In many cases, there are student loans for trade programs. You just need to contact the school you want to attend and ask about their financial aid. If you want to know how to apply, visit the school’s website. In most cases, you can apply online.

Trade programs in Chicago

Coyne College in Chicago offers several in-demand training programs that last less than a year:

  • HVAC Refrigeration
  • Electrical Construction & Planning
  • Electrical Construction & Maintenance
  • Medical Assistant
  • Medical Coding & Billing Specialist
  • Pharmacy Technician

Coyne also offers financial aid and has career services specialists who can help you find a job.

Contact Coyne College for more information or to enroll in a program.