The Benefits of Landscape Lighting

Now you can beef up your home security and the outdoor appearance of your home with landscape lighting.

Landscape lighting is available in many forms, from simple front lawn lamp posts to miniature can lights embedded into shrubby and flower beds, or even solar or LED pathway lights.

The point of landscape lighting is to help illuminate your yard and home so you can monitor the exterior without having the need for large, unattractive security lights.

Landscape lighting also can help you set the right mood for any outdoor occasion, serve as an identifier for people trying to find your home, and provide added curb appeal.

Or, how about using landscape lighting so you can see beyond your windows or front porch in inclement weather, keep an eye on Fido or Socks while they take care of business before bedtime, and to deter your local wildlife from rummaging through your trash for a midnight snack.

Here are a few tips on how to use landscape lighting to its brightest potential:

  • Make sure the lighting controls are placed inside your home. That way, there’s no need to venture outdoors at night to shut them off.
  • Use CFLs or LED lights to cast a bright, clear light around your yard. Incandescent bulbs burn out quickly and are the easiest to break.
  • Factor in the look and style of your home. Tying your lighting scheme into the exterior aesthetics of your home helps to provide a more cohesive, holistic appearance.

To learn more about all the ways you can benefit from a landscape lighting scheme of your own, contact Fox Service Express today. We’re the only resource you need for all your home electrical service and installation needs. What’s more, we’re Peoria’s leading pool and hot tub service and repair provider.

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How to Keep Your Pool Water Balanced

Water balancing is one of the most important aspects of swimming pool maintenance. A balanced swimming pool means keeping the five basic pool water components within their proper levels. These components work together to help the sanitizer work more effectively

Let’s examine these five components individually:

Total Alkalinity

Total alkalinity refers to how much alkaline is in the water. A pool should have a total alkalinity level of 100 ppm. The lower the alkalinity level, the lower the ph; the higher the alkalinity level, the higher the pH.

Swimming Pool Water pH Levels

pH levels have a significant impact on your personal comfort and the condition and finish of your pool.  pH, which refers to the acidity or baseness of your pool water, should average 7.4 to 7.6 on a test kit’s numeric scale.

A pH level or 7 or lower means your chlorine will dissipate quickly, whereas high pH levels make chlorine inactive. Hence, the importance of maintaining pH levels within the correct range.

Calcium Hardness

With too little calcium in your pool water, the surface can “chalk” and erode. Too much calcium could turn your water murky, plus scale formations and stains could appear. 200 to 400 ppm is the generally accepted range for calcium hardness levels.

Stabilizer

Stabilizer helps your pool water retain chlorine longer, which is why it’s added to certain types of chlorine. With low stabilizer levels, you’ll use more chlorine than normal.  With high stabilizer levels, you may need to dilute your water to bring it back into the proper range: 40 to 100 ppm.

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)

All water, except for distilled water, contains dissolved minerals. As pool water evaporates, it leaves minerals behind which then accumulate over time. A large amount of mineral content makes it harder for the chemicals to do their job; therefore, if they start to mount up in your pool, drain some of the water and replenish it with a fresh supply.

If that sounds like a lot of work to you, or you just don’t have time to keep up it with, contact Fox Services Express and ask about our pool maintenance services. We offer opening and closing services, periodic or season-long maintenance, repairs, chemical supplies, and more. Tell us what you need, and we’ll come up with exactly the right solution.  Fox Services Express: Peoria’s leading pool and hot tub service company.

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How You Can Benefit from a Lighting Control System

With a lighting control system, you have one of your best opportunities yet to conserve energy.  Once a luxury item, these systems have become affordable for homeowners of all income levels.

With one system, you can pre-program lighting fixtures all over your home – or one fixture at a time – to turn on and off at certain times of day, while you’re traveling or entertaining friends, or any reason at all.

Whole-house systems operate from a built-in command center and just some of what their capabilities:

  • Where you now have multiple light switches in the same room, a lighting control system would replace them all with a single keypad with several controls for all the lights in that space.
  • A lighting control system gives you the ability to program an unlimited number of lighting situations inside and outside your home. Imagine, for example, having the ability to pre-program a light turning on as you transition from your garage into your home – a great feature, especially when your hands are full. It’s one that provides added safety, too.
  • A lighting control system can provide an astronomical time clock that always knows when its sunrise and sunset so your landscape lights always know when to turn on and off.
  • Okay, you’ve just sat down to watch a movie and you realize you’ve left lights on in other rooms. But don’t bother getting up, because with a lighting control system, you can control everything from your Smart Phone or tablet.
  • Incorporating dimmers in a lighting control system means you can program your lights to never go above 75%. Lower the light levels and you’ll reduce energy consumption and extend the life of your bulbs.
  • Having an intimate dinner party with friends?  Set the mood with dim lights throughout the space for a more relaxed feeling. Improve productivity with task lighting. Or, use the CLEAN UP button to increase light levels to 100% for greater visibility.

To learn more about all the benefits of a lighting control system for your home, contact Fox Services Express.

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10 Easy and Affordable Home Improvements

Even if there’s absolutely nothing wrong with your home, inside or out, and it’s the envy of the neighborhood, sooner or later you’re going to find fault with it, or simply grow bored looking at the same indoor and outdoor spaces, in the same way, every day.

Okay, so what’s enough of a change to satisfy your desire to freshen things up a bit.  Or provide you and your family with some added convenience and flexibility? As fate would have it, we have 10 such suggestions, and each of them nowhere near a budget breaker:

  1. If you have a kitchen pantry adjacent to your garage, add a small door in the wall to make unloading groceries a snap.
  1. Have a spare room that’s small on space and you’re not 100% sure what to do with it? Free up floor space with a murphy bed until it’s needed for an overnight guest.  And suddenly, you have a spare bedroom when needed, and the same “whatever” room you’ve had all along.
  1. Add a little elegance to your front or back porch with a stylish and functional chandelier.
  1. Keep Fido clean with a doggie shower in the mudroom, laundry room, or even garage. For added flexibility, consider purchasing an inflatable model.
  1. Give your tots a boost in the bathroom with a hidden, slide-out step stool that’s built into the toe kick area of your vanity.
  1. Add much needed storage to a small bathroom or kitchen by building drawers in between studs in the wall.
  1. Add a little visual appeal to the exterior of your home by covering any exposed foundation with tile or stone.
  1. Need more natural light in a room? Consider having a sun tunnel installed. Just make sure you hire a professional to assist you.
  1. Upgrade the look of your dated appliances with stainless steel contact paper.
  1. Make a windowless room feel lighter and brighter with a paned mirror that gives the illusion of light.

Speaking of light, nothing says newer and more modern like new light fixtures that fit your décor while adding just the right touch of ambience. Contact Fox Services Express today for indoor or lighting recommendations and our professional installation services.

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What’s the Knock on Knob and Tube Wiring?

You may never have heard the term “knob and tube wiring” before, but you most certainly will know if you have any in your house by the ceramic knobs nailed into wall studs or floor joists, ceramic tubes inserted into those holes, and the rubber-coated wires running from knob to knob.

Knob and tube wiring first came on the scene in the 1880’s, believe it or not, and it didn’t completely go out of vogue until the 1970’s. So why are we bringing this up if knob and tube wiring hasn’t been installed in roughly 40 years?  Because as many local home owners rip out walls and ceilings in the early stages of a remodeling project, they’re discovering this electrical dinosaur and wondering whether they should have it replaced.

That’s not as easy of a question as it might sound, but ultimately, “yes”, we recommend that you have it replaced with today’s standard of excellence, copper electrical wiring.

Here’s why knob and tube wiring is causing area home owners problems:

  • It’s known for high heat dissipation that poses a fire hazard when it comes in contact with fiberglass insulation. As a result, the NEC (National Electrical Code) now requires that knob and tube wiring cannot be used in “hollow spaces of walls, ceilings and attics where such spaces are insulated by loose, rolled or foamed-in-place insulating material that envelops the conductors.”
  • Many insurance companies charge higher premiums for homes with knob and tube wiring, while others won’t offer insurance at all.
  • Knob and tube wiring also has rubber vs. plastic insulation. Once the rubber degrades, the inner wiring is exposed thus increasing the likelihood of a short or an electrical fire.
  • Knob and tube wiring was designed to accommodate no more than 12 circuits. When more circuits are added to the system to meet the owner’s requirements, there’s an imminent risk of overloading.
  • Unscrupulous electricians also can hide the fact that a home contains knob and tube wiring to fool a home inspector while a sale is pending. If you’re in the process of purchasing an older home, insist that the inspection include wiring in the attic.

What kind of electrical wiring runs through your house?  If you can’t be certain, contact Fox Services Express and we can quickly and definitively make that determination for you. At the same time, if you’re planning to remodel your home or have a new addition that needs to be wired, we do our job the safe, reliable, and long-lasting way, i.e., no knob and tube wiring.  Not on our watch.  To learn more, contact us today.

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What’s the Problem with Aluminum Wiring?

Are you a dedicated follower of fads?  If so, and you were around and active in the early 1970’s, you’re bound to remember at least a few of these:
What’s the Problem with Aluminum Wiring

  • 8-track tape players
  • Cork pop guns
  • Daisy Dukes (short, form-fitting denim cut-off shorts, especially popular in the South, and named after Daisy Duke from The Dukes of Hazard)
  • Dashboard Hula Girls
  • Earth Shoes (designed to improve posture and to help relieve back pain)
  • Pet Rocks
  • Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • The Video Game, starting with Pong in 1972

Notice we didn’t mention Disco?  Well, we didn’t want to upset you.  But there was another short-lived trend (not that there’s anything short-lived about video games!) that ran from 1969-1976 in the home building profession, and that was aluminum wiring.

And yes, you’ll want to keep reading if your home was built in that time frame as this blog is written especially for you.

So, what was the big deal about aluminum all those many years ago?  It pretty much boiled down to cost.  As in, aluminum was (and is) considerably cheaper than copper and, in the early 70’s, was the best non-copper conductor of electricity available.

But what the building industry and home owners learned rather quickly is that aluminum wiring, while not inherently dangerous, is prone to house fires because of the poor connectors that were used as part of the wiring process.  These connectors were prone to oxidize from the use of dissimilar metals in the copper and aluminum connections. Oxidation, in turn, weakens the connection thus creating the potential for electrical hazards and fire.

Here’s a modern-day problem for homes with electrical wiring:  most insurance companies will decline them coverage.  So, if you’re thinking about selling your home any time soon, and the construction of your home fits the timeline when aluminum wiring was all the rage, you have one very good reason to contact Fox Services Express for a whole-house wiring inspection.  Here’s one more good reason to do so:  for the continued safety of your home and family.

To learn more or schedule an electrical inspection Fox Services Express, your licensed Peoria area electricians, call or contact us by email today.

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A Simple Way to Sleep Better

If you have trouble sleeping and just aren’t getting enough of it, you’re in very good company.  According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation from 2014, 45% of Americans say that “poor or insufficient sleep affected their daily activities at least once in the past seven days.”

Perhaps we can help simply by installing one or more motion sensor detectors in your home, which are also called motion sensitive night lights.

Ours are the hard-wired variety which really comes in handy if you already have too few wall sockets for all your plug-in needs.  No matter what rooms we install them in – you won’t have a night light on all night adding to your sleepless woes.  At the same time, you won’t have to stumble around in the dark should you need to move around at night.

Motion sensitive lights stay dark until they sense human motion, like when someone enters a room or hops out of bed.

That way, the light won’t interrupt your sleep and will turn itself off once you climb back in bed.  Once these lights come on, do they stay on?  Not unless they continue to sense your presence.  Otherwise, for example, it will shut off up to 20 seconds after you get up from bed and leave your bedroom.

As you can imagine, there are multiple other uses for such an innovative product, including:

  • Help keep your kids safe from harm should they wake up in the middle of the night
  • Same goes for seniors or anyone else prone to tripping
  • Make it safer to use the bathroom at night
  • Provide instant light if you enter a room with your hands full

And, by installing one near all entrances to your home, you’ll have additional deterrents against unwanted guests.

Tired of night lights that you don’t really need and might be adding to your lack of sleep?  Then contact Fox Services Express today and ask about hard-wired motion sensitive light detectors.  They can work for anyone and make for great gifts, too.

 

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Your Federal Pacific Circuit Breaker Panel Should Be Replaced

Was your home built between 1950 and 1990?  If so, you need to determine if it’s equipped with a Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) circuit breaker panel, one containing Stab-Lok circuit breakers since these are prone to malfunction and start a fire.

Ironic, don’t you think, when circuit breakers are designed to protect your home from electrical problems by preventing circuit overload, short circuits and outside power surges from coming into the panel. A healthy circuit breaker panel will shut down the power to one or more circuits in the event of an overload.  But if the electrical panel should malfunction, you are imminent risk of a home fire.

After a series of house fires leading up to the early 1980s, tests were conducted that proved conclusively that one in four FPS circuit breaker panels with Stab-Lok breakers were and continue to be defective.  That conclusion stands even though a New Jersey court determined during the post-testing years that FPE committed testing fraud and a cover-up, labeling the breakers as meeting the UL standards when they were not.

In 1983, the Consumer Product Safety Commission closed its two-year investigation and declared it “impossible” to enforce a product recall due to budget issues.  Thus, FPE circuit breakers continued to be installed in US homes until the company eventually went out of business.  But the damage they caused – along with the inherent danger of their faulty products – continues to this day.  Each year, about 2,800 home fires are attributed to FPE products.

How do I know if I have an FPE Circuit Breaker Panel?

blogFPE circuit breaker boxes include a red strip across the Stab-Lok breakers, making them easy to identify.

What’s more, the Federal Pacific Electric name will usually appear on the breaker panels’ front cover while on the inside you’ll find the name Stab-Lok printed near the center or side of the panel.

If there’s an FPE circuit breaker panel in your house, you want it out.  And Fox Services Express is here to make that happen.  Contact us today for a free quote on a replacement circuit breaker panel, one we’ll accurately size for the size of your home and your family’s daily electrical service needs.

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Important Tips on Fireplace Safety

What’s not to like about curling up in front of a warm and inviting fireplace.  Especially in the company of family and friends and with the luxury of time to fully embrace it all.

And yet if you’re new to the whole fireplace scene, it’s just as important to learn the rules of the road, especially when you consider that not doing so can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, serious burns and even home fires.

So let’s keep it positive, shall we, and see what it takes to put those risks on the back burner, so to speak:

  • blog1Make sure each level of your home is equipped with working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Test them regularly, and replace batteries twice a year or as needed.
  • Keep toys, furniture, and any other flammable items at least three feet away from a fireplace or any other heat source.
  • Have your fireplace professionally and chimney professionally cleaned and inspected no less than once a year.
  • Never burn anything in a fireplace that is not intended for that purpose. That list includes plastic, Styrofoam, and cardboard. Only burn dry, well-seasoned hardwoods in a wood-burning fireplace. Do not insert place anything to burn in a gas fireplace.
  • Never leave a burning fire unattended, and consider using a gate or other barrier to keep children and pets away.
  • Check that the fire is completely out, or the gas is turned off, before going to bed or leaving the house.
  • Make sure that your fireplace or stove vents to the outside.

Sometimes the things we overlook are the most obvious to begin with.  That’s understandable.  But what about things that aren’t so obvious even to the most meticulous home owner?  Take loose or frayed wiring behind walls, for example. The older your home and electrical infrastructure, the more likely the occurrence.  That’s why it makes sense to have a whole-house electrical wiring and safety inspection performed once a year by the professional at Fox Services Express. It’s a great and super affordable way to better ensure the safety of your home and family.

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Are Your Kids Getting Enough Sleep?

blogThe fabric of today’s American family is so much different today than it was even 10 years ago, and profound changes are being witnessed as a result.

One thing we’re seeing less and less of are two-parent families.  That means more single men and women are parenting or co-parenting, one at a time.  That leads to divided schedules, interruptions of routine or even a lack of a consistent routine, and all sorts of other issues, including sleep deprivation.  That’s right:  more and more of school age children today aren’t getting enough sleep to perform at their best at school, home, or play.

How much is enough sleep for your children?  Sleepforkids.org tells us what the current averages are vs. what they should be:

  • Infants get 12.7 hours, when experts recommend that from 3-11 months they should get 14-15 hours.
  • Toddlers get 11.7 hours, when 12-14 hours are recommended for children aged 1-3 years.
  • Preschoolers get 10.4 hours, while it’s recommended that children 3-5 years of age should average 11-13 hours.
  • School-aged children (1st through 5th grades) get 9.5 hours, but experts recommend 10-11 hours.

Here are just a few of the problems directly tied to kids who don’t get enough sleep

  • ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder)
  • Mood swings
  • Underachievement in school
  • Poor eating habits and obesity

To help prevent problems in your family, follow these simple tips: 

  1. Start with the time your kids should be getting up in the morning, then count backwards 10 to 11 hours to set a healthier and more achievement-focused bedtime.
  1. Once you’ve established a sleep schedule, stick to it. Remember: it’s a lot easier to break a habit than it is to start or re-start one already in place.
  1. Create a bedtime routine, even for older children, that helps calm everyone down. Whether it’s turning off all electronics at a certain time, having a family conversation to recap the day, or whatever works best in your family, this is one good habit that can beget others.
  1. Say “no” to caffeine and sugary drinks, especially starting in the mid- to late afternoon hours.
  1. The right amount of physical activity during the day won’t get your child to bed on time, but it will improve the quality of their sleep. Aim for one hour per day.

Are your kids waking up in the middle of the night for trips to the bathroom?  If so, we can help prevent accidental injuries by installing one or more hard-wired night lights in bedrooms, bathroom, and other strategic locations.  Once a child gets out of bed, the light will sense movement and turn on.  Later, the light will activate to escort them back to bed.  The same holds true in any other room where hard-wired night lights are installed.  Contact Fox Services Express to learn more or schedule installation.

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