Which smoke detector is best?

Ahhh…the holidays are here: cooked dinners, cookies in the oven, candles lit…so…

Which smoke detector is best?

We all had the once finicky smoke detector near the kitchen:

Screenshot 2017-11-18 at 12.32.07 PM

We want to be safe, but let’s eliminate the dinner alarm :).

There are too basic types of smoke detectors:

  •  Ionization
  • Photoelectric

Ionization Smoke Detector

This is the cheaper one of the two. And you guessed it: this is the “dinner alarm” smoke detector. Ionization alarms are generally more responsive to a flaming fire (for instance, when a lit candle tips over and ignites the tablecloth at Thanksgiving). Yikes!  

Ionization-type smoke detectors have a small amount of radioactive material between two electrically charged plates, which ionize the air and causes current to flow between the plates. When smoke enters the chamber, it disrupts the flow of ions, thus reducing the flow of current and activating the alarm. (For those technical types)

Photoelectric Smoke Detector

This alarm uses a light beam to help detect the presence of smoke. This is effective for fires that from a smoldering source. A classic example would be a lit cigarette that accidentally catches on some fabric .

Photoelectric-type alarms aim a light source into a sensing chamber at an angle away from the sensor. Smoke enters the chamber, reflecting light onto the light sensor; triggering the alarm. (For those technical types)

Now they we know the two basic types of smoke alarms, which one should we use? Smoke-Detector1-300x300                First off, it is very important to have your smoke detectors interconnect, especially if you have a larger home. That goes for whatever type of smoke detector you decide to use.  Experts recommend both types of detectors.  The reasoning is because type of detector detects 2 different kind of fires rapidly.

First rule of thumb is again, make sure your detectors are interconnected. Even if you only decide to install one type.

The kitchen is a one of the most important place to install a smoke detector nearby. The best detector recommended for the kitchen? The ionization is the best choice because it detects flaming fires the commonly occur in the kitchen. How do you make an ionization type a smoke alarm and not a dinner alarm? There are two things you can do:

  1. Buy an ionization alarm with adjustable sensitivity. It will have a “hush” button that will reduce it’s sensitivity for a small period of time.
  2. Check you ventilation in your kitchen. Perhaps the poor ventilation is the cause of the problem.
  3. Go out for dinner! Sorry, I just had to put that in there. 🙂

If you need help deciding if your smoke detection system is adequate, or need help installing a system, feel free to contact me!

Happy Holidays!!!

Zach Shaw

Call (267) 371-3193


How to avoid a power surge

Many people have their computers plugged into surge protecting power strip. But is it REALLY enough?

Everyone knows a power surge isn’t good but what exactly is a power surge?


A power surge happens when there’s an unexpected spike in the voltage supplied through an electrical line. It happens very fast; it may last for only a few millionths of a second. However, a surge can carry tens of thousands of volts.

Ok, but what will happen if a power surge occurs??

A power surge can and often does damage electronic equipment. Now only your computer can be affected, but almost all electronics, even the new HDTVs.

How does a power surge happen?

  • Lighting storms are the more obvious but those surges are still the most powerful. Although, it may not happen as often.
  • Your outlets aren’t grounded. You will be surprised what you will find or don’t find, especially in older homes. I have seen some crazy things and thought: “What a cheap job” or “What was that electrician thinking?”
  •  Downed power lines from storms or accidents
  • short circuits
  • tripped circuit breakers
  • a sudden change in electricity usage by a nearby factory
  • Refrigerators can sometimes cause a power surge as well as window air conditioners.
  • The wiring in your house can be at fault if not installed properly, or your wiring may be old and in need of an upgrade. Again, I see this a lot more in older homes.
  • overload circuits or fuses (Think of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation )


What I can I do to protect myself from a power surge?

Plugging your devices into surge protection power strips is a great start for small surges. Most people have already taken this step. So, what is the next step?

Get a professional electrician to inspect your home. He or she will determine if you are well protected enough for the set up and items you wish to protect. The electrician may make suggestions such as:

  • Install a whole-house suppressor if your home is in risk of large power surges
  • Suggest a panel upgrade (He will make sure the panel is large enough to handle the size of your home)
  • Upgrade your wiring if it was not installed properly or is too old

To ensure the safety of you, your family and your home, you should have a professional  electrician thoroughly inspect the wiring in your home if you feel you are experiencing any electrical problems.

Feel free to give us a call for a free estimate 🙂

Call (267) 371-3193

Fall Maintenance Checklist list for the Home

I love this time of year: the cooler weather, beautiful trees, hot apple cider, pumpkin pie, holidays approaching….but wait: what about the house?

It is easy to get caught up in the season of fall and busy schedules and to neglect to prepare your home for cooler weather. Here is a quick checklist to help you prepare your home for the fall and winter months that lay ahead.

Fall Maintenance Checklist list for the Home


1. Clean Gutters

 Inspect and clean gutters and downspouts

2. Drain and Store Garden Hoses

Shut off the water to the outdoor faucet. Drain your garden hoses, wrap them nicely and put them in storage.

3. Inspect smoke detectors.

An easy way to remember this is to check your smoke detectors and batteries every time daylight savings ends or begins. You should check your smoke detectors every 6 months.

4. Check your HVAC or get your chimney cleaned

Schedule a maintenance check for your HVAC system or schedule a chimney clean.

5. Save money on your heating bill

This is more of a tip than a maintenance issue.  Open your shades in the daytime to let the sun shine in your house. Close your shades when the sun sets. The idea is to use the sun’s warmth to heat up for home a little.

6. Check for air leaks

For windows,  Check for loose or cracked glazing. Re-seal with silicon caulk. All windows and doors should close snugly. You can winterize your windows if you need to wait to repair or get new windows. Also, seal holes or gaps where the house framing meets the foundation.

7. Light up your outside.

It will be getting dark out, so it is important to have proper lighting along the pathway to your house. Also, inspect your porch lights.


If you need help upgrading your porch lights, or smoke detectors, feel free to give us a call.
Call 267-371-3193

Have a wonderful Fall season,


Zach Shaw



Pros and cons of Flat rate, Fixed rate or Time and Material.

By Zach Shaw, Zebra Electric Inc


hammer (1)

You have a project that needs to be done and you are trying to decide on a contractor. Besides picking out a contractor, do you want to pay a flat rate, fixed rate or time and material? What are the pros and  cons? That all depends on what is important to you and what kind of project you are looking to get completed. Here is a quick breakdown:

Flat Rate Companies

They are known to be the most expensive option. Besides the price, are there any pros?

Pros  :  Quick service. These companies generally have a 24 hour emergency service. Although emergency calls are twice as expensive, if you truly have a problem that needs to be addressed NOW; sometimes the price isn’t as important as getting your issue fixed.

Everything has a set price. Need a fan installed? The company will have a set price. With a flat rate, you usually know exactly what are going to be paying for, which makes some people feel secure.

CONS : The price. A flat rate is usually the most expensive. You are paying top dollar for your service.

No free estimates. A flat rate company will charge a fee to come out to take a look and give you a quote.

Sales. You are basically invited a salesman to your house when you request a quote. The person looking at the project is trained to be like a salesman. They will up sell you and try to get you to agree to more services. If you have trouble standing your ground and saying no, a flat rate company isn’t for you. However, some people like to here the suggestions and other options that they can consider.

Fixed rate (AKA Estimates and Quotes)

Pros : Free estimates. Not all companies give out free estimates, but many will offer them. If they are a small company, you will most likely get a free estimate.

You can budget. After you received your fixed rate, you will know exactly what you are paying. You will have the security of knowing what the project will cost. You will still have a clear price like a flat rate, but it should be much cheaper. A flat rate company already has a set price in mind. A fixed rate is when the contractor estimates how much time the project will take and bases his quote on that information.

Motivation. The contractors will have to complete the job within the fixed rate. this gives them motivation to finish the job in a timely matter. they don’t want to lose money on wasteful hours.

Cons  : Can’t add extras. I have seen it many times. I have started the project and a customer will say: “While you are here, I was thinking about it. Can you add another light in my dinning room?” I am glad to do it for them, but they must know the newly added project isn’t included in the original fixed rate. If you add extras after a fixed rate has been settled, be prepared to get charged for the extra changes.

Time and Material

Pros : Can be the cheapest.  Time and material is usually the cheapest. you only pay for the hours that took to complete the job as well as the materials. Simple enough.

You can add extras. You can ask to add extra lights, etc if it inspires you. There is no fixed rate, you are just paying for the time and materials. This options creates a lot of flexibility.

Cons  : Might not be the cheapest. Just make sure you know the contractor, he is recommended and has good reviews. Do your homework. Some time and material contractors may draw out the project so they can get more money. They won’t be motivated to complete the project quickly, because you will be paying them for every hour on the job. Find a reputable contractor before you choose to use time and material. It can save you a lot of money. Also, if the project has complications and the contractor doesn’t know what he is getting into; time and material may cost a lot also.

Can’t budget. You will not be getting a solid quote. If you absolutely need to budget, time and materiel may not be for you even though it may be cheaper. Although the contractor may be able to give you a general ballpark.


If you are in an emergency: Call your friendly contractor first.  If he can’t get out on time, a flat rate company may the way to go.

If you need a budget: a fixed rate will be the best. It will be cheaper than a flat rate, but you will know how much you are expected to pay.

If your project is complicated: such as: I brought an investment property and it is a mess. I am not sure what I will find. A fixed rate will probably be better than time and material.

If have the money, and just want the best price: Time and material will be a great fit, if the contractor is reputable. And time and material is great for small projects like replacing an outlet and a light.


Here at Zebra Electric, we offer fixed rates and also time and material. We do not offer flat rates. Our goal is to give our customers the best price and we do not up sell them. We also give out free estimates. During that time, we will go over the projects and discuss options that will best fit the needs of our customer. We offer fixed rates for budget concerns as well as time and material. Check us out, Google us. Look us up on Facebook 🙂

As always, feel free to give us a call for any residential electrical needs.

Call Zebra Electrical Inc at 267-371-3193

Picking the right Ceiling Fan

By Zach Shaw, Zebra Electric Inc

So many ceiling fans!!! So which one is right for you??? Well, I may not know your style or your home decor to pick the fan that is visually appealing to you. However, I can help you decide what type of fan that is right for you. (and size).

Here are the types of ceiling fans to choose from:

Standard fans mount on flat or sloped ceilings. They do not come with a light fixture.  These fans are great for an average height for a room.

Here is a general guideline:

9 foot height: 3 -6 inch mounting rod

10 foot Height: 12 inch mounting rod                                                  59271


11 foot height: 18 inch mounting rod

12 foot height: 24 inch mounting rod

13 foot height: 36 inch mounting rod


The size of fan blades depends on the square footage of the room.

Under 144 square foot:  under 42”

144-225 square foot: 44-50”

225-400 square foot: 50” +

Over 400 square foot+ over 62”


****If you have a low ceiling (8 foot), use can install a Low profile fan, also known as hugger ceiling fans.


Some other types of fans are:


Ceiling fans with a light fixture:  the most popular ceiling fans, especially for bedrooms. Light fixtures come in a wide range of different styles and sizes.


Energy Star-rated ceiling fans:  feature energy-efficient motors and aerodynamic blades, which allow the ceiling fan to operate on less energy. These types of fans are at least 20 percent more efficient than standard ceiling fans. Energy Star fans with integrated lights are 50 percent more efficient than standard ceiling fans with lights


Remote control ceiling fans:  A ceiling fan with remote control is ideal for individuals who cannot reach the fan to make adjustments, such as a high ceiling fan in a very high ceiling. It is also great for bedrooms: you can adjust the fan without getting out of your comfy bed.

Outdoor fans: Great for screened porches and the like. They have moisture-resistant motor housings and all-weather blades which prevents warping.  They are different outdoor ceiling fans, depending on how wet your fan might become as well as what harsh weather it must endure.

If you need help installing a ceiling fan, Contact us at 267-371-3193

Attic fans: are they right for you?

Attic fans (aka whole house fans): Are they right for you?

by Zach Shaw, Zebra Electric Inc

Whole-house fan drawing

How an attic fan works: Usually a whole-house fan is mounted in the attic floor, above a rectangular grille in the ceiling of a central hallway. Once the outdoor temperature cools down — usually in the evening or early morning — the homeowner opens a few downstairs windows, and turns on the fan.

The fan pulls air from the hallway and blows it into the attic. Since attic fans are relatively powerful, they quickly exhaust the hot indoor air, allowing cooler outdoor air to enter through the downstairs windows. Attic fans generally can cool down a house in less than an hour. Once the house has cooled off, the fan can be turned off and the windows closed. The idea is to close the windows after the fan is off (early morning until evening) to trap the cool air inside. This method is an alternative instead of using air conditioning.


Some things to consider:

  1. For an attic fan to work, you NEED to have the windows open. For someone that suffers from allergies, an attic fan may not be a good fit.
  2. Attic fans use only about 10%-15% of energy that an air conditioner would use. This will save costs on your electric bill.
  3. Your attic needs to have good ventilation. The attic fan needs a way to circulate air out of the attic.
  4. For proper cooling at night, the temperature outside needs to be 80 degrees or lower. Although, using the attic fan in the spring or fall is another option if the summer nights get too warm.
  5. Keep in mind, attic fans will not remove the humidity in the air.
  6. Attic fans can cool down the house fast at night (an hour or less) and it is a great alternative for those who want to save on cooling costs, but want to stay cool at night.


If you are considering about installing an attic fan, or have questions, free feel to contact us at: 267-371-3193

Zebra Electric Inc

Call Us today For a free estimate: Call (267) 371-3193

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Zach Shaw owner of Zebra Electric Inc is a Bucks County Pa native who has been in the electrical business for over 15 years. He formally worked for Dumire Electric and now he serves Dumire Electric customers since Tom Dumire retired. Zach likes to be involved in the community. He has volunteered with Mennonite Distaster Relief, providing free electrical work for victims affecting by Hurricane Katrina. He also volunteers annually at the Goschenhoppen Folk Festival. He has 4 boys and likes to spend his time camping, backpacking and kayaking with the family.

Zebra Electric Inc

93 Laurel Court

Quakertown, Pa


pa 012872

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