Archive | June, 2009

Arc-Fault Circuit Breakers

June 4, 2009


Now that good weather is finally here, I’m turning my plans once again to updating the electrical system in the home. It’s been a slow, long process, and I still only have half the house done! I have to keep up-to-date with the codes, as well, to make sure that all my work is done properly and legally. The biggest change I have seen is with new “arc-fault” circuit breaker. This was introduced in the National Electric Code in 2002, but we’re seeing it roll into the municipalities codes’ laws only recently. My town passed the regulation for these last year.


The arc-fault circuit breaker has a little pigtail wire that connects to the grounding bar in the circuit panel, and the white wire connects to a screw on the breaker. This new system detects “arcing,” or the electrical shorts that sometimes occur (and shorts occur in new AND old wiring) with overheating wires, poorly performing wires, or broken or loose wires.


Regular circuit breakers only protect the wire behind the walls (switches and outlets) when massive amounts of electricity surge through the line; they flip off,  preventing heat buildup (and thus, a fire). Arc-fault circuit breakers are a little more sensitive– these breakers have filters that detect impending arcs from things like loose wire/screw connections, nicked wires, brittle or cracked wiring, and etc. Because they are so sensitive, they sometimes go off intermittently and falsely (and the homeowner must trot down the basement to flick the breaker back on, or figure out why the breaker is switching off).

A few years ago, these arc-fault breakers were mandated for bedrooms and sleeping areas for new construction (most arc-related fires occur in bedrooms). I believe in New York State, this applies. Vermont, however, has recently required the use of these arc-fault breakers for ALL living rooms in residences. The caveat is that the arc-fault equipment is a lot more expensive than the traditional breaker equipment. I can find regular circuit breakers for $10 or so. The arc-fault breakers are commonly $45 to $50!! PER BREAKER! This radically increases the cost of electrical wiring.

Anyway, this information may come in handy the next time you need to gut a room to rewire it, or look at an estimate for new construction. I’m hoping that by the time I get to the bedrooms in my house, the arc-fault breakers will be more reliable– the last thing I want to do it pay 5x more for something that I have to monitor 5x more– and less expensive.

Photos from Handyman Wire and Inspect-A-Pedia NY.

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Great Sale on Rice Cooker

June 4, 2009

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I am an American. Worse, I am a Northeasterner American. Which means that I CANNOT COOK TASTY RICE. The rice I cook tastes DISGUSTING. I admit it! I have finally faced reality! That, or the family may finally mutiny unless I do. My rice was always too soft, mushy, and bland. I tried Basmati rice for a while, and that turned out nicer (i.e., it was edible), but it took a lot of time to wash, rinse, soak, cook, and wash all the dishes I used. Ugh.

People, I have seen the light.

Oh my word, why did I never get one of these before?!?!? Why have we suffered all these years?!?

I got a Black & Decker Rice Cooker and I urge you to do the same! Seriously, the thing is amazing. I’ve always been a real miser when it comes to buying small appliances. I never got a microwave unti lI was 35, never got an electric can opener until last year, never got a bread machine until a few years ago. Wow, what a difference in my life. Well worth the money. But the rice cooker, which I always thought was a silly fad, an expensive fob for “rich” women, is by FAR my favorite appliance. I use it several times a week, and it always makes the best rice. I am a rice cooker convert!

And they are not expensive, not at all! There’s a sweet Black & Decker rice cooker on sale right now at for around $20. And the shipping is FREE! Get one for you, for your daughter, for your friends, for your sisters, for your mailman! The price is so low, and these things are totally cool! Rice is an inexpensive meal, so there are savings on that end, too. I love my rice cooker!! And best of all, ME, the Northeasterner– I can finally make edible, tasty rice!

By the way, while you’re at, don’t forget to be a good Frugal Hack and check out their sale page. They have weekly sales and daily sales, stuff for very low prices. has “everyday” stuff, too– household supplies, appliance parts, software, cooking tools, bedding, etc. It’s a phenomenal store and I love shopping there and grabbing deals. Check it out! You never know what great stuff you’ll find, and better yet, it’ll be stuff on SALE!

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Buy Electrical Supplies Online

June 2, 2009

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Here’s something terrific! Buy electrical supplies online! I would never buy electrical supplies from just anyone, though– who knows where it was manufactured, if it is codes-applicable, or if it was made in the U.S.? I only buy new stuff, and I only get it from reputable sellers. I saw some great deals (as usual) at Check out their sale page, distributed weekly. They have great sales all the time, on electronics, small appliances, and loads of stuff. But also sells tons and tons of other products, including housewares, tools, home and garden supplies, and electrical equipment! There are some really good prices on circuit panel boxes, electrical testing tools, and these nice arc-fault circuit breakers (AFCI) that I have been looking into. These new circuit breakers are now required in all residential buildings in my township, in accordance to the National Electric Code. But the breakers are WILDLY expensive at my local retailer. Plus, paying sales tax on these babies can easily break my little piggy bank… 🙁

Well, at, they are affordable, and I don’t have to pay sales tax! Very cool. also sells electrical tape, sockets, feed hubs, voltage testers, specialty pouches and belts, and various other supplies. Great deals! Some stuff comes with free shipping, too. And don’t limit to just that– has e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g! Books, shoes, jewelry, home appliances big and small, parts for appliances, patio furniture, gadgets, home decor items, LOADS of stuff. Prices are great, and customer service is superb. Keep in mind when you’re looking for stuff. And save yourself some gas and time– it’s easy to order all the stuff you need, right on the Net.

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