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Are Steam Heat Pipes Wrapped With Asbestos? / Fluorescent Bulbs / Dimmer Switches

In Uncategorized on October 23, 2012 at 11:27 am

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Q:

I have an older home with steam heat. Are the steam pipes most likely insulated with asbestos containing material?

A:

Most likely, yes. And the asbestos is probably wrapped in a cloth covering. That material probably looks like white or gray colored canvas. If you see loose or broken sections do not touch them. Those are what are referred to as “friable”. That means that the asbestos is easily crumbled or can be broken with hand pressure. If that’s the case, it becomes a hazard.

The real hazard comes when people think, “well I’ll just pull that stuff down and throw it away”. When that happens the people living in the house, visiting the house, or working in the house, start inhaling those tiny, invisible asbestos fibers. When that happens, their chances of getting asbestosis, mesothelioma, or lung cancer are increased.

If you are curious or worried that your house may contain asbestos, you should have it inspected by an expert in that field. Check the yellow pages under “Asbestos Consultants”. Make sure they are licensed and certified by the state.

Remember, it’s unfortunate but like in any business nowadays there are un-reputable firms. This field is no different. Get a second opinion and at least three estimates for enclosure, encapsulation or removal of the asbestos.

Q:

Why is it that some fluorescent fixtures don’t work well when it’s humid?

A:

Fluorescent bulbs operate at high voltage. However, if a bulb is dusty, some voltage may be traveling through the damp dust instead of through the bulb. With this in mind, clean the fluorescent bulb and fixture before doing anything else. If that doesn’t help, make sure the bulbs pins are making good contact with the socket. First, see that the notch on the bulb’s end cap aligns with the socket’s entrance slot. Also, check whether the socket contacts and pins are free of corrosion and dirt. Shut off the power to the fixture before cleaning the contacts. Preheat fluorescent fixtures require a starter to heat the electrodes in the tube. Other fluorescent fixtures – rapid start and instant start, receive this heat from the ballast assembly, which is covered by the housing of the light fixture. The starter looks like a small aluminum cylinder and is usually located near one end of the fluorescent fixture. To remove the starter, simply twist it out of its socket like a bulb and replace it with the same size.

There certainly is a possibility that you have a burned out tube and if none of these procedures work, there might be a grounding problem. Since fluorescent fixtures can be grounded in several different ways, have a licensed electrician check it out.

One last thing- this is something I found out when I replaced the fixture in my office – fluorescent ballasts are classified according to their noise level. A-rated ballasts are the quietest and best choice for homes. C-rated ballasts are noisier and designed for commercial buildings. If you use an A-rated ballast and it’s noisy, vibrates and hums, the ballast or fixture may be loose. Both parts must be fastened securely to eliminate vibrations that could cause bussing.

Q:

Do dimmer switches really save electricity?

A:

Yes, dimmer switches do save electricity. At least the modern electronic ones do. Old-fashioned “rheostat” dimmers controlled the flow of electricity by adding resistance. Power that wasn’t going to the bulb was lost as heat so no electricity was saved.

Electronic dimmers work differently. Those used on incandescent bulbs switch the flow of electricity on and off very quickly, at a rate that keeps the filament glowing at the desired intensity. Fluorescent lights and low-voltage lights require “full-wave” dimmers, which don’t turn the electricity on and off, but instead change the voltage. Both types do save electricity on your lights. But if you are really interested in saving electricity try using compact fluorescent bulbs or L.E.D.’s instead of incandescent.

Also, reduce wattage of bulbs. Wherever you have a 100-watt replace it with a 75-watt and replace a 75-watt with a 60-watt and so on.

You can also save electricity by keeping bulbs clean. Dirty bulbs absorb light. Use light-colored lampshades and I guess one of the best ways to save electricity when it comes to lighting is turn off the light when you leave the room.

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