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I Hate Old Wiring

Yeah, I knew that there was still some old wiring in the house when we bought it, but that's usually not really too much of a big deal. Old wiring usually works just fine. The trick is to go ahead and upgrade it whenever you get a chance -- whenever you're doing any other electrical work near it.

Well, it looks like I'm in store for some electrical work near this branch of old wiring. After finishing Lost, I pulled the ladder out and headed into the attic to see if I could trace the wiring that controls the hall light upstairs. As I suspected, it was housed in that old conduit, which is a hallmark of older wiring. I certainly wasn't going to have any success attacking the problem from the attic, so I closed it back up and came down. (Aside: it's freaking hot in the attic.) My next step was to pull the light fixture off the ceiling and attack the problem from that side. That wasn't too difficult, and as soon as I had it hanging from the wires, I immediately spotted the problem -- one of the wires was broken. The black one -- the "hot" one. That explains the sparks I saw when I tried to change the light bulbs last week. So I enlisted yarbiedoll's help in turning the circuit off for the fixture -- she flipped the breakers and I tested the wire. We ended up partially mapping the breaker box while doing this and found the right breaker pretty quickly. Once I finished taking the light fixture the rest of the way down, my heart sunk a little when I realized that it wouldn't be safe to attempt to repair the fixture. Much of the wire near the broken portion was brittle, so I knew it would just be apt to break again. So I just took the fixture completely down, capped the exposed wire, and am letting it go at that for now.

I'll be calling a professional to give me an estimate for replacing all the old wiring on that circuit (which seems to be the entire upstairs lighting circuit). We need to install a fan in the bathroom, and it might make sense to combine the projects. If we don't get the old wiring replaced, I can probably install the fan myself, but if we decide to get the old wiring replaced, we'll probably just get the fan installed as part of that.

Anyway, I've sweated enough today. I have a stack of paperwork to get caught up on, so that's how I plan to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening. Maybe I'll grill hot dogs tonight.

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( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
christtrekker
May. 30th, 2006 02:33 pm (UTC)
Wow, I'm impressed. I don't even attempt anything electrical. I just recently forayed into minor plumbing, because I figured it couldn't kill me, unlike electricity.
drmellow
May. 30th, 2006 03:13 pm (UTC)
My summer job between junior and senior years in high school was as an electrician's assistant, so I'm fairly comfortable working around electricity. It's not terribly difficult, and as long as you turn the power off to the circuit you're working on, the majority of the danger is eliminated.
christtrekker
May. 30th, 2006 03:18 pm (UTC)
See, I spent my summers with the highway department. So I know a smidge about surveying, but that's not as useful in everyday life as basic carpentry/electrical/plumbing knowledge. Fortunately my dad was a handy guy, and I took wood shop, so I'm comfortable there. But I really feel the lack of electrical knowledge sometimes.
eagle243
May. 30th, 2006 04:18 pm (UTC)
I'm surprised that drmellow even pulled the fixture down without switching the circuit off at the breaker, but after you do that, ain't nothing gonna hurt you with electricity. That's what they (and their older relative, the fuse) are for. You just have to put it back together correctly too. ;)

I've done minor electrical and plumbing work - I have installed ceiling fans (sans light, and truth be told the wiring was already done - I only installed them), replaced several outlets and switches, two faucets, and countless internal toilet workings. I've also messed around inside several compact Macs - a thing that actually can kill you if the tube isn't discharged properly. (But then, that's no big deal either.) I think that sort of thing is fun, and I wish I had enough money to do more of it - there's plenty of it that could be done around here.
drmellow
May. 30th, 2006 09:04 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the other thing that my summer of electrical work did for me was make me a little more comfortable with how much work I can do before killing the circuit.
eagle243
May. 30th, 2006 09:10 pm (UTC)
Well, really, as long as you don't touch both leads at the same time, you should be OK doing a lot of stuff. Still, our breaker box is labeled very well, so it's easy to turn it off and on.

Besides, I have been shocked by 120VAC, and it's no fun. I'd rather flip the switch than be shocked again.
drmellow
May. 30th, 2006 09:16 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I've been zapped, too. It's no fun, but (if it doesn't kill you), it's not that bad. ;-)
eagle243
May. 30th, 2006 09:22 pm (UTC)
Well, it's not something I'd really care to do again. ;)
gorski
May. 30th, 2006 10:49 pm (UTC)
You can do almost anything without throwing the breaker. The thing is, most people don't think about reaching for something with their other hand before they do it... and of course, completing a circuit from one hand across your chest to the other hand is the quickest way to get electricity to kill you.

An old electrician's trick was to put your left hand in your back pocket so you don't lean on a grounded conduit, try to move the neutral wire out of the way while working on the hot (or vice versa), etc.

But a far better idea is to just throw the breaker.

peace,

--me
eagle243
May. 30th, 2006 04:20 pm (UTC)
We had some friends over for dinner last night - and we watched Monty Python's Holy Grail. (One of them hadn't seen it.) As this is the summer of grilling, we grilled corn-on-the-cob, hot dogs, and hamburgers. I love grilling. :D
christtrekker
May. 30th, 2006 05:18 pm (UTC)
Our grill is broken. That's another thing I need to fix. ☹ I think the burner is just plugged up with gunk somehow, so I'll need to disassemble it if I can and clean it.
docwoodstock
May. 30th, 2006 11:45 pm (UTC)
My "first" college degree was in Electrical Construction & Maintenance

Old houses can be fun. I have even dealt with "knob & tube" in the long past.
drmellow
May. 31st, 2006 01:02 am (UTC)
I do believe that we may still have a little knob and tube in our house somewhere.
neebs
May. 31st, 2006 08:56 pm (UTC)
I installed my overhead light fixture in my room by myself when I moved in. I was very proud of myself.

My roommate asked me to change the lightbulbs in it the other day. That did not give me quite the same feeling of accomplishment! (She is a tiny person so she couldn't reach even on a chair.)
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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