Sunday, September 23, 2007

More Electrical "Fun"

It's Sunday morning and I've been awake since 5:30. Once my brain slips into gear in the morning, there is no going back to sleep for me. To avoid waking anybody else up I decided to spend some quality time in the basement doing some more electrical work. The main task was to replace the old worn-out outlet which the washer & dryer plug into. I assume it was original to the house. It was worn to the point where the plugs wiggle easily and could fall out - an easy problem to fix with a new $.79 outlet. It was mounted in a shallow double-gang metal box with metal lid - nothing out of the ordinary. I trip the breaker and check to make sure there is no power before I start this time. The circuit tester confirms the outlet is dead, so I start to remove the two screws holding the cover plate in place. First one is fine, but the second screw is a fucking wood screw. Yeah, a screw with a sharp point and sharp coarse threads is the perfect choice for electrical work, especially if you want to pierce the wire's jacket and short the whole damn thing out.

In the conduit and box are two red and one white. The red are hot lines and the white is the neutral. The washer/dryer are on their own circuit which is exactly what I wanted to see - that accounts for one of the red/hot lines and the white/neutral. The white/neutral runs from the fusebox to this outlet where it then follows the other red/hot. Basically, I've got one neutral for two circuits. As I posted yesterday, I'm not an electrician and don't know if this is common or not, but the plug I'm replacing is less than 5 feet from the fusebox. Just run the neutral the full length with the fucking hot you moron! Why tie it into an outlet and create another splice in the process? Since there is another hot in the conduit, I kill that line at the breaker before I switch out the outlet since both circuits share a neutral and I really don't want to wake up the family by screaming like a girl and pissing my pants while I get electrocuted.

So getting back to how it's laid out, the washer/dryer are good to go with a new outlet. The wood screw has f'd up the screw hole on the box, so I either have to replace the box or make it safer. "Safer" it is since I don't want to have to re-wire the whole thing. I blunted the point on the screw and pushed all the wires to the other side of the box. It's a double-gang box with a single outlet, so there is plenty of room. The cover is replaced and all is well.

Oh, did I mention that the other red/hot wire supplies power for the lights in the laundry area, the water softener, the sump pump, and the furnace? Not to mention an extra pair of outlets which aren't in use right now because they are old-school ungrounded outlets. Whoever the genius is that did this deserves a punch in the throat. When we replace the service panel and upgrade to 200 Amp I'm moving the furnace to it's own circuit and doing the same with the sump pump.

Update from yesterday's rant: Here's a picture of that cool (crappy) light I removed which was hard-wired and had the electrical box secured only to the fixture and not to a stud. I'm 95% sure it was originally a light over a pool table, and I'm 100% sure the installation sucked copious amounts of ass.

This joke of a wiring job is how the P.O. connected an electric stove when the place originally was set up for gas. I don't know what else is run inside the line supplying the stove, but the conduit runs towards the far end of the house where there is a fake fire-place with heat-o-lator (which will be removed with extreme-prejudice in the near future). Let's see just how fucked up this is... The power cord is hard-wired into this box, which is mounted in a half-ass manner to the double-gang box. The other end of the plug is hard-wired to the stove. The end in this picture used to be the plug, which would allow you to unplug the stove to move it. That wouldn't work here, because the plug won't fit through the hole in the floor which used to be for the gas supply. Basically, the stove isn't going anywhere without tripping the breaker and unhooking the wires at one end or the other. I guarantee this is not up to code without even looking it up. Oh, did I mention that where the plug goes through the box was just wrapped with electrical tape instead of something a little more safe? Yeah, that tape is good for 50+ years of protection from chafing of the wire. Jackass... The most worrisome item for me is that if there is a big water spill in the kitchen and the water gets behind the stove, it's going to go right through the hole and follow the wires down to the box. There isn't enough of a drip-loop in the wire to keep it from shorting out. Somehow the city electrical inspector didn't notice this although my home-inspector got a laugh out of it. Since we're changing back to gas, I didn't make the P.O. pay to fix it. Assuming it was her husband who did it and he's long since dead I didn't see any reason in letting her know how lucky she is that he didn't burn the place down. Damn I'm a nice guy.