Monday, February 25, 2008

A Shocking Update

Well, not shocking for me, because I had hired-guns do the work for me. That's right, the electrical upgrade has finally been done! By professionals with trucks, tools, and permits! 4 electricians, in fact. It took about 6-1/2 hours total for the whole job.

To recap for those who don't know and who can't be bothered to read about it in my previous posts, the electrical system in my house was maxed out and ready to be retired. The panel was original to the house and provided 100 amp service. There was no room for the additional circuits I need to continue the remodel.

Attached to this "Old and Busted" panel is a box which used to control an electric water heater. The theory was that the electric company would turn the heater on and off as needed only during peak usage times, saving you money. We had one of these in the house I grew up (or at least got older) in. I don't recall my dad doing cartwheels with joy over his savings, and I think these things faded away. Either way, it's an empty box.

Speaking of Old and Busted, here where we started with the service on the outside of the house. The original meter with a crappy & rusty well worn conduit, bringing power into the house below grade. Naaah, a little rust on the pipe won't compromise it's strength, will it? The gray box to the right is for the cable service.

Well above ground, the electricians started by running heavier wire which connected to the wires serviced by the electric company. A new mast-head was installed and the existing down-tube was used so no roofing needed to be done. The pipe at this end was large enough for the heavy wires needed for 200 amps.

Old and Busted meter box was replaced by New Hotness meter box. A larger diameter (and not rusted) pipe now brings the heavy wires in above grade. Everything below grade was cemented up to keep water out - a good idea in my book! The cable box was relocated to make room for this new larger box.

All work outside is now complete. I had an electrical outlet added outside, since there wasn't one before. It's got a large weather-proof box and is also a GFCI outlet. After the inspection I can replace the dirt moved to dig out the old pipe. Two new ground rods were installed and tied in with the old ground rod.

Moving inside, the old box was pulled from the wall to make room for this baby! Capable of 200 amps of juice. I'm somewhat certain that this picture was taken before they finished the install.

Here we go, "New Hotness" all buttoned up and ready for action! The little box to the right of the panel is a whole-house surge suppression system. An outlet just below the panel was added for the washer & dryer. Previously I had to plug the dryer in through an extension cord - not a good idea. I've got a lot of room to expand with this new panel, and the best thing about it is that the circuits are actually labeled with correct descriptions! At least half of the breakers on the old panel were labeled "Pump". The PO must have had some weird pump-fetish...

Remember this little gem? The PO thought this was a good way to wire the electric stove.

Here's a closer look. Yes, that's electrical tape wrapped around the cord to "protect" it. Before opening these boxes to check what kind of wiring fiasco was inside, the main electrician I was working with guessed that the wires were just wire-nutted together, giving power to the stove and the old electric fireplace I tore out on one circuit.

What he found in the box surprised him. The larger of the two boxes was actually a small fuse box, something most home-owners wouldn't have access to. He figures that whoever did this had access to material, such as a maintenance guy would, but didn't know/care enough about code to actually spend the little extra time to do the job right.

In the following picture you can see the extra wire added to the center terminal on the back of the stove. My electrician took this as proof that either the PO had help or kinda knew what he was doing (my money is on "he had help"), because this wire blah blah blah blah (I have no idea what he said/meant). Something about tying the neutral to ground or something like that.

I asked him to clean it up enough to pass inspection. I didn't want any more money than needed spent on it because it's going to get ripped out in a month or so when I get crackin' on the kitchen remodel. He installed new wiring, cleaned up the mess inside the little boxes, and I'm good to go here. It's still not as pretty as I'd like, but pretty costs more. They also installed the plug in a bad location behind the stove, forcing the stove to be away from the wall by about 3". Again, I don't care because it's temporary. No sense in having them waste their time to re-do it if it's not going to stay.

Trail Mix anyone? With a side order of 40 years of accumulated grease splatter? Yum yum, gimme some! When we moved the stove out (possibly the first time it's been moved in over a decade) I threw up a little in my mouth from the site of what greeted me. Yeah, like yours is sooo much cleaner...

Still to be done: There are two breakers which we haven't been able to identify yet. A 20 amp and a 15 amp. I haven't gone through the house yet checking each outlet, but that's next. We figure that at some time in the past the PO did some remodeling (HA!) and maybe added an outlet or two. Until I figure out where those breakers control, the breakers are off. That should make it easier to find the dead circuits so I can label 'em.