Tuesday, November 24, 2009

One Word - SHIT!

I don't like messing up, and thankfully, I don't do it often. But I admit it when I do, and I don't try to blame anything else for my screw up. Here is a perfect example: In dropping the wiring for the second floor from the attic, I have to drill holes blind, which when done correctly will go into the enclosed wall cavity so the wire can be fed down to the switch or outlet served. Bear in mind that this cavity is about an inch wide on outside walls, and there are only vague indicators as to where exactly the correct point to go drilling is. So here I messed up, as is plainly obvious. What I thought would be a nice hole into the space between the plaster/lath and the brick wall, turned out to be a nice hole that exited the ceiling of Rudi's bedroom and carved down six inches of finish wall! Fishing the wire down seemed way too easy, so after I got about 10' down, I went to check, only to find the wire hanging in the room, instead of hidden in the wall. Well, nothing a bit of plaster compound and paint won't fix.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Power Arrives at The Attic

Six branch circuits direct from the panel, and three '3-wire' cables for multi-switch lighting arriving at the attic floor. It was fun locating the top of the wall I had to drill blind into, as you will notice the lath strips are continuous, and the plaster is, almost... The wall was located directly under the area that the plaster 'keys' thinned out and disappeared, as when plastered, the keys could not be pushed up through the lath where a wall was located. If you enlarge the photograph, you can see the way the keys disappear where I have drilled down into the wall to drop the wires.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Vintage Style Boxes

Recently I happened upon one of the neatest electrical boxes for performing retrofit wiring in an older home. Because some of the original wiring had electrical duplex receptacles located horizontally in the baseboard, I decided it would be best to continue locating additional receptacles in the baseboard also.

The problem is that most modern electrical boxes have the openings for wires to enter from the bottom or top end of the box, which makes it extremely difficult to mount the wired box 'blind' (that is fish the wires from the back, out throught the precisely cut out box opening, then into the box, which is then pushed back into the opening).

You will notice that the box pictured has back openings, which permit the wires to be run directly into the back of the box, as opposed to the top or bottom ends, which make installing the wired box a breeze!

I found these at both TimbrMart and Home Hardware, they cost around $3 each, much more expensive than the $1.19 or so for a regular box, but way way easier to install! Check an upcoming post for comparison pictures of installation of these versus standard boxes.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Where Is The Tapestry When You Need It!

After much deliberation of the best and least material consuming method of running electrical cable to the attic, I finally decided to go up the front foyer wall. I had thought of running a large cable up one of the inside kitchen walls and serving a sub panel, but with all the capacity I have in the main panel that would have been a waste. I also thought of running all cables up the same wall, but I couldn't get around the fact it would take almost 500 feet of wire just to get access to the attic. I have no idea why I hadn't thought of the foyer wall earlier, as it is located just above the breaker panel, and will save about 300' of cable, and probably 10 hours worth of work. The other reason the Foyer works so well is I will be running three sets of 3-way fixtures (Lights that can be operated at the foot or the top of a staircase) and they consume ridiculous amounts of 3 wire cable, especially if you have to run it from a switch, down a wall, across the basement, up 20' to the attic, along the floor to the fixture, and then from the fixture to the light switch controlling from the top of the stairs. The first photo is looking up the staircase, showing the three openings required to run the cables from the basement to the attic. Second is a closer look at one of the openings, required as i had to negotiate the cables past a cross brace mounted perpendicular to the wall studs. The third photo is the opening that allowed me access to make the holes necessary to run the cables through the floor.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Very Bad Things

One of the greatest sins of the incompetent electrician is the use of a 'junction box'. A junction box is a standard electrical outlet box (rectanglar or octagonal) that is used for nothing more than making a junction between two or more wires. A properly planned electrical
..........THE RIGHT WAY.....................THE WRONG WAY........

layout for a residence will have absolutely every single junction located in a box that also accommodates a switch, receptacle, or light outlet, or some other electrical device.

It shows remarkably poor planning and lack of thought to have four or five cables entering a box, while the box itself sits there serving no real purpose, other than correcting the electricans wiring layout errors. A properly planned wiring layout will have no boxes that are
..........THE RIGHT WAY.....................THE WRONG WAY........

just junctions, and also as few cables entering or leaving a box as possible, two, or perhaps three at most. I have included a couple of pictures to illustrate the correct method of wiring, where all junctions are made in outlet boxes, versus the incorrect use of the abominations referred to as junction boxes. In case you are wondering, my work is in the left hand photos!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

What The Law Says

In Ontario, all electrical service installations including electrical panels and branch wiring must be completed by a licensed electrical contractor, or a resident of the property at which the work is being completed. In either case, for any electrical installation to be legal, it must be pass an inspection by the ESA (Electrical Safety Authority). When an installation has successfully passed inspection, it essentially means that the Authority has undertaken responsibity for the quality of the work from the person(s) performing the work, and also means that liability is also transferred from the person doing the work, to the Authority, and on to any insurance company providing coverage for the premises.

So if you are going to do your own wiring, find out how to do it properly, and GET IT INSPECTED! I am just making a wild guess here, but I think the inspectors from the ESA would much prefer to visit your place to inspect your job, point out a bunch of deficiencies for you to correct, than to read in the morning paper that you and your family perished in a house fire due to a faulty wiring installation. They are paid decent salaries to do inspections, and the price of an inspection is very reasonable (typically ranging from $75 to $250 depending on the scope and size of job). And yes, the work I do in the Field House will be inspected, and eventually will be issued a Passed Certificate of Inspection.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Before and After, Example 1

I figure I may as well start at a very obvious point, where the power enters the house. The service comes from the hydro pole via an aboveground wire and mast, then down the side of the house and into the basement. Upon entering the basement, it enters a main 60 amp main fuse box, and then directly into a 60 Amp breaker panel. The main fuse may or may not be original, but the breaker panel was probably added sometime in the 'seventies. I have included a picture of it to show those interested what an atrocious mess it is. A hodge-podge of poorly run wires, wires added and marretted (joined) to other wires within the breaker section (a definite no-no!) and even two hots running into a single breaker (another very bad idea, both illegal and dangerous!). This was just a completely ugly mess, a definite instance where Mike Holmes would have wanted heads to roll!

Now I have the new panel in place, as pictured. This is a large 200 Amp combination main breaker / circuit breaker / generator panel. This means that the main service line will come straight into the panel which has a built in 200 Amp breaker, and also all the circuits breakers in one unit. Additionally, it has a sub panel built into the bottom which provides for a generator to be tied in to supply those circuits wired to the bottom portion if the power ever fails. Sweet! Also notice the very nice, consistent wiring inside the breaker area, with hots, neutrals, and grounds seperated, looped and run with sufficient excess to give a nice, neat look. The panel was bought at ROTH ELECTRIC just outside Tavistock, and I am definitely happy with it, as I have completely forgotten what it cost, either $300 or $400, but worth every penny.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bless Me, For I Have Sinned.....

I will start right off with my first confession, that of wishing very, very, very bad things upon the person or persons responsible for doing some of the electrical wiring in the house. Years ago while changing a light bulb in the basement, I unscrewed the bulb part way, then reached up to grasp it at the metal base to keep turning it out.....BBUUTTTZZZZ my right arm got jolted and went completely numb, the bulb dropping to the floor and shattering. Christ I thought to myself, something is wrong there, as I knew that even having the switch turned off did not mean there was no energy to the light outlet, but there was no way the hot should jump to the screw base of the bulb and electrocute me!

When you look inside a light base, you will notice a metal button right at the back, and a metal ring that the bulb screws into. Wired properly, the metal button at the back is hot (energized), and the ring is ALWAYS neutral (unenergized) regardless of whether the light switch is in the on or off position... Wired backwards, however, and the metal button becomes neutral, and the screw in ring becomes hot, an extremely dangerous sitiuation! Seems someone doing the wiring got mixed up tying in a line to an existing circuit, and wired up a bunch of stuff with the hots and neutrals reversed.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In The Beginning He Said "Let There Be Light"

....And then He went out and hired a good electrician to wire the place up right!

Welcome to my blog about the complete rewiring of our 1890's Victorian house, the 'Field House'. We bought the house about eight years ago now, and though it was generally in a good state of repair, the electrical system was a mish-mash of original knob and tube wiring, some additional wiring installed in the 'forties and 'fifties, and some complete and utterly garbage work done closer to the 'eighties. In any event, I soon determined that it would have to be completely removed or cut out, and a completely new electrical system installed from the ground up, including a new service panel.

By the time I will have completed this job, I will have installed approximately 100 receptacle outlets, over 60 light switches, roughly 45 octagon boxes for ceiling lights as well as a wireless programmable master control system, in addition to running roughly two kilometres of loomex wire through the walls of the house. I will also have installed a new 200 Amp main service/generator breaker panel, and have had an electrician in to run a new service from the panel back out to the hydro line on the street.