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Adventures in electricity.

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Some of you may have noticed I haven't been in game much over the last couple weeks. The reason being, I have been working on renovating 3 rooms in my house. New paint, blinds, lighting (ceiling fans), carpet (being installed today) and new outlets, switches and plates. I bought the outlets, switches and plates at Home Depot earlier this week and finally had time to sit down and get them installed. I'm no stranger to minor electrical work. Growing up, I helped my uncle do a lot of electrical work around my parents' house. Since I bought the house I live in, I've replaced almost every lighting fixture in the house and also replaced outlets in several rooms. So I figured an hour, maybe two and I could knock out the 3 switches and 13 outlets.

I started in the first room. There are 4 outlets. Three of the outlets are on one circuit breaker and the fourth was on the circuit for the next room. No biggie. I cut the breaker that services the wall switch and 3 sockets. I make quick work of it. I go and turn the breaker back on and use my outlet tester to check my work. I had wired the 3 outlets with the hot and neutral wires reversed. The reason behind this being, the old outlets were in upside down. When I disconnected the old outlet I placed the wires back on the same sides. Oops. I cut the breaker off, swapped the wires and I was back in business. So then there's the fourth outlet. It's on the circuit for the next room (it's on the wall common to the two rooms.) So I cut off the breaker at which point I hear my wife griping I cut off the wrong breaker (She was working in bedroom #3). In actuality, I had indeed cut off the correct breaker. The circuit on that breaker serviced 1 outlet in bedroom #1, all the outlets in bedroom #2, all the power in the bathroom AND 2 outlets in bedroom #3.

I knock out the one outlet in bedroom #1, and then move to bedroom #2. This room has 5 outlets and a wall switch to be replace. I started with the outlet. Easy peasey. I move on to the outlets. I worked my way around the room clockwise from the switch. I made good time swapping out the outlets. I get to the last outlet. There are 3 ground wires in the box. One is loose (the one going from the outlet itself and then the other two are tied together. I cut the other two wires apart, and bind the 3 together using a wire nut. I quickly finish installing the outlet and go to test my work. I flip the breaker on, and the arc fault protection kicks in and immediately cuts off. GRR. So I did a little reading on the interwebs about AFCI and decided that the last outlet was the likely culprit. I was probably tying together grounds across multiple circuits. So I open the outlet back up... took a look at where the wires came from and decided the one wire coming in from the left side of the box was the likely culprit, so I capped it off, wrapped it completely in electrical tape and then re-attached the other two wires with a wire nut. I went out to the garage and flipped the breaker and it didn't trip. VICTORY! I go back, and check all 5 outlets and they all pass with flying colors.

On to bedroom #3. I go and cut off the breaker for bedroom #2 as well as the one labelled for bedroom #3. This breaker only powered one outlet and the light in the room and also the outlet for my home entertainment system in the living room () Two outlets are powered by the breaker for room #2 and one outlet is STILL hot. So I go and cut the breaker to the master bedroom and all the outlets tested dead.

I decided to start on the outlet on the circuit with the living room. I remove the socket from the wall, and there's 3 black wires (hot), 3 white wires (neutral) and then 3 bare copper wires (ground). Apparently, one set of wires was a tap to feed power to the light switch, but the way they went about wiring this into the outlet was a bit of a head scratcher. They had 2 wires going into the quick connects on the back of the outlet (which are for the truly lazy) and then one wire to the screws on the side (the correct way.) The outlets I purchased did not have quick connects, and there's not enough room on the screws for 2 wires. So... I think... OK... I connect all 3 wires together and run another short lead from those 3 wires to the outlet.

First problem... It's 10pm and I have no romex... I ended up finding a short length in my garage. Second problem... None of the wire nuts I have are large enough to accommodate 4 wires. It's 10pm, on Sunday. Home Depot and Lowes are both closed. So I head off to Wally World in hopes they have what I needed. Luckily, they had 'large' wire nuts. Since it was 10pm on a Sunday, they had 1 full lanes, 1 express lane and 3 self check lanes open. I go stand in line at the self check. I figured there's 3 people in front of me... so it should go quickly. Unfortunately for me, one of the women in front of me had a whole cart load of groceries... and THEN her daughter joined her with ANOTHER full cart. GRRR. So... eventually, I get to the register, scan & pay and head home. The trip took me 45 minutes. I sit back down at the outlet, get the 4 wires connected with the wire nut and then carefully wrapped the wires and wire nut with electrical tape. I was NOT about to have a wire come loose in the box. I finish the outlet and turn the breaker back on. SUCCESS! One outlet down, 3 to go. I move to the outlet on the master bedroom circuit. This one goes off without a hitch. Then I move on to the last 2 outlets (on the circuit for bedroom #2) and those too have no issues. I go and flip on the last 2 breakers, test the outlets and everything is good. I had hopes of installing the two remaining ceiling fans, but by the time I had finished all the outlets and switches, it was 11:30pm. I was hot and tired and I'm pretty sure I'd used up my patience quota for the day. I decided discretion was the better part of valor and called it a night.

So what SHOULD have taken me MAYBE 2 hours, ended up taking almost 8. Gotta love home ownership.

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    WickedSoN's Avatar
    Never fails, every time I take on a home project it ALWAYS take twice as long as I predicted. It's the trips to the store that kill me the most. I can't tell you how many times I've had to make that last second trip to Depot or Pep Boys because I'm missing some little gadget or part to finish a job.
    dex71's Avatar
    Lol....Poor WileE......welcome to the life of a nut-twister.

    Wicked said it, though......with every home project, it's always something.

    And a little pro-tip: Look at the screws on the side of the receptacles (outlets). The "hot" side are usually a brass color, and the "neutral" side is usually silver, and will directly correspond to the larger slot on the face of the outlet.
    WileECyte's Avatar
    Yeah, I noticed the brass vs silver AFTER I figured out they were wired wrong. Glad I had the tester though. I'm going to invest (and at the cost, invest is the word) in a box of romex to keep around for future emergencies. Also going to add a plethora of size wire nuts to my electrical kit so I don't get caught like this again. On a positive note, I have installing ceiling fans down to an art. I installed one in about 30 minutes last night by myself.
    Ripper762's Avatar
    Reminds me of my battle with my front yard drip system. Every time I thought it was fixed and turned on the water to test, a geyser would shoot out of the ground to the merriment of my neighbors.
    RagunCajun's Avatar
    Having similar fun at my house.
    TankerM1A2's Avatar
    Poor WileE your like me a Jack of all trades a master of none.
    Jonas Quin's Avatar
    So i had to replace the doorbell not long ago, no problem, kill power, open it up aaannnnddd, horsehair wiring. Fucking 90 year old house.