Electrical work

I became a mechanical engineer for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was that I was afraid of electricity. So when it comes to doing electrical renovations, I guess the thrill of danger outweighs the actual fear of danger.  Running an electric power tool into a tangle of wires just sounds like a bad idea to me, but living on the edge is so exciting.

Anyway, I hung the chandelier, and reconnected the wiring, so I figured I was either lucky or invincible. To this day, it has not fallen or caught on fire, and it actually works. So it boosted my confidence to take on a little more electrical work.

When we moved into the house, all of the sockets and switches were old. Like 1949 old. Some had faintly visible smoke trails up the wall. Some didn’t work at all. Some would spark when you used them. Now that’s excitement. One of the things I decided early on was that all of the plugs and switches were going to get changed, and I was going to replace the wall plates to make them all look decent as well.

We hired a fellow named Kelley to run new 200 amp service to the house, being the technology buffs we are, with all of the computer equipment running here. He also replaced 4 separate panels with fuses and consolidated them all into a nice neat breaker panel. He didn’t really get the labeling right, though, because the “basement” circuit also controls the bedrooms and hallway. So I guess he didn’t improve the original wiring, he just made it all look a lot nicer. Anyway, Kelley was fearless, and he did a great job with all of that wiring, but I thought the switches and outlets were beneath him, so I decided to do those myself as well.

This kind of shows what we were up against with most of this sort of work. Some of the sockets had two wires, some had six, but most had four. We have two sets of three way switches, which isn’t very many, but I managed to get both of them wrong. They mostly work, but you can get them into a condition where you can’t turn the lights on using one switch. That’s going to take some experimentation to figure out what I did wrong. All of the sockets appear to beworking correctly, though. I will admit to putting in some three prong plugs where I didn’t have a ground wire. This will only be a problem if we go to sell the place, which shouldn’t be for quite a while. I decided to get fancy metal and woodgrain wall plates. which I think really look a lot nicer than the crappy plastic ones you see everywhere. Of course Kelly, who if he didn’t live through the Depression was not far from it, thought I was crazy for paying $6 per plate when you can get those cheap plastic ones for 97 cents. Anyway, it was one of the few ways that you could have a big impact on the look and feel of the house for less than $100, so I considered the money well spent. The wood grain on the plates almost matches much of the natural wood trim around the house. It just looks a lot more substantial and falls into the general arts and crafts type style the house tends to follow.