Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It Occurred to Me Yesterday...

...that my electrical outlets are not 21 years old. But my house is, so at some point they were all replaced, throughout, except for 2 or 3 that were hidden in kitchen cabinets. The light bulb in my head went off yesterday when I thought "Why are there those freak-nasty dingy tan ones in microhood/stove area and everywhere else they are white and clean?" DUH. They're not original, Captain Obvious. I spent part of this morning looking at my circuit breaker, trying understand what circuits were 20 amps and which were 15 amps, turning things off, seeing what they powered, etc. The neighbors probably thought I was crazy OCD, walking in and out of my house every 3 minutes. I figured out I have many 20 amp breakers, like half of my breakers (at one point the Contractor told me I had no 20 amp circuits. I think he was smoking something - they are labeled with "20" underneath the circuit number stickers). This seems strange to me, why I have so many 20 amps - I mean, generally aren't they are only for the kitchen?

One of the 20s is labeled "dining room." Why would my dining room need 20 amps? What am I going to do, power a jackhammer while we eat dinner? And when I turned it off, I couldn't find a single thing that it supplied power to. I don't think this is the doing of my crazy contractor, because even before he started the electrical work, we noticed that some outlets in the dining room were connected to one of the kitchen circuits. I think. I wouldn't put it past him, though. More investigation may be required.

It seems like some other yahoo in the past 21 years--who was not much better than my contractor--has screwed around with the wiring. When we bought the house one of the outlets in the kitchen nook didn't work and I'll bet money that it was this previous yahoo that messed it up. Not to mention that none of the outlets in the kitchen are 20 amp rated outlets. They're all 15 amps. I mean, nothing has heated up and burned out as a result in over 5 years (my estimate since I don't think the previous owners did it), so it's probably not the end of the world. But I just don't get people messing around with electrical that don't have a clue. Small things like installing new lighting fixtures or replacing outlets/switches are one thing, but messing around with the circuit layouts and wiring is another thing entirely.

This is life in an older house. It can't speak to you and tell you who worked on it. Previous owners don't tell you much, and the house was a rental before the previous owners bought it. So, while I am a little disconcerted that the electrical is a little wacky in the house, this can't be outside the norm. Even my friends in the next development west of us have weird wiring in their 80s house. I am still annoyed with the Contractor but I am beginning to think that this is common. That finding someone who is actually knowledgeable and proficient is not common. After all this poking around I realized that there are only a few areas that the Contractor wired a bit incorrectly (provided he didn't screw up the dining room circuit situation - again possible since he probably smokes the reefer). What I thought was 12 gage mixed with 14 gage was actually just 12 gage, with the one side being an older line with different colored insulation. The two spots I have confirmed are wrong are minor. Two lights, one over the sink which isn't even bad, he just used 12 gage wire for a 15 amp circuit. That's fine. Probably have to rewire the switch not to use the stab-in since my new research tells me stab-ins are only allowed for 14 gage wire. The other is the dining room light connected to a kitchen 20 amp circuit which is still up in the air as to how it's not controlled by the "dining room" circuit.

Can you tell I'm feeling bad for cursing him to hell? Though if I find he jacked up my "dining room" circuit...

I think it's time to take a look-see into the new junction box - perhaps I will find the beginning of the mysterious circuit-to-nowhere in there somewhere...

3 comments:

  1. i am impressed with all of your electrical knowledge. Now that is something I know ZILCH about.

    Gotta love old houses!

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  2. I don't do electric.

    Our old house was never worth remodeling when you could move a mile away into a brand new house. So no one ever jacked with the electric. It is probably still running off the same 20 year old wiring.

    Be careful farting around with the wiring. I don't want you looking like you just got a perm from the same decade as your wiring!

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  3. My husband would agree with that farting plan, Girly Stuff. Just because I have had an interesting 2 days ramping my veggie intake back up now that the kitchen is functional. Ha! My turn to make his life miserable :o)

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