Me and My Outlets

I saw this cartoon today and really felt this guy’s pain:

Working on Electrical

We recently swapped out all of the electrical outlets and switches in the house.  In the midst of doing that, the electricity in the bathroom stopped working.

I had McKeel come over with Kirby and they put their heads together to try to figure it all out.

Their digging brought up some pretty scary results:  the office and the hallway had a couple of outlets that were running on two circuits.  Essentially, they were hot with 220v.  Anything that we would have plugged into them would have been fried.   It also meant that in swapping those outlets out, we were messing around with a lot more power than we thought.

After a few feeble attempts, we all decided that it would be best if I just hired an electrician to look over the damage and try to assess the problem.

Kirby knew a guy and hooked me up with a really good group of electricians: Deiter’s & Helmer’s.   I wasn’t sure how long it would take or what kind of trouble we were in, but was pretty sure it was going to be expensive.

The guy came, assessed the situation, probed a few outlets, gave me a good tongue-lashing for trying to do things myself and then got to the bottom of the problem within about 10 minutes.  He traced the lines through the attic and down into the adjacent bedroom where the problem resided:  there was an outlet there that had been cross-wired and hadn’t had the tabs popped out to put it on separate circuits… at least, I think it was something like that.  The wiring had also been reversed in the attic and the hotwire had been switched so what we thought was white was actually black.

The bottom line:  he said that if the house burned down due to electrical fire and the insurance company investigated, they would have found that the wiring had not been done by a licensed, insured electrician and they would not reimburse me a dime.

At the end of the day, for $100 and a scolding, he straightened out my electrical, got the bathroom working and got us up to code.  He then probed and prodded around the rest of the house to make sure the readings everywhere else looked good.  It was a lot cheaper than I thought it would be and we ended up with some peace of mind knowing that the work was done right and we would be covered by insurance.

For some reason, I’m willing to hire out things like gas and water because of the potential dangers of working with those two utilities… but electrical, I feel like it’d be ok for me to do the work myself even though I really don’t know what I’m doing.  I figured if I matched up the wiring and put the same wires where I saw them on the old stuff, I’d be ok.  I didn’t know enough to check the tabs and trace the circuits first.

The insurance angle alone was enough to wise me up to the fact that this kind of work should be left to the professionals.

6 responses to “Me and My Outlets”

  1. We once hooked 220v up to the wrong room, and plugged our air hockey table into it. We couldn’t figure out why the puck was flying all over the place!

  2. I’ve done my own wiring in the past, but followed it up with an inspection by an electrician for $40. That’s only because I enjoy doing the work.

    But man I hate plumbing and don’t ever want to attach another one of those little fridge lines to my pipes again. Ever.

  3. I once found 220 on a circuit in our kitchen, and it wasn’t at the stove. I had an electrician friend come look at it and he, too, found the source in a short time. I still don.t know how he knew where to look, but I guess that is what electricians do. This kind of thing must happen frequently, since right here in your blog we have three cases.

  4. Well…Considering what it may have saved you–your house, your insurance coverage, and maybe your lives, I guess $100 isn’t bad at all. I would say this was a God thing!

  5. We’re currently redoing our bathroom. We learned how to lay sheetrock in our living room three years ago, and we’re going to do tile for the first time ourselves. My dad is a plumber, and my husband used to work for him, so we’ve got that covered. My husband can do MOST of the electrical stuff, but we figured better safe than sorry, so he called the electrician to install the wiring for the new exhaust light and medicine cabinet lights. Yesterday the electrician was attaching a preexisting wire, and said “is this whole wire OK” just as an afterthought. My husband checked the entire length, part of which is behind some insulation on the basement walls. He found a spot where some genius had drilled through the dining room floor, proceeded to drill through the wire in question, and also drilled through the wire to the stove. There was copper wire sticking out all over the place, and the area around the holes was blackened. The electrician stated “that must have been quite the bang when it happened”. My husband and I were both feeling very lucky that there were no repercussions from either of these wires in the 3 years since we’ve lived in the house. The electrician came back to install the stove wire this morning (we called for pizza last night). It cost around $200 all told, which is a small price for peace of mind. Electricity can be scary stuff.

  6. Wow, that was definitely a close one. I was rearching how to do some of my own electrical work…I think I’ll leave it to the professionals.

    Thanks so much for the post!