Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

Let There Be Light

The family room at the south end of Fernley House is not that well lit, and Lisa wanted to do something about it. She had salvaged much of the surface conduit she had installed in the old house in Mehama (which would have been ripped out by her siblings) and she's comfortable working with it. We did have to go buy more wire, as she couldn't find the coil she'd previously purchased. I suggested we buy the slightly heavier 12-gauge wire instead of the ordinary 14-gauge, and Lisa agreed. Two nights ago, Lisa installed the new wiring.


The outlet in the lower right (brown outlet cover) was already there. Lisa used what's called a "starter box" to turn the flush mounting into a surface mount, then ran the conduit to the left and installed an additional outlet. This helped "turn the corner" with the wire; she could have installed an L connector in the conduit here instead, but (a) the heavier wire is hard to route through corners and (b) having additional power outlets is generally useful.

Then she ran the vertical conduit to a switch. Unfortunately, she'd run out of two-way switches and had to use a three-way switch here. (She says she'll probably buy more switches later and replace it, since it's a waste of a three-way switch to use it in a two-way application.) Another length of conduit to a lighting outlet and a temporary light fixture (we'll get a better one later, but this does the job for now) completed the run. At each step, she ran the 14-gauge wire through the conduit and wired it to the outlet/switch/fixture before doing the next section. I held tools and the ladder for when she was working up high.

Lisa says the switch is too high up. I suggested putting it there as it meant she didn't have to cut conduit, on account of the pieces she already had handy were that length. She's considering going back sometime and redoing this, as the switch is nearly at my chest level, which is much higher than most light switches and would be a real problem for someone in a wheelchair, for instance.

With the wiring in place, we stood back and Lisa went over to the circuit breaker and turned it on.

*BZZZZZT*

Nasty buzzing noise said something was badly wrong, and Lisa hastily switched the circuit back off. Cursing herself, she started troubleshooting the wiring. Eventually she determined that in the new switch, the ground wire was routed too close to the terminal screw and arced when the power was applied. It wasn't a complete short circuit or the breaker would have blown immediately, but the arc caused the noise. This was partially due to the difficulty of working with the heavier gauge wire and the limited amount of space in the surface-mount boxes. She carefully re-wired the switch and tested it again: no problem.

Eventually, the entire circuit was complete, the outlets worked, and the new light makes the family room much brighter. In particular, you can now see the books on the bookshelf at night, which is important to us.
Tags: house, lisa, repairs
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