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Well, my house didn't burn down... (214.0) - Mark's Journal
Well, my house didn't burn down... (214.0)
I finally figured out what was causing a circuit breaker to trip periodically despite having seemingly unplugged everything, and figured out the alarming sizzling noise I was hearing from time to time today. (Yes, the sizzling was what made me keep at it until I found it.)

In another of the screwy decisions made when the former owners of the house finished the basement, the light in the closet under the stairs (you know, so Harry can read in there) is just a fixture with an electric cord stapled to the wall that runs out the corner of the door and plugs into an extension cord that's plugged in behind the couch.

The light's cord short circuited at some point, and melted in half. The half still connected to the extension cord, which was still plugged in behind the couch, was getting wet thanks to last night's flooding.

Most of the wiring looks sound, but I can't help but wonder if there are any other surprises like this lurking in corners. I'm thinking one of the things I need to do soon is have a licensed electrician go through the house.
14 comments or Leave a comment
jccohen From: jccohen Date: November 17th, 2010 05:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
What a delightful read during the home purchasing process! :-)
kitchenqueen From: kitchenqueen Date: November 18th, 2010 12:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Dude, after you move in, there will be several "WTF were the previous owners thinking??" moments.

One of ours was electrical as well. Jesse was replacing the outlets in the nursery before Kevin was born. He plugged a lamp into one of the outlets and turned off breakers until it went out. He set about his work, only to find out within minutes that half of the outlet was on a different breaker than the one he turned off. Not half of the room's outlets - the outlet's two plugs were on different breakers. I'm still trying to figure that one out.
belmikey From: belmikey Date: November 17th, 2010 05:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
For values of "soon" that equate to "no later than about 15 minutes from right this fucking minute"!
(Deleted comment)
kinnerc From: kinnerc Date: November 17th, 2010 05:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not sure you want the answer to what an electrician would give you. I remember rewiring all of Isaac's house some years ago. All of the wiring was knob & tube.

>(you know, so Harry can read in there)

That made me laugh outloud. Thanks! :-)
queenmabwords From: queenmabwords Date: November 17th, 2010 06:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's freakin' scary.
_rabidwombat_ From: _rabidwombat_ Date: November 17th, 2010 07:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Good grief! I am glad you're okay. There was a house that burned down (due to faulty wiring) a couple of weeks ago here killing 5 children between the ages of 3 and 15. Tragic. The mother and grandmother survived. I can't imagine being the mother of 5 children all killed at once like that. I couldn't even watch the news stories that have been on because it's just too upsetting.

Glad you found the source of your issue. Scary!
From: yamazakikun Date: November 18th, 2010 01:14 am (UTC) (Link)
The fact that your circuit breakers are tripping tells me that you don't have a Zinsco panel, for whatever that's worth. One of the things my home inspector managed to miss, $DEITY knows how.

(Youtube has some nice video of a Zinsco breaker trying to become an arc-welder.)
dansr From: dansr Date: November 18th, 2010 02:19 am (UTC) (Link)
That's awful and scary! I'm glad you found the source. Your comment about Harry made me laugh, though.

Glad everything is better now!
helianthas From: helianthas Date: November 18th, 2010 05:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Whoa dude, crazy!

My very good friend's husband is a builder in Ithaca, up by ecovillage. if he's not a licensed electrician as well I'm sure he knows one. Ping me for contact info if you want.
zercool From: zercool Date: November 18th, 2010 06:55 am (UTC) (Link)
It's probably worth starting on your own with something like an outlet tester. If you don't want to spend the eight bucks for one at Lowe's/HD, I'm certain there are more than a few floating around CIT.

Making certain all your circuits are traced and labeled is a good idea too.

Once you've narrowed down THOSE issues, call the electrician... or just learn to do wiring yourself. ;-)
mhaithaca From: mhaithaca Date: November 18th, 2010 02:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thanks for the suggestion. I walked around the house with an outlet tester before I bought it. Got one o' them at Radio Shack years decades ago, and it's been handy any number of times.

Most of the circuit breakers are now much more usefully labeled than when I arrived.

And, actually, I've done fixtures and switches and outlets and other such fun things. But I also know that almost-good-enough electrical wiring is the source of too many potential problems, some of them disastrous enough that I'd rather have a licensed electrician at least bless everything.
aregulardyke From: aregulardyke Date: November 18th, 2010 10:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Zap !

Holy guacamole ! When I read your entry, I immediately was drawn to two words ... ' extension cord ' and ' flooding " ?! Did your basement get soaked from all that rain ?

And ohhhh, the things former owners cobb together ! The list for this house is long ... lol ... and that's only the stuff we've run into so far !

adelais From: adelais Date: November 18th, 2010 03:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Now, let's be fair: if I'm reading you right, that's not really a wiring mistake per se. That's more of a "leaving something plugged in after it has clearly stopped working" problem.

Our dryer kept tripping the breaker at random intervals. Turned out to be a short in an old clock that was hanging up over it: the foil-wrapped hose to the dryer vent would occasionally contact the cord of the clock (which had not, however, melted in half). The previous owners hadn't bothered to take the clock down and didn't have the dryer vented so never noticed the problem. Now, the state of the breaker box at the time of inspection was quite the special choice of DIY wiring options by the supposed-electrician former owner.
14 comments or Leave a comment