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Thread: Adventures in DIY

  1. #1141
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    Quote Originally Posted by SeanF View Post
    Normally, yes, but you wouldn't normally run them to the lighting fixture - they just go between the switches. They were used for some other reason in Delvo's case.
    My guess is that whoever got that cable saw a label that said something about the cable being for light switches and bought it thinking simply "it's a light switch cable". Either that or it was somebody who understood the situation better than that but just happened to have the right length of that kind sitting around as extra and figured this was a good way to use it up... but then why connect one end of the extra wire instead of just capping both ends?

    Another related thing I'm in the middle of right now is installing a window air conditioner. Naturally, the structure of my window frame is not what the instructions assume it must be... and it isn't what the "in case you have this kind instead" section assumes the alternative must be, either. I've ended up having to figure out how Plans A and B were supposed to work in order to see what the difference is with mine and invent my own Plan C, which involves cutting a piece of wood to make sort of an adapter. Yay, another hot day with no AC while I try to get around obstacles and wait for water sealer to dry.

  2. #1142
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    Holy wow, another bit of electrical wackiness in this place! (I finished the sockets and started on the switches.)

    Other than the front room that was once part of a porch and is still on the porch's circuit, my apartment has two circuits from the breaker box. If I turn off one of them, the bedroom light switch still works. If I turn that one on and the other off, the same switch doesn't work, but a voltage detector still says the wires are live! Tomorrow morning, when I have a couple of hours of daylight to work with before going to work, I'll see what happens if I turn off both.

  3. #1143
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    You can have live in a circuit that is interrupted on the neutral side or in USA both wires can be hot and switching one will turn off the light. That leads to modern double pole switching. You are wise to use a detector before working on it. I once found a circuit live when the whole dist. Box was off. There was a wire from the next door house for some historical reason. cotton wound insulation from very early electrification!
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  4. #1144
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    New discoveries of more wacky wiring have thrown the planned order of replacements all out of order and delayed it all again. (...not that I was in a hurry anyway. I've got the most crucial parts done so my life isn't too inconvenienced. All I'm working on it for now are the peace of mind of knowing it's done & done right, and the ability to take away some extension chords.)

    The next two things I wanted to do were a couple of light switches: one in the bathroom that I've already talked about and one above a kitchen counter that I haven't mentioned before and hadn't pulled out & checked before. And now that I have, that one turned out to be a bigger mess than the one in the bathroom. The box has a pass-through to the bathroom (so with it pulled apart I can't test anything I connect in the bathroom), and the switch that was on it controlled the light above the kitchen sink. There's one cable in & one out, one of which has a red wire, like in the bathroom, so I figured that red wire was probably what fed the light, thinking the light would be downstream from the switch. But the red wire triggered my voltage detector, along with a black one, even when they weren't connected, which meant the cable with a red wire in the light switch's box was on the line side, not the load side. So then I thought maybe the switch is downstream from the light it controls, and the reason for the four-wire cable this time was so one could pass through to the switch without being directly connected to the light, and one could go back from the switch to the light, so both were hot but in opposite directions, but that still wouldn't explain why both would be hot even when they weren't connected; they had to be connected somewhere upstream. So I had to dissect the light fixture, which was supposed to be a lower priority and later in the list of things to do, just to try so see what was going on with these wires.

    And the explanation wasn't visible in there, so I figured I had to go up stream again. I guessed that the next upstream stop was likely to be the one in the walk-in closet from the living room. That box had a combination of a light switch and a single socket, with only two slots, even though the box it was on is grounded. It was weird but a pretty low priority, not something I planned on dealing with til after the kitchen & bathroom were done first. A socket in a closet seemed strange at first, but it is a walk-in, and it's a pretty good spot for a seldom-used printer. Anyway, I went out of order again, dissected that box and its light fixture, put them back together with a new grounded three-hole switch-&-socket, and now had proof that, although the closet was upstream from the kitchen light, it wasn't the source of the problem; there was a red wire along with black but it only went from switch to light, nowhere else.

    That meant the weird dual-hot situation for the kitchen's sink light must have originated in another low-personal-priority, bottom-of-the-list thing that would need to be brought out of order before I could straighten out these kitchen & bathroom light switches that I thought I'd take care of first: the kitchen ceiling light & fan. Notice that those are two separate things in one place. Maybe that should have made me guess this was the source of the weirdness first, before trying the closet. And I discovered something I'd never seen or heard of in ceiling-fan-&-light contraptions before: the fan could be controlled by the pull-chain even when the wall switch was off; the wall switch only controlled the light. Checking behind the switch, I found, as expected, a black wire simply passing through and always hot (for the fan) and a red wire on the other side of the switch and dependent on the switch (for the light). With the light & fan taken down and the wires pulled out, both black and red trigger the voltage wand, and the sink light fixture is dead. So the ceiling fixture was passing both hot red and hot black to the next light fixture & switch.

    Why anybody ever ran a cable with an extra red wire in it out from the load side of the ceiling fixture, and connected the wires in there in a way that makes it hot even after leaving the ceiling fixture, I don't know, but, since that's essentially the same thing that happened with the black wire to the vanity lights in the bathroom, I infer that they were both done by the same person, who either didn't realize that you don't need two hot wires running from one box to the next or didn't realize that (s)he was connecting it in a way that would do that.

    What this still doesn't tell me is what's going on in the box for the switch for the sink light that set me off down this path in the first place. If the cable with the extra wire in the light fixture above the sink is its line cable, not its load cable, then the cable connecting that to the switch isn't the one with the red wire in it... so where does the switch box's cable with the red wire in it come from or go to? Does the cable from the sink light to the switch actually have a red wire that I just haven't seen in the light fixture because somebody decided to end the dual-hot craziness by just clipping the red one off as short as possible so the stump is hidden now?

    Anyway, now that the ceiling light-&-fan thing is down, since I was thinking of eventually replacing it anyway, I'm not putting it back up now only to replace it later, so it's staying down & I've ordered a new one. (Another mystery: the item I ordered while on a computer at work does not appear at all on the same retailer's website on my home computer.) It always did hang too low... and have one socket out of three not working right... and wobble when the fan was going. So, although most delays since this began have been caused by me reaching my limit of trips down to the breaker box in the basement for one session, now there's no way it can all be done within the next 9 days because that's how long the new light & fan is supposed to take.
    Last edited by Delvo; 2020-Jul-05 at 05:05 AM.

  5. #1145
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    Maybe the plan was to have separate hots to suit the cable limits used. What seems weird to you may have some logic originally. Any fluorescent lights?
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  6. #1146
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    My bay window cabinet project is essentially done. I still need to do some caulking and touch-up painting. The top surface is alder boards joined by biscuits. The window sill is a single piece of alder.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  7. #1147
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    Very nice. Now tell us about that musket!
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

  8. #1148
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    Very nice. Now tell us about that musket!
    That's an Afghan flintlock. A jezail I believe it's called. It was acquired by my parents during our time in Iran in the '60s.

  9. #1149
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    So I was reattaching the garage door opener traveling mechanism after disengaging it because I left town and noticed the part that attaches to the door itself was missing one of the four bolts/screws. This is a point of high-stress during opening, so I definitely wanted to get it replaced. While up on the ladder, I also noticed one the three remaining screws was very loose. I popped it out and went off to the hardware store to get a replacement for the missing screw, which is a self-drilling sheet metal type. Turns out that was a waste of time because the missing screw had stripped out its hole. And, to make matters worse, the loose screw also was on the verge of stripping out.

    I'm a bit angry at the situation. I mean, who uses sheet metal screws for such a high-stress application? This is where the door opener literally yanks the door up to get it open. And it's attached with sheet metal screws. You can see in the photo that the sheet metal itself is starting to fail, probably because of the uneven stress from only two screws doing the work of four. What a piece of junk.

    So, I need to engineer a fix. The only thing I can think of - short of replacing the entire door - is drill all four screw holes completely through the door and reattach the mechanism with proper bolts. The bolt heads would be exposed to the outside and I will have created four points of weather corrosion but with the right kind of sealant it should work. I really don't care about the aesthetics of the bolts showing. I just don't want the door to fail. Because the door is basically two aluminum sheets with some sort of insulating filler in between, I think I'll also have to install a steel backing plate on the outside to distribute the forces from the bolts over a larger area.

    Unless anyone has a better idea. Here's a photo. The screw in the 9 o'clock position is the one that's essentially stripped out.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  10. #1150
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    Quote Originally Posted by geonuc View Post
    So I was reattaching the garage door opener traveling mechanism after disengaging it because I left town and noticed the part that attaches to the door itself was missing one of the four bolts/screws. This is a point of high-stress during opening, so I definitely wanted to get it replaced. While up on the ladder, I also noticed one the three remaining screws was very loose. I popped it out and went off to the hardware store to get a replacement for the missing screw, which is a self-drilling sheet metal type. Turns out that was a waste of time because the missing screw had stripped out its hole. And, to make matters worse, the loose screw also was on the verge of stripping out.

    I'm a bit angry at the situation. I mean, who uses sheet metal screws for such a high-stress application? This is where the door opener literally yanks the door up to get it open. And it's attached with sheet metal screws. You can see in the photo that the sheet metal itself is starting to fail, probably because of the uneven stress from only two screws doing the work of four. What a piece of junk.

    So, I need to engineer a fix. The only thing I can think of - short of replacing the entire door - is drill all four screw holes completely through the door and reattach the mechanism with proper bolts. The bolt heads would be exposed to the outside and I will have created four points of weather corrosion but with the right kind of sealant it should work. I really don't care about the aesthetics of the bolts showing. I just don't want the door to fail. Because the door is basically two aluminum sheets with some sort of insulating filler in between, I think I'll also have to install a steel backing plate on the outside to distribute the forces from the bolts over a larger area.

    Unless anyone has a better idea. Here's a photo. The screw in the 9 o'clock position is the one that's essentially stripped out.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    My bold. Do that. Through bolts with nuts are ALWAYS better than the alternatives.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

  11. #1151
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    My bold. Do that. Through bolts with nuts are ALWAYS better than the alternatives.
    I agree. My only concern is the construction of the door, being a sandwich of two thin aluminum sheets with insulation between. I won't be able to tighten bolts very much without crushing it.

  12. #1152
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    My opener is attached to a reinforcement bracket, but it was done by the installer. I googled “garage door opener reinforcement” and “garage door opener reinforcement bracket” and found these that discuss exactly your problem, geonuc. It looks like the opener arm is typically attached to a vertical bracket, sometimes with a horizontal strut over the bracket.

    Some videos are selling products, I’m not putting them here to advertise (I never bought from them) but the information may be helpful:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1tujCNyQCA8

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mswBXVYMRss

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8v7s1P865ts

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ijT4B7iEVtg

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." — Abraham Lincoln

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  13. #1153
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    Quote Originally Posted by geonuc View Post
    I agree. My only concern is the construction of the door, being a sandwich of two thin aluminum sheets with insulation between. I won't be able to tighten bolts very much without crushing it.
    That would be my concern, too. If I were to (over)engineer an aluminum garage door, I'd put wood blocks in high stress areas. But as I think about, that sandwich has to be pretty tough as it is. After all, that bracket has been pulling on just one layer of aluminum for years and it's held up okay until now. I think you should be able to gently snug the fasteners without any/much deformation. I'd probably opt for nylon lock nuts on the inside. I'd prefer carriage bolts on the outside (as on my wooden door) but again, I'd be concered that the aluminum wouldn't take the torque and the square shoulder would wallow out the hole.

    ETA:

    Nevermind. What Van Rijn, said. I'd go that route.
    Last edited by PetersCreek; 2020-Jul-14 at 04:52 PM.
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  14. #1154
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    Rather than putting bolts through the door I’d recommend going with the reinforcement bracket attached as recommended in the above videos. They specifically say the arm shouldn’t be directly attached to the door as was done here because it can pull out, except for certain types of doors that are designed to handle it.

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." — Abraham Lincoln

    I say there is an invisible elf in my backyard. How do you prove that I am wrong?

    The Leif Ericson Cruiser

  15. #1155
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    I whined about my electrical box sometime last year. We now have a pair new circuits. One ground fault protector for the hot tub on it's own line back to the breaker box. That wasn't too much trouble, so I put the rest of the garage on it's own breaker. I had my electrician friend check the work. I was pretty confident because I don't have any thing interesting going on in the garage, just one plug and light switch combo and a pair of lights. If someone wants power tools in the garage, they're going to have to put in a new breaker box. I lost an exterior plug in the deal, but ground fault protection is better than more plugs. The hot tub plug is huge, so I didn't want a second plug there anyway, it looks nicer.

    The hot tub is just outside the garage, so the wiring passes to the basement through the same area. This was alleviated some of my concerns about the wacky wiring job that put 3 bedrooms, a wall clock, the garage and exterior plugs on one circuit. I'd like to put the bedrooms on their own lines, but I have no idea where to begin with that project. Probably, "Call an electrician, buy a new breaker box", then "get ready for some painting to fix the resulting holes in the walls and ceilings". I would think that I'd want a ceiling fan or light in each room, which is more wires than I have cuss words. It all circles back to "Call an electrician, buy a new breaker box". My electrician friend has done 3-6 wiring jobs on my street and the price is shocking.

    We had a wall clock that has been broken for decades and someone capped the wires. I disconnected all of the wires back at a terrifying junction box in the basement and was able to recycle the wiring to the clock.

    I actually have anxiety about calling an electrician because I'm afraid he or she will ask me justify the past owner's or builder's thought processes. (My friend and neighbor didn't do that because he's seen it before.) I just don't know what they were thinking. We have three exterior doors and each one apparently had a doorbell, except the side and back door don't have bell buttons. It doesn't look like they ever had buttons. In the basement there are three transformers for the bells, but no wiring. They aren't connected to anything and all three look brand new, like they day they were bought. In the living room, there were 3 door bells all in a row. Two of them didn't have wiring, nor holes to run wiring, so I took them down. (edit - they were supposed to be screwed to the wall, but were hanging on nails like picture frames.) I have not found the wires or transformer that makes the front door bell work, despite years of looking. I can't tell what they were thinking.

    My neighbor laughed because he hadn't seen that one before and he has seen some rough stuff. One of the other neighbors had a Franklin stove where my house a coat closet. I asked how that works, and Steve (the neighbor/electrician) said that he disconnected everything and they just close the closet door so no one can see the base for the now removed stove. Yes, they had a Franklin stove in a closet. I guess I can thank my stars that didn't happen to me.
    Solfe

  16. #1156
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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    Rather than putting bolts through the door I’d recommend going with the reinforcement bracket attached as recommended in the above videos. They specifically say the arm shouldn’t be directly attached to the door as was done here because it can pull out, except for certain types of doors that are designed to handle it.
    A reinforcement bracket seems exactly what I need, and what should have already been installed. I went ahead and put four bolts through the door because I had the materials on hand. It looks fine and the door seems to handle the torque from the bolts fine. But if it looks like that fix isn't permanent, I'll get a reinforcement bracket. The only concern is that the attachment points for the brackets are themselves sheet metal screws. Thanks for the info.

    BTW, I guess it's a steel door, not aluminum.

  17. #1157
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    Quote Originally Posted by geonuc View Post
    I agree. My only concern is the construction of the door, being a sandwich of two thin aluminum sheets with insulation between. I won't be able to tighten bolts very much without crushing it.
    Use self-locking nuts, so you don't have to cinch them down too tightly. You can also put large washers under both the nut and bolt head to spread the loads.

    ETA: Posted without having read the last several posts!
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

  18. #1158
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    Use self-locking nuts, so you don't have to cinch them down too tightly. You can also put large washers under both the nut and bolt head to spread the loads.

    ETA: Posted without having read the last several posts!
    Good idea.

  19. #1159
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    I replaced a wax toilet ring and flange bolts today. Since I was really into it, I replaced the flapper and fill value.

    Whoever worked on this toilet before me didn't have a sponge gasket to go between the tank and bowl. They used some sort of glue like material. It obviously did nothing because it flaked right off in my hands as I removed that large nut. The kit I bought had amazing detailed instructions and even extra parts labeled "extra parts". A bolt, a couple of washers, etc. I would like to shake that guy's hand, because even dropping a little doodad just out of reach is annoying and one extra is wonderful.

    Either nuts and bolts get tighter over time, or that guy had monster-strong hands. Some of them were really hard to get loose, even with tools. Got it done.

    The downside is the job takes x hours, but the cleanup takes x^2 hours. My wife will not be pleased with me if that room doesn't shine, working toilet or not.
    Solfe

  20. #1160
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    OK, final post about my apartment's crazy wiring... I'm still waiting for a couple of orders to arrive, but I've discovered what I needed to discover & decided what I needed to decide, and the remaining physical work when things arrive will be fairly straightforward.

    In all but a few special cases below, I've replaced all of the sockets & switches in this place, including grounding the ones that could be grounded but weren't before and matching up the sockets' amperages with the circuits they're on. One exception is a beige 15-amp GFCI socket pair on a 20-amp circuit just above a kitchen counter, which was the only grounded thing when I got here. I ordered a white 20-amp replacement, was told it was out of stock a couple of days later, picked a different model of the same thing & ordered again, and was told it was out of stock a couple of days later. I guess lots of people are installing white 20-amp GFCI sockets out there right now. So that old one's not going anywhere for a while.

    The bathroom light fixtures by the mirror, which didn't work for lights anymore but did have a working built-in ungrounded two-slot socket aimed right at the sink which was the only socket in the room, are gone. I got new lights to mount on the same wall boxes. The old fixtures had been left in place for at least one wall repainting, so this required painting over their silhouettes where the old color was exposed. The useless extra wire I discovered in the process is now simply unconnected & capped at both ends.

    The wall box that held the bathroom's light switch when I got here now has a pair of sockets, and the spot a bit short of a foot above that, which held the fan switch when I got here, now has two switches in one thing: one for the light and one for the fan, both working perfectly. The light cable didn't originally go through that higher box, so I had to pull out that box and pull the end of the light cable up from the lower box & out through the hole above it to add it to the new box which then went in the same hole. So I got to do a slight bit of reconfiguring of the boxes & cables in the wall without making any new holes in the wall. This way, not only is the lower box less crowded (which is important if you're putting a GFCI gadget where the previous gadget wasn't GFCI), but the bathroom gets a pair of sockets instead of just one (which it would have ended up with if I'd had to put a switch+socket in the light switch's original box), and the switches match and look like they belong together instead of everything looking just randomly dropped in.

    The light above the kitchen sink was the biggest lingering problem & mystery, and I haven't solved it but do have a way to circumvent it. The box for the light, in the ceiling, and the box for the switch, on the wall, both have the end of a red extra wire in them, as has been the case for every other light switch in this place (except maybe one closet where they were the last thing on that circuit). So the simplest interpretation at first would be that that's one cable from switch to light. But, when the power was on, and with the light and switch both taken out so the wires were touching nothing but open air, the red wires were still reading hot with my voltage detector. That meant they had to actually be the ends of two separate cables, which both had some weird connections for their red wires at the other ends. And there were no boxes left in this place where that could be that I hadn't already opened, except the kitchen & bedroom ceiling fans. And with the kitchen ceiling fan, I thought I was onto something at first because not only were its exposed red & black wires both hot, but so were the ground wire and the mounting bracket!

    So obviously I took all that apart & connected the wires the right way (and ordered new ceiling fans which aren't here yet). But in doing so, I saw that neither ceiling fan had a cable running out from it with a red wire. So there was no possible physical configuration left for the red ends in the sink light & its switch except that they were the ends of one cable straight from the light to its switch, not drawing from some third box somewhere else, just as had seemed obvious in the first place... except that even with the ceiling fan's box wired correctly now, in fact all others in the whole apartment wired correctly now, that red wire still reads as hot with neither end connected.

    At this point, I'm fairly sure the voltage detector is giving a spurious signal on that red wire. For one thing, it's not consistent; I can move the wand an inch or two and find a spot where there's no reading on the same wire, or have the reading go on & off when I turn the wand to the side without moving it up or down the wire. That tells me that what it's responding to with this wire is so weak that it's on the border of not causing a response at all. Also, I've seen other cases where it seemed to react where there was nothing, like beeping just once when I first put it next to a dead wire and then going silent immediately, or the fact that it will read a voltage on a wire for a light switch even when the switch is off. And I know the light switch worked when I got here; the light wasn't constantly on. So I believe I know how it was connected and could connect it that way again myself, in which case it would almost certainly still work just like it did before.

    But I don't want to. Not only do I still not know what about this wire would be causing this, no matter how tiny and close to non-detection it is, but also, it's just not worth it. This is the most useless place to put an extra light: not only right in front of a window but also right in the gap between cabinets so it's the only part of the counter area that's not darkened by cabinets anyway, and it's only over the sink instead of part of the counter, where one might want some light for countertop work. And that area could use another socket or two where the switch is anyway. I've never used that light, and only thought of including it in this project "because it's there" anyway. So for now I've capped both ends of that red wire & tucked them away, connected the black & white wires which were behaving themselves all along, and left that spot of the ceiling with no light fixture. (It's hidden from view up there anyway.)

    Now the only issue with the box where that switch was is that the GFCI sockets I put in there don't work, even though I know a non-GFCI one that I put there to test earlier worked fine. Defective manufacturing, or an example of what somebody else raised earlier, that GFCIs can shut themselves down in response to the resistance inherent in a long enough line? If GFCI won't work there, then switches are the only thing that would be legal there, and if I'm not keeping the switch for a light I don't use on a wire I don't trust, I'll be legally obligated to just cover it with a dead flat panel rather than a working non-GFCI socket pair... not that this place has ever been inspected for such things before...

  21. #1161
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    You can have live in a circuit that is interrupted on the neutral side or in USA both wires can be hot and switching one will turn off the light. That leads to modern double pole switching. You are wise to use a detector before working on it. I once found a circuit live when the whole dist. Box was off. There was a wire from the next door house for some historical reason. cotton wound insulation from very early electrification!
    You imply this is a permitted way of wiring in the US...it's been prohibited since 1923. Multipole switching is done by switching between "travelers", not by arranging the switches in an H-bridge with the load in the middle. Switching the neutral isn't acceptable either.

  22. #1162
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    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    Holy wow, another bit of electrical wackiness in this place! (I finished the sockets and started on the switches.)

    Other than the front room that was once part of a porch and is still on the porch's circuit, my apartment has two circuits from the breaker box. If I turn off one of them, the bedroom light switch still works. If I turn that one on and the other off, the same switch doesn't work, but a voltage detector still says the wires are live! Tomorrow morning, when I have a couple of hours of daylight to work with before going to work, I'll see what happens if I turn off both.
    I bought a house at the start of this year and have been mapping out its electrical system and replacing every outlet and switch. I got bit by the neutral on one of the upstairs circuits that was shut off. It appears the upstairs was split into two circuits at some point, but somehow there's only actually one neutral connection. The neutral wire was thus carrying current from the still-live circuit (and one side became hot, with all the loads on the other circuit in series, when I disconnected two neutral wires and then went to twist them together with a proper pigtail). You might be seeing something similar.

    The outlet replacement: the previous owners were quite lazy when it came to painting, and just painted right over the outlets and switches...at least two layers. So, I'd decided to replace every outlet and switch in the house before I bought the place. Unfortunately, this is what I discovered when I started prying covers off:

    https://photos.app.goo.gl/QDffeQ1RnWpddLG87

    That expanding foam is something legitimately used to seal gaps and block airflow through an outlet...when applied outside the box. It's a fire hazard inside the box (one outlet had clear signs of overheating), and turns a quick outlet swap into a major operation to pry and scrape out all the foam:

    https://photos.app.goo.gl/NpeK5e2qrWUKmtSU6
    (note: those screws are supposed to be the same color)


    Whoever installed the outlets also used them as terminal blocks instead of installing pigtails, which again meant things took a few times more work than necessary, and did some particularly sloppy work chaining wires from switch to switch and using the "backstab" connectors on switches, sometimes to daisy chain power on to the rest of a circuit (found one such connection had loosened and was overheating another wire). And for one of the few outlets that did have a pigtail, the original outlet had curiously been replaced with a hospital-grade 20A outlet...while replacing that one, the pigtail fell out of the wire nut. I made sure to check all the wire nuts after that.

  23. #1163
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    "That 'lectricity, it's tricky stuff!"

    Reportedly said to a college friend of mine when he got his 1961 Ford Falcon back from the shop and the right turn signal honked the horn.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

  24. #1164
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    The inlet valve on our toilet doesn't work. I should have bought a new one when I was at the store the first time. My son and I have taken half a dozen measurements of the inlet pipe. On the last trip to the hardware store, I said, "We either need this or that. We'll buy both to be on the safe side." I got home with two of the exact same part, which was wrong. Mystified I turned the boxes over and over. Each box is very clearly marked "inlet 1/2 inch".

    My son tried to be helpful and said, "Maybe one side of the box is in French and in Metric?" That really made me laugh because all of the packing is clearly in English and inches.

    I am going to turn off the water, take the valve off and bring it with me. The store is just 5 minutes away.
    Solfe

  25. #1165
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    Quote Originally Posted by cjameshuff View Post
    Unfortunately, this is what I discovered when I started prying covers off:

    https://photos.app.goo.gl/QDffeQ1RnWpddLG87

    That expanding foam is something legitimately used to seal gaps and block airflow through an outlet...when applied outside the box. It's a fire hazard inside the box (one outlet had clear signs of overheating), and turns a quick outlet swap into a major operation to pry and scrape out all the foam:

    https://photos.app.goo.gl/NpeK5e2qrWUKmtSU6
    (note: those screws are supposed to be the same color)
    ...not to mention the wires hooking around the screws in both directions.

    I wonder what purpose whoever injected all that foam thought would be served by it.

    It also reminds me of something else I discovered in a bunch of my boxes but didn't mention before because it wasn't about the wiring and the flow of electricity. It seemed like concrete at first, in blobs at the edges & corners of the boxes, not filling them up like your foam. I thought at first that it was probably meant to be on the outside of the boxes like mortar around a brick, but the locations of some blobs were too deep and far from the edges for that. But I couldn't tell why somebody would have squirted a blob of something concrete-like inside the boxes either. And it turned out to be too soft & brittle, and thus too easy to get rid of with a screwdriver, to be concrete. It's gray and gritty, not smooth & white, but the work of getting rid of it felt more like getting rid of plaster.

    (That's one of three ways my screwdrivers ended up getting used as chisels on this project, the other two being widening out a hole in a sheet of drywall to replace an old sheet-metal electrical box with a modern thicker-walled plastic one, and knocking out a big staple in a stud when I had to pull a cable from one box out through the hole where another box would go so I wouldn't need to make any new holes. They were also nifty for pushing wires around in confined spaces when trying to align a socket or switch back into its box, and pushing a cable out the back of its box so it could be pulled to anther box. A very versatile tool, a small flat hard steel wedge on a steel stick can be.)

    Quote Originally Posted by cjameshuff View Post
    Whoever installed the outlets also used them as terminal blocks instead of installing pigtails
    Does this mean putting a second wire under the same screw instead of running a single short wire from the screw to a wire connector? I ran into a few of those here, and wound up discovering that the latter doesn't actually work the same as the former in some cases. For example, my front room, which was once part of a full-width front porch that got enclosed, has sockets ultimately pulling from the porch light outside, and one of the switches by my front door turns the porch light on & off without having any effect on those sockets... or at least it did when a certain pair of cables both had their wires on the same screws on the first outlet. Using short bits of wire & wire connectors, the outlet works and so do its downstream ones, but the switch doesn't affect the porch light anymore. (I almost never used it anyway so I've just been leaving it til all the rest is done & planning to get back to it later.)

    Quote Originally Posted by cjameshuff View Post
    ...and using the "backstab" connectors on switches, sometimes to daisy chain power on to the rest of a circuit (found one such connection had loosened and was overheating another wire).
    I've gathered that lots of people don't like those, and they say they're prone to coming loose, but I can't picture how. Once you have the gadget installed in the wall, it doesn't move, and the pressure that the wires naturally exert is trying to push in deeper, not pull back. I was thinking of using them on my final unreplaced socket so I could keep the side screws in as far as possible because the space is so narrow for GFCI. The principle of learning from other people's experiences seems to be telling me not to. (I know the socket fits; it's just really close. A GFCI outlet has actually shorted in that spot once before when a side screw touched the box wall after just sitting in there harmlessly for a few days. I'll just have to count on electrical tape over the screws to prevent that, but the tape will also make the device very slightly wider.)

    Quote Originally Posted by cjameshuff View Post
    while replacing that one, the pigtail fell out of the wire nut. I made sure to check all the wire nuts after that.
    This is why I've never trusted nut-type wire connectors. I didn't know of any cases where they'd actually come loose, but it just seems like something that would naturally be expected from the design. I've been using the rectangular kind of connector with three or four holes in a row where you push a wire into each hole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    Now the only issue with the box where that switch was is that the GFCI sockets I put in there don't work, even though I know a non-GFCI one that I put there to test earlier worked fine. Defective manufacturing, or an example of what somebody else raised earlier, that GFCIs can shut themselves down in response to the resistance inherent in a long enough line? If GFCI won't work there, then switches are the only thing that would be legal there, and if I'm not keeping the switch for a light I don't use on a wire I don't trust, I'll be legally obligated to just cover it with a dead flat panel rather than a working non-GFCI socket pair... not that this place has ever been inspected for such things before...
    I switched the GFCI sockets between the kitchen & bathroom as a test, and both work fine now. I think it's not the switcheroo that did it but just the fact that I needed to reset them again afterward and I think I discovered that I just hadn't pushed the "reset" button far enough in on the previous round.

    * * *

    Another new bit of information I learned doing all this: those light switches that are supposed to glow when the light is off are not what they're cracked up to be. I got four. One glowed when "off" but didn't turn the light on when flipped to "on". Two others controlled their lights correctly but had problems glowing when off: one not glowing at all and the other holding steady for a few seconds and then flickering from then on (at either of two distinct rates). One worked like they're supposed to. I ended up using none because just one, in a location where that feature wouldn't be as useful as some other neglected locations, would be weird & conspicuous.
    Last edited by Delvo; 2020-Aug-01 at 07:16 AM.

  26. #1166
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    I keep wondering if you are logging all the hours and expenses you've spent on this and billing the landlord!
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

  27. #1167
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    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    ...not to mention the wires hooking around the screws in both directions.
    The installer of the original outlets and switches engaged in all sorts of "cleverness" to avoid doing it right.


    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    I wonder what purpose whoever injected all that foam thought would be served by it.
    Insulation and blocking of drafts. But as I said, you're supposed to put it around the box, not in it.


    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    Does this mean putting a second wire under the same screw instead of running a single short wire from the screw to a wire connector? I ran into a few of those here, and wound up discovering that the latter doesn't actually work the same as the former in some cases. For example, my front room, which was once part of a full-width front porch that got enclosed, has sockets ultimately pulling from the porch light outside, and one of the switches by my front door turns the porch light on & off without having any effect on those sockets... or at least it did when a certain pair of cables both had their wires on the same screws on the first outlet. Using short bits of wire & wire connectors, the outlet works and so do its downstream ones, but the switch doesn't affect the porch light anymore. (I almost never used it anyway so I've just been leaving it til all the rest is done & planning to get back to it later.)
    ...you know about the removable tab connecting the two outlets together, right? If one outlet is to be switched, you break that tab on the hot side (and on the neutral if they're to be on totally separate circuits). Then each outlet gets its own pigtail.


    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    I've gathered that lots of people don't like those, and they say they're prone to coming loose, but I can't picture how. Once you have the gadget installed in the wall, it doesn't move, and the pressure that the wires naturally exert is trying to push in deeper, not pull back. I was thinking of using them on my final unreplaced socket so I could keep the side screws in as far as possible because the space is so narrow for GFCI. The principle of learning from other people's experiences seems to be telling me not to. (I know the socket fits; it's just really close. A GFCI outlet has actually shorted in that spot once before when a side screw touched the box wall after just sitting in there harmlessly for a few days. I'll just have to count on electrical tape over the screws to prevent that, but the tape will also make the device very slightly wider.)
    Thermal cycling and minor vibrations can work them loose over time. And apart from a couple suspect instances and one clear instance of overheating at the backstab connection, I had several come loose as I pulled switches out of the box, which can complicate figuring out how things are supposed to be wired in a multi-switch box.


    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    This is why I've never trusted nut-type wire connectors. I didn't know of any cases where they'd actually come loose, but it just seems like something that would naturally be expected from the design. I've been using the rectangular kind of connector with three or four holes in a row where you push a wire into each hole.
    When installed properly, the wires get tightly twisted together. The nuts I'm using do this very effectively as the nut is installed. In this case, two wires were roughly twisted together, a third apparently twisted loosely around them (this being the one that came loose), and a nut added as a cover.


    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    Another new bit of information I learned doing all this: those light switches that are supposed to glow when the light is off are not what they're cracked up to be. I got four. One glowed when "off" but didn't turn the light on when flipped to "on". Two others controlled their lights correctly but had problems glowing when off: one not glowing at all and the other holding steady for a few seconds and then flickering from then on (at either of two distinct rates). One worked like they're supposed to. I ended up using none because just one, in a location where that feature wouldn't be as useful as some other neglected locations, would be weird & conspicuous.
    ...sure you're not getting Chinese counterfeit parts?

    Another wiring mystery I ran across was a bedroom with a "three way" switch that apparently connected an outlet to one of two circuits, one of them apparently dead. I'm not sure where the second wire goes. Got a tracker, I'll try to find the other end someday...

    And something that I still need to address: there's a garden shed/workshop with power run from the house. There's a right angle conduit fitting coming out of the house in a location which gives me a good guess as to what circuit it's on (I think it was going through that backstabbed switch with the overheated wire), with conduit pipe going down to just above the ground...and what looks like Romex going the rest of the way into the ground, and presumably to the shed where it comes out of the ground in a pipe. You're not supposed to run Romex through conduit, it's certainly not suitable for direct burial.

  28. #1168
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    I keep wondering if you are logging all the hours and expenses you've spent on this and billing the landlord!
    I don't know about the labor costs, but the parts wouldn't add up to much more than a third of the other expenses I've already put into this place which will also get left behind whenever I go.
    • The windows had shades that hung on rollers with spring mechanisms so if you pulled down a little bit they'd retract up, but, no matter how much some people (who aren't me) might like that mechanism, most or all of those were broken in one way or another anyway, and the shades on them were all a grungy yellow with wavy lacy bits dangling at the bottom. Aside from the broken mechanisms, the color & style made a strange combination of three separate impressions: old & shabby-looking from age, ugly even from the start anyway, and even sad, like an echo from a time when somebody hoped to get an antique decor going on too little budget for the ambition (or with a financial setback striking right after they started), settled for the cheapest first step they could find with lace on it, and never got to put together the rest of the look or fix this part of it when it started breaking down. There were also "curtains", but they were so thin they weren't much different from having no curtains at all, and that was with probably more dust fused onto the fibers over the ages than the original mass of the fibers themselves. All of that is now gone, replaced by new thicker non-hideous curtains... that can actually be pulled aside whenever I want and dropped back whenever I want without falling off or staying put never to return. Curtains aren't something I'd ever think of taking with me.
    • The living room has no ceiling light so I needed to get some new lamps. One is a pretty ordinary universal floor lamp, but the other two had to be just the right size, proportions, & style to go with a permanent feature of this place that I can't describe without blathering about it for too long. The bottom line is that the other two lamps are fairly unusual, so, if I were to take those with me when I leave, I'd be sticking myself with not just any table/desk lamps (which I'm already not normally a fan of in general anyway), but ones that would probably end up being the wrong shape or size and/or overall style for almost any other setting, while saddling whoever's in this place next with the problems that these lamps solve. And they were chosen for these specific purposes in this specific setting, not for price, so they were not cheap lamps.
    • The curtains and lamps together add up to less than the air conditioner I got because the place didn't have one when I got here. Conveniently, the kitchen has a spot that's so perfect for a window AC that it's almost like it was designed for that purpose, because it's too small to give much natural ventilation anyway, too behind-a-sink to easily & conveniently reach to open & close that window if I didn't have an AC in it, and just a few feet away from a bigger & easier-to-reach window so I can still easily get natural ventilation in that area when I want even with the AC now taking up one window... but that perfect spot was without an AC when I got here. I have little reason to expect to need it wherever I end up next, and no reason to deprive whoever is here next of it since I won't relocate again under circumstances that don't enable me to just get another if the next place needs one.


    Also, I'm seriously considering replacing the fridge myself and just asking the landlord what he wants to do with the old one. It's noisy. And the last time I asked a landlord for another fridge because the one I had was noisy, they replaced it with an equally noisy one, so I know I can't trust landlords on that subject. They'll just grab whatever old extra they have sitting around somewhere else, or maybe get one from a secret noisy fridge supplier that landlords use. So if I want a non-noisy fridge, it needs to be a non-landlord fridge. (And now that I have the quietest window AC I've ever had, I know it's now possible to make much quieter compressors than it was before.)

    Quote Originally Posted by cjameshuff View Post
    ...you know about the removable tab connecting the two outlets together, right? If one outlet is to be switched, you break that tab on the hot side (and on the neutral if they're to be on totally separate circuits). Then each outlet gets its own pigtail.
    The outlets aren't supposed to respond to the switch. Only the porch light is. The outlets are just drawing from the same circuit as the porch light. That box has one line cable in and two load cables out: one to the other outlets in the room and one to the light switch & light. Using short wire segments & wire connectors instead of two-on-a-screw, and both loads connected to the socket's load side instead of one to the line side, the light switch doesn't make any difference anymore; the sockets all work regardless of the switch, and the porch light is controlled entirely by its other switch(es). Maybe one of the load cables needs to be connected on the line side although I don't know why. If there isn't a sane configuration for this outlet & porch light that works without putting two wires around a single screw, I might end up just taking the outlet out, connecting the wires straight to each other with wire connectors, and covering the box with a blank cover plate. It's in a small room that already has three others anyway, and this one box is strangely deep inside the wall so the socket needs to have its end tabs broken off and get stuck farther into the wall than usual, and even then the mounting screws barely reach the screw holes in the box anyway so you can only screw them in for one or two turns. It works but it just feels wrong & insecure.

    BTW, in the same cluster of light switches where that one is, I have one switch that I know of no use for. It has power running through it, but I've found nothing anywhere that goes off when that extra switch is off. But in this place, that's a low enough level of wackiness to just shrug at & walk away from.

  29. #1169
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    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    The outlets aren't supposed to respond to the switch. Only the porch light is. The outlets are just drawing from the same circuit as the porch light. That box has one line cable in and two load cables out: one to the other outlets in the room and one to the light switch & light. Using short wire segments & wire connectors instead of two-on-a-screw, and both loads connected to the socket's load side instead of one to the line side, the light switch doesn't make any difference anymore; the sockets all work regardless of the switch, and the porch light is controlled entirely by its other switch(es). Maybe one of the load cables needs to be connected on the line side although I don't know why. If there isn't a sane configuration for this outlet & porch light that works without putting two wires around a single screw, I might end up just taking the outlet out, connecting the wires straight to each other with wire connectors, and covering the box with a blank cover plate. It's in a small room that already has three others anyway, and this one box is strangely deep inside the wall so the socket needs to have its end tabs broken off and get stuck farther into the wall than usual, and even then the mounting screws barely reach the screw holes in the box anyway so you can only screw them in for one or two turns. It works but it just feels wrong & insecure.
    In that case, I'm afraid that has nothing to do with joining at the screws vs. joining at a wirenut (or other connector) and running a pigtail to the outlet. You've simply joined something that wasn't supposed to be joined.

  30. #1170
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    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    Another new bit of information I learned doing all this: those light switches that are supposed to glow when the light is off are not what they're cracked up to be. I got four. One glowed when "off" but didn't turn the light on when flipped to "on". Two others controlled their lights correctly but had problems glowing when off: one not glowing at all and the other holding steady for a few seconds and then flickering from then on (at either of two distinct rates). One worked like they're supposed to. I ended up using none because just one, in a location where that feature wouldn't be as useful as some other neglected locations, would be weird & conspicuous.
    What kind of lights are these switches controlling? For the switch to "glow" when off a small current has to flow through the circuit and light being controlled, since the light (usually a small neon bulb) is in series with the load, and in parallel with the switch contacts. This works fine for incandescent and certain fluorescent lights, but for electronic ballasted fluorescents and LED bulbs there may not be enough current flow, or not a consistent flow, for the lighted switch to work properly.

    If you put a "glowing-when-off" switch on a circuit that is only an outlet (no light) and nothing is plugged into the outlet, or you remove the bulb from the light sockets, the switch won't glow, unless it's a type of switch that has a neutral connection to provide a circuit for the glow lamp.

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