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House Wiring Fail -- Can You Spot the Stupid?

glitch

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I just removed this bit of fun from the house today:

pTGDA0t.jpg


I removed it because the switchbox was nailed to the handrail on the basement steps and the switch buzzed/light flickered unless it was in just the right position. Can you spot the critical error in the lamp base?
 

Chuck(G)

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The neutral is switched, so the lamp socket is hot all of the time?

I've run into that quite a bit in my (parts wired by an ignorant owner) house. Also, interchanged hot/neutral in outlets. Nasty business.
 

Dwight Elvey

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Santa Cruz
When I moved in, I asked the previous owner who had done
the upgrading of the sockets to 3 prong.
He gave me a card from his highly recommended contractor.
Only 2 sockets had a ground wires attached to the ground.
About 1/4 had hot and neutral swapped.
There were a hole list of other problems. The nastiest was
improperly installed wax gaskets on both toilets.
You'd have thought he might have looked in the sub floor
to see what that water sound came from, every time they
were flushed.
He'd put tile in without raising the flange.
One of the gaskets had a groove in it where he'd obviously
missed placing the toilet back down.
Dwight
 

Chuck(G)

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I'm not a big fan of the unprotected (gromet-less) power entry in the base either. I suspect that it may have been intended for a 2-prong receptacle.
 

KC9UDX

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Switched neutral may have been legal in the past. I've seen it a lot in older professional installations, which this one doesn't appear to be.
 

alpher

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Toronto
Many things used to be legal in the past, at one point touching the wire ends to check for the "live" one was considered normal practice.
It was recommended in Canadian Electrical Codebook, if I remember it right, up to 1948.
 

Unknown_K

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So much fun working in old houses. Using paper for wire insulation was kind of interesting (before flexible plastics came about). Then again somebody had the bright idea to use aluminum wire in houses in the 70's?
 

KC9UDX

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Many things used to be legal in the past, at one point touching the wire ends to check for the "live" one was considered normal practice.
It was recommended in Canadian Electrical Codebook, if I remember it right, up to 1948.

I read somewhere an official description of the way to determine line voltage by taste, no kidding.
 

paul

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Winner! For those who haven't caught it yet, the thing bolted to the side of the fixture is a switch...
Yes, saw that and it appears to be connected across the line. I'm not sure how it would have survived.
 

KC9UDX

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Winner! For those who haven't caught it yet, the thing bolted to the side of the fixture is a switch...

I'll have to take your word for it. The picture as is looks ambiguous to me. I'd have to see another angle.

I have seen a switch that shorts a lamp before. It was in a rental unit. There were two luminaires wired in series, with a switch to short one, which would turn it off and make the other one brighter. I could have wracked my brain trying to understand, but instead I just righted it.
 

Chuck(G)

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My father, who was quite intelligent, could never grasp the wiring of three-way and four-way light switches. He'd usually end up wiring them so that one would be utterly inoperative if the other was in a certain position. This went on for years, until I rewired them.
 
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roberttx

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Also, interchanged hot/neutral in outlets.
Way too common (no pun intended). That's why in my other hobby, which often involves hot chassis devices, I never rely on polarized line cords.

Somewhere, I have one of those little deals that you plug into an outlet and it analyzes it. I went through the house with it, when we moved in, but I've never taken it to my workshop. I really should dig it out - it's a lot more convenient than checking the outlets with a meter.
 

Osgeld

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Just hold a neon bulb tester by one lead and touch the other to the wire. The "hot" side will usually elicit a glow.

and a pretty high chance of shock, I dont know why they still allow those things when a multimeter can be had for about the same price
 

3pcedev

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and a pretty high chance of shock, I dont know why they still allow those things when a multimeter can be had for about the same price

Best product to use is a 'voltfinger'. Costs almost nothing to buy a clone version and all you need to do is hold it near a wire. No need to strip insulation etc.
 

roberttx

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Then again somebody had the bright idea to use aluminum wire in houses in the 70's?

Yep. And don't get me started on wire nuts. WTF?!!! Did you know they're not legal in England? It's all barrier strip (aka choc block) over there. First time I ever saw them was when we moved here and I was like "Well, this hardly looks safe or professional. What is this barbarism? We put a man on the Moon for Goodness' sake!!!"
 

Chuck(G)

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Yep. And don't get me started on wire nuts. WTF?!!! Did you know they're not legal in England? It's all barrier strip (aka choc block) over there. First time I ever saw them was when we moved here and I was like "Well, this hardly looks safe or professional. What is this barbarism? We put a man on the Moon for Goodness' sake!!!"

Well, to be fair, the US-Canada standard wiring topology is radial, as opposed the UK "ring mains" topology. Huge amount of difference. Lighting circuits are usually 120V 15A, while utility is 20A. Substantially less power than the UK standard. There's nothing wrong with "wire nuts" if done correctly--and that would seem to be obvious, but it's not. It's surprising how many people think that twisting the wires together before applying the wire nut is the "correct" way--it's not. Wires are supposed to be straight, with the nut doing the twisting--this ensures good contact all around.

When wiring ground lines, I use a crimp sleeve and follow with solder to join conductors. I like my grounds noiseless.

The old grease-filled "purple twister" wire nuts for joining copper to aluminum is slowly giving way to special MOLE connectors (you need a very expensive tool for them) or Alumicon (screw-type terminal strip) joints. Aluminum is still used for high-current applications such as ovens and ranges in the US--and it will be a very long time before it's gone. Fortunately, stranded aluminum behaves better with age than solid. It's still a good idea if you've got aluminum wiring to pop the cover panel off the breaker box and tighten up the connections every couple of years.

I just had a new heat pump installed, replacing my 24-year old unit. Power distribution was from a nearby breaker panel using stranded aluminum. The electrical contractor looked at the effort of adding an external junction box to the unit and connecting to the unit's copper using MOLEs and decided that it was cheaper and easier to rip out the aluminum and run copper right from the breaker box. I can't say that I disagreed with him. Since the HVAC contractor was doing the installation, it made no difference in the final price.
 
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