Daily Archives: June 6, 2006

Around the House

We hear today from Mr. Dyson, an electrician, about doing some work on the house.

Seems like the house has had a couple of different eras regarding electricity. Built in 1923, it originally had knob & tube wiring, most likely. At some point in the fifties or sixties, this was replaced, as we can see conduit running along the walls in the living room and bedrooms. Sometime later, when the kitchen was re-done, the plaster walls were replaced with drywall, and wiring was installed inside the drywall. The addition on the back, my workshop, is basic framing and drywall, with wiring inside, as well. The main panel, in the living room, has circuit breakers, not fuses, so that was added later. It’s also 200 amps, and I think the house would have originally been only one-hundred. The washer/dryer unit that we have is 220 volts; that circuit is definitely newer rather than older.

We have some issues with the way the house is wired sometimes. Seems like too much of the house is on just this one circuit. The upstairs, for example. We’ll blow the circuit if we have on the window air conditioner in our bedroom as well as the big one in the guest bedroom window. Or sometimes it’s the vacuum cleaner. I think Dawn tripped it once with her hair dryer. It’s always the same breaker in the panel box, the 15 amp one on the top right. But the lights go out in the workshop, both bedrooms upstairs, as well as the lights in the living room and kitchen.

On Sunday we took an hour or so and completely mapped the whole circuitry of the house. That pretty much entailed turning on all the lights and fans that we could and then checking to see what went off when we flipped a circuit breaker from ON to OFF. Oh, I also used a receptacle tester to test the outlets, certainly easier than like plugging a lamp into it or anything like that.

More than half the house is indeed on that one 15 amp circuit, whereas there’s one GFCI outlet in the kitchen that’s one its own circuit. We weren’t too sure about the furnace and the water heater, since we didn’t know how to turn those on and off or check when they were on or off, but there were two circuits we couldn’t determine that worked anything, so maybe they were on one or both of those.

We decided that we need somebody to come rewire some of this. I don’t feel at all qualified to do it, and, heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m not allowed to do it, if local law requires it to be done by a licensed electrician. So best to go with a pro on this one. I had called Bill, an electrician that I know in VA, to ask if he knew anyone, but I never heard back from him. But it just so happened that the house next door, currently under renovation, was, at that very same moment that we were mapping the circuits, being worked on by an electrician. We had met him out front while he was installing a new meter at the front of the house. So we asked him to take a look and bid on the job.

And just as Dawn brought him into the house through the back where he had been by his truck, Robin the owner of the house came walking up the front steps to drop off a gift basket for us, for being such patient neighbors during the construction. So we get his opinion of the house and wiring while we get her opinion of him. She adores him, so that’s good. And he takes a look at things and tells us he’ll get back to us Tuesday with an estimate.

So today we see him next door when we get home from work, but he doesn’t have the estimate paperwork with him. He says he’ll call us when he gets back to the office. Just a little later he calls and gives us a quote. It’s more than we were hoping to hear but less than my worst-case estimate. I think we’re going to go with him.