Amateur Electrician

January 23, 2006

I am by no means a professional electrician; however, in spite of that fact (which will soon become more obvious), I (at my wife’s request) took on the project of switching out our receptacles and light switches on the first level of our house (the upstairs is on a future to-do list).  This job isn’t shouldn’t be all that complicated.  Basically, you begin by shutting the power off to the items you are switching out.  Then, you take off the old making note of what wires went where, and then you add the new.

Our house is slightly over 7 years old, and there was no necessity in changing the pieces we were, except that we had the more traditional beige electic outlets and switches.  Our replacements were the more modern white, square receptacles and rocker-arm switches.

To make a long story short, at about 9:00 on Friday night, there was no power running to the first floor of our house.  Something was wired incorrectly.  Except for the stove light and our bathroom light, there was nothing working.  Basically, except for our bathroom (we have a first floor master) and the kitchen appliances, the rest of the first floor seems to run on just one breaker.  I don’t know what it is like at 9:00pm where you live, but it is dark here…very dark.  To add to my stress, Saturday was our son’s first birthday and my wife’s entire extended family was coming to our house.  A few of those family members were going to be seeing it for the first time.  Now the birthday party was at noon, and we have plenty of windows for light, but it was also predicted to be rather overcast.  Furthermore, I was not sure how keen the guest’s would be to using the guest restroom by candlelight…hey, at least it counteracts any odor….

Well, I took my flashlight to the basement and finally found that catch-all Home Depot book that I got when we were first married.  As I opened it, I heard the spine crack.  I guess I haven’t gotten the use out of this thing that I had hoped for.  I found the electrical section and began to look for things I might have done wrong.  I appeared to have done everything “according to the book.”  To be sure, I began to re-examine every bit of wiring I had accomplished thus far.  My wife, by this point in time, had retired to bedroom.  She couldn’t watch TV, because there was no power to it; so she just went to sleep.

I decided, I would go ahead and replace the last few remaining, and if nothing else, the wall plates would look nice in the sunlight.  During this process, I continued to make numerous trips up and down the basement stairs to the far corner to flip the breaker on, only to come back upstairs to realize it was not working.  Finally the last switch was replaced.  I took one last trip downstairs to turn things back on, and much to my surprise, everthing worked when I got back upstairs.  I can’t explain it.  The pieces that I had replaced since the lights went out, were pieces that had worked previously.  It didn’t make sense, but that didn’t matter.

I took a moment to clean and put the final screws in to mount the plates and finally crawled into bed.  The one highlight came at that moment when I realized I had to set my clock.  The clock was blinking 12:15, because it had been 15 minutes since I had flipped the lights on with success.  I checked my watch for the correct time, and it was 12:15.  I had ironically turned the power back on at midnight.  I went ahead and bumped the time on my alarm clock forward 9 minutes (the length of my snooze), but I did not set the alarm.

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