I Can’t Figure It Out

September 13, 2007

electrical, remuddling

The electricity in this house continues to drive me crazy! I just can’t figure it out.

Half the electricity in the house is still out. I have been very slowly redoing what I can. But we still have only a cobbed-together kitchen light with two outlets. We are still without lights in the Front Entry, the Dining Room, the Laundry Room, the Breakfast Room, the upstairs Hallway, the upstairs Bathroom, and one of the bedrooms that we call the “Spare Oom.” So far, the only new circuitry I have put in are the Living Room, the girls’ Bedroom, the Master Bedroom, and the boys’ bedroom.

For the sake of brevity, I shall quickly explain my goal: in order to get lights for our Dining Room, I have to do the Front Entry first. And in order to do the Front Entry, I have to do the Upstairs Hallway. The switches I want for these rooms are all near each other, and the holes in the plaster walls are all open to accomodate the new lines.

So, I decide today that I am going to put a switched light in our upstairs Hallway. I remove the old fixture and test the wires (as I always do) to make sure there is absolutely no voltage surging through the wires. I am devastated to discover a mass of tangled wires behind the fixture, and some wires are still live. ??? Wha? I had shut off and removed this circuit a month ago. It should have no voltage!!

I suspect that the original installers used lighting fixtures as extra junction boxes. I am no master of electricity, so I don’t even know if this is possible. But this one fixture has three cables attached to it… I completely disengaged the switches for this Hallway fixture long ago. They were on Circuit #18. This circuit is gone– removed from the service panel! So I open up the fixture and find energy… I try to see where this fixture wiring is getting its energy, and when I shut off Circuit #15– the kitchen light with two outlets–one wire from the fixture wiring goes dead (but the third cable still has power from another place). So… this Hallway light was originally being fed from two or three circuits??? (Circuits #18 and 15 and something else?) Can this be? Or could the switches have been on one circuit and the light fixture on another circuit?

Whatever the case, I have absolutely no control over the old electric in this house, and it makes me terribly jittery. How can I disengage a fixture’s wiring if I don’t know where it is coming from and to where the electricity continues? (we have found junction boxes in the walls and ceilings and this kind of circuitry may be no different). And what if I disengage it anyway only to discover that I have disconnected a connection that makes the meager remainder of the house electrified (as what happened with my mouse-chewed wire)? It seems that the electric in this house is not in “sections” as is standard practice now (a feed cable running from the service panel out to sections of the house), but rather is in a loop (a “feed” wire running through all sorts of places, electrifying anything and everything it goes through, and then back to all sorts of other places in a “neutral” loop. It is crazy and how can I replace this kind of wiring without losing everything beyond it in the looped circuit???

Since I can’t afford to lose the small amount of electricity I have left in the Kitchen, I have chosen to leave everything alone until I can redo the wiring in one big sweep. And that means tearing down ceilings and some walls.

ARG!

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