Behave yourself

TN-S-earthing de

TN-S-earthing de (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was expecting to have a second day all to myself again on Thursday for I had spent Wednesday entirely at home and it looked like Thursday was going to be the same. At 9.45 I got a call on my mobile phone from a guy who wanted me to do some electrical jobs for him on the other side of town. I was there just after 10 o’clock and was invited in. He was expecting me to give him an estimate for the work that at this time he was asking to be done for he told me there was plenty more to do at a later date. The work I was to do however would be difficult to assess until work began so he suggested paying me for a half-day’s work instead. I explained that if I could do the work in less time I wouldn’t charge for the half day. It often happens that unforeseen problems occur and can therefore lengthen the time it takes to do the work. I agreed though that I wouldn’t charge more than a half-day’s pay should that happen. I began the work of removing five surface-mounted dimmer switches and replacing them with new ones flush-mounted, which meant digging out the wall to accommodate new recessed boxes. I discovered that two of the lights (circuits) had been incorrectly wired in that the earthing conductor was being used to carry current, something it is not designed to do. In a standard cable the earthing conductor isn’t insulated as the current carrying conductors are. Its only protection is a mechanical one provided by the overall PVC covering around all the conductors. That PVC isn’t the insulation. When earthing conductors are exposed where they are being connected they are provided with a green and yellow PVC sleeve by the electrician and that is all that is required. In this incidence those earthing conductors had a coloured sleeve and were being used to carry the current. This is totally against all regulations. I now had the problem of maintaining the supply to the lights affected. One had to be abandoned and fortunately that particular light (on the ceiling) wasn’t generally being used anyway. The second light (on a wall) could be maintained by re-feeding its live conductor from a switch nearby which was actually one of the two switches controlling it (two-way control). For that to happen though meant that it’s accompanying switch across the room would have to be the one to which the live supply was connected or the light would have to be disconnected. I was in luck and therefore I channelled out the wall to install the cable. I could have rewired both lights but the customer didn’t want the upheaval it would cause or the price it would cost for it would have taken a few hours to do. They opted for the simpler version instead. The second part of the job was to explore the reason a large outdoor floodlight wasn’t working and why, when the switch was set it tripped-out the main supply. That took a little time but I finally located the fault inside the floodlight itself where one of the lamp connections had burned beyond repair. The lamp itself showed the effects of excess heat, the lamp being as it was 750 watts! Most of that power would be in the form of heat and not light, something like in the ratio of 90% heat to 10% light. This is why it is better to use LED lighting if possible for the ratio is better and something in the order of 90-95% light and 5-10% heat and means a much lower rating can be used whist maintaining the same light level. Anyway the floodlight will have to be replaced and I left that with the customer who said he would ‘shop around’. I gave him advice on that one. I had been there for five hours and was about to leave when he asked me to look upstairs to view his loft conversion proposal which will need the services of an electrician if and when it happens.

Oh, Mabel Behave

Oh, Mabel Behave (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The loft had already been converted by the previous owner but it will have to be redone for the floor joists (timbers) are too small for their intended use and could be dangerous if the loft continues in use as it stands. Unfortunately as I explained to the guy, I doubt I will be taking on the work for it amounts to the same as doing a complete rewire. I would be at the beck and call of other trades persons too and I have had enough of that in the past. It didn’t matter so much then but now I am in my seventieth year and only working part-time I respectfully declined the work. He insists though that he would like me to do all the other small jobs he had showed me downstairs in the weeks to come. That work is mostly replacing old for new switches, power outlets and light fittings and something I will gladly do for him. I think sometimes that people try to take liberties when they ask me to do work for them, I go to do some small job and they begin to add ‘extras’ and in this guy’s case and knowing my age and the fact that I only do small jobs on a part-time basis, he then asks me to rewire the top half of his house! Behave yourself!

Shirley Anne


2 responses

  1. I’ve come across a fair few dangerous bodges in my time, though not nearly as many of you, I’m sure. That’s the first time, though, that I’ve heard of someone using the earth wire as a conductor. I presume they were they using it for a two-way circuit and thought it a rather clever trick. Deary deary me!

  2. One of the wires fed a single switched ceiling light which is the one that was abandoned. The other supplied one of two lights that were controlled together by two-way switching. Fortunately the switch wire (the one going to the light(s) was in the nearest switch and only a metre or so away from the one light that had its supply connected via the earthing conductor. It was a strange wiring layout as well as it not being wired correctly.

    Shirley Anne x