No work scheduled for Monday morning so I hadn’t set my alarm, instead someone phoned me at 8.30 asking if I could do a job. I guess I wasn’t that far off waking up naturally and perhaps I should have been out of bed by then anyway. As it turned out the caller lived too far away and out of my capture area though the work itself would have been acceptable. I rose from my bed and got dressed. I ate a small breakfast and went into the rear garden to pick up some broken-off twigs and small branches that often fall from the huge lime tree in a neighbour’s garden. It was cold and foggy that early in the day but it soon cleared away. I decided to remain indoors and relax though I could have done more in digging out of bluebells. However what remains of them won’t take long to remove I suppose but I wanted a rest from it. I prepared a light lunch later but just as I was about to eat the first mouthful my mobile phone rang. It was a call from a male customer for whom I had worked a few times in the past though the last time was something like four years ago. His problem was a loss of electricity to most of the house circuits, lighting, power outlets and shower. A few power outlets were not affected as I discovered later when I called there. I finished or rather started to eat my lunch and drove to his house as soon as I had finished eating. The reason some of the outlets were unaffected was due to the fact that they were supplied from another distribution panel. The fault lay in the main panel and specifically inside the main switch. The neutral part of the switch had burned-out inside the switch but the live part was in order. It meant that although all the house circuits that were affected had a live supply to them nothing could work without having a neutral connected too. As an interim measure I had to by-pass the neutral side of the switch. The board was an old one, at least thirty years old, so obtaining a new main switch would prove difficult, if indeed it was possible. I advised the installation of a new board. Having a new board would bring the system up-to-date as well as making it compliant with current fire regulations as the housing would be of metal. The old board had a plastic housing. Of course it would be more expensive to replace the board. I told him there was no need to hurry getting the replacement as my temporary repair would last until he had the funds to hand. As it turned out he asked if I could do the work as soon as possible. That would be on Thursday the same week. I don’t need to wait long before someone calls for my help.
Earlier in the year I visited one of the several old cottages that dot the area in and around the village of Churchtown, which is now considered part of Southport. At that time I had gone to carry out repairs to an outside light and something else which at this moment I cannot remember. This particular group of cottages number around fourteen occupying a small tenure of land and are built back to back with quaint gardens and cobble stone pathways surrounding them. Parking a vehicle behind them is possible but only just and to be honest not worth the effort in trying. The whole area is pedestrian-orientated so when I went there again on Tuesday morning I parked my van on the narrow lane outside of the newer houses that surround the area and walked to the house. This time the tenant had lost power to some of the power outlets which turned out to be simply a tripped circuit breaker. However I discovered that the circuit breakers in general were too small in capacity for the circuits they were supplying. For example a 5 ampere circuit breaker was controlling the supply to what was a 30 ampere circuit. Any large appliances connected would cause the circuit breaker to trip, which is what appeared to have happened. Of course many would assume that replacing the circuit breaker for one of a larger capacity would solve the problem but before that could be done an assessment of the wiring sizes and circuit layouts would need to be established beforehand. It gets worse. In order to check the wiring at least in the distribution board would necessitate the removal of its cover but some kind soul had built a cupboard around the electrical panel making that impossible. I had to leave the situation as it was but advise the tenant on how to best use the power points in the meantime to avert any other loss of power. I then got in touch with the owner of the property who had called me to do the work and advised her on what she would have to do to put things right. As the work might require a total rewire or partial rewire I will not be taking it on myself. She paid me for my services and let me know that there are other small jobs in the pipeline which she wants me to do when the time comes. So now I had the rest of the morning free and was able to do the other things I needed to do before returning home. Two weeks ago E and I had a meal in The Hesketh Arms in the same area and if my readers will remember I had been presented with a much underdone steak and had to have it returned to the kitchen. We returned there on Tuesday afternoon and sat in the newly refurbished restaurant part of the establishment preferring to be totally waited upon this time rather than having to order at the bar ourselves and having it served at the table. I avoided the steak I might add and this time ordered a ‘Whale of a fish‘ with chips (fries) and peas. the fish being a very large pollock in a really nice batter. I rarely have this kind of meal when dining out whereas E would have it often. She had a similar dish but with a smaller portion of cod instead of pollock. The fish is very similar in texture and taste though I will admit to the cod being a more tender fish. E won’t tolerate other fish except tinned salmon! We had a great time together but sadly had to curb our stay for she had important business to deal with later in the afternoon. All I seem to be doing lately is electrical work and dining out but I enjoy both.
Monday was another gloriously warm and sunny day though it didn’t start that way. There were many clouds in the sky first thing but as the morning progressed it got better. I was asked to rewire or re-instate the wiring inside a very long garage that had its roof replaced after the wind ripped off parts of the old one. I don’t remember it being that windy for a few months so perhaps the damage was historical. The old roof had been made of corrugated white asbestos (Chrysotile), a somewhat dangerous material when particles are airborne. I remember visiting the house a couple of years ago to install a protective garage electrical distribution board to replace an old and dangerous one that offered very little protection from electric shock should a fault occur. I remember too having left the lighting circuit disconnected inside the new board because the lighting circuit wasn’t as safe as it should have been and doing that because the occupier wasn’t prepared to pay for it to be repaired at that time. Perhaps they had it in mind to have it done after a new roof had been fitted. At that time the roof was pretty much intact except for one or two holes and I suppose they knew then that a totally new roof would need to be fitted. Well it seems the weather eventually forced them to get it done. My job this time was to rewire and refit and part rewire four power outlets and rewire or part rewire the four lights. A new steel roof had been fitted with timber supports mounted on and around the existing old steel framework so routing the cables was made easier. However the garage wall were made of concrete slabs bolted to concrete pillars with special clamps. Drilling the concrete was nigh impossible as it was extremely hard. I managed to drill two holes though not very deep in order to fix one of the power outlets and gave up that idea for fixing the others as I had completely worn out two new masonry drills! I had to find another way of fixing the remaining outlets. I was able to release the clamps and slide pieces of wood beneath them the screw the clamps back in position. I was then able to fix the power outlets to the wood. One thing about my work, and it has always been the case, is that I have to be very inventive at times. There are special bonding pastes these days which will securely fix almost anything to almost anything and in minutes be set hard ready for use but I didn’t have any of that with me. I don’t usually carry it on my van as it is fairly expensive and the need for it is rare but it would have made this particular task easier. Having said that I had to keep the costs down knowing that the occupier wouldn’t wish to pay too much for my services. Nonetheless I was paid £115 for the three hours with only £13 of that expenses. I don’t come cheap but am worth it! LOL. Just as I had finished I got a call from a woman I have known for some years who was checking to see if I was at home so she could visit. I have done work at her house several times in the past and I knew her when she worked for a company I had a maintenance contract with. We’d often chat about our homes but she had never seen mine so one day a couple of weeks ago E and I called into the outlet where she now works to buy some paint and we invited her to call in on her way home from work one day. She asked if it was alright to visit about 1.15 and as I was just about to drive home I told her it would be fine. She has the same name as E so when they were together it became a little confusing talking with them. Anyway she came and had a mini tour of the house and gardens and she was very impressed at what we’ve achieved over the years. One thing I have to say about this woman is she can be a little ‘dizzy’ and she can speak for Britain as we say. She actually had her vehicle parked at the entrance to our road and couldn’t figure out where our house was even though I had told her and she knew it was number one! As for talking, nice as she is she doesn’t know when to stop. LOL She left after an hour and we were then able to eat lunch, a late lunch with her voice still ringing in our ear holes!
Did I say ‘one of those jobs’? Late in the evening around nine o’clock I received a call from a lady who had lost all the power in the house. I explained as much as I could to her on how to reset her power circuits but after trying what I suggested she found the problem still existed. She had also just restocked her freezer and didn’t want it to defrost. I decided to go and assist. After some investigating I had to split the offending circuit and disconnect the fault bearing section as a temporary measure thereby allowing half of it to work. Fortunately the ‘good’ half was able to supply the freezer. A friend of mine will continue with finding the exact source of the fault in due course as I am unable to accommodate because I have other commitments. As it happens my friend had been finding it difficult to find work this week. I was paid for my call-out and temporary repairs and I arrived back home near to 10.30
Following on from yesterday’s post, I arrived at the lady’s house to install new lights in the bathroom and porch and later to fit a new distribution board . The lighting circuits would be diverted to the new board to separate them from the power circuits as they had requested. I did the porch light first then proceeded to change the bathroom fittings but as is often the case with these simple jobs there was a snag. I couldn’t get access to the existing lights’ connections to the circuit wiring so I had to gain access by getting into the loft area above (the house was a bungalow). Snag number two there was very little space up there in which to work and the whole area was deep in preventative heat-loss insulation and the roof rafters made it even more awkward to get access. Snag number three, when I finally managed to climb into the space (Actually I could only lie down) I discovered what can only be described as a ball of spaghetti wiring surrounding two junction boxes which needed re-doing only this time correctly. It took quite some time to sort out which cable went where but I had to drop them all through the hole in the ceiling where one of the old lights had been removed in order to fit new connection boxes as it was too difficult to do that up in the loft. At the same time I ran new wiring to each of the light positions because the old wiring wasn’t suitable. It took me over three hours to complete the bathroom lights replacement were normally it would have taken no more than a half hour! The original installation had obviously been carried out by a non-professional. The lady plied me with plenty of cups of tea and even made me a sandwich for my lunch, she could tell that I’d had a difficult time correcting someone else’s mistakes. Having finally completed the lighting I went to the garage to fit the new board which in itself wasn’t easy either for it meant moving and changing other equipment to accommodate it and digging out the lighting circuits from the dense mass of wiring that I found it the existing distribution board so that I could extend them into the new board. Nothing about the work I had to do in that house was easy to carry out but sometimes that happens in my line of work. At least I was rewarded for my efforts, more than I originally estimated but that was only because the job took longer through having to do more work to put things right when it should have been right in the first place! It was about five-thirty when I left for home and I didn’t much fancy having to cook myself a meal so I dropped by the pub to eat instead. E had been out all day in Birmingham and she didn’t get back home until after eight so it wasn’t worth cooking for one. Had the work taken the time I thought it would I was prepared to continue with my own projects at home but it was way too late to even think about doing that and I had done enough for one day anyway.
Well Tuesday morning saw me doing some electrical work……AT HOME! Yes, all part of my current project. I had installed some trunking and filled it with cables yesterday but more needed to be installed. I have installed wiring for two showers, one for the wet room and the other for an upstairs bathroom when we refurbish it later. The wiring for these showers is rather on the large size using 10mm pvc twin and earth cable and it is difficult to handle. I had run trunking down the wall alongside the steps leading down to the cellar to take one of the cables together with another supplying the water heater we are installing. More trunking crossed the ceiling from there to the distribution boards. These cables together with the cable for the other shower ran in this section of the trunking. One of my jobs on Tuesday morning was to continue installing the second shower cable right up to the wet room which meant installing trunking on the opposite side of the steps up to the switch. This means that I have completed the wiring for the shower in the wet room except for finally connecting it to the distribution board which I will do towards the end of the job. I then proceeded to fit the switches and some trunking for the wall heater, water heater and extract fan circuits. I completed half of that task when it was time to stop for lunch. Lunch on a Tuesday afternoon usually means dining out so I got changed and we drove out-of-town to our usual haunt. We stayed there for two and a half hours having fun with the staff who have all taken to us and we are all on first name terms. When they get a spare moment they come and sit with us and we have a nice chat. They are a happy bunch of people who really enjoy their work and it makes for a pleasant time for all who visit there. Earlier in the day I had received a call from a valuable client who lives a short distance from us and she wanted an adjustment made to the floodlight I had installed some time ago. I could have made the adjustment during the day but it is difficult to reposition the sensor accurately once the adjustment has been made as the sensor has to be lifted in order to make the adjustment. It is better therefore, in this case at least, to carry out the adjustment when it is dark. I agreed to call there once it was dark enough to set it up. That was about 8.30 pm. Whilst I was dining I received a call from the guy I had worked for recently who wanted me to carry out a test on a suspected faulty transformer unit. I arranged a day and time to do that for him. So even though I get respite I am sometimes still called upon by people. I should switch off my phone I suppose.
I was very busy at work on Monday, so much so that I earned as much in the one day as I did all of last week! When I got home all I wanted to do was rest but I kept receiving calls from people wanting jobs done. Eventually I was left alone. During the day I had to visit my supplier for materials and whilst in there another electrician was being served. He was talking on the phone to someone and sneezed in a rather stifling way in an attempt to hold it back but found he couldn’t. It must be the season I thought and continued with my transaction. Yesterday morning I woke up with a sore throat and feeling listless and tired although I’d had a good night’s sleep. I went to check on a supposed faulty circuit but found no problem with it after the guy had carried out his own repairs. I didn’t make a charge for that but only a small sum to cover fuel. I was relieved for I really wasn’t in the mood for working but I would have done so had it been necessary. The next port of call was simply to give advice to someone who was doing his own electrical wiring. Again, I didn’t want payment for that because he has asked me to install a new distribution board and to test his circuit after completion. My fee for doing that would be included in the price I would quote for his new distribution board. As it transpired I decided not to take on the work for a couple of reasons, one, the location of the distribution board made working on it very awkward and the job would last for around four hours or more because of that and two, well I have to admit to being a little picky these days on what I do and I don’t allow people to pressurize me into taking on work I could do without, especially at my age. I think I have earned the right to be able to pick and choose what I now do. You see, I can make far more money doing other things which are easier to do too. It all depends on each job. For instance, had that distribution board been easier to access I would most probably have done it. I gave him the details of an electrician I know who would appreciate the work opportunity. So I returned home feeling rather weary with a few aches and pains to boot! Later, in the afternoon I found myself at work again repairing several faulty lights in a bathroom ceiling after the old guy kept telling me they couldn’t be fixed. From the moment I stepped through the front door all I got was negative vibes but when I’d finished his tune changed. Somehow I think that guy at the suppliers has passed on some lovely little bugs. I don’t know for sure at this point and maybe I will be feeling better tomorrow which will be yesterday (Wednesday, my birthday) by the time you read this which is today (obviously), Thursday. I am supposed to be working outdoors today, weather and health permitting. I am scheduled to be replacing three floodlights around a house I had been working inside last week. Unless I am feeling really bad I will be doing the work but then again only if the weather is good. According to the forecast it might be raining and windy, not really what you want when working outside up a ladder is it?
A couple of days ago I received a call for help from a lady and her sister who live less than a half-mile from me. They had lost power to part of the lighting circuits in the apartment in which they live. Thinking that they lived much farther afield because I miss-heard what I had been told I talked them through a simple check they could do for themselves before my services were absolutely needed. I thought they may have had a modern distribution board containing circuit breakers and an RCD unit. Had that been the case they may have been able to re-instate the supply themselves and save me the 12 mile journey. As it turned out they had an older board incorporating rewireable fuses. Now they could have rewired the fuse themselves but it is surprising just how many people won’t or can’t even do that! I was there within ten minutes and having quickly checked everything I replaced the fuse and was paid for my services. I talked them through the possibilities of replacing the fuseboard with a modern version or simply replacing the fuses with circuit breakers for less than half the price. Even so, the replacement circuit breakers would cost almost £20 each and there were five of them. I left them to decide if they wished me to replace the board or just the fuses for circuit breakers and to call me if they did. The following day I received that call. They had opted for the cheaper version, that is to just change the fuses to circuit breakers. I went to the supplier, bought the circuit breakers and was at the apartment fitting them within a half-hour. How’s that for service? When I was there previously there were just the two of them in the apartment but on this visit there was a guy with them. He was reclined on a bed across the hallway where the fuseboard is situated. He didn’t have much to say until after the job was done. When I went there on the previous occasion I got chatting with one of the sisters who had a guitar that needed tuning and she asked me to do it for her. Unfortunately a couple of the strings were broken and had lost their elasticity. I told her of a place locally where she could have the instrument re-strung and tuned but when I went back the second time she had done it herself! It was still out of tune though! The guitar was in the bedroom where this guy was lying down and whilst I was in the room with the two of them he jumped off the bed and stood by the door preventing the other woman from coming into the room. I thought he was just messing about and having a bit of fun with her but as I approached the door to leave he began shouting at the other woman telling her that she had no right to enter the room. Talk about a short fuse! When I was out of the room he slammed the door shut very hard. The other woman was visibly shaken and when I asked her what the problem was she whispered that he was married to her sister and lived there with them both. She also confided in me by telling me that he was a convicted sex-offender, something that his wife knew nothing about until more recently. You just never know what situations you may find yourself in doing my line of work and a certain amount of discretion and diplomacy is necessary when dealing with customers. I feel sorry for those two women having to live with somebody who could turn on them at a moment’s notice but I suppose they are well aware of that.
The other day I went to investigate a supposed fault on a lighting circuit. The lady who owns the house which is let into apartments had told me on Friday about the problem, saying that five lights were not working. I immediately thought the problem was due to perhaps a loose wire in one of the lights breaking the supply to the remaining lights. I offered to call around there and then but it was fairly late in the evening and was asked if I could come some other time. Naturally I suggested Saturday morning but was told that there wouldn’t be anyone there until Tuesday. It was Tuesday therefore when I arrived. As it turned out there had been someone at the premises over the weekend. As I arrived I was met by the lady who owns the house and she accompanied me into the main entrance where she introduced me to one of her tenants who was so pleased that the lighting problem was going to be sorted out. We were standing in the main hallway or lobby area which was fitted with two sets of wall lights, no ceiling lights had been fitted anywhere in the premises. I saw the wall switch which controlled the lights and simply switched it on. One of the wall lights came on and when I replaced the two lamps in the other wall light they came on too! I asked what the problem was supposed to be and was told that the main RCD unit had tripped. When I inspected the main board I found nothing wrong and all circuits were in operation. It appeared that the lady had switched on the lights and one of the lamps ‘popped’ causing the RCD unit to trip. She replaced the lamp and reset the RCD but failed to try the lighting circuit to see if all was alright! There was no real fault at all and the tenant had remained without the main lighting for over three days unnecessarily! The house itself had been completely rewired by another local professional electrical company about three years ago and hadn’t been fitted with ceiling lights at the original client’s request but they had wired several 5amp power points in each of the rooms which could be switched by the door to those rooms. This meant that portable lights such as table light and floor-standing lights could be switched on from one position. It is a system I have installed in my own house, although I do have ceiling and wall lights in the rooms too! Unfortunately it appears that the tenants had not been made aware of this facility and were plugging their light fittings into the general 13amp power points instead. Nothing wrong in that but it meant they had to be switched individually at the power point. Of course the plugs themselves will need to be changed so that they will fit into the 5amp points and I am assuming they will do that themselves. I wasn’t approached about that but no doubt it will occur to them at some point. I did get called out that same Friday evening after receiving that first call but this time the householders had lost all power to the house! I soon found the problem, the main fuse had blown, a 60amp cartridge fuse but I was forced to fit a temporary fuse wire as I did not have a replacement cartridge fuse. These fuses are not usually held in stock in my van as they seldom blow. Normally a quick visit to the supplier is all that is required and really speaking these mains fuses are the responsibility of the electrical supplier to the house and are normally fitted with seals to prevent unauthorised access. I informed the householders about this and told them to telephone their supplier explaining that they had to call out an electrician to effect an emergency repair and that the main fuse needed replacing. The cause of the fault? One of the elements on the cooker was faulty and had blown the main fuse before its own circuit fuse could cut off the supply. This may not have happened had the distribution board been a modern one fitted with circuit breakers and RCDs. The other thing I should say is that the householder knew about the faulty cooker but hadn’t had it repaired! I was asked about the cost of installing a new distribution board and could possibly end up going back to fit one soon. The cooker it seems is going to be replaced rather than be repaired.
Yesterday was another glorious day here on the north-west coast at Southport.
Weather for sitting around in and relaxing but I had to do the work I promised I would do the day before. The garageelectrical circuits are now all fully functioning. E took me to a local store to purchase a light fitting for the roof above the rear steps as we had forgotten to buy it the day before. I also diverted the supply to the floodlight on the garage front so that it, along with everything else in and around the garage would be supplied by the garage distribution board. After I had completed that work I set about fixing some wooden battens over the rear access to the storage area which is inside the garage but above the rear steps to the garage. I need to make this opening secure by fitting some heavy-duty plywood over the hole. I have a small job to do for someone this morning so I will have to continue with the garage later. I also have to fit the woodwork for the roller door’s metal guides on each side of the garage opening and the newly cleaned and painted brackets need to be replaced on the wall. I didn’t finish working until 6.30 last night after starting at 9.30 in the morning so I was glad for the rest but I’m ready to start again today! It looks like we are in for some more fine weather this weekend so maybe a barbie is on the cards? Must remember to get some charcoal though!
Yesterday the builder arrived to complete his work on the patio. He apologised for not having been on site for over a week explaining that he had another job which also needed to be completed. That job he had already started before he started ours so I wasn’t complaining and in any case, as I explained to him, the weather has made it impossible to do much outside work anyway. He said he would remain here until the job was finished. He has laid all the stone capping on the walls but has yet to finish the steps. When the concrete was poured a couple of weeks ago there remained some rough areas which the builder said he would smooth out. Unfortunately he discovered yesterday that it needed more than skimming over and he decided to float a finer coat of concrete over the whole area. He worked until six o’clock but ran out of materials so he is returning today to finish it off. He had promised me on arrival that he would stay until the job was finished and now he was saying he would return on Saturday! I challenged him over that and reminded him of his promise. He will be coming back today! The weather forecast looks promising so I shall be able to complete the electrical work later this week. After a dry spell in my own work I finally had job requests on Monday and Tuesday and was about to do some work in the vegetable plot yesterday when the builders arrived. As that work would have interfered with that of the builder I left off doing it until today. E had gone down to Birmingham yesterday with a friend in connection with their competition club/group and won’t return home until this evening. So I am home alone again….yippee! Only kidding.
A few days ago a friend of mine had asked me to check out an electrical job he had undertaken and was giving him problems. He and his mate do general maintenance work, most decorating but he is not averse to doing the odd electrical job. I keep telling him to employ myself or another electrician as he himself is not qualified. There isn’t anything stopping people from doing their own electrical work provided they have it inspected by a qualified electrician during its execution and on completion. He had installed the circuitry for a large dual-fuelled cooker but when he switched it on it kept tripping the RCD unit he had fitted. I went to see what he had done and explained to him why the RCD kept tripping. I told him to replace the RCD with a simple main switch and all would be well. Cookers are notorious for tripping RCDs because when their heating elements are cold there is sometimes a slight ingress of moisture in them which is enough to trip the sensitive RCD. Most electricians therefore connect the cooker circuit to that part of the distribution board controlled solely be the main switch, through a circuit-breaker of course. The connections in the replacement unit are exactly the same as those in the RCD unit that he had fitted so changing from one to the other was very simple to do. However on Monday afternoon I got a phone call asking me to check out his circuit again as this time he had caused the main incoming cartridge fuse to blow cutting off the electrical supply to the whole house! That fuse was 60amp and would have needed a short-circuit to blow it under normal circumstances. Now I had been drinking wine in the afternoon so I couldn’t drive there to help him but as the job was less than a half-mile away he came to collect me. My first task was to see what he had done in replacing the RCD with the new main switch, knowing in advance in my mind that he had wired it incorrectly. I wasn’t surprised therefore to see that he had wired it incorrectly and had indeed caused a short-circuit. This meant a replacement cartridge fuse at the main supply but being late in the afternoon and as I didn’t have one to give to him I showed him how to make up a temporary fuse using bare wire clamped beside the blown fuse. This is a perfectly safe way to provide a temporary solution to re-instate the supply. I told him that he must buy a proper cartridge fuse the following day which he did. Yesterday he arrived at my door with a bottle of red wine as a small token of his appreciation and he invited me to join him in the pub for a few drinks. I declined the offer as it was time for my evening meal which was cooked and ready to be eaten. He is the kind of guy who can’t stop thanking me for things I have done for him in the past and it is somewhat embarrassing sometimes. He keeps telling me that he is in my debt and I keep telling him he isn’t!