Monday morning was a bit of a waste of time. I wrote about it in yesterday's post. I had just about finished eating my lunch, the remains of the chicken and vegetable stew which I had made on Saturday when I received a call asking for help regarding a faulty electrical cooker or cooker circuit.
Strange as it was I had to drive past the house I had visited in the morning but much further beyond to a small village another three or four miles along the road. The couple were glad that I had even bothered to call as they had been let down by others. The guy was a fit 78-year-old who looked much younger than his years but he and his wife had just returned from the hospital where a problem he had could be investigated so he remained in the lounge resting whilst his wife saw to my needs. Evidently the hospital medics had discovered a cancerous growth inside the guy’s abdomen but assured him that once removed all should be alright. I wished him well. In the meantime I investigated the fault. The fault lay inside the local isolating switch but that switch was located in the most awkward place you could think of, beneath the adjacent kitchenunit. It was also located behind the rear panel of that unit and sunk into the wall as far to the left and as high as it was possible beneath the worktop. Totally impossible to disconnect from the short cables behind it. Before I could do anything I first had to remove articles on the shelf and the shelf itself and then the rear panel to gain access to the switch. I had to cut the cables from the switch to remove it. It was then I discovered that three of the kitchen power sockets were connected to the cooker circuit which is totally against the electrical regulations. The one beneath the worktop became disconnected when I severed the cables from the switch but the other two had to be left in circuit as the wiring was concealed behind tiled walls. I extended the supply cable and the cable to the oven/grill unit and connected them into a new switch I surfaced-mounted within the kitchen unit. I was able to supply the cooker hood (air filtration unit) and the gas hob ignition plugs using a small extension lead plugged into the new switch unit which had a power outlet in it. Of course I pointed out the non-conforming wiring to the customer so that she can exercise caution when using the wrongly connected outlets together with the cooker when it is in use. The circuit breaker will trip anyway if too much power is demanded. I was informed that in the Spring they plan to have a new kitchen installed anyway so the electrical installation can be sorted out at the same time. The couple have only been resident in the house for two years and are only just now discovering electrical problems. This is always a problem when moving into a previously used older property. You can never tell what condition the wiring is in beforehand. Tests do not always reveal poor wiring unless the tests are done thoroughly.
I had quite a busy day on Thursday. I drove to the next township to change two ceiling lights in somebody’s kitchen. The replacement fittings were a peculiar affair, a straight bar about a half-metre in length each end of which were affixed another half-metre in length of bar which could be bent at the joint to form any desired shape on the ceiling….thus
The centre section was where the connections were made in the ‘rose’ and the two ‘arms’ were attached to the ceiling on small rods once the desired shape was decided upon. Each arm had two lamps making a total of six on each of the two fittings (fixtures). The lady of the house ‘allowed’ her husband to choose the fittings but she wasn’t that keen on them. I agreed with her. I thought they looked ungainly and out-of-place in the small kitchen/diner. I did the work and all was well but a half-hour after I had left there had been a problem and part of the house circuitry had switched off. I returned immediately to locate a possible fault in what I had done but found none. I did discover faults with the power circuit in the kitchen though and corrected them then all was restored. I stayed a while to ensure the power remained on. As I was leaving I received a request to investigate a faulty power outlet in someone else’s house near to home so I called there to check it out. The ‘fault’ lay in the fact that a wire had become loose in the terminal but in fact it should not have been there in the first place. The single supply cable feeding the twin power outlet was in the first place too small and the loose wire was supplying an adjacent switch for the gas boiler. Added to that problem was the fact that three plugs were lying close-by which were on the flexible leads to the washing machine, the tumble-dryer and a further washing machine. The power outlet was incapable to accommodate them all, especially as the cable supplying it was too small. The whole installation required a re-wire. The lady told me that the wiring was done over forty years ago but I pointed out that although it might have sufficed at the time she had been acquiring many modern appliances since then and there were simply not enough outlets for them now. I made the outlet safe for use in the interim, it was all I could do. I referred her to another electrician who will carry out the rewire. I was about to eat lunch and the phone rang. It was an offer of more work from an old customer. I ate lunch and again received a call asking for my services. That was Friday and Monday taken care of. Aha! I had further calls in the evening too. It’s nice to feel wanted……but not all at once! It reminded me of what it was like all those years ago, job after job after job……………nothing much has changed has it? Well yes it has, I don’t work half as hard as I used to!
I went to a job on Wednesday morning that had been rescheduled from the previous Wednesday because the people were at work that day. I arrived on time and was shown all the little jobs that needed attention, a few more than I had been told about over the phone. The husband drove off to work and had left his wife to show me around. Once she had done that she too drove off to work and left me to do the work with only the two cats for company. It seems neither the husband or wife could get time off this week either but it didn’t matter though I did have to get in touch with the lady a couple of times to report my findings and for her to tell me how I should proceed. This is why I prefer somebody to be in attendance whenever I am working for them. As it happened I was able to do everything asked of me but I needed a tiny amount of plaster to fill in the holes where I had removed a couple of wall lights but found I hadn’t any with me. On a recent trip to the retail store to buy some paint for our bedroom project I had purchased some plaster but had forgotten to put it in the van! I keep it inside the hidden compartment beneath the passenger seat for it remains cool there even during the summer. I asked E if she would bring it to me as the house was only three miles from home. I filled in the holes and then we drove home for lunch. Soon after lunch E went to her mom’s house and then together to visit her sister whose birthday it was that day. Meanwhile I sat down with a coffee to relax but an elderly lady called to ask if I could find out why an outside light was permanently lit. Her house is only a mile and a half away so it was no problem to pop round. I poured my coffee down the sink and drove off. I found the light switched on as she had told me but for it to be lit there had to be a switch controlling it of course. It wasn’t the type which was controlled by a motion detector, it was simply a lamp inside its container. Even so the light still needed a manually operated switch for isolation purposes. Try as I might I could not locate a switch anywhere and the lady was of no help as she was so elderly she kept forgetting what I was asking her. I must have spent at least a half-hour trying to locate the switch but to no avail. I ended up just removing the lamp until the switch could be located. I had proposed installing an extra switch in the circuit, not the ideal solution but it would give a means to be able to switch the light off. The existing switch ought to be located. Whilst I was looking at the wiring to the light on the wall outside I noticed another cable nearby which seemed to be supplying a power outlet in a small extension to the kitchen. That cable was damaged and looked as though it was severely burned and ready to short-circuit. I suggested it be repaired as soon as possible or it might result in a loss of power to other outlets on the same circuit, probably those in the kitchen. I was trying to explain all of this to the lady and offered to return the next day to sort things out when her daughter arrived. Her daughter I have to say had an attitude problem and seemed a little annoyed that I was even there! Sometimes you just can’t win. I explained the reason for my being there and what action should be taken. I had spent an hour there but didn’t levy a charge. I doubt I will return considering the daughters attitude.
I mentioned in another post that I had discovered a problem with my garage door for yet another time. It is the door shown in this picture taken a few years ago when we were having work done on the house. The basic problem is with the two long springs at each side of the door which aid its lifting when done manually. Last year however I had the door converted to automatic control so an electric motor takes the strain instead but the springs were still required even so. As the engineer explained they also ease the load on the motor. The springs are connected to steel cables which over time corrode and break which is why I needed the engineer to replace them. He came to do the repair on Saturday afternoon. In the past I have done this work myself but I wanted to chat with the guy to discuss the possibilities of improving the system. We both agree that a replacement door is the only real solution and as we already have the motor and drive equipment installed it will only be the door itself that is replaced. The new door will have a different spring system and will be more compact thereby negating the need for steel cables. In the interim he has replaced those cables. He has also suggested we have a slightly wider door so that we can remove the existing wood frame which as it happens is beginning to rot at the base. Late on Friday afternoon I was called by one of my customers who had just lost power to her whole electrical supply. I was expecting the garage door engineer to call to fix the door but had not heard from him. I decided to call him but got no answer so I had to leave a message. I drove off to the lady’s house to help with her fault but when I was a mere 500 metres away she called me to let me know that her insurance company had sent an emergency call-out electrician. I carried on to the house just as he had finished his work. I had suspected a loose connection from what the lady had told me over the phone and indeed that is what it was. Fortunately there had been no damage to the circuit board though a protective terminal cover had melted. He advised a replacement board and I agreed for the one she has is old and fitted with fuses instead of circuit breakers and an RCD unit. After the electrician had left we discussed the possibility of changing the board and I was set to do it for her this week. Later at home she called me again and cancelled the work. She had been informed that the insurance company might replace the board free of charge. I didn’t mind losing the work since she would be getting a great deal. I did wonder though why an insurance company would pay to have the circuit board replaced when the old one wasn’t damaged. Most insurance companies I know wouldn’t do that. It may turn out they change their mind and ask her to pay after all. She said she would let me know one way or the other.
I went to check out a reported faulty electric cooker hob on Tuesday morning by the daughter of a lady in whose house I had worked in February of this year. I was told by the daughter that she had been cleaning her mother’s hob and a fault had developed, there was a loud noise and smoke was seen coming from beneath the hob. I had offered to go there immediately but as it was late I was told that it could wait until the next day. I got there around nine o’clock and realised that I had installed the then new hob earlier in the year. The daughter had confessed to her mom that she had in fact caused the fault whilst she had been cleaning it, she had been heavy-handed with the water which had found its way inside the hob. My task was to trace the problem and hopefully effect a repair though I no longer carry out such repairs in a professional capacity and haven’t done so for many years. I had to remove the unit, turn it upside down and remove the metal cover to expose the electrical connections but a visual inspection revealed nothing. Using a test instrument revealed that the fault lay inside one of the four simmerstats controlling the heating plates. It would need replacing but as it was an unusual piece of equipment finding a replacement would prove difficult. A repair specialist would probably have one in their stock. I was thinking at the time why they hadn’t simply called a specialist in the first place. All I could do was isolate the faulty part to leave the other three plates working. That meant my part in the procedure was ended. I have to limit what I will do when people ask me to fix things as I am not geared-up to do all types of work and most other electricians aren’t either. We have to specialise because we cannot carry around a large stock of parts whereas a repair specialist would. The lady of the house had just returned home from a spell in hospital after knee replacement surgery and her daughter had been paying her a visit for a week or so. Her daughter actually lives in the Channel Islands. During my time there I got the impression that the mother was suffering with her memory, perhaps the early onset of dementia. On my previous visit some eight months ago I had discovered that half of the house electrical wiring was in need of rewiring and in fact the electric hob circuit was also in need of a rewire. There had been an extension to the property some years ago which had been wired as new and is therefore not in need of a rewire. The strange thing is that the built-in oven and grill unit was part of that new installation yet the hob sitting next to it had been left connected to the old rubber-covered wiring. I remember reporting all of my findings to the lady and giving her the name of another electrician to look at the possibility of a complete rewire. Nothing had been done. What can I say?
I thought my last job for the week was on Wednesday for after then I spent the rest of my time at home, that is until Saturday afternoon. I was sitting out on the patio enjoying the sunshine once again and my mobile phone rang. The call was from an older couple I had worked for previously though I think the last time was in January of 2013. I know this because at that time I installed a new electrical distribution board there to replace an old fuse board. Well the new board had proved its worth and had tripped because of a fault in the system. Unfortunately although one circuit was the problem all four circuits lost power. I tried to explain to the man how to reset everything and then test which circuit was causing the problem. It could be isolated for the time being if it wasn’t needed desperately. I might as well have spoken with a cat for he hadn’t a clue what I was saying. I drove to the house and discovered that one circuit breaker when switched on was the culprit and it only supplied a single twin socket in the kitchen. I reinstated the other circuits and removed the two appliances which were plugged into the twin outlet, one being the microwave oven and the other the ignition, light and timer in the gas cooker. The fault lay in the gas cooker and I left it unplugged. The cooker can be used by manually igniting the gas with a match or battery igniting device. As I do not carry out appliance repairs the customer will have to employ a gas engineer to repair the fault if indeed they do decide to have it repaired. Whilst I was at it I removed the wall socket and refitted it having been told that ‘a friend’ had fitted it some time back. It was fortunate that I did for it hadn’t been fitted correctly! I drove home a little better off financially shall we say and resumed sitting out on the patio for an hour or so. I have been sitting out on the patio a lot recently and whilst the weather and the opportunity has allowed. Earlier in the week I was sitting there in contemplation and formulated a plan in my mind. I had decided I would construct a flowerbed by building a brick wall in front of the space where we have two large Phoenix Canariensisplants in large pots shown in this picture.
The wall will be a little shorter in height, roughly the same height as the top of the power outlet box and will run the entire length from left to right almost as far out as the little wall that juts out at the left. The two plants will be removed from their pots and planted in the bed permanently. During the winter months those plants (and three others of the same variety) have to be protected from the cold winds.Although the plants can withstand temperatures as low as minus 8 deg C they suffer with wind burn if the wind is cold. The power outlet box, will be moved to the other side of the wall and the light on the other side at the same position will need refitting though I have it in mind to change that light and the other two on the wall behind the camera for a different style. On Thursday evening I searched the Internet for a supplier who can provide the same type of bricks to match those on the patio and found one selling them at a discount! I bought 250 bricks (which represents a pack) though for this wall I will need only 172) but the remainder I plan to use to construct two more, though much smaller, walls also on the patio to accommodate two more plants. The cost for the bricks including delivery was £201, very reasonable indeed! On Friday morning I went to my local builder’s merchant and collected bags of sand, cement and granite chippings in readiness, storing the cement in the boiler room in the cellar as I always do to keep it dry. The rest is stored in the garage. I have been working out the best way to include suitable drainage for each of the beds too. The small beds present no problem as they will be located next to existing walls the other sides of which are flowerbed and vegetable plot. The main bed needs a little bit of cunning to make the drain outlets inconspicuous as they will be over solid concrete or stone but I have come up with a solution. During the construction I hope to take some pictures which will show the details. All I have to do is wait for the bricks to be delivered. Well that’s the plan anyway.
…….plenty. That’s the way it goes in my profession. I received a late call on Sunday evening requesting my services on Monday morning. It was a small job but still appreciated and worth doing. I apply a minimum charge for any work but if the work is local and very small I might charge less. I did the work and was paid my minimum fee and was quite happy about that. I had no other work at all, even for the rest of the week but that is quite normal for I often get plenty of work later during the week. I got another call at about 10.45 asking if I could render some help with a loss of power in someone’s kitchen twelve miles away. I was also informed that some of the lights were not working. I drove across to investigate and was made most welcome by the middle-aged guy who stood by his garden gate awaiting my arrival. I set about tracing the fault on the power circuit which took some time but I eventually located the general area of the fault which seemed to be in the annex to the kitchen hidden behind the ceiling and false walling. It would take too long to search and repair that part of the installation and it would probably be easier to simply rewire it. We decided the best thing to do would be to disconnect the annex so that the supply could be re-instated in the kitchen but first I had to locate the cables supplying that section and eventually found them under the floor in the room above the kitchen. There was evidence of the presence of mice or a rat as some of the wiring had been gnawed almost through but those cables fed other circuits in the house. I repaired them before locating the cables supplying the annex which I duly cut and by-passed with a junction connector box. If the annex is to be rewired in the future the wiring will need to be reconnected at that point. I informed the guy that I wouldn’t be taking on that work as I feel it would be too much for me to do without some assistance. Unfortunately in the process to disconnecting the faulty wiring the gas boiler was also disconnected so I re-supplied it from one of the kitchen power sockets. However the boiler seemed to be faulty too! The guy arranged for a gas fitter to call and repair it. Finally I had finished reinstating power but had to change a fault lighting unit before I left. The original fitting couldn’t retain a lamp as it had been damaged by excessive heat over the years. What will happen regarding the annex wiring I have no idea but at the very least something must be done to eliminate the presence of rats which might gnaw through more of the wiring. The guy wasn’t alone in the house, he had a Philippino wife and two very young children by her and he also had his twenty-one year old son from his former wife living with them temporarily. Unfortunately his son had brought a young Pit Bull terrier with him that whined throughout the time I was there and the son wouldn’t take care of that. The guy tried to tell me that he was a little tired of his son’s attitude and only suffered him because he was his son. His son was out of work too but seemed to lack motivation to do much about it though he did write a personal CV on the computer and sent off a copy to apply for a post. As far as I am aware he didn’t have much in the way of qualifications according to what he had told me. I think the young man has his priorities all wrong. Anyway I had been there for over three hours and had missed my lunch yet again. I was back home around three-thirty but left off preparing anything until a little later. I sat out on the patio to enjoy the remainder of the afternoon in the sun. It wasn’t long before I received more work for the next day. I seem to be a work magnet these days!
The much-needed rain started to fall on Thursday night so when I arose on Friday I expected it to be still raining and it was, in fact it rained well into the afternoon. I didn’t therefore need to water the gardens. I was lying there in bad fully awake and it was about seven-thirty. I had a good night’s sleep and had a bit more sleep than usual but there was no hurry to get up. I lay there in prayer but at eight o’clock the house phone rang. I picked up the receiver and the caller, who was calling on behalf of his neighbour, a very elderly man, needed someone to sort out an electrical problem which kept cutting off the supply. He asked if he had disturbed me from my bed to which I responded with a ‘yes’ but was about to get up anyway. How folk seem to know I am lying down in bed when they call so early is a mystery but I suppose my voice will sound slightly different when lying down. It wasn’t that I had been awakened by the call for I had been awake for over a half-hour. Anyway I told him I would be there as soon as I had dressed. The apartment is in my village and only half a mile or so away. I was there around thirty-five minutes later. As you might have guessed I can wash, dress and apply my make-up very quickly if I have to. The first thing I had to do once there was to remove all appliances from the circuit and isolate the cables at source. As it happened there was an extra cable in the circuit breaker which supplied an isolated outlet which wasn’t faulty and I left it connected so that I could connect the tropical fish tank and maintain the fishes’ environment for I had no idea how long it would take me to repair the fault. I also connected the refrigerator to an outlet on the cooker control switch in order to keep the food inside fresh. Now I could get down to the business of locating the fault on the power outlet ‘ring main’. Some countries don’t use ring circuits for their power outlets but wire each outlet independently to its own breaker at source. A ring circuit is just that, two cables wired into the same circuit protector which form a continuous ring on which all the outlets are connected. See above drawing. Each of the two systems has its advantages and disadvantages. With a ring circuit one has to split the ring at some point and test each ‘half’ to see which remains at fault and then by splitting the faulty section in the same way it is simply a process of diminishing elimination until the fault is pinpointed. It can take hours or minutes depending on the layout. In this case the fault lay behind the refrigerator and in fact was the outlet itself. Although it looked alright visually there was an internal fault shorting the live and earth terminals. I replaced the outlet, replaced all those I had removed in the process, tested the whole circuit and then reinstated the supply. Everything back to normal. The old guy was so grateful that I had called so promptly as was his neighbour and he kept on saying things like ‘You are doing very well girl’ and ‘I’m in safe hands aren’t I girl’, occasionally calling me by name. ‘Girl’ is a local expression used by people from Liverpool and indeed the old guy was born and originally lived there, just like myself. People might say ‘Alright girl’ or ‘Alright luv’ when greeting someone. It is simply a common expression of the area. I was home by ten-fifteen and sat down to enjoy a late breakfast. No sooner had I finished when the old guy phoned me and asked if I could supply him with a receipt for the work as he thought he might be able to recover some of the cost from his landlord. Normally I don’t give out receipts unless asked when once I wrote one out for every job no matter how small. Had he asked whilst I was there I would have given him one but I wrote one out and walked there to hand it to him. I took the opportunity to walk into the village and make a deposit in my bank. My umbrella had one of its rare outings for it was still raining.
Tuesday was set to be an easy day as I was to simply install a couple of new lighting fittings. That however couldn’t be done until two o’clock in the afternoon as the caller would be at work until then. I got up early to shower, dress and have breakfast all before eight o’clock after which I spent a little time in the garden before returning indoors to enjoy a cup of coffee. I had just sat down with the coffee when the house phone rang. It was a call from a customer I had worked for some years ago who asked if I was still working. Half of the lights in his house were not working and in fact kept tripping out the supply if they were switched on. I explained that I was still working but that I had a job to go to at two o’clock. It would allow me to spend some time trying to sort out his problem beforehand. I took a sip of my coffee, disposed of the rest then drove to his house a few miles away. The first thing I had to do once there was to refit a light that had come away from the ceiling and which had some of the wiring loose or disconnected. It was one of those little jobs that should have taken only a few minutes but in fact took me about half an hour due to the problems associated with it.
The fault still remained so now it was a case of a process of elimination by gradually working through the wiring system until the location of the fault could be found. That took me about three hours for part of the circuitry had been unconventionally installed but finally I found the fault location to be somewhere in the bathroom wiring, the last section of the lighting circuit! I left that part of the circuit disconnected from the previous light fitting as I didn’t have enough time to proceed any further. I only had enough time to replace the several switches which had to be removed whilst checking for the fault. By now it was well after one o’clock and my next appointment was at two. I couldn’t have gone any further with the bathroom fault anyway because I needed the loft area above the bathroom clearing of all the items stored up there and that would take some time. The guy told me he would clear it all away and then I could return the following morning to hopefully locate and repair the fault. On arrival at the second job I again expected it to be simple and straightforward. Now why would I think that? Everything was against me and every minor hitch became a problem, for instance short wires, poor fixings in the ceiling, new light fittings which needed adjustments and shortening of flexes and chains. To make matters worse there were three lights to fit and not two and immovable beds in the way! I plodded on and got everything done but by now it was after three-thirty and I was hungry, breakfast had been seven and a half hours ago. I drove to my local pub and had lunch there but didn’t get it until well after four o’clock. Whilst I waited I chatted with some friends I hadn’t seen for ages and they along with other family members were slowly getting inebriated whilst celebrating their daughter’s twenty-sixth birthday. After a while they left in a cab to go into the town to continue with their ‘celebrations’ and then my lunch was served. Lunch tastes so much nicer when waiting so long to be able to eat it!
I am a Christian, a person who believes in Jesus Christ and has accepted God‘s gift of eternal life through him. Here I could quote numerous verses regarding why I (anyone) needed salvation but I am not using today’s post as a witness to my readers, especially as that was the theme of my previous post. I promised my readers that I wouldn’t be filling this blog with the single theme of my faith. However, as a Christian I speak with my Heavenly Father and ask of Him all sorts of things. Occasionally I will ask that I get the opportunity to witness to someone on that particular day or the next day and as often as I ask I get my wish fulfilled. They are fulfilled because I am not asking for selfish reasons but to serve and besides I love to witness.
This past week has seen me with almost no electrical work at all, one job on Monday morning and one on Saturday morning so in between those days I have had to occupy myself with other things and for a few days I have worked out in the garden. It is the season of the year where many are not thinking about work they want doing at home, they are thinking about their vacations. Swings and roundabouts, some months of the year can be very hectic in my profession which is nice but it is also nice to be able to relax and do nothing at all some days. My job on Saturday morning was for a lady recently divorced from her husband because of his behaviour and she was trying her best to settle down to being single and living in a new apartment having given up her bungalow. She was trying to make ends meet basically. She wanted a timer unit checking out and a new power outlet installed near her front door which was downstairs. Her apartment was on the first floor. The apartment block is only two storeys high. The timer unit wasn’t faulty but one of the immersion heaters it was controlling was at fault. I ceased changing immersion heaters a few years ago though I still have the equipment. Sometimes they are difficult to remove from the copper storage tank and can damage it if care isn’t taken. I don’t take that chance anymore and leave it to a plumber. I will do such jobs at home of course and often do so. It will take some considerable time to drain her water tank and replace the heater so she didn’t like the idea of having it done just yet anyway because of the cost involved. The lower immersion heater was the faulty one and normally only switched on during the night when the cost of the electricity was far less. The upper heater was available during the day as a booster but at a higher running cost. She told me she hardly uses hot water except to was dishes as she has an electric shower and the washing machine will heat its own water. I suggested switching the supply from the bottom heater and connecting it to the upper one so that the upper third of the tank could be heated overnight at the cheaper rate. She was happy about the suggestion for it would keep the costs down until perhaps she was in a position to have the lower heater replaced. As for the power outlet, when I told her what would be involved she decided against the idea purely for financial reasons. She had thought it possible to wire the new outlet from another circuit not knowing that it couldn’t and shouldn’t be done that way. She was grateful that I had sorted out the water heating problem and at a much lower price than she had envisaged and I was paid my minimum charge. Afterward we drank coffee and chatted for a little while and it was then that I was given the opportunity to witness to her. Naturally I hope she will respond to the message. I will leave that in Gods hands. I was just grateful for answered prayer and the opportunity to do His will.