With the main part of my patio project completed I made up my mind to finish the rest of the work at some other time in the very near future and so I had Friday free to myself. Well actually I had two small electrical jobs to do between nine and eleven o’clock then the rest of the day was free. With the other small job I did on Thursday I had earned enough to cover the time spent on the project so I didn’t lose out by working at home. I was determined however to take what was left of the day at rest which is almost exactly what I did. Fortunately the weather was fine and sunny yet again so I spent a lot of time in the garden. Friday is the day our non-recyclable waste bin is emptied every two weeks. it usually gets emptied together with the paper and metal sometime in the afternoon so when I heard the noise of the waste vehicle I went to the front of the house to bring both bins in. The non-recyclable waste bin was not put out two weeks ago as there wasn’t much in it and even this time around the bin was less than half full. I have found that the recyclable waste such as plastics and cardboard builds up very quickly so that bin has to be emptied each time. Now the non-recyclable waste bin has not been cleaned out for months and the inside was in an awful state and smelled really bad. Each time the lid was lifted there were numerous flies hovering about. It need a thorough clean. We have a cold water tap (faucet) in the front garden as well as the back garden and I part filled the bin with water and added a copious amount of bleach. I used an old yard brush to clean away the accumulated muck and emptied the bin before giving it another wash in the same way. I left it open for a time to dry in the sunshine. Household chores like these are often done when I am at home with nothing specific to do. The two electrical jobs were a nice change from mixing cement, mortar and laying bricks but they took very little time to do. At the first location one of my tasks, if you could even say it was a task, was to replace a four-way extension lead that had been trailed behind a fitted bureau. The faulty lead had been left in situ but the customer informed me that the plastic body housing the power outlets had in his words, crumbled. Now you might think that the whole lead would have been pulled out knowing this but no, it wasn’t. In fact they had left it plugged into the power outlet below the bureau. I took a photograph (shown above) of what was left of the outlet end of the extension lead that could have been switched on by mistake. Click twice on image to magnify. I think you will agree that to leave something like this plugged into a power outlet is very dangerous indeed. I have been in the electrical business for 53 years and still come across things similar to this. If it wasn’t for the fact that many households are now protected with RCDs there would be more fires and deaths.
Some old people put themselves in danger because they forget things or they do things without due consideration for the consequences of their actions. I came across one such incident on Tuesday morning. A couple of days earlier an elderly gentleman asked if I was available to change some power outlets in his house but as it was a weekend and specifically the request was for Sunday I declined. I was then asked if I was available on Monday but I had work scheduled for that day too. I arranged to do the work therefore on Tuesday morning. There was no urgency to have the work done as I expected that the original outlets were still in use. However, when I arrived on Tuesday morning I discovered that not only were the old power outlets disconnected and removed so also were several lighting switches. The power supply had not been switched off! That meant all the bare and exposed wiring was still live! It had been that way for a few days as the old guy had evidently removed them himself but why did he then leave the power switched on? One or two lights and power outlets were still in use and that was why he didn’t switch it off. How he managed to avoid electrocuting himself is an absolute miracle but that was only because of the RCD trip switches in the supply panel. It took me about three hours to sort things out and to re-site one of the outlets because of a lack of wire to reconnect it. One had to be removed as it sat directly above his cooker! The old guy’s son appeared shortly after I had arrived and was somewhat helpful. When I had finished the work he told me that now he could rest assured that his dad’s environment was now electrically safe. I thought I had seen it all during my years in the business but a house full of exposed live wiring was a first. I have seen incidences of perhaps one or two bare live conductors but never a house full! I drove off to the pub for lunch.
Looks like my weekends now run from Sunday to Monday with extra days free thereafter because my weekly work schedule is beginning to morph into a set late routine, no work at the beginning of the week then everyone wants my services from Thursday onwards! If I knew it would stay that way I could arrange to do other things on my ‘days off’ but it doesn’t work that way does it? Often I will get calls from people who know they want some electrical work doing but end up sitting on it then calling me late in the day or the week, and expect me to be available immediately. That happened on Thursday evening when I received an unexpected call from a regular customer who told me that one of his household circuits had been tripping out for days. Why didn’t he call me earlier when I had no work? As it happened I was returning to a house I’d been working in last week by arrangement the following morning and I was unable to accommodate him immediately. I found that I could have gone to his job in the afternoon on Friday as I had finished what I had to do at the first job but as things turned out I am glad I didn’t. The morning’s work had left me a little tired and when I got home for a late lunch something had arrived through the post which needed immediate attention so I had to go out again. By the time I finally got home it was getting late in the afternoon and I needed something to eat. As for the guy with the faulty circuit I had explained over the phone what steps he should take to try to reinstate the circuit and then call me again if the fault hadn’t been located. I suspected it might simply have been a faulty appliance and not the circuit itself. I told him that if the fault remained then I might be able to get there later the next day but as I have just explained, that wasn’t possible. He did leave a message on my house phone explaining that he had done what I had suggested but the fault remained. I called him to make arrangements to go there the following morning, Saturday. Up and until Thursday afternoon I had no electrical work scheduled though I had plenty of requests. Unfortunately those jobs were far too big for me to take on. The job I did late on Thursday afternoon involved locating a fault in someone’s garage circuit, which turned out to be a partially bare live conductor touching an earthed box. A simple repair solved that problem but I did find that the whole set-up needed bringing up to date with a new supply cable and control board. The present layout is far from being satisfactory and no protection is provided against possible electrocution. One really dangerous discovery was the ‘male’ half of a power point, that is the half fitted with protruding pins, had been connected to the electrical supply and the pins were exposed to the touch. It is the ‘female’ half of the assembly, the part with concealed receptacles, which should have been connected to the supply. I pointed this out to the guy, who by the way had installed it himself, that he should not leave it in such a dangerous state. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing indeed and I often see the results of those doing it themselves who by doing so place themselves in great danger of electrocution. In this case I have a feeling that I will be offered the job of updating the installation some time in the future.
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.
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!
As I was sitting eating my evening meal on Sunday a woman called me on the house phone asking if I could fix a problem with her bathroomlight switch which had stuck in the off position and when I could do it. The switch was a pull-cord type of course as it was located inside the bathroom so I told her it would need replacing as these switches cannot usually be repaired. After asking how much it would cost she asked if at the same time I could replace her bathroom light fitting. She hadn’t as yet purchased the new light so I told her to call me again once she had it. I would supply the switch from my van stock. I told her I would most likely be available on Monday but I had other work scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday so wouldn’t be available then until Thursday. She said that it would have to be in the afternoon. Evidently she had the keys to her friend’s apartment in the same building and had to oversee some work her friend was having done whilst she was on holiday in Spain. That meant she wouldn’t be able to purchase the new light until that job was completed and assumed that would be soon after lunch. I told her to call me on my mobile phone in case I wasn’t at home to receive the call. She said she would phone the house phone first just in case I was at home. I don’t know why some people have an aversion to calling a mobile number but I agreed that was sensible. As it happened I was at home all day long because I had nothing scheduled and no other calls came in. I waited for her call throughout Monday but it wasn’t until after five o’clock when she called. ‘I suppose it is a little late in the day to ask you to come and do the work’ she said timidly. Well I wasn’t about to start work at that hour having not been at work all day. She asked if I could come on Thursday (today) morning instead and that is what we agreed. The reason she didn’t wish to ask someone else to do the work is because she said she doesn’t trust men. She felt more secure having a woman in her apartment and was thankful there was one available. I find I get that explanation for calling me out quite often though I do feel that is unfair to the guys. Many also say that they think a woman would be more reliable. I cannot speak for other women but I know it applies to me.
I wrote about a couple for whom I did some work a few days ago who were such lovely people it was a pleasure to work for them. A couple of days later, last Friday afternoon in fact, I received a call from a guy who seemingly had lost all power to the outlets upstairs. I told him I wasn’t available until the Monday just passed but he told me that it didn’t matter for they, he and his wife, had power downstairs and could manage for a couple of days. He was more concerned that I would show up but I assured him that I would. Their house is situated about fifteen miles or so out into the country in a small township, more like a large village really, called Mawdesley, a typical rural location in these parts. I drove there early on Monday morning but had to drive into the bright sunshine almost all of the way as it is eastward from where I live. The early morning sunshine at this time of year can be quite annoying for drivers and hazardous too especially if the roads are wet. The sunshine is reflected off the wet road surface and can blind the driver. I was wearing sunglasses and had the visor down but still was dazzled some of the time. It got so bad at one point I had to stop as I couldn’t see the bend in the road ahead. Anyway I managed to get to my destination right on time and after introducing myself proceeded with the work in hand. My first objective was to disconnect the offending circuits wiring so that I could test it.
Now the live conductors were easy enough to remove from the circuit breaker but the neutral conductors were unreachable. What had happened is that the electricians who fitted the new electrical board had located it high on the wood panel and the fitters who installed the new kitchen furniture in front of it had to cut away a portion of the cabinet to allow the electrical board’s cover to be removed. Unfortunately that still didn’t allow the earthing and neutral conductor terminals to be reached. Fortunately I was able to unscrew the fixing screws which held the board in place and relocate the board a couple of centimetres lower thus enabling access to the terminals. I have seen worse! I tested the circuit and as expected discovered the nature of the fault. Now I had to go upstairs and split the circuit to ascertain which part of the wiring was at fault. The idea is to continue to split the faulty section until the faults location is found, testing the circuit wiring at each stage. It can take a few hours or a few minutes to locate the fault, it all depends on the size of the installation. It was a couple of hours before I managed to find the problem. Now the guy had told me that he had employed some electricians to rewire the house but he said they weren’t much good, ‘cowboys’ he called them but later he let slip that he had been responsible for installing the wiring, at least in the rooms he had constructed up in the attic. That is where the fault lay. He had wired a light directly from the power circuits without installing an intervening fused spur unit to protect the smaller lighting conductors. I corrected that error later when I was reinstating the power. The fault lay inside the fluorescent light unit but as the two lights were very old he decided to purchase two new ones which yours truly fitted for him. Once I had re-fixed all the power sockets I had removed and reconnected the conductors in the main electrical board I switched the circuit one and all was fine. It was at that point I discovered that in fact all of the house power sockets apart from those in the kitchen were on the same circuit. They had no power at all to run their television or even their boiler (which was located upstairs) for the whole weekend! They had the good sense to run extension leads from the kitchen as a temporary measure but the boiler was hard-wired into the circuit and could not be supplied. Why they didn’t tell me that on Friday I will never know for had they done so I would certainly have done their job on Saturday morning instead. They were a lovely couple to work for though and it was indeed a pleasure working for them. I even got paid more than I’d asked for. I had been away from home for seven hours. So much for part-time working!
I have found that my electrical services have been in great demand this week after a spell of getting few requests. I didn’t mind getting little work lately as I haven’t been well enough to do much anyway. Today, that is Thursday, I had a job to do in the afternoon and everything went well enough until that is I got back home. I felt awful and had to take a couple of headache pills. At this moment I must be still under the influence of some bug, a cold maybe and don’t feel I am 100% with it. It will pass though and I am taking work as it comes along. One of the tasks I had at work today was to replace a single power socket with a twin version which meant digging out the wall to accommodate the larger box for it to screw to. I attempted to isolate the power supply before beginning the work. I removed what should have been the right fuse (it was an old board not fitted with circuit breakers) but the circuit remained live. Replacing that fuse and removing another made no difference, the circuit remained live. I removed the only remaining fuse that could possibly supply the circuit and still the circuit remained live! Someone had split the power circuit wiring in the fuse board so that two fuses were controlling the one circuit. Dangerous! I corrected the problem and finally I could isolate the circuit with just the one fuse, as it should be. I have come across this kind of fault on a couple of occasions in the past and I shudder to think that there must be other households with the same problem unbeknown to the householder. I had that job done quite quickly and did a couple of other things before I left to drive the ten miles back home. So my working day was over and I was trying to relax at home nursing my headache when checking my mobile phone for any messages I discovered I had missed a call though I know for certain my phone hadn’t rung at the time when the caller had called. They left a message though and I was able to call them back. It was too late to do the job I was asked to do and I made arrangements to do it the following morning. I seem to get this problem fairly often with my mobile service, people call me and have to resort to leaving a message because my phone didn’t ring when they made the call. Obviously my phone is unable to connect with the system in each and every location I find myself in and I miss calls requesting my services that I could easily accommodate. I sometimes wonder why I pay for a service that isn’t 100% available. Fortunately my customers do leave messages or call me later on my house phone.
Look, if you are going to do electrical work then get qualified. The number of times I come across electrical misdemeanors is incredible. Even when the electrician is qualified I am sometimes horrified by the way an installation has been carried out. For instance boxes in plastered walls that are so far back extra-long fixing screws are needed when fitting switches and things, boxes not even straight in the wall, cables left too short making connections difficult and sometimes impossible if ever the switch or socket requires replacing. Little cable slack left in the ceiling space to enable different light units to be connected in the future and almost no slack whatsoever if it is a wall-mounted fitting. Too many cables in junction boxes and often the wrong sized boxes used. The list seems endless but it is all down to improper training and attitude to the job. It costs nothing to get it right or do it right the first time. It is as easy to do things right as it is to do them wrong. Things like these simply make it difficult for whoever works on the installation afterwards. It is one thing to know what is required but the implementation is all important. We all know how to ‘wire a plug’ but to do even that small thing requires the right knowledge to implement it correctly. One may be forgiven for poor workmanship on occasion but there is no excuse when it comes to not following the regulations. I was called to a house quite some distance from home on Thursday morning to help out a lady who was desperate to have some electrical work done before her plasterer was to call on Friday. When I arrived she showed me the job which was to put in a supply that would be used for her bathroom cabinet when that was fitted later. It would be to supply a light and probably a shaver unit as these cabinets are often supplied with. No problem with that request as it followed the bathroom regulations protocol but whilst in the bathroom I found the main light switch had been moved into the room from its old position outside and there was also a twin socket outlet located about half a metre from the bath! That most certainly should not have been in the room. I disconnected the socket and removed it and I repositioned the light switch to its original place outside the room. When the lady returned later, for she had returned to her workplace for a couple of hours, I asked whom she had employed to do the house rewiring and alterations. She told me that it had been done by her husband’s friend who seemingly was an electrician! She had mentioned to her husband’s friend that I had altered things and he asked why. When she told him he exclaimed ‘Of course, you can’t have a socket or a wall-mounted switch in a bathroom can you?’ I wonder why he didn’t remember that when he was doing the job. Gordon H Bennet!
I hadn’t much electrical work to do until Thursday and spent most of my time at home working there. One of the tasks I had other than that work E and I have been doing in the bathroom was to carry out repairs to the central heating reservoir tank up in the loft area. In the event I had to change the ball valve assembly replacing it with one I had in out cellar storeroom because I didn’t have a replacement washer for the old one. I had to revisit the loft again the next day as I had installed the replacement valve at a slight angle from the vertical which caused the ball to catch the side of the tank.
This meant that it wasn’t closing the valve properly allowing the tank to fill up beyond the overflow pipe. Such are the trials of doing my own repairs, not that I am incapable, I am not but once in a while I make mistakes like everyone else. I had been to a job late in the morning but spent most of the time there chatting with the woman about make-up and other girly things. I got back home about 1.30 and had lunch with E who soon afterward went to do the weekly shop with her mum. That is when I discovered the overflow pipe was still dripping out the odd spot of water and was when I revisited the repair. Hopefully all that is now history, well until the washer wants replacing again years down line. By then I’ll probably get someone else to do it if I am still here! I received a call to do an emergency job for somebody living about three miles away but I was expecting E to return home and didn’t really want the work as it was early in the evening being 6.30. I don’t usually do emergency call-out work but have been known to take on the work occasionally. Just then E returned home and she said that I should go if I wished. She’s good with those kinds of suggestions! Apparently, according to the father of the woman in whose house the emergency was supposed to be, there was all sorts of exposed wiring behind the washing machine when he pulled it out ready for a new one to be installed. He didn’t want to touch it in case he caused more problems or was electrocuted in the process. He explained over the phone that his son-in-law had abandoned his daughter and their two children and he had been responsible for the bad wiring. I agreed to go there and try to set things right. There were no exposed cables but simply a connector box which though too small was connecting the washing machine’s flex directly to the circuit cables. I removed it and fitted a socket outlet in a more accessible position. That made that part of the circuit safe but there was another underlying problem. The cable to which I had fixed the socket was apparently connected to a multi-way socket beneath the oven which in turn was plugged into a socket above the worktop. That in itself required to be looked into but further than that the cooker hob which has four heating rings was also plugged into the same multi-way socket! The oven was connected to the cooker circuit provided for that purpose. The hob should be connected to that same supply! I will be returning there at their convenience to put right those faults but in the meantime I left the woman with instructions not to use the hob whilst the washing machine is in use. How anyone could just leave home and leave things in such a dangerous condition without regard for the safety of their estranged family is beyond me. I returned home to a late dinner which E had just prepared. The phone rang again. Someone else wanted my services the following day. I thought I’d seen it all…………..
I worked just the two days this past week and earned almost what I would expect to earn in two weeks! On Thursday and Friday it was go, go, go all day long and even then I was getting calls to do more. Already I have jobs booked for the coming week. I have to say I am enjoying it all, well I have to else I wouldn’t be doing it! I’ve not had much time for my bathroom project but there will be times for that, I did a little on Saturday. One of the jobs I had on Friday, in fact the last one of the day, involved replacing a bathroom light fitting. The house was eight miles or so from home and it was late in the afternoon and already dark. The lady of the house had bought a fitting which was completely unsuitable and would have been potentially dangerous to use, especially as it was very near to being directly over the bath. Now I am 5′ 9″ approximately in height and I could touch the ceiling whilst standing on the floor. The bath of course is higher than the floor and the light would be very easy to reach from there. Current regulations concerning bathrooms are very strict with special attention given to electrical safety. There was only one type of light fitting that could be used in this particular situation, a totally enclosed fitting, preferably double-insulated. I suggested to the lady that I could drive to the local store to buy a more suitable fitting as regulations forbade me to install the one she had purchased. I found a suitable fitting and returned to install it. I am amazed that some people don’t bother seeking advice before making such purchases. Often in the past have I had to refuse fitting unsuitable lights for people. Some older houses which have not been rewired within the last 45 years won’t have earthing conductors in the lighting circuits but people still purchase metal fittings that require earthing, even fitting metal switches themselves where no earthing conductor is present to earth them. These kinds of jobs just keep coming. I keep getting asked when I am going to retire to which I reply,’I haven’t the time to retire’.
It appears we finally cured the leaking floor drain in our wet room! We had left the cement to dry for more than a week as recommended and it didn’t leak when we tested it for the first time on Friday evening. Let’s hope it stays that way!