Finding out

It has been more than two and almost three months since we had the new garage door installed. A few weeks ago there had been a problem with the cushion in one of the guides, there to prevent metal to metal contact and wear when the door is opened and closed. We had informed the installer’s repair and maintenance department but it was more than three weeks before they contacted us to make an appointment! I in the meantime corrected the fault myself because at the time I wished to reinstall the circuitry which automatically switches on the main garage light whenever the door is opened when it is dark. Naturally that only happens when the door is opened and when closed the light switches off. On the old door the installation was simple to carry out, it just meant having a micro-switch which allowed the door to operate it as it reached its open position. The micro-switch was wired through a photo cell (still fixed above the new door, see in the picture) and then on to the light. The light can be manually switched from three positions too, that part remains as it did.  I was sitting at the table having just eaten lunch on Monday afternoon last week when I decided to investigate my options regarding this garage light circuit. I took my toolbox to the garage to work on the problem. Unfortunately it was and still is proving difficult to install the micro-switch on the new door because it is a roller door and there is no easy way for it to operate the switch. It can be done though, nothing is impossible but it could require much work to achieve. There had to be another more simple way I thought. I had thought about having a relay which would operate using the power supplied to the door for it to open and I set about testing that. It worked but unfortunately it also worked when the supply was connected for the door to close. This is because of the type of motor being used. The relay switch would replace the micro-switch had I gotten it to work. It is possible to have a relay operate an external circuit of course and had the manufacturer incorporated one in their control panel it would have made things so easy. I however cannot tinker about with the panel as it would invalidate the guarantee and warranty. So having discovered I couldn’t use a relay in order to reinstate the automatic circuit I am left to continue figuring out how to get the door to operate the micro-switch instead. I had to shelve the idea whilst I think about it.

Shirley Anne


TV madness

E an I have a number of televisions around the house, far easier you might say than having to cart one between rooms! Joking apart, many people have more than one television in their homes these days as they have become reasonably low in price to purchase. Last April we bought two identical sets for use in the bedrooms. One has since been used a few times as it is in the room our youngest son uses when he visits. It may have had around fifty hours of use. The other was placed in the guest bedroom we had refurbished early last year but that unit has hardly been used at all, probably less than ten hours. This is that tv shown working on the day we installed it.They each cost £129 which isn’t a lot of money for a 32 inch screen but it is the principle of the matter, we expect them to work as they should else they are not fit for purpose. I was in the room on Tuesday morning updating the security on the Windows 10 computer which now sits alongside the television and I thought I would watch the tv whilst doing that. Then I discovered it was faulty. It wouldn’t respond to the remote control which by the way worked with the other television and neither would it respond to the other remote control. We took it to Currys where we had purchased it but they after checking it out advised we contact their repair department. I did that on my return home and now as I write this I am waiting for a reply. I have received an acknowledgement to my email. Whilst at the store I asked if these televisions have in-built usage timers which would reveal their usage to the repair engineer. I was told that certain manufacturers do incorporate such devices and they can use the information to assist with guarantees to determine if the machine has had fair usage or not. It isn’t rocket science to be able to incorporate a timer to count usage time, one small chip……as long as it doesn’t go faulty too! I was told many years ago by an electronics engineer that most electronic devices that go faulty do so within the first few months or not at all. This television didn’t get out of the starting block!

Shirley Anne

Update: As the tv was out of guarantee it could not be replaced. They (the service department) say it isn’t worth repairing and we were offered a sum of £79 in lieu. That has been paid into my account. So a new machine (as it hasn’t been used for more than ten hours) is thrown on the scrap-heap and your’s truly has paid in essence £50 for the privilege of not being able to use it! If I was able to take it back to the manufacturer (Seiki) they would most probably exchange it. That however isn’t possible. The lesson here is to use something as much as you can during the guarantee period and if it goes wrong it should be replaced/repaired free of charge.

Not so strange……..

……I suppose. I meet all sorts of people in my capacity as an electrician. When I first entered the electrical business some fifty-three and a half years ago I was often engaged in domestic installations and repairs as well as industrial and commercial situations too. That work lasted fourteen years when I took a career side-step and entered into the maintenance field for a major bank at their large headquarters. The work was far more diversified than that which I had been used to but it was also far more interesting and I was able to gain experience and qualifications in many other things besides basic electrical installations. I spent a further twenty-one years working for the same company and was also able to gain promotion and a higher level of pay. Though there were many people working at the bank I had but only brief contact with most of them.

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I became self-employed some eighteen years ago  and I have since spent all my time working once again in the domestic field meeting different people each day as I did when I first started in the business. Most people are good to work for but I have met some who have not been so. Thankfully they are few and far between. I was called to help an old lady who had placed her freezer on defrost and couldn’t subsequently turn it back on. There was no logical reason for there being a fault and I expected as much when I arrived there. The problem was merely the fact that she had switched on the wrong switch on the twin wall socket so in fact hadn’t switched on the freezer. She had a good excuse though as she was over ninety-two years of age! We chatted for a short time over a coffee and then I had to leave to go to my next job. She asked how much it was for my visit and I refused payment. It didn’t matter, she kept insisting that she pay me something so in the end I felt obliged to accept for fear of insulting her. It wasn’t that she couldn’t afford to pay me, far from it for she seemed quite well off in her well-appointed apartment but she wouldn’t allow me to leave without something. I had done work for her and her husband in the past but he died a couple of years ago. My next job was a bit more involved. I had to re-arrange circuit breakers and fit a main switch in a supply panel/board for another old lady for whom I had worked before. She too was getting on in years and in her mid to late eighties and her husband had also died since I was there last a couple of years ago. She was very interested in what I was doing to solve the problem she was experiencing whenever she switched on her cooker. Essentially it had been supplied through an RCD unit which also supplied other circuits. Cookers are noted for tripping these devices and therefore should not be supplied through one. especially if there are other circuits connected to it. She was very thankful for my services and even more thankful that I had kept the fee as small as I could. Later I was called to replace a ceiling light for a young guy, well younger than me! He was very amiable and helpful too. It is people like these who make my day and my work enjoyable.

Shirley Anne

It’s an epidemic

English: BC base of an incandescent lamp
English: BC base of an incandescent lamp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now I don’t usually work on a Sunday unless someone has an emergency of sorts but late on Sunday morning a lady called me to ask if I could help her with an electrical problem that continued to trip out the lighting supply. At that stage the remainder of the household installation was unaffected but a possible leakage current on the lighting circuit could change that situation. Evidently a lamp had broken in its holder which left its metal base firmly stuck. Furthermore the lighting switch didn’t seem to be working properly either. I told her how to remove the broken lamp base safely which she did but the faulty switch still needed replacing. I would have to go there, replace it and check everything was in order if she agreed. She asked that I should go but that she was just about to go to work. She works as a nurse at the local hospital. However I could go there at two o’clock when a neighbour would be there to let me in (and pay me). I agreed and she thanked me, going on to say that she was new to domestic problems such as these as her husband usually took care of them. It seems her husband had recently left her and the two children of ten and twelve years, though when I called they were both with their father at his house wherever that was. She was the third woman in the last few days, in fact since last Monday, to have told me that her husband had absconded. It seems to be a regular thing hereabouts for over the last couple of years I have come across quite a number of women in the same situation, four of them in this month alone! A sign of the times I suppose. Had the lady been at home when I called she might have told me the reason for their separation as many of them do. Perhaps it helps them to cope with the situation when they can speak about it with others. It is such a shame nevertheless. I did her job in about ten minutes and was back home within the hour. I am wondering just how many more women are going to call me for help because their husbands have left the home. The neighbour was an elderly gentleman who was quite surprised to see a female electrician attend to the job and he told me that he and the lady I had been working for would be adding me to their list of people to call when they want a job doing. That was nice.

Shirley Anne

Less to do?

English: 4 days of Evangelism Training in Sout...
4 days of Evangelism Training in Southern California provided by LivingWaters Ministry. Obeying the great commission of Jesus Christ. “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to everyone” Mark 16:15 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Tuesday morning I went to see an old lady living some eight miles away. She had called me the night before at 1035 pm! I was in bed when the call came in and though I do have a bedside house phone I ignored the call at such a late hour. My mobile phone gets plugged into its charger during the night and is also at my bedside. No-one calls me on that phone during the evening or night, well not usually. She left a message on my house phone which I listened to the following morning, Tuesday. Evidently she was having problems with a wall light fitting saying that it was hanging off (the wall) and a neighbour had refitted it a couple of times to no avail. A very simple job to repair though when I phoned her in the morning I explained I would be charging my minimum fee. After telling her what that amount would be and asking if she still wished me to do the job she agreed that I could do it. I drove over there and on my arrival she was standing at the door. I found nothing wrong with the security of the light’s fixing to the wall but I checked it anyway. What I did find was a broken lamp in the holder which I removed and replaced with a new one. In view of the fact that I had done very little I told the lady I would only be charging half of the minimum fee. She apologised for having brought me over for such a silly reason but I didn’t mind in the least. She asked if I would like a drink of tea or coffee and she had a kind of hopeful expression on her face as she asked. I could sense that she wanted a little company so I accepted her offer and we each sat down with a cup of coffee. She asked about my reasons for becoming an electrician and where I had worked over the last 53 years. Somehow the conversation turned to Christianity and I asked her if she believed in God and Jesus Christ. She said she believed in God but I could tell that Jesus was not really known to her. She sat there fascinated as I told her about The Gospel and the message of salvation. She produced an old King James Bible from a drawer and gave it to me after I’d asked if she had one. I read several passages from the Old and New Testaments to convey the message and she hung on my every word. Later she told me that I was a good teacher! She also told me I was good company. I encouraged her to pursue the faith and to look for a good church where she would learn more. I prayed for her. Now I am always ready to witness to people and seize any opportunities as and when they arise but it is especially nice when it comes unexpectedly. A drove home a little better off financially but more importantly thankful that I’d had the opportunity to tell someone about Jesus. I stopped off at a filling station to get fuel for my van which uses diesel and a small container of  petrol for my lawnmower as I had used the last drop to fill the mower a couple of days ago and would probably need more when I next cut the grass. I did very little else for the rest of the day..

Shirley Anne

A great day

Never a Dull Moment (Tommy Lee album)
NEVER A DULL MOMENT (Tommy Lee album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was rather busy on Tuesday. The day started off a little dull and the sun was trying its best to show itself from behind a sky full of clouds. That was seven o’clock in the morning but by eight or eight-thirty it was a different story, blue sky from horizon to horizon and it stayed that way pretty much all day long. I was however out working but all the jobs were inside. The first was in an apartment on the other side of the town centre replacing three ceiling lights. I had a lovely time chatting with the lady who lived there and would have liked to stay and chat longer but my next job beckoned. The second job was a further three or four miles away and involved changing a ceiling light unit, a switch and moving a central-heating controller. This lady too was chatty and we got along like a house on fire as they say. By now it was after twelve and I had to drive another twelve miles further afield into the countryside to the third and final job but this time far simpler, just the one ceiling light to change. Again the lady chatted away with me as I did the work. All three women were single, one a widow and the others divorced. They all had their stories to tell and that was pretty much what we chatted about. I was now around fifteen miles or more away from home and it was almost one-thirty. I drove homeward but didn’t wish to start cooking so I went to my local pub for a late lunch instead. Many people sat outside and I expected there to be fewer indoors but in fact there were plenty inside too. Fortunately there were a few tables empty in the bar area where I like to sit anyway. I was back home around three o’clock but when I got into the van in the pub car park I noticed that my dashboard camera was dangling on its cord. The mounting bracket is a simple affair and attached to the windshield using a rubber sucker. In the heat of the day it becomes loose and falls off the screen. It has happened a few times since I fitted it last year and I had it in mind to design and construct a more suitable bracket that I could attach to the bodywork instead but never got around to doing it. So when I got home I tackled the problem and made an aluminium bracket which sits beneath one of the sun visor fixings and disposes of the need for the sucker so it will now never fall away. It looks a far more professional set-up now that it did beforehand. My next-door neighbour came and chatted with me whilst I was in the van and she sat in the passenger seat admiring what I had done. She tells me that I am very talented but really it is only down to experience. After a lifetime of working in the electrical business and having a background in mechanical and other services too is bound to make these little jobs easy to do. I finally stopped working at five o’clock. It had been a very pleasant day in many ways. There is never a dull moment once I get going.

Shirley Anne

I could strangle them!

English: How to install wiring outdoors? -Ther...
How to install wiring outdoors? -There should be reliable protection against water hiting to metal parts (which are under voltage). To do this, the cable should placed inside conduit, connections should be placed inside IP65 or higher junction box and joining between conduit and junction box should be hermetically closed by nuts with rubber ring. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I could strangle them but obviously wouldn’t. Who are they? They are the invisible ones that from time to time make things difficult for me. Now you are wondering just what I am talking about, well I am talking about my work but specifically those who have gone before me. You might call them fellow workers or colleagues had they been working with me but no, they are the ones who let the side down because of their shoddy workmanship, never thinking that someone in the future might be faced with difficulties due to their work. I remember vividly one of the first things that was driven into us as novices to the trade, we were told by our instructor to ‘always leave plenty of slack’. He was of course referring to the length of circuit conductors we should have behind switches and power outlets and any other electrical equipment. If there is a problem with any fixture and it has to be replaced then replacing it becomes less of a problem when there is plenty of spare length on the conductors. Simple common sense. Look at the poor example in the picture above. Those two sets of conductors should be much longer. If a switch had to be fitted to them they wouldn’t be long enough! The number of times I have had to extend such conductors when replacing faulty equipment or simply fitting new ones is beyond belief. I had a job to do on Thursday morning and it was to install an extra power point in a bedroom. Without going into detail I discovered that whoever had wired the house power points had left a coil of connected wiring beneath the floorboards obviously to supply a new point sometime in the future but they had not gotten round to do that for one reason or another. It made my task that little bit easier as I didn’t have to install and connect any new wiring. All I had to do was to use the existing coil to supply the new point and there was plenty of cable in the coil to do it, so much so that I had to cut some off. The lady had come into the room with a cup of coffee for me and she noticed what I was doing. I told her that it wasn’t often that someone leaves plenty of wiring for future use but also mentioned that it is worse when little has been left behind a switch making replacement difficult and sometimes impossible. Anyway I soon had her new power point installed and working and as I was finishing I got a call from a guy who asked if I could refit three power points and a lighting switch all of which had been removed during redecoration. The house was almost en-route to my house and only a mile away so I accepted the work and called there thirty minutes later. It turned out that the guy had been working there himself as a painter and decorator and wasn’t the owner of the house. The owner was out of the country and having the work done in his absence. I asked the guy why he had disconnected and removed the fittings as most would have decorated around them by simply loosening the fixing screws. He mumbled something about it being easier to decorate with them removed. I kept my thoughts on that one to myself. So I got down to the job and discovered to my horror that the conductors in the power outlet boxes were extremely short and it took me quite some time to eventually get them all back and connected. The lighting switch conductors were much longer so no problem there. I was cursing the electrician who hadn’t the sense to leave enough slack in the boxes when he had originally installed them. I wonder if he will be presented with a similar problem one day and what will his reaction be if he is? Had the house been my own I would have moved the outlets further up the wall to gain some extra length whilst at the same time replacing the single outlets with twin ones but of course the house wasn’t mine and it had just been redecorated! Finally I was on my way home and on reaching there found that someone had left a message on the house phone. It was a lady in whose apartment I had worked some weeks ago and she wanted a special pull switch fitting as hers was faulty. I was supposed to do the job on my last visit but she hadn’t purchased the switch. It was the sort of switch that could only be purchased in a retail outlet or on-line as electrical suppliers don’t usually stock them. Anyhow instead of calling me on my mobile phone when I could have gone straight there from my other jobs she called the house phone. That meant I had to leave the house after only just getting there. Some people just do not think. I went along to do the ten-minute job but discovered it took me much longer as, you might have guessed, the conductors were barely long enough!

Shirley Anne

A bit like last week

Loft (2005 film)
Loft (2005 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This past week has been very similar to the week before in that the work I have done has been concentrated at the latter end of the week leaving me nothing to do for the first few days. It isn’t often you will see me crawling about in someone’s loft but on Wednesday I did exactly that. Naturally I put on a pair of overalls (coveralls) before doing so in order to keep my clothes clean and to protect them from damage. Some lofts are surprisingly reasonably clean but whilst that is so most are not. Most loft areas now are fitted with layers of insulation material which hides the timber construct of the ceilings below and so there is always the danger of accidentally stepping on the fragile ceiling and putting a foot through it. In all my years as an electrician I have never had that misfortune. Other hazards in loft spaces include the roof beams and rafters and the many cardboard boxes or other stored items people have put up there. Having peeled back the insulation I was able to gain access to the lighting cables on this occasion for my task was to reposition and at the same time replace a ceiling light and remove another together with the pull-cord switch controlling it. Having done what was necessary in the loft I was soon able to close the hatch and continue the work in the bedroom below. Another problem I was faced with was the huge bed beneath where the new light (a chandelier) would be fitted and which couldn’t be moved. Have you ever tried balancing on a wobbly bed whilst trying to fit a heavy light above it? With a little help from the lady of the house who supported the light whilst I connected and fitted it I soon had it done. Of course the bed had been covered with a sheet to collect any dust and always there is! The lady asked me all sorts of questions regarding why I decided to become an electrician and how long I have been working as such. She was very much impressed when I gave her a brief description of the things I have done over the (almost) 53 years I have been in the business. She then asked if I enjoyed my work! I could only reply with a ‘yes’ for how could anyone stick at a job so long and not enjoy it unless they were completely bonkers? Maybe I am a little bonkers but I do enjoy my work.

Shirley Anne

I couldn’t make it up

English: Mini-roundabout opposite Church House...
English: Mini-roundabout opposite Church House, Omagh. The traffic lights have been removed and this new mini-roundabout formed. I noticed that an articulated lorry came round it and the workmen had to remove the cones as it was a tight turn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Wednesday morning I had some small electrical jobs to do in a house in another town nearby. Originally pencilled-in for Friday the job was brought forward because the customer couldn’t get time off from his workplace. He called me on Tuesday evening to ask if I could do the work the next day. Fortunately I had nothing scheduled for Wednesday so I was able to accommodate. I wanted to get the work done as early as possible so arranged to be there around 8.30. The first problem had been attempting to reverse onto his driveway as the house stands right on a busy road junction and directly alongside a mini-roundabout. Opposite is a school for infants and juniors and of course at that time the traffic is very busy. He did warn me that getting on and off his drive was often met with irate drivers with the attitude that anyone doing so shouldn’t be doing so. I despair at the attitude of some people. Anyway I approached the small roundabout and stopped the following traffic and waited for a gap in the traffic approaching from my left. The junction is in the form of the letter ‘Y’ so stopping as I did stopped  traffic from two directions. I waited  for only a few seconds but I suppose that would seem like an age to some people and was then able to drive across the roundabout onto the extra-wide pavement opposite where I then reversed onto the driveway. Traffic still had to wait whilst I reversed. On the way over to the town I drive across country and take my time. Several vehicles overtook me even though I was driving at 40-45 mph. I thought to myself, ‘Just what is the hurry? Why don’t drivers simple start their journey 5 or 10 minutes earlier?’ In the event I caught up with all of them a mile further down the road when they were stopped at a busy junction. I smiled to myself. So now I was safe on the driveway and soon inside the house.

Odd Jobs
Odd Jobs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The work was very simple, change four recessed lights in the ceiling, change the lights beneath the kitchen units and change another ceiling light in the porch but first we had to buy the units having decided on what was needed. I asked the guy to accompany me to the supplier so that he could choose the lights and pay for them. Normally I would buy them and use them at a marked-up price but I thought it wise this time not to. We purchased what we needed and then drove off, though that wasn’t straightforward as some of the lights we required were out of stock and we had to select a different type, a good reason for the guy to be with me. About a half-mile down the road we realised we had forgotten one item so we returned to collect it. I began with the recessed ceiling lights but found the original holes were too small to accommodate the new fittings though they were supposed to be identical in size. No problem for a pad saw. I removed the first light from its sealed box and discovered it was not only a different colour to that we had asked for but it was broken too as if it had been opened before. The guy returned to the supplier whilst I got on with the work. The original four lights had been fed through two transformers and one of those transformers turned out to be part faulty, that is one of the two outputs was faulty which meant it could only supply one light. That meant lifting a floorboard in the room above to gain access to it and install a new transformer to accommodate the fourth light. Fortunately I have spare transformers in my van stock so I fitted one of those. It didn’t work! It was a new transformer in a sealed box and it was faulty! I replaced it and this time the light worked. By this time the guy had returned with a replacement light and I fitted it before installing the new under-unit lights. That part of the work was straightforward though a little awkward. The last part of the job was to replace an old ceiling light with a basic light unit. After sorting out the numerous wires behind the old light I fitted the new unit and found the cover wouldn’t screw on. The real problem was the ceiling itself, it had been coated with rough cast ‘Artex’, an uneven surface. After a few frustrating minutes I finally got it fitted. It was now 12.30. I had been there for four hours when really the work should have only taken perhaps two. One thing that is needed to be an electrician is patience as it can be frustrating work sometimes, I take it all in my stride though.

Shirley Anne

The audacity of the man

English: The first chord to Bridge Over Troubl...
The first chord to Bridge Over Troubled Water on Piano. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Much of my latest posts have been about my work but it is fair to say my work occupies a lot of my time and is full of interesting occurrences. Well last week was such a busy time for me so by Friday evening I was very happy to forget about the work and think about other things. I was tired too! Earlier on Friday I had two jobs to do at two different locations. The first job went well as did the second though the second one was in two stages. I had to remove two light fittings from one house, replacing them with something else then transporting the lights I had removed to another address before installing them there. The guy was moving home but hadn’t yet done so which meant all his belongings were at the first address. There was a beautiful piano in the lounge together with a lovely acoustic guitar. Naturally I asked if he often played them and he gave me a wonderful rendition of the Simon and Garfunkel song ‘Bridge over troubled water’. He then told me that he wasn’t as good on the guitar. When I had finished the work at that address I asked if I could play something on his guitar. I played a couple of my own songs and he told me that I play well. He asked what instruments I have at home and I told him. We then travelled to the other address and I installed the lights there. It must have been about one o’clock when I was back at home cooking lunch. The rest of the day and the weekend was mine. Late in the afternoon I received a call from the lady in whose house I had worked on Tuesday and Wednesday. There was a problem with an appliance which was causing the new electrical panel to trip off. I called to her house immediately and spent an hour sorting out the fault. It proves just how effective new safety measures are in modern electrical panels. Sometimes though they can seem to be too sensitive as far as equipment protection is concerned, not so for our own protection. Anyway I solved the problem for her without charge and was back home just before six o’clock. Now all I wanted to do was relax and after my evening meal that is just what I did. However I got a call around nine-thirty but didn’t respond thinking they would leave a message, which they did. It was an older guy from the sound of his voice, asking how much I would charge to fit the two wall lights he had bought earlier and that if I was interested could I give him a call. Well I thought to myself what a cheek to phone at such a late hour, reasoning that if he knew he wanted the job doing, as he had already purchased the lights, why didn’t he call earlier? I decided not to return his call until Saturday morning. On Saturday morning the house phone rang at nine o’clock and woke me up. I resisted answering and began to drift off again for a spell. A few minutes later my mobile phone rang and by this time I was feeling a little annoyed at the audacity of the caller ringing so early on a Saturday morning. I thought it might be the same guy who had phoned the night before and I was right. Now I can understand someone calling in an emergency but fitting two lights isn’t an emergency. When I had gotten dressed and was now downstairs I called his number only to be told that he had found another electrician to do the work. What was the urgency? It seemed he had purchased his lights late on Friday afternoon or even early evening and then expected there to be someone instantly available to fit them. Such audacity and I could tell from his voice that this guy thought the world revolved around him. Well it doesn’t. I was polite with him but hung up. Some people are unbelievable.

Shirley Anne