Go, go, go.

English: Electric hot water storage tank in a ...
Electric hot water storage tank in a UK property.

Monday morning started the day off well. I went to do a small electrical job which didn’t take long and soon I was off back home. On route I decided to make a detour to purchase an immersion heater for the hot water storage tank at home which sits inside the airing cupboard in the new bathroom. Whilst I was working on the bathroom project I took the opportunity to rewire the immersion heater circuit but hadn’t connected the heater itself as it was faulty. I planned to replace it later and now that time had come. There was no immediate hurry to do the job but we have been informed that new plastic gas-pipes are being laid in the street and to each household at the same time during the next few weeks. This will mean we will have no means of heating the storage tank unless the electric heater is working. We may not need hot water during the day as the storage tank holds a large volume of water which retains its heat for many hours if not used much. With the immersion heater connected it won’t matter, so that is the second reason to get it installed. When I arrived back home I began to remove the old heater and fit a wall switch. I got most of the work done and stopped for lunch but was interrupted by a call from an elderly gentleman seeking my services. His light switch was faulty or so he told me. After lunch I collected my tools and went off to do his job thinking that it was a simple change of a single switch but when I arrived I discovered that it was what we call a three-gang switch, that is three switches all on the same plate. Furthermore there were two switch plates both hanging from their cables. I found that some of the wires had become detached  from the switches and that is why his lights weren’t working. However it wasn’t a simple thing to reconnect them and screw the switch plates back on the walls because the boxes they are fixed to were far back inside the walls necessitating the use of very long screws to fix them. The boxes should be near to the surface for a couple of reasons, not least to make fixing the switches easier! The old guy had removed the switches in order to fit finger-plates behind them then found he couldn’t get them back. The long screws were no longer long enough. I had to go and purchase a couple of extension pieces so that the screws would fit. It still took me an inordinate amount of time to refit the switches even with the extension pieces but finally I succeeded. In the process he asked me to check why it was that the two-way circuit controlling the hall lighting wasn’t working as it should but after quite some time checking the circuit I discovered that it hadn’t been working properly because it hadn’t been wired properly in the first place and had never worked. The old guy pretended to be ignorant of that fact until I told him it could never work the way it had been wired. Unfortunately it had to remain that way as altering it would entail rewiring part of the circuit, something he wasn’t prepared to have done. So the bit about the faulty switch was just a ruse  to get me to sort out his mistakes and to get a circuit working the way he wanted it to because he thought it was simply a matter of swapping around a couple of wires in the switch box.  Whilst I was there I received yet another call to connect an immersion heater for someone I had worked for recently. I called in on the way home but found the existing heater to be faulty. I told him that I could replace it for him but as he had a plumber working in the house the following day doing other work he would get him to do it so I fitted the flexible cable to the wall switch ready for the plumber to connect to the heater once he’d fitted it. Then I returned home to finish installing  our own heater. By the time I had finished it was approaching 7 o’clock!

Shirley Anne


My Saturday off!

English: This is a photo of a simple on/off sw...
English: This is a photo of a simple on/off switch. Photographer = Jason Zack I took this photo and authorize its use under the license terms below. •J Z• 17:26, 27 November 2006 (UTC) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yeah, sure! I was lying in bed having just awoken at 8.10 when the house phone rang. I have an extension phone on my bedside cabinet along with my mobile phone which is plugged into its charger overnight. I refused to answer the call at that hour in the morning because I knew it would be from somebody wanting my services. I don’t know where people get the idea that I am available so early on a weekend day, or even available at all on a Saturday or Sunday but it doesn’t stop them trying. The caller left a message which I listened to an hour later when I was downstairs and after I had eaten my breakfast. I returned the call and asked exactly what the problem was and the woman, whom I had done a small job for a few weeks ago, explained that she had two floodlights both of which had switched on during the night and remained on even though it was now daylight. I thought it was odd that two lights would both be faulty at the same time. I told her that I would investigate the problem immediately because I wouldn’t be available later in the day as I intended to work at home for the day. As she lives less than a mile from me it was no imposition to call there. On arrival I asked her where I might find the isolation switch for the lights and she had no idea where it might be. You would think any normal person would make it their business to know more about their electrical circuits, at least where the switches are located. Many don’t even know where their meter is! She could have isolated the lights and called me at a more respectable hour had she known where the switch was located. Anyway we located the switch in an upstairs wardrobe together with two more similar switches, one controlling the gas boiler in the same cupboard and the other controlling some lighting in the loft area. The third switch was the isolator for the outside floodlights. I discovered that the two lights had been wired in such a way that if one was triggered or switched on it switched the other one on too. I had to separate the interconnecting wire to find out which of the two was faulty and duly found which one it was. By mutual agreement I will be replacing that light on Tuesday morning, weather permitting. I returned home and started mixing more cement render in order to finish patching up the walls in the bathroom. About ten buckets of mixed render later and a lunch break E and I completed the work and then tidied up. Aha, but there was more. I gave the high ceiling another coat of paint before retiring for the day. It was now almost six o’clock in the evening and time to prepare our evening meal. Day off work? No way, but tomorrow is Sunday when I will most certainly be relaxing!

Shirley Anne

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English: A reed switch operated by a magnet/ma...
English: A reed switch operated by a magnet/magnetic field and used as a magnetic proximity detector. Also used for sensing speed, home security automation, position detection etc (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After my little accident on Sunday morning I couldn’t continue with the task of wiring the roller door to switch on the light in the garage and was forced, reluctantly, to sit down and relax for most of the day. I was itching to get on with the work but realised that would be a silly thing to do. I had a job scheduled for Monday but I contacted my client and postponed it until Tuesday when I knew I would be feeling better. However, I received a call on Sunday evening from someone else asking if I could find out why a power point wasn’t working properly. A simple job I knew I could do in spite of my not feeling too good at the time of the call but realising I would be alright to do such a small job the following day so I agreed to do it. I was sitting at home in the morning whilst waiting to drive to the job when the client phoned to postpone it until later.  I need not have got up so early but I decided to see if I could make some progress on my garage light project. I waited until E had finished her breakfast and we both made preparations to start the work. I had though of just spending an hour or so but ended up spending all day taking it to completion! I did feel a little tired by the time we’d finished but was glad I’d decided not to waste the day just sitting around. I had taken my time so as not to over-exert myself and the job consequently took a few hours longer that it might otherwise have done. There were a couple of problems in manufacturing a suitable bracket to hold the magnetic reed switch which ate a lot of time too but we finally got there eventually. Now the internal fluorescent light comes on when the door is opened at night but not during the day unless it is switched on manually. A job well done…..wholla!

Shirley Anne

Just when….

LED Lamp with GU10 twist lock fitting, intende...
LED Lamp with GU10 twist lock fitting, intended to replace halogen reflector lamps. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had no real plans on Monday but I did have a small job to attend on. A local guy asked if I could check out the lighting in three upstairs rooms. He had exchanged the small halogen lamps for LED (light emitting diodes) versions exactly like the ones shown on the right and he found that the LED ones remained dimly lit even when the circuits were switched off! Although LED lamps only require around 1.2 volts DC to work there has to be a transforming and rectifying circuit built within them in order to plug them directly into the 230 volt AC supply else they would explode! There were no dimmer switches involved and no driver devices simply an on-off switch by the door. I couldn’t see why the lamps remained dim when the switch was off but assumed that somehow their internal circuitry was holding a charge for a while. Evidently the lamps were remaining dimly lit for hours on end so my theory went out of the window. On removing the fittings from the ceiling however revealed that their connections were not secure and worse than that they were not earthed even though earth wires were present! It seems that ‘some old guy’ had fitted them and couldn’t be bothered to connect the earth wires. In doing so it made all the earth circuit redundant and the next light fitting down the line would not be earthed either. I stripped back the cables and made good the earth connections on all of the fittings whilst reconnecting them to their supplies. I powered up the circuit and tested the lights to make sure they were working and when I switched them off the original problem with the LED’s remaining dimly lit had still not been resolved.  On paper it doesn’t make any sense but funny things can happen with electricity. I could do no more at that stage so and returned home with nothing in mind to do. I decided to practice playing my songs on the guitar and I made five recordings of a new song I’d written the day before and then placed it on my YouTube channel. I don’t know what it is with YouTube but I always seem to have difficulty when I am uploading a video. It took me a couple of hours to record the one song before deciding which version to upload. Now I have 45 of my own songs on there but only this new one features me singing. It has been a long time since I attempted to sing so this first effort might not be my best but I think it is good for a first attempt. Maybe I will re-record some of the others and sing too. Just when I thought I had nothing to do it all changed.

Shirley Anne

PS. I revisited the house the following day (Tuesday) to re-check the light circuit using sensitive meters but found I still couldn’t get a reading to explain the phenomena. I could tell that there was a connection box somewhere in the ceiling by the way the wiring was configured and because the colours were not consistent. I suspect the box may be damp inside or some other fault may be present, however, access to the loft had been removed during building alterations some time ago. The owner of the house plans to re- open up that access so until then I am unable to see if my suspicions are correct. He wants me to return to make alterations to his supply board soon so I should be able to check it out then.

Very dangerous

English: Hong Kong combination shower and bathroom
English: Hong Kong combination shower and bathroom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My last port of call at work on Monday was to a flat (apartment) on the top floor of an old Victorian/Edwardian house on the north side of town. The guy renting it was in his mid-thirties and was having problems with his electric shower. He told me over the phone that the control switch just outside the bathroom was loose in the wall and that it seemed to switch itself on if he moved it. On arrival I switched off the power and checked out the switch by removing it from the wall. The switch contacts inside must have welded themselves together as the switch would not turn off. That probably meant that the switch had a loose connection or it was of  too small to take the load. I noticed the supply cable was suitable for only a 28 ampere current load but the cable from the switch to the shower on the other side of the wall was even smaller with a load capacity of only 20 amperes! This particular cable was badly burned. I removed the cover on the shower and discovered that the shower was a 9.5 to 10 Kw in size which is around 38 to 42 amperes, more than a third extra for the supply cable and twice that of the capacity of the cable connecting the shower to the switch! I noticed that when I switched off the supply RCD unit which fed the shower circuit, a couple of power points lost their supply too. That meant there were socket outlets or power points connected to the already overloaded shower cable! Dangerous or what? I was told that the original owner of the house, now deceased, had done many of the jobs around the house himself and now the property belonged to his daughter who it seems is reluctant to spend too much cash on repairs. Needless to say I left the shower disconnected and the wiring made safe so that the power sockets could be left working until the necessary remedial work is carried out either by myself, if I get the job, or whoever they employ. I shudder to think what might have happened if they hadn’t bothered to call out an electrician. This is how fires start in buildings, unsuitable wiring and controls and a complete disregard to the regulations. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, especially where electricity is concerned.

Shirley Anne

A comedy of errors or a conspiracy?

Longcase repaired
Image by practicalowl via Flickr

I don’t know if I should call it a comedy of errors or a conspiracy but rather weird things happened last Thursday. I had nothing planned for the day so I decided to get up a little early and go for a run on my treadmill. After that I bathed and then spent most of the morning in my room doing things a girl should do to keep herself looking her best. Eventually I got downstairs at around 11 o’clock and spent a short time on my computer. I received a call to do an electrical job so off I went to do that.  I had to replace a faulty pir floodlight on an outbuilding at the rear of a house. It wasn’t an easy job to reach because of the shrubbery and trees beneath it but I managed. When it came to switch on the new light it wouldn’t work, the lamp was faulty. I had to drive to a local store to buy another one and returned to fit it. This time I thought it must work but it didn’t so I checked the circuit and discovered the fuse had blown. A minute later all was well. A minor irritation. I returned home and in the late afternoon it began to get dark. The light in the porch wasn’t lit and I wondered why. A little background information is required here. Outside the front of my house is a small device located high up the wall. When it becomes dark it puts a supply on to the porch light. The following morning as it becomes light again it switches off that supply. However the supply is not left on throughout the entire night. The device calculates the time between dusk and dawn and switches off for the majority of that time. So it might switch on at 4 o’clock in the afternoon as it does get dark that early this time of the year but it will automatically switch off at around 1 o’clock in the morning and stay off until an hour or so before dawn when it switches back on. As it get lighter the device then switches off. Quite a clever little device and it looks like one of those things you see atop street lights although the control is different for them. Now then, getting back to my porch light which wasn’t working. I was hoping that it was merely the lamp that was faulty and not the device outside so I tried one of the wall switches which can be used to manually switch on the light if necessary and found that the lamp still did not work. Now the light itself hangs high from the ceiling and requires a nine foot ladder to reach it. There is an aluminium ladder on top of my van but that is always kept locked but the van was in the garage and would have to be driven out if I was to get at that ladder. I chose to bring the steel ladder up from the cellar instead. That is a task all by itself! Either way I had to spend much time just getting the ladder out! I changed the lamp and all was well, then I returned the ladder to the cellar. Now I couldn’t remember if I had returned the wall switch to its normally off position because the light was now being supplied from the outside device. There is no way around that problem if I want to keep the manual switches for emergency use. Fast forward now to bedtime. I had to get up quite early on Friday in order to get to a job some distance away by 8.30 so I set the alarm to 06.15 and went to sleep around midnight. Usually I awake long before the alarm goes off but I use it in case one morning I don’t wake up in time. For some reason I got up after a short sleep and thought it was time to rise whilst all the time thinking to myself that I was still a bit tired. I went off to use the toilet along the landing from my room. At the end of the landing are the toilet and stairway down to the hall and as I walked along in the dark I noticed that the light was on downstairs so naturally I thought it must be morning because the device would have switched the light on a couple of hours before dawn, which at the moment is around 8 o’clock. I looked at the grandfather clock at the bottom of the stairs and it appeared to be reading 06.30. I went to the toilet and whilst sitting there, still tired, I thought about the manual switches and whether they were in fact holding the light on. I went downstairs and tried the switch that I had previously used the afternoon before. Low and behold the light switched off which meant that the outside device was switched off too and it wasn’t yet time for it to come back on. I looked again at the grandfather clock in the hall and saw that it was only 02.15! I really was tired and was glad to get back to bed for another four hours! Strange things happen when you are tired and it is so easy for the events of the day to throw you off course sometimes but I think it is all a conspiracy.

Shirley Anne

Yeah! Sure!

Schematic animated work of a RCD.
Image via Wikipedia

On Saturday morning I promised to do some work for someone who could not be available during the week. I do not usually work on Saturdays as I treat the day as my Sabbath. However, the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath as Scripture tells us. I do get my days off work during any particular week. Friday for instance saw me dining out in the afternoon with a friend, Jane in a restaurant E and I like to visit and then coming back to my local pub to catch up with folk there. Almost everyone there greeted me, asking where I’d been over the last few months. I was last there in March I think!

So I arrived at my destination on Saturday and the job was to replace four ceiling light fittings with new ones, a fairly simple and straightforward task. The way lighting circuits are wired in new installations in the UK there can be anything up to four and occasionally five cables each with three cores at the ceiling point so it can be a bit time-consuming sorting them all out and trying to fit them behind the new lights. I did the work and the guy asked if I could investigate a faulty electric shower unit. To my amazement I discovered that the earthing wire in the unit was live! He had reported that he was getting electric shocks from the shower head. This would have been fatal to anyone having a shower had it not been for the fact that the installation was protected by an RCD (residual current device) which cuts off the supply almost instantaneously. Investigating further I discovered that the isolation switch (a pull-cord switch on the ceiling) had been incorrectly wired. There was apparently no earth wire in the supply cable, the wires in the switch were severely burned and the live wire was bare. It was also touching the earthing wire that went to the shower unit. Hence the fault in the unit. Fortunately there was plenty of cable to pull through in order to remake the connections to the switch. The guy had told me that a qualified electrician had changed the switch recently as the original one had been severely burnt due to a loose connection. Yeah, sure, I was about to believe that one! I thought the guy had done the job himself and consequently made a mess of it but I said nothing. Ten minutes later I had it all connected correctly and working. I wish people would not play about at being electricians, they could end up killing someone or even themselves. It simply isn’t worth taking risks by taking short cuts.

Shirley Anne