Peter McCarthy Electric Co., Inc.
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|Posted on December 1, 2014 at 10:27 PM||comments (85998)|
Believe it or not, this pipe (first 2 pics from top) that had been beaten up and pulled far apart was still live. Those wires between the two pulled apart section of pipe were very live when we got up there. Amazing.
The pipe we ran was set off the surface of the roof and attached to wooden blocks that are eventually painted to retard water seepage and then glued down to the roof. I learned a long time ago NEVER EVER shoot a screw into a sealed flat roof. This piping was to provide power for an additional down-spout de-icing cable that needs a dedicated GFCI circuit.
Also, you can't see it here, but whenever I run conduit outside like this I always pule and additional grounding conductor for a redundant grounding safety measure. The Chicago and National Electrical Code don't require it in this situation; the metallic pipe itself provides the ground. But I have seen too many situations where the pipe has rusted away or been banged apart or subject to some type of physical damage, which separates the two pieces, breaks the metallic continuity and therefore compromises the integrity of the grounding. It is only a small additional investment to pull a dedicated grounding conductor along with the power wires you are pulling anyway. I think all electricians should do this.
|Posted on March 11, 2014 at 2:05 PM||comments (229)|
Recently I got a call from a Condo Association I have worked for off and on over the years. They said the doorbuzzer/intercom system was repeatedly going out. This was a slightly more complicated than average system because it utilizes the phone lines. They had had it installed last summer. It worked fine all summer and fall but now was going out.
It turns out the new system has several transformers. The folks who installed it were not very good craftsmen, in my opinion. There was one outlet in the basement by the panels, and they plugged two cord strips into it and rigged the transformers with extension cords. That was pretty sloppy. But the kicker was, the outlet they plugged into was a GFCI outlet that had been installed to provide GFCI protection to the circuit that went outside and up the back porch to power the de-icing cable in the gutter. So when there was flooding and extreme moisture permeating those gutters, the GFCI protector tripped, as it should. You don't want 120v power "live" laying in soaking-wet metal gutters! Normally, after the severe moisture passed, one would simply re-set the GFCI protected outlet. It was never intended to be used for other loads, especially not an intercom system that controls the building entryway. Since there was an on/off switch right next to the GFCI outlet, so that the de-icing cables can be turned off during the summer months, I would have thought the idea of plugging an intercom system into it would be off the table. Just by the co-incidence that no one at that condo association was paying attention to these things, and the de-icing cable power was not turned off for the summer, that the system worked in the first place.
I installed an array of receptacles so that each transformer would be plugged in separately, and all of them are now powered by a new, dedicated circuit. Big improvement.
If you live in a condominium or multi-residence building, it is a good idea to be sure all of your critical systems, such as furnace or boiler, hot water heaters, and door buzzer/intercom systems are on separate dedicated circuits so that if something unrelated goes down, you are not left out in the cold!
TOP: How I found it. (The plug-strips had been plugged into the GFCI outlet next to the switch.
MIDDLE: Transformers and plug-strips temporarily hung during work.
BOTTOM: Finished Product.
|Posted on October 21, 2013 at 1:02 PM||comments (1135)|
|Posted on June 11, 2013 at 2:39 PM||comments (796)|
|Posted on April 14, 2013 at 11:29 AM||comments (189)|
|Posted on December 9, 2012 at 9:11 PM||comments (96)|
We had a service call last week where a client was concerned about bulbs burning out frequently in his recessed lighting, coupled with wanting a general check-up on them. The neighbors upstairs had flooded a sink and water had been dripping down from his recessed lighting. He was concerned about getting it checked out before using it again.
Upon removing first the bulb, the the trim ring, and finally the recessed fixture housing, I discovered that the crook or idiot who put the lighting in did one of those "I'll be long gone before this gets discovered" deals. The fixture housings were ungrounded, and the conductors emanating from them were run in the free air above the ceiling. No junction box to contain the splices. Or the sparks that could start a fire. No metallic grounding path to bond the fixture housing, or the wiring leading to the other fixtures. There was no junction box anywhere. Just the BX cable bringing power to this light, the BX cable carrying it beyond to the next one, and the bare wires off this fixture. All spliced loosely and laying in the ceiling. No grounding, junction box, or even an attempt at using the outer metallic shield of the BX as a ground path as it is intended, even in a jerry-rigged way. Nothing.
Since the fixtures were not grounded, if there were ever an inadvertent contact between a hot connection or stray wire strand and the metal fixture, the entire fixture would become "hot." Then anyone who happened to touch that housing would be severely shocked if they themselves were grounded. Not much different than sticking your hand directly into the panel and grabbing the hot wire. Fortunately, since its a kitchen, there is never moisture on the floor, so that would never be a concern, would it? Being grounded yourself, that is. (FYI standing on a moist floor would be grounding yourself, in essence waving a red flag in front of this electric bull shouting "here I am, come get me!")
But thank heavens, the fixture is up in the ceiling. Since the fixture is way up high, a person in contact with that moist floor would never be able to reach it, at least. Except if they were leaning against or touching the metal refrigerator that makes up about a 36" wide by 28" deep footprint directly below the fixture, which we all know no one would ever think of resting an arm on or leaning against or stabilizing themself on as they lean over the top of it to reach the lamp socket, Since the metal fridge has metal legs that reach right down into the moisture on the floor, its a pretty safe bet they would never forget that day the rest of their life, if it did not conclude on that day.
Crook or idiot? in the end, it doesn't matter, does it? It turns my stomach to find crap like this. It really does.
|Posted on August 8, 2012 at 12:07 PM||comments (44)|
|Posted on August 7, 2012 at 1:46 PM||comments (72)|
Three more reasons why it may not be worth it to have a handyman or UN-conscientious electrician "throw up" a florescent light fixture in your vintage building.
1. They didn't understand or didn't care that the neutral wires be spliced together properly. The code requires all wiring splices to be "electrically and mechanically sound." 0 for 2. These wires were barely all held in contact by the wire-nut.
2. Premises wiring should be brought into the fixture through an approved knockout, with a proper fitting or at least a bushing to keep the sharp edge of the fixture knockout from slicing through the insulation and creating arcing. (and then a fire down the road.)
3. Ideally, the fixture will be installed such that the junction box in the ceiling will be metallically bonded (and thus grounded) by 6 or 8-32 machine screws to the actual metal fixture housing. "Throwing it up there" with some drywall screws or toggle bolts may keep it from falling down on someones head, but it won't ground it. If its not grounded, it could be the source of a severe, if not fatal shock, if you contact the metal housing while in contact with moisture in the kitchen.
You don't always get what you pay for, but you never get what you don't pay for. Keep your family safe. Use a real electrician. Your kids will thank you for it someday!
|Posted on May 15, 2012 at 10:00 PM||comments (57)|
|Posted on April 2, 2012 at 1:33 PM||comments (44)|
We did a full blown rewire a few weeks ago on a vintage condo in Hyde Park. This unit had the double whammy of 1. Not having the wiring updated since the 1920s. (A lot of great innovations in electricity and fire safety since then!) and 2. It had been "flipped." Which means there had been some updates. And they were done wrong. Cheap. Stupid. Dangerous.
Case in point, middle picture. This switch and GFCI outlet in the bathroom had at least 3 issues. First, the white and the vanilla colors on the devices clash terribly. Second, as you can see above and behind the GFCI outlet, there is a BX cable brought into the box. That is the metallic tube shaped affair with the armadillo like coiled metal jacket. This BX is not allowed to be just pulled into the box and left hanging there like that. It is supposed to enter the junction box by way of an approved fitting, i.e. a BX connector. The connector attaches to the end of the cable, and fits tightly with a lock-nut into a knockout hole in the box. This allows for support of the cable AND more importantly provides a grounding connection to the BX, and thus to whatever box or device is at the other end of it. As it was, the light fixture this BX lead to was ungrounded. In a bathroom. Not too smart. The third defect was that they did not take the time to peel the combustible paper wrapping off the wires. What was it Ben Franklin said? " A penny saved is a house burned?" Well, he flew kites in the rain so he is not my role model for electrical safety. The fourth problem, of course, is the cloth-covered wire that was left in the box. You can see with your own eyes it is falling apart.
The bottom picture shows something we discovered that is even worse. In the bathroom, at least they had the common courtesy to run BX. In the kitchen, they decided to add a light in a pass through area and they just ran some bare wires in the wall. No ground. No protection. NO BRAINS.
And as an added bonus, we discovered that two of the circuits powering the apartment we were rewiring were actually coming off of the neighbor's circuit breaker panel. If you look closely at the top picture, you see all the panels for this condo building. This installation is not original, it dates back to 1950s or early 60s. At that point, the smaller fuse panels were removed and these circuit breaker panels were installed. In so doing, all of the branch circuit conduits that you see coming down from the left and making 90 degree bends were routed into troughs (the metal "trays" with the grey covers that are below and above the circuit breaker boxes) When they did that, they must have gotten confused, because they ran 2 of my client's circuits into her neighbors panel and vice versa. But with a little investigation and a little diplomacy, (when we had to tell the neighbors we wanted to shut off their power for a while and work on their breaker panel) we were able to get it all straightened out!
All's well that ends well.