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Electrical Wiring Can Be Hazardous

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 14, 2012

It’s been a hectic week at the Cohen household. The fun all started when I was preheating my oven. I heard two or three popping noises in quick succession and then the stove went off. It had tripped the circuit breaker. As I had done when this happened a couple of times before, I switched the circuit breaker back on and put the oven to a lower temperature. My critique group was coming over and I had to bake our meal. However, this time I called the appliance repairman. Something was definitely wrong. Previously, I had called the electrician who did our kitchen renovation but he said it didn’t sound like an electrical problem.

Later that afternoon, the appliance guy comes. He tests the range and says it’s working fine. Now, the entire range is shoved out into the kitchen but is still plugged in. He puts the circuit breaker back on, which he’d turned off while he ran various tests, and I tried to recreate the problem by putting on the oven and a burner. Pop! Pop!

“Fire!” he yells. “Cut the power!” He grabs a glass of water and tosses the liquid into the electrical box in the wall. He’d seen the wiring arc in an actual flame. We retrieve our fire extinguisher from the adjacent laundry room and he sprays inside the hole. Whew. One disaster averted, but I’m still nervous about the house catching on fire if the flames got up inside the wall and reached the roof.

He suggests we call an electrician. Someone (i.e. like our kitchen renovators or the range installer) had spliced aluminum wiring with copper wiring in the wall. “That’s a fire waiting to happen,” the savvy appliance man said. The aluminum has to be replaced with copper.

I call my former electrician, who had worked on the kitchen. He answers the phone himself and sounds reluctant to respond. Says he’ll come over tomorrow. We go to sleep, reassured that we’d recently put in new smoke alarms. I kept my purse and iPad handy in case I had to dash out the door in the middle of the night.

After not hearing from the electrician the next morning, we look in the Yellow Pages and pick out an electrical service that sounds decent and is on the BBB site. They give free estimates. The foreman comes over and gives us the bad news. Not only do we need to replace the wiring behind the stove, but the a/c units are also running aluminum wires from outdoors to the circuit breaker box. Those wires have to be changed. But wait, our house isn’t grounded because of the screwy way someone put the wiring in the panel. Oh, this and that are loose and the whole thing isn’t up to code, not to mention being hazardous. So for $4400, we got an entire new circuit breaker panel and copper wiring the next day.

Another problem came to light. The panel had to be moved, because the a/c people had put their indoor unit partially over the panel cover. That was another no-no. But the panel can’t be moved over sideways because the wires come through fixed pipes. The only option is to cut a new hole into our breakfast room portion of the kitchen and put it there, then patch up the hole.

 

P1010616 (600x800)

P1010617 (600x800)
As our door was open for much of the day to let in the light (the power was turned off) for the workmen, now we share our house with a happy group of mosquitos.

Next on the list is a painter. And a big picture to cover up the ugly gray panel door facing the kitchen. We still have to wait for the city inspector as we did get a permit (for an extra cost).

Oh, and we had to get our fire extinguisher recharged, so that was another expense.

Haven’t you heard that expression, “When it rains, it pours.” That applies to house repairs.

Our kids came home for Mother’s Day weekend, so I could relax a bit with them, if you call dining out and shopping relaxing. Buying them clothes put a further dent in our budget. Now they’ve left, the house has quieted, and I’m hoping I can get back to writing one of these days.

Don’t you love house repairs?

The moral of the story is: Don’t mess around when it comes to electricity. Get a qualified electrician to evaluate your house’s wiring. And get a permit when required by city ordinances.

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12 Responses to “Electrical Wiring Can Be Hazardous”

  1. scrapgirl1467 said

    Nancy,

    I am sorry to hear of all your house repair woes, but also very grateful that you found them out before you had a fire or worse. I know it is costly, aggravating and scary. I hope this will be the end of it and that the people who do the work will be competent and fair. Sending prayers your way. . .

  2. Nancy Roessner said

    I can just hear those dollar bills flying and fluttering away. I sympathize. It does seem that it was one thing after another. I was surprised that the repairman threw water on the fire. Haven’t you always heard not to throw water at an electrical fire? I thought I read that. Anyway, it all turned out good. Pretty much.

  3. Yes, that bit about the electician throwing water on the fire surprised me, too! Doesn’t seem at like the right thing to do. Sounds like you had quite a nightmare, but I’m glad you caught it before something really dangerous happened. Just think if your stove hadn’t warned you of the brewing problem, what might have eventually happened.

  4. Jeanne Meeks - said

    Thanks for the timely topic. The other day the kitchen chandelier at my Dad’s condo (He’s on his death bed) popped light bulbs and the switch socket got singed. His significant other reset the circuit, but it happened again. We figured out that his oxygen machine was on the same circuit, probably overloading it.
    A real electrician comes tomorrow. I’ll have him look for aluminum / copper wiring.

    I’m glad you got yours taken care of. It’s only money.

  5. Throwing water on an electrical fire wasn’t the right thing to do but it was a natural, quick reaction. He didn’t know we had a fire extinguisher. Allison, you’re right in that the stove incident likely saved our house. “A fire waiting to happen” is what the electrician said about our ancient circuit breaker box.
    Jeanne, it’s a good thing you have a qualified electrician coming today. You don’t want a fire hazard where your Dad is lying ill.

  6. mecgroups said

    My electrician told me that if you think that the lights illuminate when you turn on the switch, the refrigerator keeps your food cold, and the TV set works, This doesn’t mean you do not have an underlying electrical wiring problem. If your home happens to be more than 10, 20, 30 or 40 years old, you will need to upgrade your wiring.

    It’s good to hear that you’re safe Nancy.

  7. [...] Electrical Wiring Can Be Hazardous (nancyjcohen.wordpress.com) [...]

  8. EPC said

    Electrical wiring can be hazardous if this is installed badly..

  9. Peter said

    I learning from your experience, I never experience any electrical-related accidents since so I feel so lucky to know what the cost if thing like that is not given any attention. Good thing we had the Best Orlando Residential Electrician every once in awhile to check on our house wiring.

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