Before & After

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Making conduit go away

2014-11-30T23:31:28-05:00November 30th, 2014|Before & After|

Back at friends Rob and Patrick (owners of THE WIRED HENHOUSE), in the house made of concrete, they’ve mostly gutted their kitchen and are about to start moving walls and doors, leveling floors and adding framing. One door, they decided, was in the way of where they want some cabinets and countertop, and so the door had to move 18 inches to the left. No problem. Except the space to the left, where they want the new door to be, was occupied by five runs of old iron conduit, with a triple switch box in the middle (the before picture on the left, above), with live wiring inside for several power circuits and three different 3-way switch circuits. In the Before/After picture above, they look so different (one’s close up, the other from back a little farther), we added a red star to mark the same spot on each, to make it easier to see.

The big trick here was the cluster of three conduits coming out the top of the triple switch box and going up into the second floor of the house, in all different directions. We had to cut them off evenly up near the ceiling — without cutting the wires inside — and add some special compression connectors and a junction box (at the top of the AFTER picture, below). There were about 45 different connections involved, which we carefully numbered as we took everything apart. When we finally reconnected it all 12 hours later, everything worked exactly as before, first try.

We’ll be back in January, they think, when the framing is all done and they’re ready for the next phase: installing a new sub-panel and all the wiring for a modern kitchen.





Down on the Farm

2014-11-13T18:41:07-05:00November 6th, 2014|Before & After|

20141103_134139_600hSeriously, we don’t get out to work on farms very often, but here we are again.  The “Janet and Lee” family farm in Chili, which had a number of wiring problems in the barns, is mostly populated by pets disguised as livestock, including a pot-bellied pig named Wilbur (we assume the horse, of course, was named Mr. Ed).  Once again, we had to work under unusually close supervision. Luckily, we still had in the van about 8 full bags of apples from a job we had just finished out in Sodus, in orchard country, the previous Sunday.  Guess who figured THAT out.

The two days we spent there so far were mostly doing repairs. When we get back next it will be for some upgrades, and then maybe we’ll add some pictures of actual wiring, and some genuine before & after.  That’s in addition to the ducks, and the chickens, and the dogs, who all complained about being left out of the first round of pictures. [Scroll down for the slideshow.]


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Cable Reattached

2014-11-30T23:16:34-05:00October 11th, 2014|Before & After|

20140912_094115 half 1024wThe wind took down a tree limb on this rental property, and the tree limb took down the electric lines.  RG&E, the utility company, came by and reattached their wires to the house, but gave the owner 10 days to get the service cable itself reattached properly.  That’s how we found it, in the “before” photo on the left, with the service cable hanging by the connections to the RG&E wires.  It turned out that the weatherhead (the fitting at the top of the service cable, barely visible under the eave) was broken as well.  The fasteners for the cable were homemade by the original siding contractor: a thin strip of sheet metal, really just a scrap of the siding, with a rusty nail through it.  We reattached the cable using weatherproof screws and proper straps, and installed a new weatherhead at the top.  The only tricky part was maneuvering the ladder around the telephone wires, and then working left-handed.  Voila!

Too Many Fuse Boxes

2014-10-12T17:09:57-04:00July 8th, 2014|Before & After|

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This family had a total of 5 panel boxes of varying sizes, types, and ages, including not one but two fuse boxes, one dating from well before 1920. Fuse panels in general can be a problem, with one of the big concerns being the possibility of replacing a blown fuse with one large than the wire is rated for.  The older fuse box, the big black one in the center next to the meter, was a type banned by the electrical code long ago, where both the hot and the neutral wires are fused. This arrangement is a setup for serious safety hazards, for example if only a neutral fuse were to blow, and not the hot.

It was a tight budget situation, with dangerous old equipment, so we just replaced the whole bunch of panels and sub-panels with a single modern circuit breaker panel, and upgraded the ground system, leaving the existing RG&E meter in place. The owners did opt for a high-quality Square D breaker panel, arguably the Cadillac of breakers.

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The Wired Henhouse

2014-11-30T23:17:10-05:00November 12th, 2013|Before & After|

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My friends Rob and Patrick live in the country, rehabbing an unusual house made largely of concrete – floors, walls, and all. It’s not as unusual, though, as the world’s coolest henhouse that they built. This October (2013), in addition to some new wiring in the main house, the dining room, and the commercial-sized garage, they had us run an underground line from the garage across a driveway and a private road to the henhouse.

As part of the planning process, I submitted the proper notification for the underground line to “Dig Safely NY,” and they sent out all the utility companies to stake out the area for underground services. Two days later, Rob texted me: “Mike, Frontier [Communications] came by and they have an underground line 10 inches down running right in front of the henhouse. Now the chickens can have phone and internet!”

The fun part of the job was the henhouse interior wiring, including some lights, a timer, and an outlet to power the electric fence they installed, intended to keep the turkeys in and the foxes out (sadly too late for one gobbler that week). Wiring the lights in the henhouse proper was no doubt the closest supervision I can remember working under in years (see the slideshow for proof). At one point, I was on my ladder and dropped a screwdriver; I looked down quickly to see where it landed, but the chickens were even quicker. Two or three were already on it, scrutinizing it intently. I consider myself lucky to have gotten out with my belt and all my tools. Turns out the Claymation movie Chicken Run wasn’t fiction after all!

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The Wired Henhouse! Note the electrical conduit entering at the lower left.