Friday, November 14, 2008

Spaghettiful Electrical

me fighting with the 1 1/4" conduit

One more quick trip to Home Depot (the nearest hardware stores don't carry the larger size conduit or fittings), and then with K's help I pulled the fat wire from the main panel to the new sub-panel. I hadn't done much with conduit before, metal or PVC, and I learned why people love the flexible armored cable so much. Working with conduit is more difficult than working with cable, and the PITA factor goes up with the diameter of the conduit because there's less give when lining things up. Because I was running 4-3 wire (which doesn't bend very easily) to the sub-panel, I needed a larger conduit. For comparison, the Romex you normally pull is at most 12-3 for two 20 amp circuits; 4-3 is quite a bit larger and less flexible. But with both of us pushing and pulling and temporarily undoing a few things to get a bit more flex, we managed to get it pulled. Then I fed the end up to the main panel outside the house, hooked it up, and it was time to test!

I was mostly replacing existing circuits, but the one for the water heater had failed a while ago with a bad neutral. Circuit for the water heater (it's a gas-fired tankless, but requires electricity for its brains and to ignite) -- check. Circuit for the furnace (it's gas-fired, but we have an electrostatic filter) -- check. 240V circuit for the dryer -- check. New outlet for the washer -- hmm. OK, I mis-wired the GFCI. Hey, it was dark in the basement! A quick re-wire -- check. I still need to pull armored cable for a new circuit for the lights and some outlets along my work bench, but we're back to having a working laundry room, and heat when we need it.

a lovely sunset over the bay viewed
from our chairs on the hillside

Lately it's been much warmer than than normal. So fortunately it wasn't a big deal to not have heat for a day. Unfortunately we need a lot of rain (and snow in the mountains) to make up for the last two drought years.

In any event, I was pleased to get that work done. I then proceeded to start removing some of the old wiring. The water heater and furnace circuits are just a few years old, so mostly what I did was shorten the runs to go to the sub-panel instead of the main panel. But the washer had never had its own circuit, and it wasn't GFCI protected although it was right next to the laundry tub, so I was pleased to fix that.


The real scare was with the old dryer outlet. I'd always known it was a bit funky, i.e., right next to the laundry tub, outlet a bit loose, runs from the panel, through a fuse box(!), then behind the laundry sink. When I started removing it, I realized just how bad it was. There was no clamp on the box to hold the flex cable in, so it was relying on the wire and screws to hold it. No clamp also meant that any movement of the cable would rub at the wires themselves. But the crowning glory was when I went to remove the plug. There were no slots in the screws! Closer inspection revealed that they weren't screws, but a pair of 16p nails (galvanized, thankyouverymuch) holding the outlet and the box in place. No wonder the thing was a bit loose! I was very pleased to get rid of that.

Star was again unimpressed.


Fratzels said...

Gotta love conduit...especially when you get to the 2" and 3" size!! Congrat's on finishing.

Unknown said...

Thanks. Fortunately I haven't had to work much with the really big stuff yet, though we do use it out at the Habitat site.

Unknown said...

Someone seems to have really wanted your house to burn down. Sure you can do the job with a 15-20 A lighting circuit, but to the job properly, you really need to be heating that galvanized nail with a full 30 A from the drier...Yikes!

Ranks right up there with one our PO's. They decided to branch off of a knob and tube circuit by stripping the insulation on both hot and neutral wires and then simply winding the new cable around the exposed wires. No electrical tape necessary. Did I forget to mention that this was in the attic and someone had cellulose insulation blown into the rafter space? Sure I know that the cellulose is treated to be fire resistant, but I don't think they had this sort of situation in mind.