The wacky fun house of electrical mishaps.
December 10, 2012 by 2 Comments
Every house has its own life pulse, and once you find it and learn to move with it, tasks within the household become much easier to take on. The older the house, the more set in it’s ways it becomes. I don’t mean to imply that the houses are alive- they’re not going to open up their doors and gobble us down like hungry hungry hippos…
Yeah. Like that.
Oh, who am I kidding! That’s exactly what I mean. The older the house, the more likely some crazy entity has possessed it, and it’s hungry for your soul. You’ve been warned.
Aaaaand, back to reality!
I have had the blessing of living in a handful of very old properties- the oldest being a huge Victorian era building from the mid 1800’s, but even that property didn’t have some of the wacky quirks that our Castle by the Sea seems to crop up with. Today we’re going to discuss the electrical system. It’s working well enough, but having a professional out to give it a once over and possibly some updating is very high on the to-do list. But first, we have to figure out what the switches do, which is not anywhere near as simple as it sounds. There are close to 40 switches in this house, and about a quarter of them don’t appear to do anything. Or so we thought.
We’ve since discovered that one switch cuts power to an entire swath of the house. One flick of a switch, located NOWHERE NEAR that side of the house cuts power to almost the entire old wing of the property. Then there’s the random double switch set in the master bedroom, in which only one switch seems to do anything at all- cut on and off the power to only the top light sockets on that side of the bedroom. If that single switch cut the power to all of the top light sockets in the bedroom, it would at least make some sense. But it only affects some of the sockets in the room, and their position in the room is scattered. Perhaps the second switch along that wall controls the previously unaffected sockets. We haven’t tested that far yet.
Then there’s the fact that most of the switch sets, when they are double, triple or higher in number, are set sideways. As in the switches flip from left to right, rather than from top to bottom, so we’re never sure when a switch is on or off. Complicating the matter further is that most of the sideways switches have a sister switch on the other side of an adjoining room. How do we ever know which way is on and which way is off if two sideways switches control the same light?
The overhead lights and ceiling fans are another problem. The ones that work work well, save for the standard craziness that comes with ceiling fans. They have three positions: “off”, “so faint you can’t feel anything” and “the neighbors were killed in a freak runaway ceiling fan accident”. The ones that don’t work don’t turn on at all. Perhaps it’s just old wiring. Perhaps rats chewed connectors. Perhaps they toy with our emotions and feed on the frustrations of humans never knowing which direction of the lateral plain to flip their funky switches to actually make sure things are turned off. Plus, it’s clear that at least one of these seemingly dead sideways switches must control the dead overhead fans.
It was at this point that I suggested a mathematical logarithm to help us identify the number of broken appliances, light fixtures and wall sockets visa vie the seemingly useless switches. But I’m not that good.
So instead of hiring a math guru, we thought to plot a grid of each room, the location of switches and items within the room that said switches might possibly be able to control. Then we realized this would be a large waste of time when we considered that a single switch can cut the power to an entire wing of the house while still being nowhere near that side of the structure. Which brings us to the hear and now.
Over the next few nights, we will flip on and off any number of switches and see what, if anything, lights up. Identifiable switches will be marked with masking tape and labeled on the spot, as well as in a notebook citing the location and function of the switch. This way we can (at least somewhat) figure out what switches don’t appear to do anything at all. It’s a start. Hell, I imagine this information would be useful to the electrician we’re obviously going to have to hire. At the very least, we’ll save a couple of bucks without him standing and scratching his head as we have been doing for the last month or two.