Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Yes, I screamed like a little girl.

During my first electrical foray, that is. So, our new house has a funny electrical system, to understate it. We have five circuit breakers, eleven fuses on four different fuse boxes, and one remaining line of knob-and-tube wiring that snakes up the right side of the house and appears to be spliced into the first fuse box. So, we have not one, but three types of service in our system. Further, many of our switches are upsidedown, for some reason there are two outlets placed six feet high in one of the bedrooms, and most of our other outlets are placed horizontally on the baseboards (not vertically on the walls).
I need to be able to plug something in vertically in one of the bedrooms (that operates off the knob-and-tube), so I bought an adapter that you can plug in and the other side comes up vertical. Perfect, right? Not. It goes the wrong way, so the thing I am trying to plug in would go upsidedown. And H*me Depot doesn't sell an adapter that goes the other way. Still, this should be very simple, right? Just cut the power to the circuit, unscrew the outlet, flip it around, and screw it back in, on, voila!
No, no, no. At first, I didn't have a tester to tell when the outlet is live or dead, so I just plugged in a lamp and turned it on. Down to the basement to start pulling fuses and tripping breakers to see which one powers that outlet. Up and down, up and down the stairs I went (yes, I have since been uproariously laughed at by my brother-in-law for not just plugging in a loud radio rather than a lamp, but whatever- I got exercize), and the lamp stayed on, on, on. I tried every single one. But I noticed that my first floor stereo cut out on two different fuses, so I thought maybe the outlet was on two different circuits, getting power from both. So I go back to the basement and proceed to pull both main fuses, every minibreaker fuse, trip all five circuit breakers including the big honkin' one with a box all to itself (which I thought was the main, but apparently not), all at the same time. I shut down my entire service panel. And the lamp was. still. on. What the hell is going on?!?!?! I am wondering. That was yesterday.
So today I call my brother-in-law (the same one who was so unjustly laughing at me, considering the very bad advice he was about to dispense), and he has no idea where my outlet is getting power from, but suggests since I'm just turning it around, to just get a pair of needlenose pliers with rubber-coated handles, unscrew the thing, and use the pliers to flip it around anyway. You know, regardless of the voltage still running. Sounds dumb, right? Yes, so I shouldn't have tried it, but he's done his own electrical before, so... what do I know? So I carefully unscrewed the plate and the outlet. No problems so far. Grabbed the outlet with the pliers and started to pull it out just enough to flip it, and spit, spit, spit! Sparks are flying! I'm screaming like a little girl! And smelling fiery smells! Really, it was only a couple of sparks, and there was nothing on fire, and I was totally fine, but still. Holy schiza!
Then of course, I had an outlet poking about a half inch out of its box that I don't dare touch to screw back in. So I went back down to the basement and did the whole shut-off-the-whole-service-panel thing again, just to be sure, and now what? One of my minibreaker fuses is sparking at me! Even though I already pulled its main fuse! WTF?! Where is all this unauthorized power coming from? Oy! I called the electric company to ask them to come disconnect our power altogether since I can't figure out where the current is coming from. But they can't do it until sometime next week.
Now what? I can't just leave it like that! So I check on the outlet about a zillion times to be sure all's quiet, and rush to H*me Depot to buy a plastic thermostat box to screw over the rogue outlet until the power is disconnected, a voltage-sensing screwdriver, and an electrical fire extinguisher. Once home, and before reconnecting any fuses or breakers, I went over the whole house with that screwdriver. And you know what? Apparently half the outlets/switches/fixtures in our house still have power even when I pull every fuse and breaker on the panel. And even if whatever they supply power to shuts off. Holy mother. I don't understand this at all, and am not doing a damn thing until our service is disconnected at the street, but in the meantime I couldn't just leave us with no stove/fridge/other power. So I had to take my life (or more specifically my right hand) in my hands ;), pull on a rubber garden glove, and screw that sparky minibreaker back in, and reconnect the system (not that that apparently means much). So everything's pretty much back to normal, except for that silly-looking plastic box over my outlet. Now that all's quiet again, I'm free to wonder what on the goddess' green earth is wrong with my electric!
Oh, and that thing I needed to plug in? Sweetie's nightlight. You know, in case she comes back. Yes. I know. Nuts. I claim no excuse but love.

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