Every now and then I have to resort to home repairs. I am usually content to let things rot and decay provided they do so slowly enough that it doesn’t draw attention. But some things demand action. For several years the ground fault circuit interrupter on the electrical outlet in our bathroom would pop. This was a result of me actually installing a GFCI protector on that outlet. Up to that point, hair dryers and shavers and other small grooming gadgets kept mysteriously shorting out. When I realized that somehow, against all building and electrical codes, the bathroom receptacle had been installed without a GFCI I went and installed one.
That was when we noticed the pattern to the tripping. It always happened during or just after a rainstorm. Clearly the two things were related. I even went as far a getting an electrician in to try to track it down. He tried to blame a dustbuster plugged into the garage receptacle. I knew that was bullshit, but not wanting to throw good money after bad, I let it go.
When we had some kitchen cabinets installed, it required relocating a couple of outlets so I picked the brains of the handyman for theories. He suggested that something outside, perhaps a light, was getting just enough water in it to short out that circuit. I filed that idea away and didn’t pursue it any further. After all, the GFCI did its job of protecting the receptacle and it was only a minor inconvenience to reset the tripped circuit once a month or so.
Then I got FIOS (which is a tale for another day once that settles down) and they plugged the network MUX or TUX or whatever they call it into the receptacle in the garage that was on the same circuit as the GFCI. Now every time the circuit tripped it took down the phone, the cable TV, and most seriously, the broadband connection. This was now a problem. I can live without a shaver for an hour to two. I can’t make it through a day without the interteat.
I decided it was one of two things. The short was either in the weatherproof outdoor receptacle or the backdoor light. There was also a suspicious bowing of the wall by the switch for the backdoor light which was just over the outdoor receptacle. Some forensic circuit breaker tripping narrowed it down to the receptacle since it was on the GFCI circuit. Rather than take chances, I told my wife that I was going to replace both the receptacle and the backdoor light. Since my boss had given the company Christmas Eve off, I was going to brave the mobs at BigBoxOfLumber and get the supplies I needed.
|Old Front Door Light||New Front Door Light|
|Old Back Door Light||New Back Door Light|
My wife, catching me in a home improvement mood and not trusting my taste in fixture, insisted in accompanying me and to pick out a new light for the front door as well. It seems all the neighbors had replaced their front lights and we had to keep up. She picked out the duplicate to the one that our more ambitious, young, home-improvement minded, childless neighbors had bought. The best feature of the replacement lights is that the bulb is changed from underneath rather than from above, thus allowing my spouse to change the bulb at will without the aid of me or a stepladder.
Once back at the house, armed with a can of foaming insulation goop and a cordless screwdriver, I went at the back door devices. Sure enough, the receptacle was rusty on the inside and the cover was fitting none too well. I got a big can of foaming insulation and squirted fizzing goo all around the electrical box. I then replaced the cover and the foam that keeps it “watertight.”
Then came the light at the back door. We hardly ever turned it on since we rarely went out back and our next door neighbors always complained if it was on while they were using their hot tub late at night. This thing was so rusted out I was amazed it hadn’t fallen clean off the wall already. It too had a gaping hole behind it that I caulked within an inch of its life. After I got the new light solidly affixed to the vinyl siding I turned back on the circuits and everything worked fine. Exhausted I quit for the day and rested on my laurels.
A few days later, after a few polite questions from my wife about the timetable, it was time for the light up front. To change it I had to stand on my trusty painters ladder and lean out over edge of the front steps and not drop anything into the bushes below. This should have been a two person job, but with only one ladder, a helper would have only gotten in the way. I got it installed with a minimum of banging, pulling, and cursing. This new light has all sorts of cool features. A light sensor turns it on at dusk and a timer turns it off after either one, three, or six hours. It also has two levels of illumination so that when I pull into the driveway or when a neighbor walking his dog goes by, it brightens up.
So for less than a hundred bucks I gained some handyman cred and made my wife happy. I may even be off the hook for another few months unless something else breaks. And best of all, the internet has not blinked out in the rain since.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: What home improvement projects have you been up to?