Oooo…all tingly…

Oh, boy…a long-winded post. I’m a writer, it happens. One of those “late night and the sleep won’t come” kinds of things…

Heh…and the tingly part is electrical in nature…

Sooo…I don’t feel really good about the progress lately. A combination of weather and work that’s actually pretty typical for this time of year has put a damper on things. A downright chilly damper at times!

A double blow (or perhaps triple) has been the budget and the economy. Taxes, insurance, pay cuts, vehicle crashes, medical stuff, incredibly rising materials cost…yeah, the standard stuff. We got *creamed* last year, and this one looks like it’s going to be worse.

Yeah, we’re not alone. Everybody is dealing with the same environment right now…and we’ll get by it…but the question is how much damage will we take in the process. I do prepare for a rainy day…but I’ve not seen it this bad in my working career…where income vs rising costs have been SO far apart…and a “correction” does not appear to be on the horizon (witness gas prices this week and the charlie-foxtrot that is our current government and industry leaders).

Much of this project I’d rather not do at all, than do incorrectly. I want things done so I don’t have to do them again, and I’m also trying to avoid fixing things “temporarily”, preferring to wait till I have the materials and time do to it right.

That has to balance against our use of our house and business, so the priorities have been randomly and sometimes radically shifting, depending on what our view of the future is at the moment…and of course the state of the checkbook and materials already on hand when those priorities shift.

We’re into reserves now. And they’ll go fast. Things are going to slow significantly now.

Oh, and that minor thing we call the weather changes things too.

I don’t like it…it slows me down.

I just want to put my head down and work. It’s the only way things get done, yet, so much tends to interfere.

And then there’s rest…and sanity. Also important things.

Ah, well…one thing is starting to come about. The weather’s turning. Spring is on the way, and the depressing winter weather is mostly behind us (here in Texas anyway…I don’t know how my friends in the great northern wastes can handle this stuff for so long).

So, time for some stuff. Stuff that doesn’t cost much. Stuff we have materials for, or perhaps stuff we just need to scout out a bit.

So…for this weekend…a little cleanup in the yard, some mower repair, and some lights.

Cleanup? Boring. Sleep late, eat some breakfast, run some errands, take a nap, hack on things with a crowbar, set some stuff on fire, take a nap, read a book…boom! One Saturday gone!

The mower? Mostly just staring at it and wondering if I can get by on those tires one more year. Perhaps with another gallon of slime…

Lights. Now we’re talking! Yeah. Those are sexy. There’s a tower involved you see…

Y’all might recall sometime last spring when we were working on re-siding the tower or “cupola” of our building on the square. It was an important project as the tower was somewhat dilapidated. We wanted to prevent further deterioration, do our part to maintain the historical ambiance of our town, and basically, to keep pieces of the thing from flying all over the square.

Last spring…wow…has it been that long? Tempus fugit. Yeah. Scary how fast too.

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to get back to tinkering on the tower. We’re not ready to open anything yet, but our building has character, and is an important part in setting the overall feeling on the square. One thing I wanted to get back to was the lighting.

As we got it, the building was equipped with some uplighting on the tower. It was, of course, inoperable, but as with most things, I’m completely confident that if I can get my hands on a q-tip and chocolate-chip cookie that I can fix absolutely anything.

So, Sunday morning I broke out the Left-handed Fargle-snorker to go see what I could salvage and adapt from the existing lighting system.

Frankly, I was hoping I could convert the existing 500 watt quartz-halogen fixtures to something a little more affordable to run and be back in business with just a few hours work and little expense.

Affordable? Here’s a perspective. The two existing fixtures if operable, would cost about two bucks a night to run at my existing contract and rates. Sixty bucks a month for lights. Can’t do it.

A CFL, sodium, or like replacement set of fixtures take that number down to about 15 cents a night…call it five bucks a month. That we can do, particularly given the weirdness in the commercial electric market. The actual bill would probably go down.

Recent adaptations in the CFL world are making those previously expensive fixtures/ballasts much more affordable, but what I really wanted to do was insert some CFL floods in the existing fixtures.

Sadly, I failed. The entire system has to be scrapped. It was never installed correctly and has aged…well…badly.

Tingly. That electrician’s sixth sense. Hanging around in an insulated bucket, by an insulated boom, you can still manage to fry yourself. Always treat electrical circuits as live, and if you don’t understand them, call a pro…or at least a friend who does.

They can be dangerous.

Weather tight conduit and boxes…along the lower edge of the awning…fed by a standard, not weather tight 4-square box near the top of the awning.

Know where this is going? Over the years, a little at a time, water enters the bad box and drains down into the weather tight part. Basically, it fills with water. Photo-cell, boxes, conduits…all full of water.

And of course it was live. The shorted photo-cell had energized the lights. The only reason they weren’t on was the bulbs had melted out of them long ago.

I didn’t *know* this Sunday morning…but I always assume anything electrical is out to kill me (despite having turned off several circuits suspected of being associated with the lights) and so approach it as live. A quick visual examination of the parts on the canopy and condition of the overall installation gave me additional pause as that sixth sense kicked in. Out comes the meter.

The subsequent disassembly and draining of the system (remember the three stooges crossing the wiring and plumbing?) told me all I needed.

Oh, and the little matter of having no ground at all meant that I could easily read at least 50 volts on the canopy due to the water-filled junctions and photo-cell. That’s the tingly bit.

Time to start over. The fixtures may be salvageable for another purpose, they don’t have the space to adapt for the bulbs I’m interested in for this application…the rest of it…conduit, boxes, photocell, wire…all junk.

Down it came. I pulled it all and capped it so it’s safe.

I don’t currently have the parts and certainly not the fixtures, and of course, no budget at the moment so…yeah…no lights yet. I know what I need though and have my eyes open for a deal. We’ll see.

I have another day off though…what to do? What to do?

Well, I have a chainsaw and gas, and several trees that have to come down at the suburban blah house…and a fixture to fix there…and a nap to take…and there’s that sleeping in thing…and the brakes on the car…oh, that oil change…

More later.

Daniel Meyer

About Daniel Meyer

Author. Adventurer. Electrician.
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3 Responses to Oooo…all tingly…

  1. Pingback: Fixture Adapting… | The Old Victorian

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