Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Wire

Unfortunately, this post is not about an action packed drama dealing with the ongoing battle between law enforcement and the drug trade in Baltimore.  Some days I wonder what is worse, the Baltimore projects or home renovation projects?


I'm kidding.

BUT--- Along those lines, I've realized that working night and day on a full house renovation is sort of like a heroin addiction (minus the euphoria):

1. You wake up every morning feeling like zombie
2. Your family and friends wonder why you have disappeared
3. It messes with your sleeping and eating patterns
4. Its a good way to flush your life savings down the toilet
5. No matter how much you do, it never really feels like enough

(alright I'll stop. This is too easy anyway)

I digress. Let's move on to our feature episode: THE WIRE

Seasoned Occupiers know that wiring is a much loved topic around here.  Its not that I think wiring is a "must-document" process (although, that doesn't hurt). I actually think that I'm not covered in plaster dust, joint compound, or paint so that I can actually touch the digital camera.

Let's take a look at our existing overhead light:

I wish this was final, then I wouldn't be doing any more wiring
As you can see above, there are three wires coming out of the ceiling.  The feed comes from a wall outlet on the front wall, and comes directly into the ceiling fixture before the switch.  For whatever reason, this seems to be my method of choice.  It as pretty easy to wire this way in this scenario, because the ceiling was open when I wired this room

Feed coming in from the outlet on the left, and continuing onto a switch to control it, and a final end -of-run wall outlet

So the three dangling wires in the previous picture are:
1. the feed
2. a 12/3 wire to control the fan+switch
3. the feed continuing on to power a final end-of-run outlet

Let's wire the switch first:

2nd hot wire capped and tucked away
Originally, I was going to wire one of those specialty switches here... it would take up the same amount of room as a single pole switch, but would have a little indexed slider to control the fan speeds.  I headed over to Billows Electric Supply on Washington Ave to see what kind of switches they carried (really just to get a price), but they pointed me to their "switch board". When I pushed them on the issue, they said those are likely a special order.  I was kind of unimpressed.  I know I have seen these before.  And I don't want to Decora or any new-fangled switch types either.  These new switches just don't seem to fit into an old house in my opinion.  Also, some of these things look repulsive.

Even if the sun burned out, I wouldn't touch this ugly monstrosity to put on the lights 


Well, let's bike down to [b]Lowes and Homey D to see if they have anything..

Hell freezes: the big box stores out-supply local and specialty stores

Ah well, looks like Depot wins with the conventional switch with indexed slider for fan for $22.  However, since I'm stubborn and cheap locally-minded and resource-savvy, I'll just wire this thing with a conventional switch since I already have a ten-pack at home.  Plus, let's face it: we will probably put the fan on when we sleep and just pull the chain right above us to adjust the speed.  Its likely that this type of wiring (a mere 3 feet away from the bed) is a total overkill anyway.

Am I losing you yet?  I know what you are thinking: "just wire the s.o.b. already!"  Here goes:

Since the feed comes into the light, re-purpose the neutral wire with some black tape, so future electricians know that  the white wire is hot coming from the lamp.

Five minutes later, we're wired.

Now let's switch gears to the ceiling.  First I will install the fan mounting bracket.  The electrical box itself is mounted on a metal bar that spans the studs, which should support up to about 50 lbs.

Recall this picture from the room's previous state.  Observe box on metal track between the existing ceiling joists, which I sistered to new load bearing ceiling joists that rest on the wall plates

Install mounting bracket

This actually gets pretty tight once you start stripping all the wires

I realized that things were getting fairly complicated with the 12/3 wire going to the switch.  I want to send power down to the switch box (from the fan control terminal) in case I ever decide to cough up the $22 to upgrade the switch.  I'll twist a wire nut on the red and black inside the switch box, then put that union onto the one terminal of the switch.  The other terminal will be the white wire (re-coded to black).

I know. It sounds confusing. Because it is.  Throw in that additional feed going to the outlet on the south wall, and you have a real complicated mess in the ceiling box.  I had to resort to a professional grade diagram.

Blue is the light control, and red is the fan control.  Not that it matters in the  way I finished this out.

OK- looks like we have to open up the switch box again

Wire nut goes on to the black and red, also throw in a jump wire to link us to the switch terminal
Its amazing how quickly the transition can be from 'complete dump' to ' bedroom'.  All it takes is one switch cover.


And we're wired.  The rest is just 'Ikea level' assembly of the fan.

This looks a little unbalanced

That's better!


Flip the switch.

The saga continues on the next episode of The Wire.

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