Feren (feren) wrote,
Feren
feren

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Who the hell does this sort of thing (house/construction rant)

In preparation for the arrival of my parents, who should be here any time in the next hour, I put a space heater into the guest bedroom and turned it on. The guest bedroom in my house is at the farethest end of the furnace's limits so it tends to be chillier than the rest of the house in winter and can use a bit of auxillary heating.

Five minutes after I turned the heater on, the lights in the master bedroom and the office (a repurposed bedroom) went dark. The UPS units in the office went bezerk. Was I having a brown-out? No, the furnace was still running and the light in the den was on.

Huh.

Off to the laundry closet I go, where a few seconds of looking later I can find a tripped circuit breaker. I reset the breaker, turn the electric space heater in the guest room down and go back to the office. About a minute and a half later, the UPS alarms are going off again and I'm sitting in the (relative) dark.

Sigh.

Back up, back to the laundry room, reset the circuit breaker. lady_curmudgeon suggested replacing the big space heater with her smaller ceramic-based unit. I do so, and once again three minutes later it's BEEP-BEEP-BEEP in the dark time.

I have run a heater in the guest room before and never had this problem, so this new set of circumstances vexes me mightily. I am making my way out of the office and cursing when I notice in the living room the Christmas tree lights are off, too. Wait, what?

Reset the circuit breaker, turn off the heater in the guest room completely and review what I know. I knew that all three bedrooms are strung on a single electrical circuit, but why is the livingroom off? Back into the breaker panel I go, and I reread the chickenscratch handwriting on the legend. "Bedrooms/living room." Then I look at the breaker - it's 10 15 amps.

TEN FIFTEEN. AMPS.

Ten Fifteen amps to run the master bedroom, the guest room, the living room and the office. But wait! I also know from tinkering about in my electrical panel that this same circuit also serves the master bathroom, the guest bathroom AND the garage. You know, the garage that has the flood lamps for the flag pole plugged into it.

TEN FIFTEEN. AMP. BREAKER.

The way I was taught electrical work, while growing up, was to put every room on its own circuit with its own breaker. Clearly the contractor who wired this house was taught no such thing and had no qualms snaking wire hither, thither and yon throughout the walls and connecting an unnecessarily long leg attach to a single breaker. This explains everything: with the new flood lamps for the flag pole running off the garage, the exterior Christmas lights running off the garage, the Christmas tree lights running in the guest room and the various other electronic widgetry I've added over the intervening years (cell phone charges, new clock radio, etc) I've taken this breaker and pushed it to the very edge. The additional resistive load of a space heater takes that precarious balance and kicks it right off the cliff.

Great, so now I know what I'm doing for my spring project in the house! In the next few months I'll be plotting which walls are coming down, amassing conduit to put in and when it's "Go Time" I will be replacing this snarl of copper-clad aluminum crap with proper romex. I'll have to hire an electrical contractor to replace the breaker panel (it's far too small and doesn't have nearly enough breaker positions to take each room onto its own circuit) but that's fine. Hell, while I'm in there I'll have to see about the feasibility of pulling a 50 amp 240 line into the garage to run a sub-panel so I can put in my welder and air compressor.

I can't help but keep coming back to the thought that some lazy bastard thought a single 110v 15 15 amp breaker serving all those rooms was acceptable or even "good enough." Oh, to travel back in time and slap some contractors...
Tags: 2010, electrical, gruntle, house
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