Monday, May 25, 2009

As much as I enjoy the Talking Heads,

I do not particularly want to live the words of their songs.

Specifically, this song.

And yet, this was a very real possibility, as we discovered last night. Hubby and I had been merrily priming away in the lower level of the house, and were listening to the radio via Kiddo's boom box, which we'd plugged in to an outlet in the downstairs bathroom and set up in the hall so we could hear it without tripping over it as we were already frequently tripping over and/or jabbing each other with roller poles in the office as it was. Later on in the evening, I stopped painting after finishing up the rolling work, threw Kiddo into her bathtub and started attacking the mountain of laundry that was threatening to avalanche and bury the floor of our bedroom. All of a sudden, Kiddo yelled "HEY MOM, WHY'D YOU TURN OUT THE LIGHTS ON ME??" I was a little bit "huh?" as I hadn't, in fact, turned out the lights, but I glanced up the stairs and sure enough, the hallway and bathroom lights were out and Kiddo was bathing in the dark. Further investigation showed that the lights were out in the master bedroom and bath as well. I called down to Hubby to see whether he had just turned off a circuit, as he was busy doing things in the basement and it seemed plausible. He had not.

This was the point at which we both became mildly concerned. Hubby had been pulling wires in the basement, but only the old phone lines that were no longer being used. We went over all the lines he had pulled and thought that maybe, just maybe, he'd jostled something loose, but it didn't seem to be the case.

We got Kiddo out of her bath and into bed, with her boom box restored to her room (she sleeps to a white noise CD) and then investigated further. Hubby had also removed the lighting fixture temporarily in the office while getting ready to paint the ceiling in there, but none of the wires seemed loose/shorted out in the fixture. The rooms that were missing power were not any one circuit. It was part of two different circuits, which was odd. We couldn't trace the mystery power outage to any one thing we had done. We were perplexed, and I was wondering aloud whether our electrician would make emergency house calls on a holiday weekend and how much that would cost, and Hubby was responding that we could surely live without power in half the upstairs "for a few days" (ummm, NO) and then he found the cause of the problem.

Specifically, this:

That'd be the outlet from the downstairs bathroom. The same outlet that our house inspector had noted (he tested every, single outlet in the house) had a reversed polarity and had suggested we correct, you know, eventually. Turns out it was more than just reversed polarity (which, for those of you who are like me and for whom even the vaguest of "technical" talk makes you say "whaaaa?" means that wires were not connected to the right thingies in the outlet, you know, like white to white and black to black). The outlet's ground wire was also not connected at all. Again, I'm not some sort of home repair and/or electrician-type wizard, but I'm pretty sure that whenever one is discussing "ground" connections in relation to electricity, that the whole "grounding" concept is pretty important. That the "ground" bit is what keeps lines from shorting out or starting fires or what have you. You know, stuff like that.

Hubby promptly killed the power and removed the outlet. (That's how we got the picture he took above...) We had already picked up a new outlet to replace the old one with anyhow, so he installed it, and then this morning he picked up a new switch and installed that too. Hubby reported that before he removed that outlet, he stuck the little outlet tester thingy (that I didn't even realize we owned) into both openings of that outlet and that the lower openings sparked when he did that. Yipes.

So, our final conclusion was that plugging the boom box into and then removing the boom box from that outlet triggered the problem that triggered the short that caused the power to fail in part of the house (whatever was "upstream" of that outlet). The problem would likely have been discovered eventually, probably by the house catching fire and burning down.

Whew. Close one.

Hubby is confident now that none of the other outlets will cause this same problem and that we have corrected the one thing that could cause the house to burn down.

I'm buying some more smoke detectors today and putting like three in every room. Just in case.

The joys of buying an older home........


SwizzlestickMama said...

Ugh-what a pain. Glad you got it sorted out!

After finding that, I'd want 3 smoke detectors in each room too!

Creative Junkie said...

AACK - how scary is that? Good thing you found it when you did.

Electrical fires are on my list of things to constantly freak out about just in case they happen.

Em said...

Oh wow! Electrical stuff freaks me out. Glad it has a relatively happy ending.

Except that I'll be hitting my arm all day - Talking Heads - excellent.

Hot Tub Lizzy said...

ACK!!! I'm so glad you've gotten that taken care of...

Mr. B is hopefully getting the inspector into our house this week... should be VERY interesting to see what they find....

Ronnica said...

Yikes...I'm glad that there wasn't actually a fire...been there, done that, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone!

Carrie said...

HOLEY CROW! That scares the bejeezus out of me! Thank goodness you found it!!

That song always reminds me of the scene in Revenge of the Nerds where the Alpha Betas start the house on fire from blowing liquor across a lighter. That movie is such a classic!