Deb 4-27-06 Deb - Call an electrician for all electrical work. I appanently have a death wish, so I like to do this stuff myself. I do not condone or recommend working with electricity. In fact, I'd rather you just close this page right now, and not read any further.
Well, if you are still reading then I take no blame if you electrocute and kill yourself. (Deb 4-27-06)
I've been wiring some light fixtures, and prepping for a ceiling fan install, and I'm learning about how our building is wired, grounded, etc.
I'm posting my learnings as I go so I can refer to them later.
This info should only be of interest to those who might want to install a fancy dimmer switch, ceiling fan, light fixture, or other electrical DIY projects.
FYI for the DIY's: On the electrical outlets with your standard (non-GFCI) switches and plugs please take note:
It looks like we have BX cable -- technically known as armored ("armoured" means it's protected with metal covering) cable or "AC." It has a
flexible aluminum or steel sheath over the conductors which does double-duty as protection and used to ground the circuits.
NO, the sentence above is not correct. After peeking at how my kitchen fixture is wired, I can now see that what is referred to as "Greenfield" was used.
I guess that is the same use of the term as used in business when you want to wipe a slate clean ans start fresh, that is called a "greenfield approach." Apparently with electrical wiring it means that they started the wiring of the condo with an EMPTY flexible, armoured conduit, and pulled their choice of wires through it. As you will see further down in a photo of the conduit coming into my under-cabinet light, there is only an orange and a white wire coming out. Electrical ground is achieved only via contact with the metal sheathing.
In our Condo, electrical ground is only exsists when the plug, switch, etc. is
screwed into (makes contact) with the metal outlet box, which is in contact with the metal sheath on the BX-style conduit wiring...etc... which runs back to the panel which is grounded...etc...and the kneebone's connected to the thighbone... etc. etc. la la la.
So, the second you pull out a switch, from the wall...
like shown in the picture below, you are now working UNGROUNDED. You must find a piece of copper grounding wire and attach it to the
green ground screw and find a way to attach the other end to some open metal on the metal box.
If you do not understand what in the hell I'm talking about, then close this page and forget all about this subject.
The paint they sprayed all over the electrical outlets stops electricity from flowing.
So be damn sure your copper ground wire is making contact with bare metal.
Scrape a patch of paint off is you have to.
On a chandelier I bought, the metal mounting strap was covered with decorative paint. That strap was where the ground screw was attached. Insanity. I'd recommend grounding every fixture with a standard ground wire from the fixture directly to the electrical box and test for ground with a meter. Not just hope that you get ground because you hope once you get the fixture attached all the metal pieces are making contact.
4-25-06-Misc Pics for stuff I'm working on now.
No time to make notes or tidy the images up right now.
Oops, the photo above demonstrates a reason not to screw with your electrical!:
I facilitated the BX sheathing to detach from my under cabinet kitchen fixture. It may never have been a problem if I never would have mucked with it. But now that I have, I have to repair the wiring to make sure the sheath cannot easily be detached, and the screw holes in the cabinet are now stripped and I'll have to remount the damn fixture, and a piece of drywall dropped out, so I'll have to patch and paint the wall once I get everything else fixed!
I'm SORRY I EVER TOUCHED IT!!!
There goes my weekend!
But I've learned a ton about our electrical system today. (4-25-06)
last updated 4-22-2006
I'm going to put up a ceiling fan (with the light kit) in the bedroom soon.
I believe the outlet box in the ceiling is not rated for the standard "50lbs" required for ceiling fans. Which makes me wonder about the fan the builder put in for me in the living room. It is a smidge off balance. I'm going to investigate the mounting of this unit. If it is grounded well, and if it's mounted into a properly-rated oulet box for ceiling fans, and then rebalance it. I'd really be bummed if the thing fell on my head and killed me. Just kidding. If your fans are NOT mounted correctly with appropriate outlet boxes, you'll probably start seeing cracks in the ceiling long before it crashed down on your head!
The bedroom outlet box seems to be wired ok for both the light and fan. I'm not thrilled with the grounding methods employed, but I can work with it, and feel safe by adding the additional copper grounding wires to the outlets I'll be working on.
I'll have to choose a new combo switch for the wall and install that too. (Lutron makes some really nice ones nowadays.)
As I investigate whether I'll have to install a new outlet box at the ceiling (not fun, but pretty easy if you have a rotozip.)
P.S. Stop reading this right now, and call a licensed electrician for all your electrical needs!!!