And Then, There Was Light or I Thought My Father Was God

We live in a very old house. Not exactly old enough to be well-built, just old enough to be weird from the many years of remodeling and a lack of building permits.

So, I didn't think much of it when the overhead light in the kitchen went out a few days ago. I figured the fluorescent tubes were shot. Then, the porch light went out. Again, I thought light bulb, not electrical problem of mass proportions. I switched out the bulb. Nothing. Okay, probably the crappy fixture I installed a while back. We've had trouble with them before. But, with the kitchen light out, my curiosity was peaked.

I started checking the outlets in the kitchen. All fine. Of course, my dad (an electrician) had rewired that room when we gutted it for the remodel. The lights in that room, however, were never rewired (they're all overhead).

Then my parents called saying they be stopping by on Sunday. Sweet deal. An electrician in the house. And, like me, my dad cannot leave a mystery alone. We started with the kitchen fixture. After removing it from the ceiling, we could see where the ballast had been overheating to the point that the paint had peeled off the ceiling underneath. Comforting, and not the real problem. There was power on the black wire, but no neutral. So, no circuit. Hard to make light without a complete circuit.

But, it's an old house. We have 2 electrical panels. The original panel of little twist-in fuses that you can buy at the grocery store (or at least you used to be able to) and the newer panel (like 1960s kind of new) outside with actual breakers. No blown fuses. No tripped breakers.

As we continue exploring, pulling off outlet covers, testing wires, and looking puzzled, Bug decides to set up his LEGO train in the living room. When he goes to plug it in, no power. Turns out half the living room outlets are out. But, the overhead lights work and so do the other half of the outlets.

My dad borrows some of Hubby's old clothes and heads under the house. Wear he finds a pouring leak from a recently soldered pipe our plumber put in to tie in a hose bib that had been overlooked during the re-pipe he did. Can you say Water Bill? Then, I ask my dad what the orange wire is that the water is dripping onto and he says, "Who the hell wired this for you?" (It wasn't him...it was another of my husband's handy contractor-esque friends.) Whoever he is he has no clue about electricity. The wire for our 220v line to the A/C condenser unit has been run over and under a bunch of pipes and isn't in any conduit. Just a lone insulated wire. Under a constant drip of water. Super.

Still, no reason under the house for the lost neutral in the circuit. Up to the attic. Not me. My dad. Have you been in an attic in the summer? It's hot. Have you tried to look for j-boxes in an attic with sprayed-in insulation that has been compressing for 20 years? It's difficult. He heads back down. We're still stumped. He pulls more wires out of an abandoned box in the living room wall. Power. No neutral. But, it's obviously the box everything is feeding off of as they are all single wires in the outlets. Back up to the attic. He finds the wires from the living room box up in the attic and then, the last working thing they feed from -- a light in the entryway. Back down from the attic.

Off comes the light fixture to find many wires, and a neutral that has slipped out of the connector. I may be an electrician's daughter, but when I wired that light, I was working with about 4 inches of wire and no wire-strippers. It worked for a few years, but the rattling of the front door or general wobbliness of the house, and it came loose. My dad made a new pigtail out of the short wires to prevent me or anyone else from having to deal with that problem again and reconnected the fixture.

And then, there was LIGHT.

And power to outlets. And more light. And we replaced the kitchen light with the remaining art deco fixture we bought at the demolition auction of an old church in town. So, we don't have to worry about the burning ceiling feature of the old fluorescent light.

It was amazing. And we can all sleep now, except for the leak. Still waiting to hear from the plumber on that. Oh, and the effed up 220. I'm guessing my dad will be helping with that on his next visit.