Posts Tagged ‘electricity’

Gray-Glo Versus The Garage

The day before Independence day we were hit with a thunderstorm that canceled fireworks. The deluge also killed power to our detached garage.

Now, the fuse to the garage was blowing last year during heavy downpours and quick snow melts. This reluctant handy-man (handy with a remote–The Voice) thought he fixed it last November.

In 2000 the old garage was demolished and replaced with a new one that had a larger footprint. This caused the contractors (two real handymen) to change the underground conduit run by cutting it short and installing an underground junction box. Inside the box they wire nutted the original wires to the new ones going into the garage.

All was fine until the day one of us working in the garden cracked it with a spade. So, when it rained the box got wet inside and shorted the wires. Blown fuse.

It was after digging up the box that I found the cover cracked and water in it.

Replaced box with new one and this time not only did I tape the wire nutted wires but I also coated them liberally with silicon. Then after closing the box up, I wrapped electrical tape around it and sealed it with more silicon. You’re probably seeing a pattern, an OCD pattern, with Mr. Gray-Glo.

And my repair worked…until the holiday deluge.

What was strange this time was that the fuse held after being replaced but nothing in the garage had power: no lights, no genie garage door opener, no fountain in the garden…nothing.

Because the fountain was the last thing using electricity added I thought maybe it was the problem and went to unplug. When I reached through the flowers to the weather-proof outlet (another thing replaced last year as I tried to find the cause of the fuses blowing) my hand received a sharp jolt. No it wasn’t a electric shock but a yellow jacket sting.

The SOB got Gray-Glo on his left hand ring finger. As any man will tell you that is one finger that always feels pain the most.

Hidden by the thick cone flower stalks, the bastards made a nest next to the weather-proof outlet.

Gray-Glo went all old school action flick on them with wasp spray and a shovel.

The fountain wasn’t the culprit.

And the garage was still without working lights.

And my finger swelled.

And because I was outside and the neighbor’s grand-kids were out, I couldn’t curse the way I knew would alleviate the pain.

So with sore swollen and itching finger and in all the high heat I began to test the circuits. My tester showed the Hot and Ground reversed. Voltage Hot to Return was only about 70 volts ac but Hot to Ground was the normal 120 vac. Yes, Mr. Gray-Glo is that kind of geek.

This guy then called an expert at one of the local big box depot stores to confirm the problem was what I thought it was. It was.

You really feel good when you know you can call someone to tell you what you think is what you think. Doesn’t happen much in this life, does it?

Eventually, it meant that someplace underground the Hot was still shorting to Ground and causing not enough current to power the garage.

Which meant the wiring underground inside the PVC conduit needed replaced.

What I thought happened was the box replaced last year was damaged again probably from gardening.

This time this stung man decided the best thing to do would be to replace the wire from the house to the garage with one complete run instead of the wire nutted mess under the garden inside a waterlogged junction box. By then this heat wave got the best of me and I called it quits for the day.

Monday was a better heat day as we cooled down to only the mid-80s.

One trip to the local big box home store and home again with 50 feet of romex.

Dug up the where the junction box is. Although it wasn’t damaged and still sealed by tape and silicon, it was wet inside. Somehow, someplace water made its way into it.

Opened all the pull boxes to make pulling the romex through easier (ha!) and began feeding the fish line through it and…it stopped as it hit something it would not and could not push through after about 30 or 40 feet was shoved into the conduit.

So, I went to the other end and tried to feed the fish line back the other direction and…it stopped again but this time after only four feet or so.  And I began digging from the junction box following the conduit and found it turned to the right away from where I thought it should have gone to the house. It went toward the driveway and that was when I realized exactly what the garage builders did. The new garage is maybe four or five feet wider than the original one and they ran new conduit around the extra width to the original conduit my dad and I laid years earlier for the smaller garage.

But, and this is key and led to more muffled curses (remember the neighbor’s grand-kids), they did not connect the two divergent pipes with a box; one pipe ended in dirt with wires protruding into the other pipe that ended in the dirt. That was why the fish line stopped. And it was also why the fuse blew and the hot is grounded–the wires are deteriorated and breaking.

Conduit With Broken Wires (Before)

Trip number two to the big box store’s electrical aisle to find a box that will allow me to connect the two cut off PVC pipes.

You may have wondered why estimates from professional electricians or plumbers or any other such trades/crafts men go off the budget and take longer that planned. I don’t after all this.

More digging and cutting of PVC and digging and cutting of PVC and digging and kneeling on rocks and digging and digging until the box would finally fit and the two ends almost fit into it. Some muffled curses and jerry-rigging pieces of PVC the box was in but the pipe going around the turn to the garage broke because the builders didn’t us a curved section of PVC; they merely bent a straight piece of pipe.

Conduit With Utility Box (After)

Trip number three back to the big box electrical aisle.

As an aside, each trip meant a change of clothes because with all the digging and sweating (even during the relative coolness of mid-80s weather) I was filthy and just could not venture out in public looking as bedraggled as I did.

A 90 degree section of curved PVC and some connecting pieces and back to digging and jerry-rigging I went.

Eventually, I had the conduit ready for wire pulling.

Now Gray-Glo had a new fear. What if this extra section of unknown and unplanned for conduit run caused my estimated 50 feet of  romex to not be enough?

Yellow jacket stings, digging up the garden, jerry-rigging conduit and connector boxes could all be for naught if my wire was now too short. Would the handy-man gods be this cruel?

Nothing for it but to press forward.

I fed the fish line from the pull box on the house, down the conduit into the ground and kept feeding it until I was it emerge out the opening in the new box newly installed near the garage. Attached the fish line’s hook to the ground wire of the romex and wrapped them in electrical tape. A few test tugs to make sure they remained attached and I was ready to begin pulling.

Now, Mr. Gray-Glo is a wireless switch technician in real life which means I do a lot of my work in front of computers sitting on my ass and have developed ass muscles.

And from watching baseball and football–The Voice

These ass muscles are fairly useless for real work like what I was about to attempt.

I tugged and pulled and heaved and breathed and panted and the romex moved maybe three or four inches into the pipe.

This proved to be a two man job and I was just one sole Gray-Glo.

Romex kept bunching and sticking at the opening into the PVC and had to be pulled out a bit and smoothed and then placed into the opening. Then after doing that, I would walk to the other end of the pipe and begin the pulling and grunting…back to the front end to smooth the romex and re-insert…back to other end to pull…lather, rinse, and repeat as needed.

There was almost four feet left to pull through and the romex would have been all the way out and inside the longest section of conduit. And that was when it stopped moving. Stuck in the pipe underground. I tugged…TUGGED…PULLED…and nothing moved. I could see the conduit move under the ground near where I was pulling on the fish line.

Like the big bad wolf…I huffed and puffed and made one hard strong pull using vise grip pliers for extra gripping on the metal fish line.

And with that one big pull…the fish line broke free from the romex and flew out of the pipe sans wire and all hope.

The romex could not make the 90 degree turn from underground to up the pipe where it ran along the wall of the crawl-space beneath the kitchen.

I had the fish line in my sore hands while the romex lay underground inside the pipe out of reach.

Attempting ventriloquism when you don’t know how hurts your jaws, teeth, and head as I let my words just explode only within me mouth.

Pulled the romex out and decided the next course of action (all action, no results–typical–The Voice) was to pull the romex through from the other direction. And here we go, again: feed fish line from garage end through underground PVC to the house end and attach romex there to then pull it back through from the house end toward the garage end. It was easier to type that then to actually do it.

Repeated actions written about eight paragraphs ago.

But this time with success. The romex was now pulled completely through the pipe. I pulled an extra four feet or so out to get enough to make the turn in the garden an reach the inside of the garage through the side wall utility box.

Then I repeated the fish line feed and romex connection and tugging and pulling the wire through for this short section. Which proved even more difficult because the PVC was not buried and the dirt would not weigh it down to keep it from moving with each grunted tug and pull of the fish line.

But eventually, I got it pulled into the garage and closed up all the pull boxes and buried the pipe. The garden was not a total wreck. A few plants were collateral damage from this doofus’ feet. A green tomato gave its life for the cause when the fish line sliced it off the plant.

Now a slow fret began to build in Gray-Glo as his sore tired ass and arms hoped he had enough wire to get under the kitchen crawl space into the basement where the utility box is. I measured but did not account for the extra mystery pipe that went around the garden.

And this was where the latest problem lay. The PVC under the crawl space was only 1/2 inch as opposed the the 3/4 inch used underground. There was just enough opening to fit the romex. This meant that the twisting of the wire around the fish line had no extra space to spare and the taping had to be minimal at best. Good news was this was a straight run.

Once the fish line with romex was fed into the small opening without room to spare, I could see it would move as freely as it could.

With minimal tape and wire twisting, I could not pull as hard as before and cause it to pull apart. By this time I could not pull anything hard anymore anyway.

It pulled through completely with about a foot left over. The handy-man gods at least smirked on me this time.

Wire nutted it both in the garage and in the house and screwed in the fuse and…I had power to the garage. The tester showed normal when plugged into the outlet.

The lights work.

The fountain works.

The garage door. Oh. That. There is something amiss with the sensors and it won’t allow the door to close. It lowers to about two feet left and then reverses back up.

That battle is for another day.


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