Sunday, 15 March 2009

Every which way but loose (wires)

I'm very proud of myself.

I changed the light switch in my bathroom.

While that may not sound particularly impressive to most people, with this particular light switch it's most definitely the crowning achievement of my year so far. Let me provide some background....

I live in a top floor flat of one of many Victorian terraced buildings in my street. Note that by Victorian I'm meaning Queen Victoria's reign (so in this case something built about 1880). My particular flat was once part of the whole house. Sadly the whole house was owned by an Evil Demented Builder who 'self-converted' the house into two flats (one with the attic, one with the basement). Examples of the genius of the Evil Demented Builder include:

Putting the boiler in the kitchen
Getting the boiler to pump the hot water into a PLASTIC tank in the roof space.
Making this plastic tank holding boiling water an OPEN PLASTIC TANK
Letting this open plastic tank drain into another, smaller, OPEN FUCKING PLASTIC TANK
Letting this smaller open plastic tank feed the radiators

I'd estimate the overall efficiency of this entire process at maybe 4%. My gas bills would've been huge, if only I hadn't soon discovered that you couldn't have the heating on for more than an hour every 12 hours. I discovered this the day (a week after moving in) my brand new sofa was delivered. My brand new cream and pale green sofa (it was tasteful in the 90s, so there). My brand new sofa that was placed directly below the plastic tanks in the roof space the day I accidentally left the heating on in the morning before going to work. Of course the tanks melted and dumped roughly 100 litres of water straight through the ceiling and all over the sofa. Thank heaven for Scotchguard - the best £20 I ever spent.

Anyway, the point is that Evil Demented Builder was a twunt, and that Evil Demented Builder did the wiring.

Oh yes.

So when the toggle switch for the light in the bathroom (that's the actual bathroom btw, not the toilet, for the septics out there) went, I unscrewed the housing with some trepidation. Even after shutting off the electricity for the whole flat I was nervous, for Evil Demented Builder was also a colourblind epileptic with a fetish for bare wires. For all I knew, this particular wire was on the same circuit as the house two doors down.

So on Alfaman's advice (Happy Birthday btw) I went to B&Q to buy a new light switch and a circuit tester. The circuit tester was easy - they were expensive so I didn't get one - so instead I bought one of those little screwdrivers with a bulb that lights up when it's touching something live. They were cheap :)

Buying a replacement switch however? Hmmmm.

I found the electrical section. I found the bathroom electrical section. I even found the toggle switches for bathroom electrical section. Therein lay my problem. There was an entire section of these things, all with helpful cords to pull to test the action. I narrowed it down to the cheapo ones (I'm not proud) but even then I was presented with a choice of (outwardly identical) 1-way, 2-way, 3-way, 4-way and 6-way (6!?! I'm not sure I even know what a 6-way is) toggle switches.

Brilliantly they came in little plastic bags with the wiring diagram folded up inside. There was no way of knowing what the inside looked like (my only reference point was what the inside of the one on my ceiling looked like). I asked the advice of a passing B&Q salesperson whom was possibly more acne than face, and received the ever-so-helpful response of 'Dunno mate.'

Thanks. For. That.

I went home and stared at the ceiling some more. Then showered in the dark for another week.

The following Saturday (also known as Yesterday) I went back to B&Q and stared at the switches daring them to crack and own up to being the one I needed. After twenty minutes I gave up and bought a 2-way as it's my lucky number.

And it still is. Result!

Once I'd checked the power was definitely off, changing the switch took less than five minutes. So after three weeks of saving energy (quite a bit seeing as the fan which turns on at the same time as the light appears to have been fashioned from the engine of a Jumbo Jet) I'm back to normal. At least now I can identify which toothbrush is which in the morning....


Kevin Musgrove said...

Your man seems to have been busy. I think he's the one who put the cold water tank over the entrance hatch to my loft, switched all the cold and hot taps and custom-built a central heating switch that consisted of sticking a lighted spill behind the gas fire and hoping you don't go bang.

Well done, you! You give the rest of us confidence that we may sort our houses out some day.

Sweet Cheeks said...

Good job Little Squirrel!

Dealing with electricity is always frightening...I've seen Mr. Cheeks zapped a good one many of times over the years...we too lived in a few apartments/houses that were the sad result of over confident do-it-yourselfers. Thankfully, we have our own home now...bought it new. Kitchen was wired backwards though....funny.


Pearl said...

A leap of faith, buying that two-way.

I couldn't have done it. Me and electricity are barely on speaking terms, after an incident with me and a fusebox. (One's hair really DOES stand on end, by the way, no matter how long it is.)


Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

if you heard a sound like gas leaking, it was just me taking a sharp intake of breath at your audacity!

Jan said...

LMAO @ "twunt". I love it!

You should have seen my chin drop when I read about your sofa; I so KNEW what was coming. I'm with you - hooray for Scotchguard!

Belle said...

Twunt - I love it more - and so I'm stealing it. It is now my new favourite word. Thank you Squirrely

weenie said...

Get you, Mr DIY! Had it been me, I would have had a lot of candles lying around.

Red Squirrel said...

Kevin - maybe Evil Demented Builder belonged to some sort of clan of incompetent tradesmen? No wait, that's called 'The Yellow Pages'....

Sweet Cheeks - normally I wouldn't touch electricity with a bargepole but needs must. I hope to delay the inevitable shock as long as possible!

Pearl - sometimes a guess is a good as an informed decision ;-)

Roshni - compared to the plumbing, the wiring has been almost acceptable. Almost.

Jan - you should've seen my jaw drop when I got home from work that day. Water, when seeped through plaster turns everything brown. I think I went straight back out again and went to the pub.

Belle - you're welcome :) Plenty more random swear words will be appearing in due course...

weenie - candles are nice for a romantic bath, less so for a rushed shower before work :)