Peter McCarthy Electric Co., Inc. - Specializing in Older Buildings in Chicago
Adventures in Old House Wiring....

Crooks or Idiots? You make the call!

We had a service call last week where a client was concerned about bulbs burning out frequently in his recessed lighting, coupled with wanting a general check-up on them. The neighbors upstairs had flooded a sink and water had been dripping down from his recessed lighting. He was concerned about getting it checked out before using it again.

Upon removing first the bulb, the the trim ring, and finally the recessed fixture housing, I discovered that the crook or idiot who put the lighting in did one of those "I'll be long gone before this gets discovered" deals.  The fixture housings were ungrounded, and the conductors emanating from them were run in the free air above the ceiling. No junction box to contain the splices. Or the sparks that could start a fire. No metallic grounding path to bond the fixture housing, or the wiring leading to the other fixtures. There was no junction box anywhere. Just the BX cable bringing power to this light, the BX cable carrying it beyond to the next one, and the bare wires off this fixture. All spliced loosely and laying in the ceiling. No grounding, junction box, or even an attempt at using the outer metallic shield of the BX as a ground path as it is intended, even in a jerry-rigged way. Nothing.

Since the fixtures were not grounded, if there were ever an inadvertent contact between a hot connection or stray wire strand and the metal fixture, the entire fixture would become "hot." Then anyone who happened to touch that housing would be severely shocked if they themselves were grounded. Not much different than sticking your hand directly into the panel and grabbing the hot wire. Fortunately, since its a kitchen, there is never moisture on the floor, so that would never be a concern, would it? Being grounded yourself, that is.  (FYI standing on a moist floor would be grounding yourself, in essence waving a red flag in front of this electric bull shouting "here I am, come get me!")

But thank heavens, the fixture is up in the ceiling. Since the fixture is way up high, a person in contact with that moist floor would never be able to reach it, at least. Except if they were leaning against or touching the metal refrigerator that makes up about a 36" wide by 28" deep footprint directly below the fixture, which we all know no one would ever think of resting an arm on or leaning against or stabilizing themself on as they lean over the top of it to reach the lamp socket, Since the metal fridge has metal legs that reach right down into the moisture on the floor, its a pretty safe bet they would never forget that day the rest of their life, if it did not conclude on that day.

Crook or idiot? in the end, it doesn't matter, does it? It turns my stomach to find crap like this. It really does.
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