Adventures in electricity... A few months ago the painters removed all the switch and outlet covers in the house, and I took advantage of that to do some random inspection of the electrical work. After seeing some obvious problems and some shoddy work, along with some not-so-good components, I decided to replace all the switches and outlets in the house with quality new components – and to fix all the problems I found along the way.
Yesterday I inventoried all the parts I'd need, and made an epic purchase at Lowe's. My entire shopping cart was filled to the brim with large quantities of parts. The checkout clerk thought I was an electrician stocking up for the month. Just to give you a flavor: I bought 84 switches. This sort of thing comes along with a 4,800 sq. ft. house, I suppose. That pile of components is intimidating :)
When I got home, I broke out my tools and went to work in the living room. My first effort was to figure out why one switch, placed as if it were a light switch, didn't work. After some effort, I determined that it was supposed to control the top outlets on three separate dual outlets scattered around the room. The reason it didn't work? Somebody who didn't understand these things had replaced two of the dual outlets, and had not removed the “shorting bar” that allowed the upper and lower outlet to be controlled separately. I fixed that. Then I discovered one outlet with a missing ground wire – that's actually dangerous. I fixed that. The next outlet had the “hot” and neutral wires reversed – also potentially dangerous. I fixed that. I've only redone half of one room, and I've already found three errors, two of them potentially dangerous. I'm a little surprised the former owners survived!