Shangri La

Shangri La

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I have a new appreciation for why electricians charge what they do. It's not so much that the work is hard as that it takes forever. I have 40+ hours into the wiring effort so far, including design work at home and 2 solid weekends drilling holes, running/stripping/splicing wire, hooking up receptacles, switches and fixtures, and wrapping with electrical tape. The LSW added a few more in doing the same and attaching nailing plates to the studs to ensure we don't drive nails through the wire after the wallboard is up. Half of this work took place during the monsoons last weekend, as the LSW previously reported. The other half took place on Thursday and Friday.

Like anything, the process gets easier as you go. You run a circuit, realize you've made mistakes, and redo it. Or you find an easier way halfway through. A few things I learned the hard way:
  • Receptacles are polarized. The hot (black or red wire) should be on the side with the narrow slot, and the neutral wire (white) should be on the side with the wider slot.
  • Make the pigtails (short wires running from a switch or receptacle to a wire nut) long enough to work with.
  • Don't try and cram everything together. I tried to branch a feeder wire to 4 separate lighting circuits in a triple-gang switch box, and found I couldn't cram it all in once all the connections were made. After mulling this over all night I realized that I should have done the branching in a double gang box in the basement below the switches, simplifying both my connections at the switches and my ability to trace the circuit later.
  • Working in a crawlspace sucks. Every single time I went down there I tried to stand up and cracked my skull against a floor joist. Next time: A full basement.
  • Spacing floor joists 1 foot on center is great for stability, but makes it really hard to drill holes to run wires...
The monsoon weekend, I was able to run the 15-amp general receptacle circuit, the 50-amp range circuit, the 20-amp basement GFI socket circuit, and the 20-amp, 240-volt well pump circuit. With these in place, I left a key with Hennessey electric, and they hooked the circuits into the panel, installed the meter socket and got me ready for CVPS to hook up the power. There were two challenges here:
  • The service hookup in Vermont has to be to a gable end, has to be at least 16' above grade, and must be more than 3' from any window. This was a challenge, but CVPS allowed me to come in above the window at the very tip of the gable, despite the fact that I didn't quite have the space.
  • A load panel (aka 'fuse box') is supposed to be placed so that there is 36' inches around it for access. It can't be over a counter or in a closet, and it can't go in a crawlspace. There is no building inspector in Shangri-La, but I wanted everything to be code if possible. This meant that the panel had to go near the front door even though the serviced came in by the back door. To do this, Hennessey had to install a second 100-amp circuit breaker below the meter, to allow the power between the meter and the box to be cut if possible. (Not really a challenge, but certainly more money!)

At this point, I expect I have about 8 hours of wiring left to go. Adding up the receipts, so far I have over $1,300 in materials and - I expect - about $300 for labor. I'm thinking I saved about $1,000 in labor by doing it myself.

While we were working on this, Green Mountain Well was on site drilling for water. More about that in the next post...

No comments: