Sunday, October 01, 2006

Helpful Electricians

There is always something to do when you live in a strawbale shack on 10 acres. I can always mow, weed-whack, or water. Of course repairs seem to jump up regularly. Yesterday, Lesley loaded up the dishwasher and pressed go, but it didn't play. I figured, the breaker was tripped, no big deal,...

I went out and flipped the breaker labeled "Dishwasher, Septic Tank, Under Kitchen counter outlets". It popped right back off. Okay not as simple as I had hoped, but what else would I want to be doing on a sunny Saturday, moving dirt around?! I went under the kitchen sink and found the 20amp GFI outlet had popped and it wouldn't reset. "Okay, lets trace this back logically and solve the issue,...."

When I wired in this circuit I left the junction box accessible. The box contains the hot-line from the main breaker box and connects/splits to the septic tank and the leg to under the kitchen counter. In an attempt to isolate the issue, I disconnected all the wires and then reconnected just the leg for under the kitchen sink.

The breaker stayed clicked but the GFI outlet wouldn't work nor would the Dishwasher. This non-functional GFI feeds the other outlets and the DW. I replaced the GFI outlet and direct wired the DW, rather than having it GFI'd. Maybe its load was causing the problem with the outlet? Wa'la it worked. The DW had power the new outlet worked. Now back to the junction box.

I reconnected the line to the septic tank. The breaker popped,... darn!! Something in that leg also! This was not unexpected, as this is one bit of electrical I hadn't replaced when I wired/rewired the shack. Out to the septic tank I went, shovel in hand to dig (I'd got to move dirt after all) up the lid to the outlet side of the tank, where the pump which pumps the gray water across the property to the septic field, is located. I opened the lid and,... and,... this was a problem!! There had been a fire in there all the wires were burned and some were completely fried away,... Ack!!! The water level had come up to the top of the tank and the surface was covered,... COVERED in little leaches, thousands of the little cuties.

Of course there was not enough wire left in the tank to work with, so I would have to run new wire from the house, underground to the tank. BUT, luckily there is an access panel for this under ground conduited leg in the boys kennel. I labeled all the wires with colored electirical tape and cut them one at a time and pulled them out through the conduit. I labeled the wire in the kennel and cut off the long piece that had run under ground.

I headed to my "keep" in search of replacement wire, and found a spool that would work. It is a smaller gauge (larger diameter), stranded, and all one insulation color, but it was now after 5pm so I would have to color code label the wire on both ends to keep it all straight. With one old wire remaining, I secured the new wire to it and pulled the six new wires into the conduit as I pulled out the last old wire. It worked perfectly, all the old burnt wire was out and new heavier wire was pulled in its place. I reconnected all the wires in the access panel and then headed back to the septic tank.

Now it gets complicated, I knew. In a set-up like this there are two mercury float-switches. One turns the pump off and on depending upon the water level and the other that is connected to a "Tank Alert" which gives a signal inside the house if the water level gets to high (this wasn't connected!). The water level float turns the pump on when the water level has reached a certain depth (top) and turns the pump off when the water level has been drawn down far enough (bottom).

First to see if the pump was fried. I directly wired the pump to a new line and flipped on the breaker. The pumped kicked on and started pumping.

WOOOO HOOOO!!!! No new pump needed.

I let it run and drain down the tank. It was now getting dark so I cleaned everything up, turned off the breaker, and closed the septic tank. Knowing that I would be back Sunday to wire in the floats and get the system back working correctly. On Sunday, I figured out the floats and the system appears to be working normally now. In "typical Lavs fashion" I over repaired the problem and left myself a bunch of extra wire for the future if I need to make another repair.

Of course the boys helped, inside and outside. Inside they sat close by and watched. Outside, they ran around in their kennel yelling "encouragements" to me. So now they have helped with both plumbing and electrical.

Whatcha' doing dad?

Oooo, power tools,....
(Not to close Tanj)

Uschi lays close by watching the action,

and moves closer to help.

While Tanj watches from
under the dinning room table.

I'm here if you need me.

Septic Tank pump and floats all wired.
(The boys were safely inside while the tank was open)

I'll help you back-fill,...


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2 comments:

Tory said...

That could have been written in Greek and it wouldn't have made any less sense to me. I envy your homeownership skills!!

Lavs said...

>;-) I like to recount my major efforts (athletic or home-repair) with a story recounting the details. I guess I went a bit over board with this one.... >;-)