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Tag: electrical

Electric and Ceiling Prep

Day 6 – Electric

Man, was Thurs. a long day…. my electrician friend, Craig, made it to the house despite the pending 4-8″ snow storm and we finished things up by 4 pm so he was out of here at a reasonable time. The day consisted of cutting a lot of bx, making a lot of holes, and connecting a bunch of wires. At the end of it, we had all the lights working according to plan and the outlets were live. I learned a few new tricks along the way:

  • I installed my first breaker into a panel.  The big thing was to make sure the breaker was set to the off position before I put it in. Other than that, it was pretty simple so I feel pretty confident that if I needed to add another one in the future, I’d be capable of doing it.
  • In the midwest, the ground always goes to the right when installing an outlet. There is no code that dictates this, but it is a regional thing. Weird.
  • Don’t run the circuit though an outlet (using both screws to pass the electricity to the next leg in the circuit). It’s better, and safer, to create a pigtail to tie in the outlet. If the outlet is ever damaged, it w0n’t impact anything else that is ‘down stream’ to the outlet.
  • Prepping outlet boxes for the drywall saves a lot of time down the road. Get your cables in shape and setup properly. It’s worth it.
  • Ripping out 30-40 feet of old BX that was run through the ceiling joists is a royal pain in the rear and takes a lot longer than you think.

Oh, and I also got made fun of because of the size of my lineman’s pliers. Craig asked if Maddie or Brooke let me borrow their tools for the project… Nice. Add that to my tools-to-purchase list.

After Craig left I started to really think about the drywall and started to freak out a little. I had planned on starting drywall today (Day 7), but I still didn’t have a lot of things figured out and I wasn’t ready. I needed to finish the 1.5″ PVC run, insulate and great-stuff all around, take care of the soundproofing, finish all the speaker cable runs, and more before I was ready for drywall.

Day 7 – Ceiling and wall prep

I stayed up late last night to plan out the next big steps and realized this morning, after snow blowing, that I needed to spend the day doing other, non-drywall related tasks to prepare. We called Julie’s dad and told him what was going on so we pretty much cancelled the planned day. They did come over, but only for a few hours. Still very appreciated…

We got the weatherproofing/insulation completed as well as the soundproofing today. The room is prepped and a friend came over tonight and helped me carry all the drywall into the basement (BIG THANKS). I setup the drywall lift (which I am SOOOO excited to use) and we are now ready to start hanging rock tomorrow. We ended up going with Roxul over most of the basement. Depot carries it now and as soon as we put it up, it was obvious that the sound in the room changed. It was quieter with very little echo. Hopefully this means with the 5/8″ sheetrock, it will keep out most of the noise.

I also ran 110′ of speaker cable for the future home theater. You can see the speaker cables hanging in the picture above and you can see all of the cables feed into a 4″ electric box in the picture below. Looks a little crazy, but heh, now is the time to do it. Oh, and if you count the hanging wires, you’ll notice I setup the room for 7.1… if we ever wanted to go that way.

Day 5 – Electric begins

Day 5

I had a dentist appt. and a meeting I needed to dial into for work so I had a late jump on things today. Since the framing was finished up yesterday, I decided to dive right into the electric. The electrician came over last night and we talked for an hour about the plan and what I could get started on before he shows up on Thursday. We will be adding two circuits for the basement. One 15 amp for the lights and another 15 amp for the outlets. There are a total of 9 outlets, 8 6″ can lights, 1 new light at the top of the stairs along with a three way switch, and 2 dimmers at the bottom of the stairs. One is a three way dimmer that goes along with the switch at the top of the stairs and controls the stairwell light as well as two of the cans at the bottom of the stairs. The other dimmer controls the 6 cans in the larger area of the basement. We are running almost everything with BX, thank God!

Today I wired 6 of the outlets and all the cans. When Craig shows up tomorrow, we should be able to start right away on the more challenging part of the job.

One other thing I am putting in is a run of 1.5″ PVC pipe so I can pull ethernet, cable, etc. at any point going forward (see picture below). The pipe runs from the front wall to a location in the back of the room where the projector will hang. From there, it makes a turn and then ends up being open to the laundry room. I’ll throw some string in there as I am putting it up so I can easily pull new cables in the future. It adds some extra work, but it will make things MUCH easier down the road and I won’t have to open up any walls.

We have a big storm forecasted for tomorrow so Julie is picking up the drywall lift from a friend tonight (BIG THANKS). Hopefully it won’t hold up the electrician… if that happens, I guess I am starting drywall tomorrow!! I have two walls I can rock now if I needed to get going. I also have a good friend coming over tomorrow night to help carry the 36 sheets of drywall from the garage into the basement. Again, if the weather is really bad, I’ll be hauling a few sheets down and then wait for him to come over on Friday. Yikes… lots of things coming together in the next two days. Oh yeah, add to that Julie’s father coming over again with his friend Jim Friday morning. Woot!

Last thing… I learned two new terms yesterday: gem box and madison hangers. Always learning…. always learning. Thanks Craig.

Cheapskates deserve light too

I installed four fluorescent utility lights in the garage 5 or 6 years ago. There was just the garage door opener light in the garage when we moved in and since I was spending more quality time with the table saw, I figured that it was probably worth the investment to put up some better lighting. Being the frugal (read: cheap) person that I am, I purchased the cheapest lights I could find at the Depot and put them up. Total cost of the project at the time was under $50.

The problem with these cheap-as-hell lights is that after just a year, some of them started to fail. The bulbs were fine but the ballast was shot. I looked at replacement ballasts, but the only ones at the Depot or Lowes were around $25. That is right, $25!!! I could get a whole new fixture for $15 and if I waiting for a sale and scoured the Sunday paper for a few weeks, I could find them for just over $10. So I ended up buying a few more fixtures. What I didn’t factor in was what a pain-in-the-rear it was to undo my awesome cabling job (attached cable with cable ties and made it look nice) and then swap out the fixtures. After doing 2 or 3 replacements, I gave up and as the ballasts have died over the years, the garage has returned to the dark place it once was.

We were down to one working fluorescent bulb and this inspired me to find a solution. A few internet searches later and I ended up at ebay where I found some awesome ballasts (I know…. I know… it took me a lot of reading to understand what an awesome ballast is and what would work for me). I got them for $9 each and a few bucks for shipping. $48 total and I got my new ballasts, the cost of two in-store ballasts!! And these quality ballasts mean I don’t have to keep adding to the landfill each year!! Woot woot.

I took some shots of my project for anyone else that might feel the urge to change their $15 junk utility lights into the same lights you would pay over $50 for if you bought them with a similar ballast at the big box stores. Nice!

1. Unplug the light, take out the bulbs, and take off the cover. You’ll see a bunch of cables inside with red, blue and yellow cables in various combinations (my four lights had some with the yellow wire jumped together though two of the end caps and some without that but more cables).

2. Cut all the end caps off with some wire snips. You might be nervous that you just ruined your light at this point, but hang in there. Make sure to leave enough of the cable so you can hook them up to a new wire (I left a few inches). You’ll also need to cut the ground cable that comes out of the ballast and the power (black and white cables). I cut the actual black/white cable end and not the white cord end so I would know which one was the hot when I put it back together.

3. Take out the old ballast.

4. Strip the ends of the wires attached to the end caps and install the new ballast. I had to make some new holes for the ballast since it was longer than the one that was in there originally.

5. The wiring diagram for the new ballast is actually on the ballast itself. Here is a shot that shows the old ballast wiring vs. the new. The new one is so much simpler. From what I read, it is simpler because the old, cheap one, needed to heat up the gas in the lamp which required more connections before it actually could fire up. The new ballast doesn’t need this and is ‘instant on’. Very cool.

6. I cut the wires coming out of the new ballast to fit with just a little slack. I didn’t do this on the first one I did and it was a pain to try and jam all the extra wire back up there when I re-installed the cover. It’s worth it to cut it short and restrip it. Just do it.

7. Connect the wires and put the cover back on. That’s it. Plug it back in, put in the bulbs and BAM! Light.

Before and after of the garage.

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