Xmas Electricity

Remember that “professional” does not mean “craftsman.”  The definition of professional that’s always stuck with me is litmus test of “did he get paid to do it.”

For example, no one is paying me to fix my car, or else I would do a better job than bending stuff back into shape with pliers.  I guess my solution was kind of crafty, but a real pro would buy a new switch and charge you for it.  It minimizes his time at your expense.

I was stringing up some Christmas lights and when I went to plug in the timer there was a pop and the circuit tripped.  After verifying the power was indeed off at the breaker I took out the outlet and saw this:

Food truck is here, I'll just jam all these wires in and be on my way. Click to enlarge

Explanation: those screws that pinch into the wire are energized.  When you touch the hot wire to the ground wire it trips the GFCI.  In general you don’t want that screw touching anything and you don’t want a strip off a foot of wire when 3/4″ is all you need to wrap around the screw or you get a lot of extra lightning rods sticking out of it like this:

Matching char marks on hot and ground

The reason why there are two black wires is one comes from the panel or outlet closer to the panel and the other goes to the next outlet.  Neutral/white is on the other side and never the two shall meet.  I trimmed up the excess wire a little bit, but there was still too much wire in general and the outlet was really flimsy (one of the screws to hold it in was a freaking drywall screw) so I mummified the whole thing in electrical tape:

It was 30 degrees out when I took this, no time to center the picture.

I was careful tucking the wires back in so nothing would touch and now I have Christmas from 5-10pm every night:

A picture of the Christmas lights this powers would have been more interesting

So remember, just because a professional electrician wired it doesn’t mean it was done right, or that he gave a damn.  If I had to wire outlets all day I would probably be pretty sloppy too, as it is I just have to fix one and fix the crap out of it.  My FiOS is on that circuit, if it trips I don’t have internet and the house suddenly gets very small and boring.


1 hr in the cold, so felt like 2


Spent – $.02 in electrical tape
Saved – I have no idea what an electrician cost, and without internet I wouldn’t be able to find out.

Steven Gangstead