Tuesday, December 28, 2010

One Little Breaker

The little foyer has a couple more strips of paper...
...and a new light.

But what I really want to tell you about is this:  I might've found something even scarier than the basement--the wiring in this house.  The breaker switches are all neatly labeled and the breaker box is only 4 years old. (Long story short, when I moved in and installed my washer and dryer there was no main electrical shutoff to the house and the utility company refused to turn on the power to the house until I had a new breaker box and main shutoff installed.)  The wiring, however, dates from the 1960s or so.  I don't have any knob and tube, but the guy who put in the new breaker box said it would be a good idea to update my wiring.  Note that he said this four years ago...  Anyhow, each room is on its own circuit, and the outlets in each room are on a separate circuit.  Or so I thought.  But when I went down there Monday night to flip the breaker for the foyer, I didn't see a one labeled "foyer".  Uh-oh.  After several trips up and down the basement steps and switching three or four other breakers (including one not labeled which evidently doesn't control anything) I finally flipped the one labeled "dining room".  When I came upstairs, half the house was dark.  Uh-oh.  Turns out that one little breaker controls the dining room ceiling fixture, the front parlor ceiling fixture, the front parlor outlets, the second parlor ceiling fixture, the foyer light, the foyer outlet, the front porch light and the front porch outlet.  Yikes.   Does that seem like an awful lot of stuff on one little breaker?? 


  1. It doesn't take 1960s wiring to accomplish that. My POs-1 updated the wiring in the late 1980s, and on one circuit had lights and outlets on four floors (including the basement), as well as the microwave and dishwasher. Yikes! Happily I discovered it within a month or two of moving in and quickly established diplomatic relations with a local electrician.

    Good luck untangling yours. Sounds like it could use sorted out.

  2. How does too much stuff on one breaker work - I would guess it would mean just that you'd find the breaker being activated when too many things on that circuit were in use at once? Or is there something I'm missing here?

    I have a mystery wall switch, one in a group of three. The other two "do things," but I never have been able to figure out what the mystery switch controls.

    If I were writing codes, I'd require that a homeowner receive a map of what's on what circuit at installation. Actually, I'd like to see that stored in a container on the breaker box.

  3. p.s. Very nice lamp.

    I'm kind of nostalgic for the knob and tube in my old bungalow.

  4. I'm no expert on wiring but I love, love, LOVE that wallpaper. I know, I told you that already.

  5. I would think that as long as you are not tripping any breakers that would mean it isn't overloaded.

    Maybe the electrician put all these rooms on one breaker because he only had X number of breakers to work with and it was more important to put heavy electrical draw on their own breakers such as kitchen laundry room etc.

    Electrical stuff gives me a headache. We just removed 2 ill wired surface mounted electrical boxes in the kitchen. My non labeled breaker box is such a pain that whenever we do anything electrical I just grab a flash light and hit the main breaker after I power down the furnace and anything else that might be damaged in an abrupt outage.

  6. Uh....duh.....ahem....sorry I'm no help.

  7. By the way, I went rummaging around in the Waverly wallpaper site after your pointer, and I think I'm going to use their Norfolk Rose-Rose pattern in one of the bedrooms:

    Norfolk Rose

  8. All I know is my blow dryer and my microwave can not run at the same time w/o tripping the breaker. If it makes you feel any better, dome of my wire dates to the early 1920's...some to the 1950's...some to the 1970's and some to last month. None of it seems to alarm my electrician in any way. My main box is very neatly labeled, but in no way accurately represents reality. It's all a mystery.

  9. Karen Anne, I LOVE the Norfolk Rose pattern. I'll probably use that in either my master bedroom or my bathroom...when I get around to those two rooms.

    Jan, I'm not tripping the breakers, so maybe it's not overloaded...and I hardly ever have all those lights & outlets on at one time.

    StuccoHouse, I had the same problem when Mare and I lived down the street and had knob & tube wiring. He's one of those people who HAS to have a cup of coffee first thing in the morning; I MUST blow-dry my hair or I look like Roseanne Rosannadanna. Getting ready for work in the mornings was, um, interesting.

  10. Either Old House Journal or Old House Interiors has an article in the March 2011 issue about old house wiring.

    Very informative.