Tuesday, July 21, 2009

While the Cat's Away the Mice will...Upgrade the Light Fixtures

The Cat works from home. He needs his computer(s), his DSL, his phone, his task light, his air conditioning, and at feeding time, he needs the microwave and a cold drink. All of which requires electricity. For a few short days he is taking care of business out of the house...this is a VERY rare ocassion and one that must be taken advantage of. The mice will use this opportunity to cut the power and upgrade the light fixtures to avoid disruption in the Cat's normal routine.

I had the fixtures picked out and knew exactly where to get them. I was only replacing flush mount hall lighting fixtures for a total of 6 on three floors. I had enough time to tackle the first installation today and it was not without issue.

I removed the old fixture and pulled the new fixture from the box. Old fixture had a single black wire, a single white wire and a ground. New fixture has two black wires, two white wires, and a ground. After a complete review of the instructions in four languages, nothing explains what to do in this situation with the extra black and white wires.

I go to get on the internet to find the answer to my issue and the DSL...has no power.

I was reminded of the time the Cat, who's education is in Electrical Engineering, installed his first ceiling fan. We flipped the power on after installation and sparks and smoke rolled out of the fan.

Taking maters into my own hands and relying on my own intuition, I connected ALL the white wires together, and ALL the black wires together, and connected the grounds. By this time, it was 80 degrees upstairs with no AC. I knew the Cat would be whining if he was home, yes, this was a much better idea to not have him around while I attempt this DIY project in the middle of summer.

I flipped the power back on and voila, no sparks, no fire, just light. But my subconcious would not leave it alone. What if the fixture overheats and starts a fire at some point?

With the power back on, I searched the internet for answers. I searched, and searched, and searched. I found no answers to the question "What to do with extra wires", "multiple wires", "installing a light fixture" and every combination in between. The internet was very disappointing.

I did find something interesting though, www.justanswers.com. This is a web portal where you type in your question, your email address, and you submit with the notion that there are electricians online right at this moment who will immediately answer your question and email you the answer. Wrong notion.

I submitted my question only to discover that I was then prompted to "bid" on the answer.

WTF?

You mean like "Priceline"? YES! Like Priceline, I "bid" on what I would pay for a satisfactory answer to my question. My choices were A) $9, B) $39, or C) $69. I thought "Are you kidding me?"

Justanswers.com is not "Just Answers", it is just a scam. I am an information "seeker", not an information "payer". I am "seeking" information, not an education, MBA, PHD for which I would gladly pay for. But that's not all...

As I abandoned the web page that wanted me to bid on what I would pay for a satisfactory answer, it of course tried to stop me from maneuvering away from the page. I quickly checked my email and in the time it took me to submit my question, to the time I abandoned the site, Justanswers.com had emailed me three times. None of which, was of course, a free answer to my question.

Still not finding the information on the web, I turned to the fixture's instruction manual where I found a customer service phone number. Amazingly enough, I immediately got someone on the phone, I posed my wire question, she confirmed I had in fact installed the fixture properly.

What a relief.

Now, about that installation manual.

How come it is printed in 4 languages, but it does not tell me what to do in this instance with multiple wires?

Dead silence from the customer service representative.

She doesn't know, and she really doesn't give a flip.

I guess you have to take the good with the bad.

One fixture down, 5 more to go.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

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