Our house runs on extension cords. Yeah, I know, it’s not safe, but what else can we do when we have only one outlet in each bedroom? None in the dining room. Three in the living room—one that actually holds onto the plugs and two that have lost their grip, so the plugs fall out unless I bend the prongs outward. You get the picture.
The kitchen is just as bad. The only 120 V outlet is behind the fridge, so the fridge shares it with a multiplug adapter and two extension cords: one for the microwave and toaster on the left, and one that runs behind the stove to the coffee pot and cats’ drinking fountain on the right. Almost every outlet in the house (all 10 of them) leads to something like this:
Much of the house is still on the original knob and tube system, with an occasional outlet rewired with Romex. The 150 amp panel left no room for expansion—but at least wasn’t a fuse box. The wires still passed from the panel through the ancient (but now gutted) fuse box, which looked too scary for words.
Eric removed the asbestos siding in the back hall (which, sadly, covers the entire house), and the old shingles beneath it. You can see the layers behind the old panel at left. Click on this photo to magnify the horror.
We’re incredibly lucky to have found a reliable, reasonable electrician. Casey installed our new 200 amp panel in an accessible (and legal) position, and a new masthead outside. A new circuit heads upstairs for future attic power, and another down to the basement. An outlet appeared on each wall of the little breakfast room, which now has more outlets than any other room in the house! The inspector said he’s never had to write up Casey on anything. Now that’s the kind of contractor you want!
Cutting over the wiring to the new panel, Casey unplugged the stove and disconnected it at the old panel. That’s when Eric and I, standing in the living room, heard the outlets start to pop and zzzap … smoke curled up from the TV. YIKES! (I’ll always remember that moment Roy Lichtenstein-style.)
Casey threw the main breaker and headed off to the crawlspace to investigate, where he discovered someone (not us!) had connected a 120 V wire to the stove’s 240 V ground. When he disconnected the stove circuit, 240 backfed into the 120 system. Believe me, when that happens, you want your electrician to be on the premises! Fortunately, all of our electronics are on surge protectors, which did their jobs. Anything that wasn’t protected fried, including our brand spanking new microwave. I’m thinking, rewiring the whole house might be a good idea. One of these days that will happen.
This is a good start: the new panel—but no more scary, cobwebby fuse box. The wall eventually will be reshingled and painted to match the exterior, a nod to the back porch’s beginnings.