Category Archives: electrical

A day I didn’t think could be: Legitimate cheating

I first lived in a house built in ~1900. Then my parents moved to a place much newer (8os), but I still visited my grand parents’ places, which were a Sears Roebuck house and a DIY from the forties. Both had really iffy old electrical wiring (you can probably guess what the title means now) that more often than not did not have grounding.

Both of them had recourse to “cheater plugs”, that allowed you to plug a 3 prong (grounded) plug into a 2 prong (ungrounded) outlet and had a little tab or wire that you would then screw to the faceplate of the outlet or connect to a ground. Riiiight… I don’t think I’ve ever seen that done.

An aside: a school I went to for two years had 3 main buildings, 1 built in the 50s or 60s, and the other two in the 1860s maybe. In a class room that was way too small, like many of them, there was the only power outlet on the wall, about 6 feet up, in the middle of the wall. Why? That’s (most likely) where the gas jet was at first. When it was replaced by wires, they used the existing conduit. I don’t remember where the light switch was, or if that room had cieling lights or not. Anyway the outlet was ungrounded, and I think unpolarized, with a cheater plug supporting (literally!) the power strip hanging down about 4 feet, which an old IBM PS/2 486 was plugged into on the teacher’s desk, or next to it.

This day, though, I used one that I had to provide a path to ground for a UPS that powers my medical equipment and an old Clock of great value. The thing had its “wiring fault detected” LED lit ever since I moved to this apartment, and now it has a ground through the radiator pipe in my bedroom. Improvement!

Further grand motherly adventures

I am slowly cleaning out my grand mother’s attic and outbuildings. One of these outbuildings has always been storage for old things, and the other was supposed to store a riding lawn mower, but never did. Found this (Columbus day) time:

  • The wooden shell of an old television console that had belonged to her… niece? Anyway, it was full of old irons and was otherwise crapped up.
  • Three bags of completely set up concrete.
  • One unopened bag of rock salt for ice melting.
  • Two old 1 room school house desks.
  • A hole in the roof.
  • Ten t0ns of stink bugs.
  • Suprizingly few wasps and bees.
  • Miscellaneous wood scraps of no value.
  • Empty boxes and old styrophoam packaging inserts.

I am sure I’ve forgotten some things, but a good deal of trash was taken out and discarded. One of the outbuildings can now be walked into maybe 3 meters. The one with the hole in the roof still has to be torn down, as there is a large tree taking the roof off.

As an aside, one of the buildings is wired for electricity, and back in 2008 when a new roof was installed, the contractor unknowingly nailgunned through the Greenfield cable that ran the lights. This resulted in endless blown fuses until I was able to figure it out during a visit there. You can still see the writing on the cieling where I warn future users to not reconnect the wire. I should take that out someday.

A new use for net lights

I have found out that, properly obtained and displayed, those “net lights” (Example) that you can buy (in the United States atleast) to drape over shrubs and small trees in December for decoration are highly useful as room lights.

I have a 8 by 5 net hanging in the room behind my PC monitor and they provide a very pleasing diffuse illumination for my work, with a regular floor lamp in the room also. You can even get them in cool white (LED) or warm white (old style/incandescent). I prefer the warm white for where I am.

I advise getting the ones that plug in to a normal NEMA/Type A outlet for easiest use and best light output. Either way they have the advantage of only slowly burning out, instead of a normal light going all at once. I had a cheap one (from Walmart) last about a year of normal use.

Be an up to date farmer (in 1963), part 1 of 2

Browzing through old matter, I found a page from a 1963 magazine, the Farm Journal with some handy advices:


A couple of things jump out immediately. First, they had fluorescent light dimmers in 1963? For YEARS I’ve been seeing warnings on dimmer switches I’ve installed that they should never be used on a fluorescent light. Was this really a thing and, if so, what happened to them?

Second, were dimmers really that new in 1963? A dimmer is just a rheostat, which has existed as long as systematic study of electricity has, maybe longer. It’s just a wound coil of wire with a movable contact. In the case of a light dimmer switch, it is usually a circular affair. An industrial example may be seen here.

Another point, potentially hidden, is the price. 16 USD for a dimmer is outrageous today. They are about half that or less for a no-frills rotary dimmer switch, per Home Depot and Lowes. (I’m not linking to them because their websites change so regularly.) Using an economical adjustment for inflation, the highly recommended Measuring worth website, the purchasing power of 16 USD in 1963 is about 124 USD in 2014. That is by no means “inexpensive”, especially for farmers, who are notoriously not high earners.

Finally, the company in question, Hunt, appears to still be around, at least as a brand. It is owned by “Caribe Corporation”, which appears to just be an alternate name of the firm, since I cannot find any other business lines owned by it in a cursory search.