Electricity still scares me

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 9, 2024, 11:11 PM | comments: 0

As much as I feel like I usually suck at DIY stuff around the house, I usually will try stuff that I think I can do. I surprise myself sometimes. I can't believe that I actually drilled through quartz and installed that glass cleaner on the bar sink. Then I installed those shelves. I've fixed our KitchenAid mixer, twice. And if I'm really being honest, back in my 20's when me and my friends all had shitty cars, I replaced among them two starters, a radiator, one set of brakes and rotors, a transmission pan gasket and a whole lot of spark plugs. Can't believe I never got hurt doing any of that. So yeah, I guess I can fix stuff, sometimes.

But electricity, that scares the shit out of me. The fear only got worse after I watched the install of our solar plant, and later the battery, which required rewiring our load centers entirely. Then we had the cover off all of that stuff when techs had to fix a lightning hit, twice. I even saw the guy from the utility poking around under the meter with the covers off, and those huge bus bars feeding 300+ amps into my house. Oh, and the conduits to the car chargers are warm to the touch when charging. It all frightens me, which is also kinda funny because we've had electric cars for almost 10 years now. It's just that there's something there that I can't see that could kill me.

The first lightning strike caused a short that we eventually needed an electrician to figure out, and I think it was behind a plug in the kitchen. But there was also a breaker that kept tripping for no apparent reason, other than it got fried. It was one of the standard, cheap breakers, which was not intimidating. So I watched a lot of videos, and then turned off the entire load (including the solar and battery), because I watched the installers and understood how to completely disconnect power to the backed up load center. I still put my meter on the bus inside to make sure, and then I got it done.

Then last weekend, we noticed the bar fridge and dining room plugs were not on. The breaker tripped, and while you could reset it, it would eventually trip again. It was different though, because this was an AFCI breaker, and I didn't even know what that meant. The short story is that it's a breaker that can "sense" an arc fault on the line, which is a short that could start a fire, which is bad. Most of the breakers in my panel are this type, except for the ones that have ground fault interruptor outlets at the other end. Unfortunately, these things are more than $60 at Lowes, and I forgot that we had a locally owned ACE franchise closer. Ugh.

The only way that these are different is that, at least for the box type I have, is that they require the hot and neutral wires from the line, instead of the neutral going to the screw terminals. The way I understand it, this is how they can detect an arc fault. So once again, I shut off all of the things, and replaced the expensive breaker.

I have a basic understanding of DC electricity, but AC is never as clear to me, so I always worry that I'm overlooking something. In this case, it's just a matter of exactly replacing what was there, but I still spent a lot of time worrying about it.

Maybe next time I'll talk about how much saws scare me.


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