Monday, July 13, 2009

At least it's keeping my mind off the 50 thousand mosquito bites on my body...

The electrician that I hired to come to my house on Friday didn't exactly give me great news. Even though there is nothing wrong with the wiring now (every connection is sound, everything is hooked up correctly, and nothing is "hot" that shouldn't be), he was able to tell that the wiring is very old and brittle and it may catch fire. And that diagnosis goes for every room in my house - not just the one that I have the fan in. His advice? Either get smoke detectors in every room of my house and prepare for a fire or totally replace all of the wiring in my house. It could cost a couple of hundred dollars to fix it. Worst case scenario, it could cost 15-20K. Let me say that again, IT COULD COST ME 15 to 20 THOUSAND DOLLARS. That's US dollars, not Monopoly money. I know because I asked him, just to be sure.


Basically, the house IS up to code, electrically. I mean, not 2009 code, but to the code standard of when it was built, in 1882*...and I'm not shitting you, apparently that's "good enough." Houses don't need to be up to the code of today's standards...they just have to be up to the code of whenever it was that the electrical was last worked on. This means that your house? Yeah, it's probably got shoddy electrical work too.** Because of this weird rule, the past owners aren't on the hook and if I opted to sell it today, I wouldn't be on the hook. Apparently possible spontaneous combustion just one of the perks of buying an older house. I think that's one of the things that give it "character."

You need to know that there is some weird Electricians Honor Code thing that involves them having to replace/fix all things that they mess with.*** So he can't open the ceiling and start figuring crap out in there without fixing it. At first, I thought the guy was totally making this crap up, but to be honest, he did not seem to have a sense of humor so I think it's unlikely that he is pulling my leg.

So to understand the situation better, I asked a bunch of questions - like:
1) What are my options?
2) Can you just re-route the new wire without having to fish the wire along the existing stuff?
3) Can you give me a better price range than $500 - $20,000?
4) Do you know the muffin man?
5) Would you and your wife be willing to adopt me?
6) Can I move into your house anyway?

After asking those questions, I paid the man and really kept repeating this mantra: "Just wait until he leaves to start crying."

And although I did cry when he left, I also called for help. I called my realtor, I called friends, and I basically have come to the conclusion that in reality, my situation is really no different than what it was 60 days ago. It's just that now I KNOW that I have crappy wiring.

I'm sure you all might roll your eyes when I say this, but I just don't feel like anything is going to happen. The truth is, the wiring really hasn't changed...and this guy is probably just covering his ass. He can't say that it won't happen again because if he does, and my house burns down, he'll have to deal with a crazy red-headed lady. And really...who has ever wanted that? Okay, OTHER than Desi Arnaz?

The plan?
1) Get smoke detectors in every room, call my security service and have them monitor the smoke detectors and have them route to the fire department if they go off.
2) Possibly send things of great sentimental value down to El Paso with my mom when she visits this weekend.
3) Find a new job - one that pays a lot more than the one I have currently and then sell this place.
4) Start playing the lottery.
.....a) Win the lottery
.....b) Sell this place.
5) Consider joining the nunnery and then sell this place.

*Yes, my place was built in 1882. Is it bad that I had no idea that they had electricity back then? OMG. I just googled "When did electricity become common in homes?" And the answer is in the 1930's. Which means that this electrician is a big, fat liar. Or Google is just fucking with me. It's likely both. But since I have a commenter who knows the PV=nRT equation and how it relates to yogurt urping, I'm hoping that s/he will enlighten (haha) me on the history of electricity, specific to when it was put into houses in Denver. I need you! After all, I really didn't pay attention in school history or science class.

**Yes. Your place might go up in a ball of flames too. Join the club! We meet at my house. During the meeting, I serve lil' smokies and beer. Also crackers with Cheez Whiz (not imitation cheese spray spread) because it's a classy club. The dues are only $15-20 thousand dollars per person. Please make checks payable to: Anne Not-Kennedy. If my house starts fill with smoke at any time, please gather your belongings and exit the premises calmly and quickly.

***It also possibly involves them wearing cloaks at night and chanting. Which means that they might be monks. Or not. It turns out that I really didn't pay attention in religious studies class.


Anonymous said...

Hi Anne,

PV=nRT guy here. Unfortunately, I know more about when gas - go figure - was supplied to homes in Denver. Incidentally, it was first manufactured gas from coal, and later natural gas. For electricity, you need V=IR guy. He lives down the hall. I'll see if he has time to help you out...

Anonymous said...

Hi Anne,

My friend referred to me as V=IR guy, but you can call me Mr. Ohm. Incidentally, yes, that is what the electricians chant at their secret meetings... ohm, ohm, ohm...

To answer your questions... in 1879, Thomas Edison invented the first commercially practical incandescent light (and NOT the first light bulb). That was only 3 years before your house was built. In 1887, Aspen was the first town in Colorado to provide electricity to all its residents. But since you don't live in Aspen, maybe that's not really useful information - unless you do win the lottery and decide to move there. Anyway, Denver got some primitive electric streetlights in the 1880's - but as you surmise, electricity probably became more common in homes between 1900 and 1930. You might look up "Cities of Light and Heat: Domesticating Gas and Electricity in Urban America" by Mark H. Rose (PSU Press, 1995). It claims to have case histories for Denver and Kansas City. (I lost my copy in an electrical fire in my garage... KIDDING!!)

So... maybe the electric wiring in your house wasn't put in when it was built, but rather in the 1910's or 1920's. It's *still* almost 100 years old.

Was your house ever renovated? That might give you a better clue about the exact date. Do you have 3-prong plug outlets? Those were invented in 1928.

Oh, if it makes you feel better, the National Electrical Code was first published in 1897. Although there *have* been a few modifications since then...

I hope some of this has been helpful... Good luck!

kristi said...

Hi Anne,

I was thinking of coming to visit you this fall, but something has suddenly come up.


happyfunpants said...

Anonymous: Thanks - I knew you'd come through! Well, you or you know...someone with your same name. It *is* a common name after all.

And Kristi? So sorry to hear that something came up. I'd like to say that you can take your time and come up whenever because I'll still be here, but let's be honest. That may not be the case. :)

McG said...

You forgot to ask the electrician a very important question:

What does $20,000 worth of trade mean to you?