Monday, March 30, 2015

Umm... Oops...

So a couple of weeks ago a circuit breaker that powers De's miniatures/dollhouse room and part of one bathroom tripped.  The first thing I always suspect is a bad GFI outlet, so I replaced it with no change.  Maybe the ceiling fan light fixture?  Pulled the switches, no change.  Maybe the outlet De uses the most?  Nope.  Just a bad breaker?  Nope. 

At this point I was worried we had some mouse-chewed wiring or something and was thinking I was about to get into a big job (I was also thinking about firing the cat), when De mentioned having to break the ice on the chicken's heated dog watering bowl.  We pulled the power for the coop from one of the existing outside outlets, but I had always thought they were on separate breaker. (They were supposed to be!)  It took just a little looking to find the real problem.  It seems the extension cord at the coop was not in the best of condition.

Yep...  That's enough to cause the breaker to trip.  We're actually quite thankful we didn't have a coop fire.

I had used a full-length cord there, and the short was about 8 feet from the socket end.  I cut off the bad stuff several inches from the short and slid the backshell of the replacement socket on the cord with the open part facing the new end.  Do this NOW instead of later.   It's important not to try to keep wire too close to a short like that because the heat can effect both the copper wire and the insulation.  After stripping back the outer sheath, leaving about 1 1/2 inches (3 cm or so) of inner wire exposed (black, white and green) I made sure everything looked good: No discoloration or cracking in the insulation, all the insulation soft and flexible. I use a knife for stripping back the insulation because I've done it so many times on electrical and coax cable and get away with it.  If you choose to use a knife on the sheath, triple check to make sure you didn't cut into the wire insulation.  (If you get even a teeny-tiny crack when you flex it, cut off another few inches and start over.)  Then I stripped about a 3/8" (about 1 cm) of the insulation off each wire.  I use a set of old but solid wire strippers for this job.  I checked the copper again to make sure it was still good and that I didn't damage any of the strands in the process of wire stripping.  The kind of replacement socket I purchased simply required running the bare wire down into the appropriate hole in the base and clamping it in with a screw on the side.

Ground is always green, black is the hot wire (narrow prong) and white is the return (wider prong).

Before I put the backshell on (again, you need to slide it over the cord BEFORE you do all this or you'll be taking it apart again!) I checked to make sure I had done it right.  A real electrician would probably skip this step, but not me.  I checked make sure the return on the plug ran to the return on the new socket.  There should be a solid "0 Ohm" connection from the plug to its associated position in the socket.
On my old analog meter, needle to the right means 0 ohms.  If you have a digit it should read 0 ohms or "short",

I also checked to make sure the return on the socket did NOT connect at all to the "hot" side of the plug.  I also checked both hot and return to the ground socket.  There should be no connection there either.

Needle all the way to the right means no connection.  Your digital should read "open" or just show dashes on the display.

When I was satisfied I had done all the reconnections right, I slid up the backshell and clamped it into place with the three screws on the back (next to the cord).

Ta da!  All fixed and ready to go.

With the job done I took the cord back out and put it in place.  I just hope the days of needing a heated water bowl are getting fewer and far between.

Col. 1:9-12,



  1. Nice job! I stopped filling the heated waterers but left them in place-glad I did. I'll be glad when we can put them up!

  2. Pretty handy guy to have around, you are! Good job! (Can we call on you when we have our next electrical snafu??)

  3. We'll be glad when we can be done with ours too. Probably another few weeks for us.

  4. Oh my! Oh my! What a blessing nothing was worse. Excellent save, Mark! And excellent information.