May 31, 2011

Up a Ladder

I live in a small condo complex - four units. More of an expanded duplex, really. So each of the four owners is an officer of the condo association, and we tend to handle some of the upkeep and maintenance ourselves. My condo fees are quite low - less than 1/2 the norm for these parts.

Since I've moved in, we've had no parking lot lights. There were two spotlights on the front of the building - one empty, the other with a floodlight bulb and apparent photoelectric sensor that was not working. The folks in the front units could put their porch lamps on (mines on a timer) but choose not to, so the parking lot is generally dark.

This past winter, the one front spotlight decided to turn on - and it stayed on for several months, 24 hours a day. It was kind of nice to have the light on, but it did add a bit to the condo electric bill. And then, a month or so ago, it stopped working again.

Last week, my neighbor Carol, an older retired woman, stopped by and noted how dark it was, lobbying (I think) to get someone in to look at the lights. I went out with her, and decided that was a nice project for me. So this weekend, I purchased and installed two motion lights in front of the building.

I've been the "go-to" girl for electrical projects for years. When I owned a home in Waterbury, I installed three sets of motion lights after we were burgled; those I had to actually run the wire, pipe it in, everything. I also replaced the old small fuse box with a 100 Amp breaker panel, and ran 240 VAC to the upstairs for heat. I've installed ceiling fans, track lighting, power for hot tubs, etc. and replaced countless receptacles, dimmers and switches. But it's been a while since I've tackled a big electrical project.

So I spent a few hours this weekend 16' up a ladder. The electrical install was not too hard - I needed to put in one box, take out the old fixtures, hook up a few wires, and adjust the motion detectors. My legs are kind of cranky from that ladder death grip required when one has both hands into a project, and I got a bit too much sun on my shoulders - but otherwise I'm good....

I was a little surprised / disappointed by the code violations I found in the fixtures. The box with the photocell sensor had both the hot and neutral junctions just twisted - with no sign of electrical tape, a screw cap, or anything. No wonder the light was intermittent. I have no idea how anyone walks away from a box light that.

The second light had no box whatsoever - the outdoor romex simply stubbed out of the wall / siding and an electrical cover was screwed to the side of the building. At least there were caps on the junctions. Needless to say I left everything a lot better than I found it, with screw caps, taped up, and a new box for the second fixture.

It was reassuring to come in last night and have both light come on as I pulled into the parking lot, and see them switch off 5 minutes later. We've never had problems with car vandalism or break-ins, but this will make us all feel a little safer. I might want to get up the ladder again and readjust the lamps (they might be pointed a bit high, flooding the house across the street as well as our lot)

Mostly though, it's nice to know that as I round the bend at 50, I still got it!

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