Building Construction, Renovation, Maintenance & Advice

Safe Electrical Installations

"Electrocutus Interruptus"

You remember that movie Young Einstein? He plays his electric guitar, gets an electric shock and his hair turns frizzy. It isn’t true you know. If you get an electric shock your hair doesn’t go frizzy. I have an electrician who doesn’t have frizzy hair and you can’t tell me he has never had an electric shock.

Nasty stuff electricity. All those little electrons shooting around bits of wire at amazing speeds but they are secretive little so and so’s, you can’t see them, they don’t make a noise and, rather like jaws, they bite you on the bum when you least expect it.

They can do you a nasty too. Remember that scene in James Bond when 007 pushes a bloke into a bath and throws in an electric fire, it’s true, as many a late housewife blow drying her hair in the bath would testify if she could. Getting into the bath on a cold winter’s night clutching your favourite electric fire is not a good idea. The coroner’s report is likely to find that you died of a “friendly fire” incident.

Careless use of electrons can, as the American Military might say, lead to an ongoing negative survival situation or, as my father would say, kill you stone dead (I didn’t know there were degrees of deadness).

Those little electrons can work up a sweat too. Electrons like to feel grounded and in their mad rush to return to earth they can get quite hot, so much so that they can spontaneously combust and set fire to anything close by.

Thatched roofs particularly do not get along well with headstrong electrons.

A couple of months ago I went to see a house where the owner said “there is a bit of wiring to do”. Talk about an understatement. The house owner was a painter and he must have found an Italian friend who last week was selling watches on the beach. Together Van Gough and his “master electrician” had produced an artistic creation in electrical spaghetti the like of which I have never seen before.

There were wires dangling everywhere and the joints were typical Bali style with bare copper twisted by forefinger and thumb. In one or two places a bit of Sellotape (Durex to you Aussies) provided a mythical semblance of insulation.

It was rather frightening but the most worrying part of all was to find badly joined bare wires hiding in the Alang Alang roofing. A bit of rain to ease the flow and those little electrons would have had a field day in their headlong rush to earth. Electrons are rather like lemmings, they don’t think, they don’t choose they just rush with gay abandon towards neutrality.

That reminds me about public servants in Queensland. I have never met a group of people who would fight so aggressively for their right to be apathetic. Sorry, I digress.

Electrons are good guys really. We would struggle without them. Technology has not yet developed the gas fired computer and a steam powered washing machine would probably weigh about three tons. I remember a sickeningly optimistic friend of mine who would set off with glee to pay his electric bill with the comment “isn’t it wonderful that we can buy electricity”.

So how do we protect ourselves from over exuberant electrons. Safe sex is the answer. By using strategically placed rubber insulation we can stop the house setting on fire while we are distracted. Bare joints should be covered by those little plastic “dutch caps” and junction boxes to keep the electrons in when we are in intimate contact.

Circuit breakers are also an excellent idea (electrocutus interruptus is the latin term). As soon as those little electrons get on the wrong track, click, and their fun is stopped, the power goes off and we are safe.

Modern circuit breakers with earth leakage detectors are very effective. They are very reliable but, better than that, no longer do you have to run around in the middle of the night trying to find the fuse wire and screwdriver and start messing around in the dark in that little cramped space in the pouring rain to get the power back on. Reach in, click, and we are back in business. The downside is that the National Union of Fuse Wire Makers has been fighting a losing battle to protect their industry against the promoters of “No Fuse Is Good News”.

Steps to Take to Avoid electrical fires and electric shocks

So to recap, if you would like to live a long healthy life and not have your house burn down in the night:

1. Make sure you get an electrician to do electrical work in your house

2. Make sure that all joints use terminal blocks to hold wires together properly and cover the bare wires.

3. Make sure joints are placed in junction boxes.

4. Makesure that wire is in good condition and properly secured out of the way.

5. Make sure your house has circuit breakers and that they work properly.

6. Keep wiring away from Alang Alang roofs

7. Don’t dry your hair in the bath and the next time that piece of toast just will not come out of the toaster don’t stick a knife in to release it.

8. If you want frizzy hair go to a hair dresser.

Copyright © Phil Wilson 2009
This article or any part of it cannot be copied or reproduced without permission from the copyright owner.

8 February 2017 Copyright © Mr Fixit,
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