Organize! The Fuse Box

She Says:

When we first moved in, we had a very small, and very confusing fuse box.  Eventually, we had an electrician come in and replace it with a larger one to accommodate our reno, but in the beginning, this is what we had to work with:

The "labelling" left a lot to be desired.  It consisted of a penciled-in chicken scratch to the left of the breakers.  

I'm not asking for professional calligraphy here, but this is kind of important... legible would be nice!  Okay, I can read "sewer," and I guess "Garibige DS" could be interpreted garbage disposal, but "Ger LT"?  I have no freakin' clue! And some of the few that were legible were actually mislabeled!  But I digress...  

We're going to be flipping breakers on and off throughout this reno, and we need to know what goes where, so we took an hour and figured out where everything went.  Here are our tools:

My handy-dandy cheapo Label Maker        and              a Non-Contact Voltage Tester
That's it!  We turned off all the breakers, then flipped them back on one at a time to test which plugs and wires were live.

Green means it's dead, or safe, Red means DANGER, live wire!

Then, one by one, we labelled each breaker:

Simple and safe!

He says:

If you watch any DIY shows, you've doubtless seen people yelling across the house "is it off?!"  "I don't know!" "Ouch!  It's not off!", etc.  Let's just avoid all that by labeling the fusebox once and for all.  It's important to be thorough, every plug and switch in the house should be tested to know for certain which breaker controls it.  Don't overlook any, or you'll be doing the yelling sooner or later.

Note that the non-contact voltage testers are fantastic tools, but they are too sensitive.  I'm sure they have to be for liability reasons, but rubbing the tip of the tester against a dead wire or outlet generates enough static electricity to trigger the indicator light.  This type of "false positive" test will confuse you unless you take the time to really familiarize yourself with your new tester.  Take a piece of dead, unconnected wire and rub the tester tip on it to learn what false voltage positives look like, and ALWAYS treat an unknown wire, switch or circuit like it's live until you have proven quite conclusively that it isn't.  

Also, you should consult and hire pro electricians whenever needed but DO NOT listen to their stories about getting shocked.  It is universal across the electrical industry to act like 120V circuits are not dangerous - they are.  Listening to your electrician talk about how many times he has been shocked with house current can make you complacent.  Be vigilant around electricity and you will minimize your chances of being hurt.  

Last thing, if you examine the white fuse box in the above photos, you will see that it does not have a master switch for the house incorporated.  When we had it replaced with the nicer, newer, larger grey one you'll see in other posts, we gained a master switch inside the new panel....and because I wanted it, I also had a Master OFF switch for the entire house added to the outside wall.  Now I can turn off all of the circuits at once inside, and I can turn off the entire panel at once from outside.  I like this arrangement a lot, maybe it's overkill, but now we never have to ask "is it off?!" anymore.  We know when it's off.

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