Rewired It

So, a minor issue:  the clothes dryer burned out a while ago.  Since I pretty much never buy anything new, I found a used one I could buy off a guy who didn't need it any more because he'd bought a better one.  When I got it home, I found it had a four-prong plug instead of the older-style three-prong plug.  No problem:  the junker has the right kind of plug.  I stripped it off the old one, wired it up to the new one, and plugged it in.

The dryer ran really loud, really hot, and quit after ten seconds.

Now at first I thought I had just been sold a lemon by a guy who had 'bought a better dryer' because the old one didn't work.  After all, I'd wired it up correctly according to the diagram:  white ground wire on the center, two hot wires on the sides.

After a little internet research, however, I found out that this is a common problem if the dryer is wired wrongly, i.e., if you get the ground on the wrong attachment.  So I went down into the basement and snooped around, and found out that the previous owner of the house apparently did the dryer wiring themselves as an aftermarket.  It's a rather amazing job -- not up to code, and somewhat more resembling a spider web than a professional installation.  Still, it worked for two years, so I figured it probably still worked -- it just wasn't wired right according to code.

Once I sorted that out, I found the true ground and swapped the wires around, and the dryer works perfectly now.  I kind of wish the previous owner of the house had mentioned his little adventures in electricity, though; but I suppose he would have believed that it would have lowered my offering price for the house.  (He would have been right, too.)


E Hines said...

I wonder if this level of detail is present in an appraiser's pre-sale inspection of a house. To me it would seem a reasonable expectation that the appraiser would check into the electricals. But probably that's not industry practice.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

You know, we had a good agent, and they hired a good inspector, but he didn't mention it. The house is mostly in great shape, really; it's a minor issue. I might have knocked off a couple grand, though, for the expense of having it redone by a professional.

Eric Blair said...

My house being older than I am, most of the plugs are only 2 prong, which the previous owners didn't bother to fix, as we found out when the refigerator that came with the house died, and we found it plugged into an adapter. We got that outlet rewired.

DL Sly said...

The panel at the house we rented while we were stationed at Barstow looked like spaghetti noodles had been thrown in and the door slammed shut before they could fall out. The guy who did all the handy work for our landlord couldn't believe what he was seeing when we had him out to figure out why half the house would go out when the furnace kicked on.
That was one of the many reasons for why we referred to that place as the Little Blue Outhouse in the Desert.

Texan99 said...

I always assume any electrical system we haven't seen without our own eyes is a horrorshow lurking in the dark. One of the biggest pleasures of building our current house here was knowing exactly what's behind the walls, even taking pictures of it before it was closed up.

Our old post-college communal flophouse had such crazy stuff going on in the master panel in the basement that our electrician roommate posted a big skull-and-crossbones on it with a sign saying "Warning: no user-serviceable parts." We never let anyone but him near it. How we avoided burning that place down I'll never know.

E Hines said...

There's a Maintainer saying in the USAF: "Stay away from that wheelbarrow, pilot; you don't understand complex machinery."

Electrical wiring really isn't rocket science; it's more detail oriented. If you understand the rudiments of current flow and resistance, and follow common sense, you'll pretty much meet wiring standards and code automatically, differing primarily in the bureaucratic details of a particular locale.

Of course, "common sense" varies. If you have any doubts about electricity, this probably isn't the place to challenge yourself, without close and expert supervision.

Eric Hines

DL Sly said...

Well, it needs no further comment that the place I'm talking about is in California.....
I'm rather knowledgeable in the vast majority of all that entails building a house - from foundation to finish - and I wouldn't even think about touching this panel. It was that scary.
Course, that place was a builder's nightmare. It was located in the middle of the Mojave desert and had not one inch of insulation in the ceiling. With temperature extremes from 15-125 degrees over the course of a year, that just boggled my mind. And while the whole house had been ducted for central heat and a/c, they never bothered to actually put in the central unit. Instead there was a swamp cooler with two downdraft locations for the entire house, and a propane wall furnace at the end of a short, essentially enclosed hallway. Thank goodness for electric blankets!

douglas said...

"If you have any doubts about electricity, this probably isn't the place to challenge yourself, without close and expert supervision."

True indeed. Make sure there is limited hazard in using that wiring until it's done properly, Grim. I once wired a plug for a water heater for a friend of mine, and he went to plug it in, but the plug was wired differently, and the resulting ground short was quite a show- could have killed him, too. As noted earlier, these things are fire hazards as well, and those are sometimes the sort of things that don't manifest themselves right away or even over a couple of years, but eventually something runs too hot and *poof*, you have ignition.

This story is also a lesson in not assuming that wiring is correct, and it's good to get in the habit of checking the wires first- as I learned in the aforementioned incident.