18 September 2008

So so frustrated!


Okay, so I'm an idiot and I can't figure out switches.

Yes, a switch. That thing that turns your lights on and off. Am I that dense?

I've installed a handful of switches, ever. Most were 3-way and a few were single-pole. I don't have much switch-installing experience and yes, just so you know, it's killing me to admit this.

Jay is having me completely rough in these two rooms: power receptacles, data and phone, dimmers, lighting, everything except the fire alarm. I like it because I'm working by myself most of the time and that gives me a chance to think things through all the way, which is good with a foreman as patient as Jay. He even helps when he has a few moments or if it's a task a little difficult for one person to handle alone; in fact we pulled most of the home-runs (main power from the panel to the first junction box of a given circuit) today. I was feeling pretty good about figuring all this stuff out. After all, as an apprentice I didn't get to do a lot of thinking, just a lot of doing as I was told.

So now here I am, rerouting some MC for exit lights, and Jay questions one of my switches. I won't go into it because even now it's so convoluted I'm not sure I understand it enough to explain it without scanning my crude diagram and posting it here. But anyway, I fucked up so egregiously that I seriously wanted to cry. Jay said splice on the line side and I took that to mean "cut the home-run for the circuit, install a pull box, and connect". No. He meant to use two of the unnecessary wires tucked in the back of the made up switch box to give power to another leg of the circuit. He gave me directions, I thought I understood them; I repeated them back, he thought he understood me. We both thought all was well and going great and...

Anyway, he helped me for an hour to completely take apart this box, remove an entire 15-foot run of 10-3 MC, reconnect what was left properly, and then have me explain to him what he just did, so he could make sure I had it down. He drew a diagram and I redrew it, just to be certain.

I can't make such silly rookie mistakes. That was time wasted, material wasted...I was told that I couldn't really be blamed as I hadn't much experience with it but still...It's a switch. What's so amazingly difficult about a that? One j-box, with two switches. Each switch is fed from a different circuit, different panel. (One's emergency power.) Home-run from electrical room; that's 2 MCs. Then two more MCs to the j-box in an adjacent room which will also have lighting from the same two circuits. Then the whips for the switch-legs to the fixtures...then runs to go all the way to the other side of the work area to feed more lights. All run in 10-3, so the red could be the switch-leg...and I got confused over the neutral and what needs one and what doesn't...I feel ridiculous.

I'm going in tomorrow to just try and do my job without making my foreman wish I'd leave his crew already.

1 comment:

rebturtle said...

Bummer. It does happen though. I've spent a lot of time explaining emergency fixtures, 3-way, 4-way, and 2-pole single-throw switches to guys (and homeowners). For something simple, it can be very complicated. The good news is that the learning curve is steep, and that once you understand how they work you can do an enormous amount of custom trickery with them.

For instance, a 3-way switch is basically an A-B switch. This means you can use it to switch the feed to a light from, say, a constant hot to a timer or photocell-controlled hot. Break out the labeler and mark the switch "auto" on one side and "manual" on the other!