Saturday, December 03, 2005

power corrupted

(This is a bit of a departure, topic-wise, for my regular readers. It'll be interested to see if it resonates with anyone.)

As part of my work in the kitchen today, I replaced two power outlets. We had already decided to freshen them up, to make them all white & matching. These two were quite an experience, though.

First, they appear to each be on a dedicated circuit.

One has relatively modern 2 conductor + ground, 12ga wire. What's odd is that the breaker is 30 amps! If I could convince myself that it really was a dedicated circuit, I'd replace the outlet with a 20 amp one, which might be nice to have.

The other one has the same wiring as the rest of the house: It's all 12 ga, with cloth insulation. The ground wires never go in to the gang box in the whole house. That seems weird to me, but maybe that was how they did things back in 1959. (yeah, my house is ancient!) In this one case, however, the ground wire was screwed in to the back of the gang box, which was metal, so the outlet could be grounded. Everywhere else the gang box is plastic, and the outlet is 2-prong.

On top of this, the gang boxes were just screwed in to the drywall with wood screws! Not even with a drywall anchor. So as I starter my work, the screws pulled out of the wall. Uggh.

Off to the hardware store to buy some old work gang boxes. Had to cut out the wall a bit to fit the boxes just right. In the end it all went back together fine, and looks good.

Tomorrow I replace the other two outlets in the kitchen. One is 2-prong, even though the gang box is grounded (I tested). So it'll be going to 3-prong.

Weird wiring in this house. And I'm still trying to make sense of the 30A breaker on the 12ga wire...


Anonymous said...


EricGu here. The 30 amp breaker is not code, because the wire in the circuit is only 12 gauge, which can only support 20 amps. The overcurrent device has to have the same limit as the wiring, so it should be a 20 amp breaker.

Drop me an email if that doesn't make sense.

Eric (who just put in a subpanel today...)

Jay Bazuzi said...

Hey Eric,

Yeah, I know that a 30A breaker on 12ga wire isn't to code. So I'm wondering if I'm missing some detail of how it's wired (possible), but more wondering what the installer was thinking.

If I had to guess, I'd say that the only time a professional made a change to the wiring in the house was to add cable TV. I think the rest was done by residents.

I just hope that no one looks at my wiring in 10 years and finds it as appalling as I am finding this stuff.

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