The Electrical Debacle

The Electrical Debacle

This blog was originally published on October 8th, 2007. It was published on TypePad and can be found here.


For the first couple of weeks of Jan. 2007, I went to India to study Indian culture and commerce. Before leaving I made an appoitnment with a largish electrical company to do some minor electrical work at my home. While India would make for a much more interesting posting, Ill shall share the story of the electrical debacle.

Before leaving for India I called the electrical company and made an appointment for them to come a few days after I got back from my trip. I essentially had two jobs for them. Fix the non-working outlet in my living room, and "drop" cat 5e ethernet and coaxial cable outlets in each room. To make it clear, this is only 3 outlets. To make it even more clear, I don't feel comfortable drilling holes in my walls and prefer a professional to do it. Furthermore "dropping" the outlets is really a two person job, and I didn't have the tools.

While on the phone, the scheduler informed me that it was $200.00 an hour for a licensed electrician and an apprentice. I was a little taken a back, isn't two hundred an hour what a high-priced lawyer charges. We'll I thought to myself, getting the oulet in the living room working will be worth $200.00 and the data and cable drops in each room will be nice to have as well. After all, with two guys the job should only take 2 hours. Right? Right?? RIGHT???

No, it'll take more like 6 hours, cost you $1200.00 and then require you to fix the electricians handiwork.

The electrician's arrived promptly at the designated time. They brought lots of paper and plastic so as they wouldn't make a mess and discovered the problem with the bad outlet in the living room quite quickly. The outlet in the living room was wired on a different circuit than the rest of the house. The circuit wan't even grounded. They traced the circuit back to an oulet in the front bedroom which had been bare when I originaly looked at the place and then had been covered up during the purchase and sale walk through.

Yep, essentially there was a live ungrounded (dangerous) to me and more importantly my electronics in an outlet which had been shalacked over. Score 1 the electricians. They were off to a good start, and had earned their first $200.00.

They then proceded to cut small holes in my walls and snake the cat 5e and coaxial cable throughout the basement up into my place. They were quite adapt at doing this. They tacked the stray cables off quite neatly. Unlike the way I do it. Mine are much more dangly. And they were able to find the correct wall to run the drop to in the back of the house. I had completely misjudged this wall, and thought it was 10 -15 feet closer to the front of the house. If I had been doing the drilling, I would have probably drilled through a kitchen gas line.

The electricians then went to the electrical supply store and bought the necessary supplies to finish the job. Coincidentally this is also when they took lunch. I think I paid them for their lunch hour, because it was under the guise of buying electrical supplies. I described the job beforehand, why couldn't they keep a healthy supply of typical wiring stuff in their van?

Upon returning they started up immediately. They wired the front bedroom. They wired the back beedroom, and they tried to connect the two ethernet links in the living room. Yep, that's right. They tried wiring the ethernet cables serially like a coaxial cable with splitters or a telephone line.

They had one RJ45 Keystone jack, and were trying to punch down two separate ethernet cables into the one jack. Not knowing what they were doing, and differing to their expertise, I had one computer set up in each room, and would be able to ping only one. Not be able to have all three communicate. This went on for quite some time, when the electricians assistant started to become aggrivated and said it was the routers fault. It wasn't and I was able to stop them both and suggest that maybe they weren't doing it the right way. I said something that made the head electrican realize that he was doing it the wrong way. He added a nother keystone jack. So that now I had 2 keystone jacks, and a cable jack. Not only that but the second keystone ethernet jack was dangling out from behind the face plate. It looked absolutely terrible. The electrician told me that I just needed to go to the electrical supply store in Somerville buy another faceplate and I would be all set.

I tried for several days to find the electrical supply store but never found it. The yellow pages had no such place in Somerville. I then decided to order a new faceplate on line. I found a store that sold them. The problem was that there were no 3 jack plates. I decided to buy a 4 jack plate and then either cover it up (with an installable module) or run a new ethernet cable down into the basement. I took a long length of ethernet cable left over from my last apartment, and ran it down into my own personal basement storage with the intention of turning my locked storage into a "server room". This would of course require hiring another electrician, and I have done so yet.

The first time my electrical stuff came, it was returned to the company I bought it from, and I was forced to reorder the stuff, and make sure I arrived at the UPS pickup facility before they send your stuff back where it came from.

I got my new faceplate and a new RJ45 Keystone jack, and cut and punched down the basement connection and popped it into the new faceplate and there you have it. A very expenisve, kind of bad looking cable plus 3 ethernet port drop in my living room.

This of course requires that I do all my switching in my living room, which has become less and less feasible as a move my living room into the back room. For as long as I live there, Ill have to conted with this problem. Ill always have to have an Internet Router and cable modem in the Living Room.

Getting the bum errant outlet fixed was good. But I was sincerely unimpressed with the ethernet wiring skills. They must not do a lot of ethernet wiring in resedential in Cambridge. Furthermore was it really necessary? I now have an 802.11n (200mbps) router. Do you really need a wired ethernet network if you are going to have fast wireless?

Well yeah, I think you do, but that'll be the topic of another posting.