Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Lights, Camera, Lights? Lights?

If you have recessed ceiling lights in high ceilings be very careful when changing light bulbs. Recessed ceiling lights, or can lights, have essentially three sections. The can which mounts to the joists, the socket which accepts the bulb, and the trim that attaches to the bottom that makes the whole outfit look nice and tidy. The socket is wired to the can and the trim attaches to the socket and the can. Many of you will attempt to change the lightbulb using a nice device on the end of an extension pole that grabs and manipulates the bulb. The contraption is essentially a little basket with a spring that pulls the opening close around the bulb. Mine is a visually stunning yellow and black number.

One day while attempting to unscrew a bad light bulb using my hornet-on-a-stick I had great difficulty in getting the damn basket around the bulb. You have to push the basket against the lightbulb just hard enough for the spring to stretch open around the bulb like a giant spincter and grab the stem. On closer inspection I saw that when I pushed the basket against the bulb, the bulb was actually popping up into the can. That's not good. So, I put my spincter down, got my ladder and took a look.

Turns out the builders didn't attach the socket to the trim. There are these clips on the sides of the socket that attach the socket securely to the trim so when you decide to change the lightbulb the socket doesn't pop into the can. Examination of the setup showed why the socket wasn't attached. To get the socket on you must clip off these little notches on the trim, clearly marked, so the socket can be inserted and then twisted securely into place. Since this is an extra step requiring brain power of course Mayo Group workers didn't do it. I checked each light in my ceiling. About half popped into the can when touched. So it appears there was at least one worker paying attention or the same worker paying attention half the time.

The wires are attached to the socket by screws. These contacts are exposed. So if the trim is metal, the light switch on, and the socket mispositioned - you may be in for a jolt when prodding the opening with a metal pole waving metal fingers around the electrically charged trim. Be sure the light switch is off and taped off. Better yet, turn the breaker off and use a proximity voltage detector before you touch the can. I have this nice little green number that was $10. It's 10 bucks. Even if it's $20 - Get one.


sculpin said...

in the same vein, my tenants' toilet at my condo had begun to leak from under the bowl; the 1st floor owner noticed the smell. This in and of itself would not be unusual, as the unit was renovated almost 20 years ago. However, when I took off the toilet to replace the wax ring, I discovered that the flange they had set into the floor was rectangular, not the standard round flange, so a round wax ring would not fit and was not appropriate for the bowl. In addition, they had gerry rigged the thing, breaking off the toilet mount points and replacing them with a piece of repair hardware. After scratching my head for all of a morning, and after 3 trips to home depot, I ended up cutting off the flange, buying a 10 foot pvc pipe so I could use 3 inches of it, and putting in the proper flange. It worked, but there is not clearance for an additional repair, so next time (20 years from now?) they will have to call a plumber to replace the T below. I spent all day when I thought I would be spending a couple of hours (also replaced the kitchen faucet). One more piece of cheap construction; when fixing the plumbing earlier this year I discovered that the unit has no water shut-offs ( I was replacing a toilet shut-off valve), so I had to go into the basement and shut off the water for units 3a and 4a as well to do my work.

Marcus said...

That is a LOT of work! Good job on figuring out a solution. Funny you should mention water shutoff valves. I've been looking for one to my unit just because I want to know where it is. I haven't found anything that resembles one. There are 2 valves on the source side of the water heater, but it appears to be specifically for the water heater. I guess one before the water heater was there and another close to the heater probably to adhere to some code. I see that the control valves for the sprinkler system outside each entrance and wonder if they also control the general water supply to the unit. I only recall seeing one big valve on the water main in the basement. Any ideas what I should look for?