Easy Electric

I bought my timer switch last weekend, read the directions, and realized that it may be a better daylight project since it entailed cutting power to the circuit with the hall light.

Finally, I got around to it today. I cut power – thanks to some previous owners for meticulously labeling the breaker box with “Living room – South Wall” type detail – and tested my switch to make sure it was good and dead.

I pulled off the faceplate – there are three switches right there – and evaluated the situation. The switch had obviously been there since the Carter administration (at least), as it took some prying to expose the poof balls of black schmutz and insulation. The switch wasn’t grounded at all. After a minute of gentle tugging, I realized wire snips were the easiest way to cut the old wire from the switch – after I triple-checked that the power was indeed off.

One of the joys of an old house is the old wiring. While the breaker box has been updated, some of the internal wiring is, well, old (and I have some old, retired outlets to prove it!). The wires in the wall are wrapped in black cloth. I used my wire snips again to gently peel back about half an inch of insulation so I could fit the wire into the caps with the new switch wires. I lined up the wires, made my connections, grounded the thing (an improvement already!) and then struggled to get all the new wires back into the hole. I kept at it until the (much whiter) new timer switch was nearly flush with its old, almond neighbors. Then it dawned on me that before I finished the arduous tightening, I should probably turn the power on and make sure that everything was connected right. Success!

In many ways, the hardest part of the whole project was getting the faceplate back in place and lined up. It’s still not quite perfectly flush, since the new switch is a tad larger than the old ones, but it gets the job done. I set the program – lights on at sunset, off at 2 AM – and we’re good to go.

It was my very first solo electric project – hooray!


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