Short circuit-A A +A
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
I'LL admit it, I'm pretty much paranoid when it comes to electricity, always have been, and even more so here in the Philippines with most wiring circuits lacking the third pin, the ground. When I go out the front door or turn in for the night I check that everything is turned off and that nothing is plugged in (Except the ref).
I don't have aircon or fans and who needs nightime light - there's a street light out the front and next door is Stalag Luft XV - umm, sorry, a new apartment block securing itself with iron railings, razor wire and halogen perimeter lighting. It must cost them a bomb.
Nothing plugged in, nothing on, what can go wrong? If you watch the local evening news or read the paper, firemen usually point the finger of blame at the short circuit which, come on, is a catch-all sort of term. Wires don't short out and burst into flame by themselves.
Appliances may overheat - although they shouldn't if the owner follows the instructions - the melting wire insulation causing that fatal touch and spark. Wall sockets may overload. You've all seen how folks plug multiple appliances into one wall outlet, encouraged by hardware stores which sell multi-socketed extensions. Four, six, eight; imagine that lot running off one outlet, especially if the appliances are heavy on the wattage.
What else? How about Mr. Mouse? Most residential houses have mice about somewhere. They're diminutive, rarely seen, but they're there. Building a nest of scraps of paper, hair, feathers, and various gnawing shaved off the fabric of your house. They like to build a nest in a cozy corner - where wooden partition members join or amongst the (to them) stout wires leading into a light switch.
They make themselves comfortable, scratching about, chewing this and that, including the wiring. Not for nourishment, just because it's there. I found this out when, clever clogs, I decided to route speaker wires inside a wooden room-dividing partition. Magic, out of sight, until the right-hand channel packed up, insulation chewed down by mice which had built a nest in a handy loop.
Up in the roof space lurks your electrical ring main distributing juice to the ceiling light fittings and down conduits to wall switches and outlets. Ideally the wiring should be neatly attached to the available roof beams and trusses but more often than not it's looped any old how. Enter the ubiquitous house sparrow. They're tiny and streamlined, able to squeeze through the smallest of holes to build their nest in the roofspace triangle formed by the underside of the tin roof and the convenient flat surface of the soffit board.
Their nest is of feathers and leaves but predominantly dry grass sitting there under a hot tin roof on a blazing sunshiny day. I've got them. Every now and then I poke my head through the trapdoor into the roofspace for a recce, spot the nests - not difficult to do, sparrows are social, their community nests can be measured in feet, no wiring nearby in my house, how about yours? - pry down a couple of soffit boards and rake them out. I feel a bit of a bum, the birds curse me, I know as soon as I've nailed the boards back up they'll get on and make another nest.
And while I've my head in the roofspace I look for leaks - impossible to spot standing on the roof but from inside pinholes of light give the game away. Leaks, hardly noticeable leaks, can drip onto wiring or down the vertical conduit which leads to a wall socket. And water can short a circuit.
Quite a list isn't it? A leaky roof, misused appliances, overloaded wall outlets, mice, sparrows. All can contribute to a short circuit, all can burn your house down.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 13, 2013.