Yesterday we were called by one of our clients in Whitby to try to troubleshoot some lights and receptacles that suddenly weren't working in their home. We checked the obvious...was the breaker tripped, did a GFCI kick out....but we couldn't find a problem. We started opening up each receptacle that was affected and BINGO, we found the problem.
First of all, the house has aluminum wiring but this receptacle was not rated for aluminum wire. Also, the installed wires were not grounded properly, were not stripped back far enough and were not long enough which caused stress on the cable. All in all, this doesn't sound so serious but none of these deficiencies explain why the circuit shut down.
In talking with our client we found out that when they had new windows installed, the installer found wires running through the wall and rather than properly deal with them, he just offered to put a receptacle in for them (for a price of course!) Problem is, he wasn't an electrician and not only did he break the law but he put the lives of the homeowners at risk.
Once we knew the history, it became obvious that the receptacle was used as a way to lengthen the cable to fit around the windows. A copper only rated receptacle was attached to the aluminum wire and then copper wire was added to make its way around the window and finish the circuit. The more serious problem here is that the window installer didn't use a junction box to splice the cables at the other end of the copper wire. All he did was use wire connectors wrapped in electrical tape. If there had been any kind of electrical short, the resulting spark could have ignited the 2 X 4 wood stud that it was directly in contact with.
After the receptacle was installed, it seemed to work just fine....for two months. The client had no idea that the installation was done so dangerously. The old adage, " A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing" is frighteningly true when it comes to electricity.
Since January 2007, it has been the law that electrical work within your home MUST be done by a Licensed Electrical Contractor. By not adhering to this law, the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) can fine both the person doing the work AND the homeowner who hired them, up to $25,000. This is serious business!! In this case, the whole circuit just stopped functioning, but if instead, a spark had occurred and caused a fire, there is a great likelihood that the insurance company would not have covered the damage. There would not have been a record at the ESA of the work being done legally and therefore, the homeowners could have been left without insurance coverage.
I can't emphasize this enough...DO NOT RISK YOUR LIFE. JUST BECAUSE A RECEPTACLE OR LIGHT WORKS DOES NOT MEAN IT WAS WIRED UP CORRECTLY. DO NOT HIRE A HANDYMAN, YOUR BROTHER, YOUR NEIGHBOUR OR YOUR FATHER TO DO ANY ELECTRICAL WORK IN YOUR HOME!!! HIRE ONLY A LICENSED ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR AND MAKE SURE THEY GET A PERMIT FOR THE WORK.
For more information on this law, please refer to the ESA website http://esasafe.com/GeneralPublic/hc_001.php?s=8