Electricity, Electricity

Anyone else remember the Schoolhouse Rock about electricity? “Electricity, E-lec-tricity …”

Anyway, that’s what we now have in the closet!

I was very nervous about this part of the project. It seems like every time we try to do something in the house, we find unexpected surprises in the walls. (Is “unexpected surprises” redundant? Hmm …) But yesterday when Steve and Dharma left for their bowling party, I gathered my tools together, mustered my determination, and got started.

The first thing that I did was turn off the circuit to the closet / living room. Then, I ran an extension cord from the kitchen to plugin my portable halogen work light – you know, so I would be able to see. Then I removed the screws and brackets that held the existing armored cable (AC) in place.

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Next, I turned my attention to the light fixture. Notice the piece of beaverboard still wedged behind the fixture.

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I removed the light bulb and carefully set it aside. The fixture is actually a cool, retro porcelain fixture, which I really like for some reason. I removed the wirenuts from the wires in the fixture box, and disconnected the fixture.

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Then I teased the wires out of the fixture box, so that I could straighten and trim them as necessary, and access the screws that attach the fixture box to the wall.

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But first I needed to cut the AC. I used my lineman’s pliers to slightly crimp the AC where I wanted to cut it. Then I carefully bent the AC to snap the shielding and expose the wires.

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I gently twisted the AC to uncoil it in the area that I was cutting, then used my side cutters to cut the metal shielding. Once it was cut, I used my lineman’s pliers to cut the three wires inside the AC, and used my side cutters to trim away any sharp parts of the metal shielding.

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With the AC cut, it was easier to remove the fixture box from the wall. I removed the screws that held the box to the wall and carefully set them aside with the fixture. Next, I loosened the two small screws on the NM clip on the back of the box …

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… and gently slid the NM wires out of the box, being careful not to nick or damage them.

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At this point, things seemed to be proceeding pretty quickly, so I decided that I had time to paint the fixture box. I used a screwdriver to depress the tabs inside the box on the AC connector, and removed it. (It actually took me a little time to figure out how to do this.) Then, I cleaned up the box, grabbed my spray paint and a scrap piece of drywall, and headed out into the yard. I applied a single coat of paint, and left it to dry in the sun.

Back inside, I cut another length of the armored cable feed line to expose the wires.

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I got my pretty, pre-painted junction box, and positioned it on the wall stud where I wanted to attach it. I drilled two holes for the screws that I would use to affix it (the two holes at the top are for the junction box).

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It’s only temporary, as I will have to remove it again when I install the drywall and paint. Here is another shot of the stripped AC, ready to be connected to the junction box. This gives you a general idea of where the box will be installed, about midway down the wall.

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I chose to install the box in a rather unconventional spot, which mostly had to do with installing it at a height at which it would be easy for me to work, and would require the least amount of wire cutting, as you will soon see.

I got a AC connector to attach to the newly-cut end of the AC. These connectors are an all-in-one type that have the bushing already installed.

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I carefully slid the connector down over the cut end of the AC and pushed really hard until it snapped into place. I gave it a tug to make sure it was securely attached.

Next, I used a screwdriver, hammer, and pliers to remove three knockouts from the junction box. I placed the screwdriver on the knockout and hit it with the hammer to loosen the tab. Then I used the pliers to twist the tab back and forth until it snapped off. I removed two knockouts on the back of the box for the AC feed line and the NM branch circuit, and one knockout on the top of the box for the new AC that would reconnect the line to the fixture and the existing circuit.

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I then attached an NM connector clamp to the lower knockout on the back of the box. To do this, I unscrewed the nut on the connector, place the connector in the knockout hole, reattached the nut on the inside of the box, and tightened it with my needlenose pliers.

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I also attached a green ground screw inside the box.

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I affixed the near end of the NM branch line that I had already installed to the stud with an NM staple about 10 inches below the junction box position.

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I had purchased an 8-foot AC “whip”, which comes complete with the connectors already installed, to run from the new junction box to the existing fixture box, replacing the AC line that I had removed.

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I stripped the end of the NM and threaded it through the NM clamp on the back of the box, then tightened the screws to secure the NM. I then pushed the AC connector into the second knockout until it snapped into place.

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I used two drywall screws to attach the junction box to the stud.

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I snapped one end of the AC whip into the top knockout on the box. I used a spare piece of wire to create a pigtail to the ground screw in the box. I then used my super-awesome push-in wire connectors to connect all the black wires to each other, all white wires to each other, and all the ground wires to each other. I folded the wires accordian-style and pushed them back into the box.

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See how pretty? I put my pretty painted face plate on the junction box, securing it with the two screws which I had painted to match.

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I retrieved my freshly-painted, now-dry fixture box and installed a new ground screw inside it. I then reattached the NM to the box. I used the screw that I had set aside to reattach the fixture box to the wall. I snapped the other end of the AC whip into the top knockout, where the previous AC had been attached.

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Again, I used a spare piece of wire to create a ground pigtail. I retrieved the fixture, then connected all the wires with my push-in connectors (whites together, blacks together, and grounds together). These wires were a little more difficult to connect as they had been previously twisted with wire nuts. I had to straighten them several times to to get them to slide into the connectors. Once they were all connected, I folded the wires back into the box, and reinstalled the fixture.

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With everything fully wired and the circuit reconnected, it was time to restore power to the circuit. But first, I capped off the end of the branch circuit that will be connected to the recessed lights, and tucked it out of the way near the joists.

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I then restored the power. To my extreme relief, nothing exploded or immediately burst into flames. As an added bonus, everything worked! Here is one of the new GFCI outlets, lit and ready for use.

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Here is the fixture bulb, happily glowing.

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And with the light turned off, you can see the light-up switch on the back wall of the closet glowing.

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The rest of the living room circuit was working fine as well. I cleaned up all the little wire snippets and put away my tools. Then, I got the charger for my right-angle drill and plugged it into one of the new outlets. Here it is, happily charging.

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So the new circuit in the closet is complete. All that remains is to install the drywall, paint, reinstall the AC brackets, and reinstall the trim and the door. I am hoping to perhaps get the ceiling installed today. However, my back, which I injured from coughing while I had pneumonia, is really sore, so I may have to postpone. But in the meantime, I can enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.

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