Yesterday I almost got electrocuted by a beside lamp I had just relocated from another room in to my freshly painted and furbished bedroom. The crystal candles had passed the induction, now I wanted to have the warm ambiance of the bedside mushroom lamp to meditate as I whirled away the aches of the weekend DIY. Fortunately the installed circuit breaker is quite efficient. The sparks and noise before the supply cut out was all that told me something wasn’t quite right. Thing is, even as I made to reset the circuit breaker and returned to remove the plug from the socket; a repeat of the cut out played out. Which again seemed odd.
I put the whole lamp out of the way and waited for the morning when I could get a clear look at the plug and lamp.
Thing is, this business of electricity in my home has been treating me to quite a few strange happenings. About 3 weeks back I kept getting electrocuted in the bathroom, especially whilst using the shower or touching the window pane to use anything on it or place anything on it. I worked out it was because the string to the fan extractor had broken a while back while the extractor was still on. I’d not thought anything of it and instead just switched it off from the mains outside the bathroom until I could get an electrician out to repair the broken string. Given we planned to do some DIY around the whole house, I’d hoped to do this when I got to doing the bathroom.. But this episodes of electric shocks made me call in an appointment sooner.
However, I figured out it was because of condensation building up in the extractor fan when it wasn’t switched on that was causing the electric shocks to occur – especially as the fan was on the same side as the window of the bathroom. So that mystery was solved – no more electric shocks whilst showering.
Then the fluorescent tube light in the kitchen decided it’d had enough and needed to rest in peace! Getting a replacement has proved to be something of an obstacle challenge though and I was getting quite adept at cooking by candle light until a trip to Halfords got me a lantern. The lantern is cranky though. It charges on speed-dial and after 5mins it requests to lie down and recharge. If anything, I’ve become very adept at cooking 5 minute meals on the gas hob.
I return back to the lamp in my bedroom of which I hold quite fond memories as it was one of the items of my late aunt Margaret. My partner took the plug aside after he had patiently listened to my near-miss at burning the house down. When he opened the plug, he pointed to where the fault was..
Somewhere somehow in the lamp’s history, someone had installed a copper wire on the fuse to act as a fuse. Please don’t ask me why as I’m as baffled as to why one would do this given the cost of fuses is not that much or expensive. I asked my partner why anybody would do something so dangerously risky especially as this lamp was previously owned by an elderly person?! Surely this could have caused a fire if the place the lamp was in didn’t have a circuit breaker etc to pick up the fault.
The discovery of this copper wire being used as a bridge for a fuse in a plug led to conversations of fires in school dormitories in Uganda. Stories of how students, due to hunger, would resort to makeshift heating devices such as using mattress spring rods, wires, bypassing fuses of the mains, to avail them cooking devices to heat or cook all sorts. The stories of using makeshift devices with hindsight are quite incredulous though at the time, these were normal occurrences among students who literally were dying to cook something to eat by any means feasible to them.
Sadly I suspect, it is most certainly such makeshift cooking devices using electricity in school dormitories that could explain the tragic and fatal fires that resulted in so many students losing their lives and not necessary a result of criminal arson as is always thought.
As I get more joy doing DIY around my home, I am becoming all the more aware and appreciative of the importance of having a circuit breaker in the home. Knowing the pattern of your home’s wiring circuits and how your electrical service panel is organized can be a big help when a circuit breaker trips ..Perhaps if this critical area of planning for a building was given attention, a lot of students lives would have been saved