I’m gonna spoil this right away: I’m the bumbling boob in this story. You’ll see why in a minute, but all credit to the electrician. He was very sweet about it.
When we last left off, we had no heat in the crawlspace under the stairs. Well, aside from the oil-filled radiator, but we can’t very well leave a space heater running day and night – that just seems like an open invitation for a visit from the Fire Chief (and all his pretty red trucks).
So, once the holidays ended and the stores opened up again, off I went to Home Depot. I felt relatively certain I could do this job on my own. I mean, how hard can it be to connect a couple of wires to a radiator?! (You can’t see me, but I’m shaking my head in dismay at myself right now).
Anyway, I was pretty sure I knew what I needed. I even asked the home depot guy and he confirmed that I was getting the right things – a radiator and a thermostat to control it (the radiator under the stairs isn’t controlled by the central thermostat).
And then I went home to play with wire nuts and pliers. And I got the circuit breaker turned off. And I removed the old radiator. And I put the new radiator in place. And then I faltered.
If it had just been the radiator, it would have been the easiest thing in the world, but the addition of the thermostat kind of threw me a curve. Still, I muddled through with the help of a couple of YouTube videos and the poorly labeled schematic that came with the new radiator. And I was relatively certain that I had it hooked up right. But when I threw the breaker back on, nothing. Nada. No heat.
And no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get it to work. So I decided I’d leave it be and try again the next day, after work. But I needed to set things back so that the rest of the heaters on that floor could work. And here’s where I made the mistake that made me feel like a boob. I disconnected the house wires from the radiator, I twisted them TOGETHER and capped them before flipping the breaker back on.
See what I did there? I shorted the circuit.
I know, I should have capped each wire separately. I don’t know why that little fact eluded me in the moment, but there you go. And the worst thing is that, because of how the breaker works, you can barely tell it’s been tripped unless you look really closely at it. It only backs off from the “on” position very slightly. So I didn’t notice – not until the next morning.
I went downstairs to get ready to leave for work and it was very cold. Actually the temperature outside had dropped substantially the night before, so I didn’t think too much of it. But I figured I had better turn up the other heaters on the floor to augment the efforts of the space heater. And THAT’s when I noticed the other heaters weren’t working.
Of course, being cocksure about the work I had done, I didn’t immediately think “Oh, maybe the breaker is tripped because of my stupidity.” No. Instead, I thought “Oh… Maybe it was never just the radiator under the stairs that was broken – maybe it was something bigger all along and i just never noticed!” And so I panicked. I went to work, got a referral from my colleagues, and called an electrician.
Shortly after lunch, I was back home and wiping egg off my face as I showed him the electrical panel and the tripped breaker. Of course it took him all of 10 seconds to locate my error and another 5 minutes to correctly wire-up the new radiator. But he was very kind about it and never indicated what an idiot I was. He even answered a couple more questions about some other electrical concerns we’ve been having – all free of charge. That’s right, he didn’t charge me a cent for his service. Guess he must have known I probably felt foolish enough and didn’t want to add insult to injury. Honestly, I still don’t know what I did wrong with my initial wiring job. I’ll have to take a look at his work to see how he wired it.
Oh well. At least I now have the number for a good electrician in Ottawa. and I’ve learned two good lessons:
- Don’t wire the black and white leads directly together
- Always shut off the water when we plan to be away from home for any length of time.