Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A Shocking Experience

We been having some late night visitors at the church (i.e. couples in parked cars), so I'm trying to fix/replace a couple security lights we have that either do not work or are broken to the point where they point only down to the ground and not into the parking lot.  Replaced the first one no problem.  Actually, the "first" light I replaced on the Fellowship Hall was the same kind I had used on the Sunday School building, so it was my third one of that type.  When I went to buy one more to replace the one that lit up the ground and nothing else, I went to Lowes instead of Home Depot, so I had to get a different brand.  We get the ones that have the photocontrol on them that comes on at dusk and off at dawn.  The three I bought at Home Depot already had the photocontrol wired for me, so it was easy to connect black to black, white to white and tie in the ground wire.  This new one did not have the photocontrol wired, so I had to figure that out as I went along.

Yes, I did read the directions, but somehow I miswired the thing so that when I turned the breaker back on, the light came on.  If you're wondering why the light coming on was a bad thing, it's mostly because it was 4:00 in the afternoon and the sun was was supposed to sense these things and turn itself off.

Oh, but I'm getting ahead of myself.  Besides there being more wires in the light fixture itself that I had to wire together, the wires coming out of the building were orange and white instead of black and white.  I called my Dad and went on the assumption that white is white and non-white is non-white (therefore, orange would be black).  I read Dad the wiring directions from the box and wired the thing like I thought it said I was supposed to (all the time trying to remember that orange was black).  So when the thing came on and stayed on, I had to call Dad again and ask him what he thought was going on (since I obviously had no earthly idea).  He said I had wired something wrong and bypassed the photocontrol somehow...I had wired it hot.  That made sense and so I figured out what I needed to do and "fixed" it.

One it was ready to go, I screwed it into the building and asked Amanda to help me.  "Watch the light while Daddy goes inside the building and turns the switch on.  The light should come on for just a few moments and then go off."  So I went and turned the breaker back on and came back outside.  Amanda said the light had come on for a few moments and then gone off.  All seemed to be going well...until I noticed that the thing came back on.  Upon further observation, I noticed it came on for 15 seconds, off for 30, on for 15, off for 30, etc.  I asked Pastor what he new about security lights and he told me I needed to adjust the sensitivity of the phtocontrol.  That made sense, except for the fact that there was no way of doing this...the thing only cost $15.

So I looked at the old light that was up there, the one that worked but lit up only the ground because it was so old and broken.  I double checked my wiring and then noticed that they had removed the photocontrol from the old one and simply let it dangle from the fixture.  You see, these lights hang under an overhang of the roof.  The photocell is pointed down, and I thought perhaps having a hard time determining how light it was really was.  So I switched the breaker off again, took the whole thing apart (again) and let the photocontrol dangle.  After reassembling it (again) and turning the breaker back on, this seemed to fix the problem.  Amanda said the light came on and then went off when I turned the breaker on, and I put Amanda on my shoulders and had her cover the photocontrol.  Sure enough, the lights came on when she did this.

All seemed well until I did my security rounds last night and noticed that these lights were not on!  I wondered if the dangling photocontrol was picking up too much light from the other security lights, so I covered it up.  Still nothing happened.  When I let go of the photocontrol it swayed a bit and the lights came on.  I'm thinking this is probably not a good thing, so I'll check it again tonight and may end up taking it apart again!

You notice throughout this story I mentioned turning the breaker on and off.  I am no electrician, but my Daddy taught me well enough to know to turn the breaker off before playing with electricity.  Only problem was, the breaker box had nothing labeling the outside lights.  Fortunately, or so I thought, there was a plug in receptacle below the light.  It only made sense that this receptacle would be on the same breaker as the light.  So I plugged in a receptacle tester and flipped breakers until it went off.  It wasn't till I has well into unwiring the old light that I figured out that they were NOT on the same breaker.  It was a shocking experience!


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