by Leon Rosenshein

Simple Fixes

So I’ll need you to replace the cat-3 cable from port AA-825 with a new cat-5 cable to desktop SPA-251. And I need it for a demo in 10 minutes. What do you do? And for context, here’s the current status

A tangled mess of cables

If you really need to do it in 10 minutes what you’re probably going to do is unplug the cable in port AA-825 and run a new cable around that lump and route it to SPA-251. If you get it done in 9 minutes, you might write down that port AA-825 is connected to SPA-251. If you’re really fast and get done in 8 minutes you might even do something about the cable you just unplugged. But you probably won’t have time.

Instead you get what happened to me last week. The house my daughter and her roommates live in has a laundry room on the main floor. It’s got a laundry chute from the 2nd floor, hot and cold water, a drain line, and 120V and 240V outlets ready to go. But a previous renter wanted more pantry space near the kitchen, so they moved the laundry room to the basement and put in shelves.

My daughter and her roommates decided they wanted to have the laundry back on the main floor, so I took the shelves out and hauled the washer and dryer back upstairs. Hooked up the washer and all was well. Brought the dryer up and plugged it in. No workee. No electricity. Checked the circuit breakers. All on. Checked the sub-panel. All on. But somewhere between the breaker panel and the laundry room the electricity disappeared.

It’s someone else’s property, so I call the electrician. $100 later he confirms that there’s no electricity and gives us an estimate. $3K to run a new line. Because there’s no way of knowing where the problem is, or if it’s fixable. My guess is that somewhere in the basement ceiling, hidden behind a nice new piece of drywall, is a splice that comes off the old dryer line and goes to the new one. But there’s no way of finding it without removing lots of drywall. In this case the fix is going to be to haul the washer/dryer back to the basement.

There were at least 2 better solutions when they moved the dryer to the basement. Put the splice in an accessible junction box or run a new line from the basement sub-panel. If either of those two solutions had been used I could have fixed things, and for minimal cost. No cost if they ran a new line, and probably $10 if they had the exposed junction box. Running a new line would probably have cost a few hundred more at the time, so not doing that makes sense. An exposed junction box might have cost $10 more. Even less if there’s an unexposed junction box behind the drywall.

But they took neither of those routes. Instead, I’m out $100 and it would cost $3K to fix the outlet. So now there are extra loose wires hanging inside the walls, and the dryer stays in the basement. I lost money and I lost options.

That’s the real cost of cost control.