Shocked – almost literally

Cathy started to salvage the trim and baseboards on the second floor while I am still pottering around in the basement.

She suddenly pays me a visit, looking for the electrical current tester. She thinks she has found a hot wire while hammering away at a conduit that was in front of a baseboard. I laughed at her because I had all wires disconnected from the electrical panels last year. We only have a temporary outlet in the basement and on the first floor, but nothing connected to the second floor.

She went back upstairs, put the ends of two wires in question together and got a big old firework. I wasn’t laughing anymore but was grateful that she was still alive.


So what is going on? I checked the panels in the basement and again, nothing is feeding the second floor – nothing! Back upstairs, we follow the conduit through the house, leading us to a junction box in the back porch.


We checked and the wires were hot indeed. I disconnected them right away, but still had to trace them to the outside to find the source of the current.

My jaw dropped once I realized that the wires were directly connected to the incoming 200 amp service. No circuit breaker, no nothing! I was shocked (no pun intended) and then hopping mad. Not only could someone have gotten electrocuted, but this was also a serious fire hazard!


The previous owner of the building claimed to be a licensed electrician. All I wanted to know is what may have possessed him to install something this reckless, if he was indeed responsible for this?
Cathy pointed out that the wiring fed an outlet directly under the bedroom window.


They must have used the outlet for a big old air conditioner window unit. Because they suck a lot of electricity, the outlet was directly connected to the incoming 200 amp service, bypassing the electrical meter. This way no one had to pay the electricity bill for air conditioning – but someone could have gotten killed.

I am still hopping mad!

About Marcus de la fleur

Marcus is a Registered Landscape Architect with a horticultural degree from the School of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Sheffield, UK. He developed a landscape based sustainable pilot project at 168 Elm Ave. in 2002, and has expanded his skill set to building science. Starting in 2009, Marcus applied the newly acquired expertise to the deep energy retrofit of his 100+ year old home in Chicago.

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