New light fixture
Home Repair

Replacing light fixtures

So your ceiling light fixtures are outdated and old looking. Should you replace them yourself or hire an electrician? (Please keep in mind that I am not a journeyed electrician, just a Fix It Diva offering suggestions for how to approach projects in your home, whether they are electrical, plumbing, or any type of project. If you feel more comfortable consulting with a professional electrician, please do so. I happen to like saving money wherever possible so that I can use those funds on projects where I have to hire a professional to do the work.)

My rule of thumb is based on the infamous project management triangle: time, resources, and work to be performed. The relationship between these three always defines your cost. Analysis is how you arrive at your decision. We’ll use three different scenarios involving my light fixtures.

Scenario 1: Let’s use the broken ceiling fan in my office as our example.

Analysis: The fan works except for two things: I can’t adjust the fan speed and it is apparently hard wired (I’m not sure if this is the correct term, but it sure seems to fit the situation) so even though the wall switch may be “off”, the fan can still run – only the light is governed by the wall light switch.

Result of Analysis: I have two choices: replace the whole fan or replace the part that adjusts the fan speed. Well here’s the kicker, since it’s hard wired, that means that the entire circuit will have to be turned off to work on the fan. I am fine with replacing a light fixture and using the way it’s wired to define the new way to wire it, but when it comes to having a fixture that is hard wired, I think that is something that needs to be corrected by an electrician.

My Final Decision: hire an electrician to correct the hard wired situation, as well as replace the fan since he will have to take the fan down anyway.

Costs: higher than me replacing a defective pull switch in the fan that controls the blades. Cost is now a new fan, plus an electrician fees.

Scenario 2: Let’s use the ceiling light fixture in my hallway as our example.

Analysis: The light fixture is old and outdated (so so ugly too). Standard wiring to a wall switch.

Result of Analysis: I can replace the light fixture myself and anticipate no problems.

My Final Decision: purchase and install new light fixture.

Costs: new light fixture.

Scenario 3: Let’s use the broken front porch light fixture as our example. (My house is 30 years old – things are now outdated, can’t you tell?)

Analysis: The light fixture is old, outdated, and just plain gnarly looking. Standard wiring to a wall switch.

Result of Analysis: I can replace the light fixture myself and anticipate no problems.

My Final Decision: purchase and install new light fixture.

Costs: new light fixture.

Each project can be analyzed as a standalone project and the decision made on what to be done (work for hire or work by me). If I look at all three scenarios, and discover that to bring in an electrician to replace the ceiling fan in Scenario 1 requires the electrician to charge me for one hour of labor, but the electrician is only going to take 30 minutes to perform the work and charge me for a full hour, then guess what? I am going to have the electrician perform an additional light fixture replacement (or two) at the same time. My costs remain the same for the work done by the electrician, but my TIME (work I have to perform) is reduced.

Try this approach for other projects you have around your home. Look at each one separately, and then determine if it is work performed by you or if you have to hire out. If you do have to hire someone, are there other similar projects that can be performed during that timeframe you have to pay the contractor for anyway?

Be careful and happy wiring!

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attic fan
Home Repair

Man, it is HOT in here! Is it me or the attic fan?

I may be at that “age” where I have my own personal Bikram moments, but lately it’s been HOT HOT HOT in our upstairs. Since I had a task for the hubs to do this week during a heatwave we were having, I picked the HOTTEST day for him to climb up into the attic (yes, no “wife of the year” prize for me)…even though timing wasn’t good, it actually was. Turns out our attic fan motor had burned out after just 3 years since last replacing the housing and the motor. NOW I know one of the contributing factors to being so HOT HOT HOT.

Here are some interesting facts on attic fans. First of all, be sure that the eaves in your attic (that area of overhang below your gutters) is NOT covered over with insulation. The reason is simple: the venting in the eaves is to allow air to flow into the attic and then get pulled through the attic when the attic fan is running. Secondly, your fan should be running on hot days – or else it has seized up and isn’t doing you or your electric bill any good. Attic fans are different from whole house fans. Whole house fans have a large vent located in the ceiling, and on the top floor if you have more than one story. These are hooked up to their own switch in order to be manually turned on/off. An attic fan kicks on automatically when the temperature reaches a certain temperature. A whole house fan requires you to open windows in order for the fan motor to pull the air through the windows and the house up, and out through the attic. CAUTION: if you have gas for heat, water or cooking, BE SURE TO OPEN WINDOWS, else the fan will suck air RIGHT THROUGH THE GAS LINES and that is very dangerous!!!

Replacing the motor of an attic fan is a 30 minute job at the most by any electrician or if you do it yourself. I am not a fan of crawling up and around attics so I did hire out for this job to be done. A typical attic fan is sold with the housing so even if you only need the motor, you will always get the housing unit (I’m talking about from Home Depot). Cost is around $85 for the fan.

In closing, a working attic fan can make a huge difference in keeping the upper level, or if you have a one level home, balanced in temperature. If you haven’t checked lately, stick your head up into the attic on the hottest part of the day and if you don’t see it running or hear it running, it’s time to get it replaced.

It’s nice to be cool again 🙂

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