A while back we started calling any dubious home repair, amateur fix-it, remuddling job, or downright dangerous setup an "Uncle Jimmy." It goes back to our home-search days, when our agent would say things like "Ugh, it looks like they got someone's Uncle Jimmy to fix that" instead of hiring a professional. So, basically, anything shoddily done is an "Uncle Jimmy."
I was fiddling with the blog when Ted came to find me. This "Uncle Jimmy" needed a second witness. I arrived with camera in hand.
The refrigerator was plugged into an adapter, which in turn was plugged into a 99-cent power cord:
This cheesy white power cord, along with the cord for the microwave, was plugged into a beat-up, cracked, badly damaged (and very, very cheap) black power strip:
The power strip was plugged into another cheap power cord:
This snaked behind a counter and behind the stove to join this mess:
At first, I couldn't entirely make out what was going on here; the entire thing was coated in thick, greasy dust. It's amazing there was never a fire. Clearing off some of the dust revealed that each half of the outlet had one of those 3-in-1 adapters, setting it up to hold six appliances/extension cords (even though the refrigerator/microwave extension was the only thing plugged in on one side).
Ted cleaned up the whole mess; unfortunately, I didn't get an "after" picture before moving the appliances back. He moved the microwave to the other side of the kitchen, where it is now plugged directly into its own outlet. The refrigerator is plugged into a cord that is rated for heavy use, and that goes directly into the outlet. The other half of the outlet powers the stove. Uncle Jimmy would be awed.
I know The Box House is an old house with only a few outlets in the kitchen at present, but sheesh. What were they thinking? We'll be installing some GFCI outlets in both kitchens--and more outlets period--sometime in the future.
Here's some additional info from the U.S. Products Safety Commission:
Limit Extension Cords To Reduce Risk Of Fire
WASHINGTON--If you use a lot of extension cords in your home or apartment, government safety experts say doing away with as many cords as possible can improve the safety of your home.
Noting that May is National Electrical Safety Month, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said homeowners can use fewer extension cords by taking the simple step of relocating floor lamps, clocks, radios, television sets and other electrical products closer to wall receptacles.
According to CPSC estimates, there are some 4,600 residential home fires each year associated with extension cords; these fires kill 70 persons and injure some 230 others annually. Apart from fires, another 2,200 shock-related injuries happen with extension cords every year.
CPSC offered the following safety hints for using extension cords:
A free brochure on safe use of extension cords is available from CPSC by sending a postcard to Cords, Washington, D.C. 20207.
- Don't use an extension cords unless absolutely necessary. If you do, it must be marked #16 or some lower AWG number (the lower the number, the larger the wire and the more current the cord can safely carry). Also, the cord should bear the certification label of an independent testing laboratory. Do not use #18 extension cords which were previously used for floor lamps and other low-wattage electrical products.
- Always use 3-wire extension cords for appliances with 3-prong plugs. Never remove the third prong which is a safety feature designed to reduce chances of shock or electrocution.
- When disconnecting cords from outlets, always pull on the plug rather than the cord itself. Discard any old, cracked, worn or damaged extension cords.
- Don't overload cords by plugging in appliances that draw more watts than the rating of the cord. You can check this easily by examining the cord to see what its wattage rating is. Use heavy-duty cords for high wattage appliances. Use extension cords labeled for outdoor use when powering tools and garden products outside the home. Also, it is good practice to plug into an outlet protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). The device shuts down power in milliseconds if the consumer is exposed to an electrocution or electrical burn hazard.
- Don't run cords under carpets or rugs since they prevent heat from being released by the cord.