I'm no electrician, and I don't pretend to be one. Carpentry is plenty enough for me. Nonetheless, I did spend about a year as an apprentice to a master electrician twenty something years ago, so I did pick up a few useful skills from that trade, that have come in very handy recently. I live in an older home, built in 1978 or '79, if I remember right. It's a solid, well-built house, has good plumbing and electrical, and has been fairly well maintained through the years by previous owners. There was, however, one thing that was consistently left off of everybody's list for upgrades. I can't blame them, though. It's pretty easy to over look, and many people never really think about this as something that needs to be upgraded or maintained. What I'm talking about is the electrical outlets and the light switches in the walls. Over time cords sit loosely in the outlets, and the light switches aren't as firm and crisp in position as they used to be. What this adds up to is loose connections, which can cause arching, which creates heat, and can cause a fire. Now, I'm not here to give a lesson on how to change these items, but I got a real reminder of what can happen if you don't pay attention to these things and be prompt.
Over the course of about the past year or so, I've been replacing all of my old switches and receptacles, so I was a little puzzled when part of one of my circuits went dead recently. All of the dead circuit had new stuff, so then began the hunt for the circuit! Woohoo! Boy howdy it doesn't get more frustrating than that sometimes. I burned half my day looking for the dead spot, and hoping I was following the right path. Well, long story short, I did find the culprit. It was an outlet that didn't get replaced. It was behind a chest of drawers, unseen. Tell you what, I couldn't believe what I saw when I took the cover off of that outlet. I was pretty nervous at first, then after a little realization, felt a bit alone, then very humbled. When I took the cover off of the outlet, I saw where other parts of the outlet were a bit cooked, and that's when I caught the distinct smell of ozone, just faintly. That made me pretty nervous. As I pulled the outlet from the box, it just crumbled to pieces in my hand. Yeah, that thing was baked. I noticed the wires on the back of the outlet were pretty crispy, and one of the wires was no longer attached to the outlet. The hot wire was stuck to the outlet box, and was melting a hole in it. So I gave that a firm tug, by now realizing that this was a fire in the making. Then I started thinking that this thing has been deteriorating for quite some time! This is in my office, and I spend a considerable amount of time in here. Many a night I have dozed off in my chair at my desk. If this thing would have caught fire with me dozed off, I wouldn't have made it out alive. It was about that point when suddenly I felt very much alone and isolated. By the looks of things in that electrical box, this house should've already been engulfed in flames, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have made it through. Then I just felt very humbled. I thought about the past few years, and some of the things I've had to deal with. At one point, I'd figured my usefulness was gone, and that there was no longer any real purpose for me.