Al Young Studios Newsroom

Electrical circuits and peace of mind

The tombstone, at Monticello, marking the grave of Thomas Jefferson, bears the inscription dictated by the creative genius, whose diversity of interests, pursuits, and accomplishments remains legendary.

Snapshot by Al R. Young, 1980
Every human being accomplishes things in life for which--like Mr. Jefferson--they might wish to be remembered, and ever since our visit to the Sage's home I have mused from time to time (sometimes seriously and sometimes in a more jocular frame of mind) what might be the three things I would dictate as an epitaph.  For many years, as a handyman, there was no question in my mind that one of the three would surely be my successful installation of two, three-way light switches in a single switch box during a remodeling project involving a very early version of the studio.

Since then, however, and perhaps because the electrician who wired our house was preoccupied with Chaos Theory, I am almost persuaded that while resolution of the three-way-switch conundrum might still be on the list, the creation of annotated electrical circuit maps for our home and studio would probably take precedence.  Time and time again, the overlaying and interleaving of household and studio presents puzzles for which the only solution has been to carefully prepare and maintain circuit maps and related documentation.

By now, instructions for all manner of wiring wizardry are readily available on the Internet and in other sources.  The only real contribution we could make to "the literature" is a testimonial to the value of time spent documenting this important aspect of studio operation.

The maps consist of a first page that lists:

    Receptacles and fixtures whose circuit may even yet be unknown

    Receptacles and boxes known to be hidden by features modified during remodelings

    Each circuit listed by number and accompanied by a description

The remainder of the map booklet consists of one page, or map, for each circuit, with receptacles and boxes labeled and described as shown, here.

Circuit 24 is simple, consisting only of receptacles.  Each receptacle and fixture box in the maps is labeled with a dual-element number, consisting of the circuit number and a serial number (24.1, 24.2, 24.3, etc.).  Such labeling provides a precise and simple means of reference, which is particularly important if a third party is involved in circuit maintenance or modification.
We keep a paper copy of the maps on hand in a designated location, and we also maintain a PDF copy.  Inside the door to the circuit box, we also maintain a printed copy of circuit assignments (much easier to read than the handwritten scrawl of the preoccupied electrician) as well as information about the location of digital and paper copies of more detailed documentation.

This image shows the kind of documentation maintained for changes in wiring.  When a remodeling project required the re-routing of part of Circuit 26, we took photos of the new route, labeled the photos, stored digital copies of them, and provided commentary concerning the dates and nature of the changes.
We also use a data archive to record label information, such as this label from the circuit box.  For hard-to-get-to components, the convenience of such a reference is well worth the time and effort of creating it.

Tags: 2011, Tools supplies and operations

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