Just call me Sparky

life

It's funny how completing the little jobs that you've been putting off for ages, but aren't really that difficult, can really make your day. If they involve something you didn't know you could do until you tried, it adds about 100 bonus points.

Two things in our house have needed fixing since we moved in over a year ago. The first was the kitchen light. It was one of those 'curved arm holding spotlights' things, with tungsten spotlights, rather than halogen ones. Quite apart from being thoroughly blessed by the Ugly Fairy, two of the light fittings had a fault, and would sulkily blow bulbs as soon as you replaced them. Consequently, our kitchen had several very gloomy spots.

It's one of those things that you look at many times a day and subconsciously think "I must get around to fixing that", before you go on your way with a slight but gnawing feeling of things being unfinished. This week, we finally got around to going to a shop and buying a new light. Ridiculously, that was what was holding the whole thing back: once we'd got our shiny new halogen light, we were raring to put it up. We'd never attempted to replace a ceiling light fitting before, but it turned out to be very easy, once we'd worked out which of the many unlabelled fuses in the fuse box controlled the lighting ring. A few minutes work, some tutting at the messy nest of wiring stuffed into the ceiling space (just like real electricians!), and some work with a screwdriver, and it was done. When we replaced the fuse and switched on the light to find our kitchen bathed in lovely, clean, bright light, it felt like a genuine achievement, and a disproportionately large load lifted from our shoulders.

Flushed with success, and now fancying ourselves as sparks, we decided to tackle the other problem: the programmer controlling our central heating boiler1 was very temperamental, and some of the buttons had stopped working, making it difficult to change the settings. We read up on how to replace it in our Dorling Kindersley 'Big Book of DIY' (I forget the exact title, but it's a big book about DIY), we bought a new programmer, and took a deep breath before taking the front panel off to expose the backplate, where all the wiring terminates. The new programmer had a handy table which told you which terminal on your old model corresponded to which terminal on the new one. This was all fine and dandy, but we were disconcerted and a little panicked to find that one of our terminals was empty -- "But we have nothing in terminal 4! What do we wire in? How is our central heating turning off at the moment when CH OFF isn't wired in?". A call to my friendly technical consultant/health and safety officer (aka "Dad") yielded good advice which boiled down to "stop right there, put things back as they were and have a sit down and a think about it". So that's what we did.

Today -- after a sit down and think about it, and some close scrutiny of the wiring diagrams of the old and new programmers -- we realised that the CH OFF terminal isn't supposed to be wired in, and (taking another deep breath) tackled the project again. We checked and double checked that we'd got the correct wires in the right places, tightened everything up, reinserted the fuse, switched the power to the controller and retired to a safe distance.

Nothing blew up or caught fire, which seemed like a promising start.

A few minutes with the manual and some setting of programmes, and -- lo and behold! -- the boiler turned on. We have yet to confirm that it will go off at the right time, but it's looking good so far, and another weight has lifted. Now, if we can just work out which switch in the boiler itself is making our Freeview digital TV signal drop out when the boiler fires up, we'll be home and dry...

1 That's 'furnace' to my American readers, which sounds so much more macho, somehow.

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