Friday, October 17, 2008

Terry the Electrician (Internet Electrician)

You've heard a lot about Joe the Plumber (if you are following the U.S. Presidential election and debates), so now it's time for Terry the Electrician to sound off on the economic slowdown (nice word for recession), and all the gloom and doom predictions that surround it.

I've been monitoring the TSX today, just to see how it closes, and it looks like it will be up about 300 points (3%) on the day, and the Dow Jones closed about even. This ends yet another week of wild swings in the markets, but maybe some stability is working its way in to the minds of investors? Wait a minute. That's being a bit too optimistic. That's not at all what we are used to. In the media, good news doesn't make very good news. They like to play on the negative in every way and this economic crisis has been a boon for them. Bad news makes GREAT news! I've seen more pictures in print and on the television of the masses in the soup lines of the great depression in the last few weeks than I've seen in my lifetime. Are we really heading for that?

I must admit that I have been caught up in this as well, and have had thoughts about how I wish I could have pulled out all my investments and stuffed them in my mattress for safe keeping. But when I look at the big picture, I hope I don't need to be pulling this money out as income for about 20 years or more. What will the market look like then? Who knows for sure. I certainly don't, and I'm even more sure that the 'experts' don't know either. I feel for the people that are now ready to start using investments as income now, but here again, are you pulling out all of your RRSP's today? This week? This year? We have to keep things in perspective before we panic and say no to a new car, or a vacation, and for sure no Christmas presents this year!

Look at your own situation. Yes there are people who have lost their job in this down-turn of the economy. Did you? Is your job relatively safe? Even if there is talk of down-sizing, is your name one of the small percentage that may be on the chopping block? If it is, you might start looking at your performance against your peers and see if you can't move up to the top half of the corporate ladder? If you own a business, is it slowing down? The business that we just sold is well on it's way to another record year, and 2009 looks even better for them. My point is this. With all the negativity, has your own personal situation changed as a result of all this? Most likely not. You probably have the same amount of disposable income that you had earlier this year when the TSX was over 15,000. Maybe even more if you look at expenses. They tend to fall in a slower economy.

Back to the stock market, and the extreme negativity. The TSX was below 6,000 back in late 2002. It was over 15,000 earlier this year. Today it closed at about 9,600. Are we down 35%, or are we up 37% from 2002? Is your glass half full, or half empty?

If you think the media and the experts can't possibly be wrong about the impending depression, and the complete loss of your personal wealth, let's look at what happened with the price of oil earlier this year. It climbed it's way to almost $150 / barrel. While on this wild ride up, what was the media saying about that? They were reporting all the most informed data from the experts with all the knowledge of this rise in price, and they all seemed to agree that we could be seeing oil at over $200/barrel by the end of 2008 and the price at the pump would be $1.50 / liter. ($5.85 US gal.). It's mid October now so with oil falling below $70 this week, we have a long way to go in the next 2 months to see this 285% gain in price come to fruition, don't we? And speaking of the price of gasoline.........

As I mentioned earlier, you may have more money to spend now as the price of getting to work, or operating your business SHOULD be getting cheaper as the price of gas must be destined to go down with the price of oil? No? Hasn't really kept pace with oil on the downward slide, has it. They say that the price of gas is very slow to react to the price of crude oil. But wait a minute. Every small increase in the price of oil on its way up reflected very quickly at the pumps. I remember clearly when the hurricanes were barely forming out at sea, the very prospect of them causing damage to refineries in the Gulf Coast region had the price of gas jumping in speculation. What a shameful double-standard! how dumb do they think we are?

So in closing, I think if you just keep all this in perspective, look at your own individual situation to see if it has changed much, and use that to guide as to how you would like to live your life. We're only here for a short time, so don't let the negativity of the media cause you to quit spending money or doing the things you enjoy. If you wanted that new car earlier this year, buy it! It's probably at a lower price now. If you were looking at a vacation, go for it. The price of that is probably down as well! To stop spending compounds the situation in the markets. They look at consumer spending as an economic indicator, and if spending is down, more downward pressure is put on the markets!

This is only my opinion, so take it for what it's worth! After all, I'm only "Terry the electrician".

Today we will pack up and tomorrow morning we will move on to Vancouver for a few days. I'll post another blog in a few days to up-date our situation. Follow our travels on Sandy's blog at

PS. To Joe the Plumber. Buy that business! With the new fame and publicity you have I'll be very disappointed in you if you don't take full advantage of it as ride it as far as you can! Call me and I'll set you up as The Internet Plumber!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Good Question

In my entry today, I am going to answer a great question that came in from one of our clients.

I have come across a question that I can't seem to get an answer to. I am AMAZED that I can't. Can you address with me the issues surrounding deliberately shorting a circuit in order to rapidly locate a circuit breaker?

This is an excellent question, and no, I haven't been asked this before so it is a good issue to address. I have never in my entire career as a professional electrician, purposely shorted out a circuit to trace the breaker location. However, I have seen others do it and use this practise on a somewhat regular basis. I do not support this practise.

A circuit breaker is designed to trip upon short circuit or fault conditions, and will open the circuit before damage can occur from the condition. Breakers are sized to protect the smallest wire size in the circuit, and the rated full load current of that wire. A properly functioning breaker will also trip under continuous over-load conditions at or near the rating of the breaker. Take for example, a circuit wired with #14 AWG wire, protected by a 15 amp breaker. I will give you 2 examples of why this is not a good idea. Some manufacturers of distribution equipment have lost their approvals for making breakers for household distribution because after tripping under a short circuit condition, once reset, they will resist tripping again under the same condition. No manufacturer names mentioned here, but one of them continues to maintain a large market share in the industry. I can't comment as to whether the problems have been corrected, but I will trust they have.

Example #1: I was using a reciprocating saw to cut off a wood ceiling truss in a porch, and failed to see a #14/2 wire stapled to the back of the truss that was covered in dust and dirt, and thus very hard to see. After completing the cut, with dust flying and debris falling, I looked at the blade of the saw and it looked as if someone had taken a human sized bite out of the blade. The live wire had arced and sparked it's way through the blade, blowing the metal away like a welding torch, all out of my view as I was on the other side cutting over my head. I couldn't believe that a 15 amp breaker would not have tripped under this condition. Just curious, I pulled out my meter and checked to see if the wire was still live, and to my amazement, it was! The breaker feeding that circuit was just a standard, 15 amp, single pole breaker (manufacturer name withheld).

Example #2: In older homes, where renovations to the system have been performed by well meaning homeowners, or helpful handy-friends, I have seen situations where an extra outlet or entire circuit has been added by splicing in to another circuit, like the 40A range circuit, using #14/2 wire spliced in a junction box tucked up in the floor joists. Imagine the extra pop that shorting out the 40A breaker will make! To sum it up, not a good practice. Imagine molten copper jumping from your intentional short circuit, leaping behind your safety glasses and melting through your eyelid in to the squishy part your eye!

On a personal note, we are still in Vernon B.C., and plan on moving on to Vancouver on Thursday of next week. Happy Thanksgiving to our fellow Canadians, and have a good weekend to the rest of the word!

Thank-you to my cousin Karen, and her husband Lloyd Knox for allowing us to stay on their R.V. lot here in Swan Lake Rec. Resort for the past couple of weeks.