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Joined: Oct 2000
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Admin Offline OP
This apartment about a mile south of The University of Texas at Arlington wasn't the greatest, but it was the only one available near campus for a decent price that had an opening in August so I moved in. The place appeared nice for the price and was convenient.... but of course, three weeks later I find the dark side of this place.

When I first moved in I noticed that the wall unit HVAC's line cord had been spliced and that it was totally inoperable. I demanded that this be fixed along with getting a toilet that flushed. I should have ran, but I had nowhere to run to...all the other apartments were full. When I moved in, the A/C worked and the toilet valve was replaced but the nasty cord remained.

The circuit for my HVAC unit is a 240V 20A circuit and it was originally equipped with an LCDI as made evident by the fact that there was a copper braid surrounding the conductors and the words "FIRE SHIELD" on the outer jacket. The end spliced on was an old style non LCDI plug and I just guessed that the LCDI failed and was replaced with this bit of scrap lead and then forgotten. I was wrong though! What actually happened was some idiot had installed a NEMA 5-20 outlet in where there of course should have been a 6-20! I was amazed when I found this this morning after preparing the place for the maint guy to get here to replace my cord. The spliced end was a NEMA 6-20 plug....but that all changed with a twist of the "maintenance" guy's pliers!

So, I had 240VAC going to an outlet designed for 120VAC.... and then a butchered line cord to plug into it! You don't have to be a sparky, inspector or engineer to know that that's WRONG.

The maintenance guy dismissed my claims that the outlet in the wall was of the wrong type until, after about two minutes of trying to figure out how to plug in the new cord, he gave up and put a new one in after I showed him a picture of a 6-20 vs a 5-20 and told him to grab the 6-20. I offered him my multimeter to ensure the circuit was dead prior to the installation of the new outlet as a courtesy and to my surprise, he was dumbfounded as to how it operated. Once I showed him the mV symbol explained what it meant and told him why it was in mV instead of V (auto ranging was on) he went about installing my outlet. Surprisingly, he did an OK job. It does scare me that a maintenance guy working on electrical stuff does not have nor knows how to use a simple multimeter. The RadioShack 22-801 is probably the most user friendly meter I have ever used. It's hard to imagine anyone that couldn't understand it....heck, even my mom used it to check batteries!

I had to fight for three weeks to get my cord changed. Since I don't have a copy on hand, can someone tell me what sections of the NEC covers these violations?

- hardwareguy

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The next violation deals with our construction crew that is doing a a fair job at best of replacing some termite infested, rotten walkway boards around here. This place has ineffective gutters so they get soaked.... real smooth move there. However, let's not talk about the construction of the walkway right now; lets talk about how they were powering their tools!

I had to pause and admire this bit of stupidity while on my lunch run. This cord was connected inside the compressor disco with ALLIGATOR CLAMPS! I didn't get too close to really get detail, I let the zoom on the camera take care of that.

You will note in the pic that not only are they using automotive clamps, the polarity is reversed, they are using ground as a neutral and the green grounding conductor in the cord is connected to nothing. The clamp attached to the breaker is insulated with good ol' blue painter's tape.They could have at least used duck tape! Hmm...anyone know what the dielectric strength of painters tape is? To add insult to injury, the cord is a 16AWG cord and it appears to be attached to the line side of the breaker. Not that it matters much, the breaker is a 30A unit.... I don't think the open air rating applies here. (beat you to the joke!)

There are a couple additional violations in the pic showing the overall scene with the compressors on the them!

The apartment manager was extremely angry when she saw this, not just from a safety point of view, but the fact that these guys were stealing power from an occupied apartment. They were stealing quite a bit too... two small air compressors, a drill or two and a circular saw were running off of it. I didn't touch the cord to see if it was hot..... I think we know the answer to that!

The work the construction crew does is shoddy too. The old walkway uses Warren type trusses in it....the replacement is a ladder frame. It's sagging under its own weight. My friend states that the building inspector might be quite interested in hearing about that one.. I'm not a carpenter but I do know the difference between good construction and crap when I see it. I'd love to see one of those code compliance trucks roll up right about now and give this place a once over.

If I see that alligator clamp to socket adapter again and nobody is around, I WILL make it disappear. You'll find it in 6" pieces in the skip! It was not in use but I did see it on the sidewalk today.

- hardwareguy

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Joined: Jan 2005
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Cat Servant
If those are the worst you've seen .... I envy you your innocence.

Have you considered that you might be part of the problem?

First ... where do you think the pressure to be 'cheap' originates? As a general rule of business, work comes in three forms: good, cheap, and fast. You only get to choose two of the three.

Second, there are avenues you may take .. but they require YOU to actually DO something. Like, say, calling OSHA. Or moving out (voting with your feet).

No alternatives? You're trying to tell that to a guy who spent the 80's living out of a backpack, and the first part of the 90's living in a pick-up truck. You want findsympathy, I'm sure the college has a dictionary somewhere.

Getting back to code issues ....

I suppose we now see why the NEC calls for accessible outdoor receptacles. Or why OSHA wants GFI protection on job sites. Or, why the trade stresses having a good ground path so much.

As for the A/C cord ... I have my suspisions; I suspect that the LL was caught up in some changes; A/C's didn't always have 'different' plugs, and many appliances seem designed to make replacing the cord nearly impossible.

More important ... I suspect that the A/C is supposed to have a special 'leakage current detection' plug on it. I can see where, if the unit was constantly tripping the protective device, that someone might substitute a 'normal' plug. If so, that is a very dangerous situation. To test, I'd first use the nameplate to learn whether there was supposed to be a LCDI, then power through a GFI to see if the GFI trips.

Joined: Jul 2007
Posts: 85
does the painted greenfield flex, going to the condensors make it weather tight? Pretty shady construction guys, any permits visible? I lived in an apartment complex one time, and when we moved in I was checking around my unit. I found the in wall ac's cord 240v. had been squashed and scored along all 3 conductors, with visible copper on all 3. When the maintenance guy came he tried to tell me it was just the ground wire showing, so I told him to grab it! We got a completly new ac unit installed that day.

Last edited by WireNuts29; 09/23/08 08:07 PM.
Joined: Jul 2002
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The RadioShack 22-801 is probably the most user friendly meter I have ever used. It's hard to imagine anyone that couldn't understand it....heck, even my mom used it to check batteries!

- hardwareguy

Does that meter have any CAT ratings for connecting to mains outlets, some meters like this, I've heard have exploded when connected to full voltage.
It is not the actual mains voltage that causes this, it is transient voltages that will destroy a meter.

Joined: May 2005
Posts: 167
The 22-801 is CAT II rated, according to RadioShack's documentation.

Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 456
That meter appears to be OEMed by Fluke, to me.

Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 50
Funny you should say that, I've heard that from several people. Looking at Fluke's lower end products, Id say its a real possibility. It certainly has been a very reliable bit of gear.

As for the work, it's not the worst I've seen or heard of... at least these guys don't have the floating extension cord in the pool or extension cords used as direct burial cable. (that pic of the floating cord gets lots of laughs in the EE and Physics department, with one comment being "It might be safe if the pool was full of deionized water!")

An LDCI equipped cord has been installed on my A/C and it doesn't trip. The test button works as it should.

The half of the exterior security lights still don't work...two of the wall mount HPS fixtures have been installed upside down.

This place has no permit for construction. I checked online and when I found nothing, I went to City Hall where my suspicions were confirmed. The walkway above is in worse shape than when they started in regards to being level and the handrails are not securely attached. If you are dumb enough to lean on it with your entire weight, you will end up in the shrubbery below.

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