That’s right.  Not only did I get some stuff accomplished today at my house in Houston, but I conquered one of my fears.  Electricity has always made me very nervous.  Okay, maybe not always – it actually started when I was a young lad about 12 or 13.

My father who was a true jack of all trades and master of none, built the family stained glass studio buildings by hand.  Actually, he built it by hand with the aid of child labor – namely his children.  I spent many a day shingling  a roof, pouring concrete, hammering studs, and yes – running electrical wires.  As my dad and I were in the rafters of the new shop hooking up overhead lights and the like, he discovered a very effective (albeit evil) way to determine if a line was hot or not – “Hold this.”  That was it.  He would simply hand me the wire (exposed end first) and say “Hold this a second.”

If I squeeled like a girl or shook violently while slumping in the rafters, he knew that was the hot line.  Simply buying a tester or shutting off the power in between lights would take too much effort.  As a result, I have avoided anything to do with electrical wiring for decades.  Something as simple as hanging a ceiling fan would be too risky,  That changed today.

I consider myself a rather skilled handyman and finally got fed up with this glaring weakness.  When i discovered that all the living room electrical outlets were dead and that all the lights in the kitchen didn’t work, the thought of some high priced electrician coming to do a ten minute job was too much.

I went online and searched for “several dead outlets” and found a very cool site run by The Circuit Detective.  After reading through, I decided that I could do this.  On top of all the great information on the site, you can call Detective Larry for $1 per minute and he will talk you through the entire fix.

As it was late (just before his availability ran out for the night) I called him and said, “I want to use your service tomorrow morning.  Is there anything in the way of testers or tools I should have handy when I call?”  He told me what tester to buy and I told him I would call back in the morning.

First thing today, I headed to Lowes, picked up the tester and proceeded to test the circuits.  As I had an hour or so to kill before he was up (Pacific time zone) I did some more research on the web.  It turns out that I found my answer online and had it all narrowed down by the time I called him – a loose neutral in the living room and a loose ground in the kitchen.

Is is one thing to know the name of the problem, but quite another to solve it. Detective Larry was extremely informational and although the progression through gathering historical information about my house seemed to drag, being someone accustomed to telephone support, I know that he needs the information to make sure his solution is the right one.

Larry made up for his methodical pace with shortcut methods of narrowing down the line of dead outlets. His insight into which outlet to try first saved me opening up as many as five other outlets and his trick of using a small lamp to detect poor connections saved much more time. In all, we spent right at 20 minutes troubleshooting the problem and he billed me via PayPal. We’re talking $20 to fix something that an electrician would have charged $100 to come over and another $100 to fix. I am going to give Detective Larry a nice bonus when I send my payment.