Which wire is hot, black or white? Is the black wire hot?

Which wire is hot, black or white? Is the black wire hot?

If you don’t do electrical work very often, it can be confusing and can lead to questions. Is the black wire hot? Which wire is hot, black or white?

The first rule is there are no rules. So if you see lots of different colors in an electrical box, you probably need to call an electrician. But if you see three or four colors, you can probably figure it out.

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Are LED light bulbs worth it?

Are LED light bulbs worth it?

I’ve been buying modern forms of light bulbs for almost 15 years now. So when someone asks me, “Are LED light bulbs worth it?” or “Do LED lights really save you money?” I can answer the question. I was more accepting of CFL bulbs than most, but I had some reservations about them. On the other hand, I really like LED bulbs.

LED light bulbs have saved me a lot of money over the years, and they have quite a few advantages besides the money they save you every month on your electric bill. I thought LED light bulbs were worth it five years ago, and I really think so now.

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Commodore 64 models

Commodore 64 models

Over the course of its 12 years on the market, Commodore released a number of Commodore 64 models. The computer’s capability changed very little over time, but the technology did. The world changed a lot between 1982 and 1994, and that gave Commodore some opportunities to lower costs, chase other market segments, or both.

Here’s an overview of the various Commodore 64 models that hit the market over the machine’s long life.

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Add an outlet to a light switch line

For any number of reasons, a lot of rooms, especially bathrooms, don’t have enough electrical outlets. Those rooms probably do have light switches, though, and that’s good news. It’s possible to add an outlet to a light switch line. The better news is there’s usually more than one way to do it. Here are some options.

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Wire a ceiling fan with light to one switch

Wire a ceiling fan with light to one switch

People frequently wire a ceiling fan with a light to two light switches. That way they can control the fan with one switch and the light with the other. But what if the room has only one switch and you have to wire a ceiling fan with light to one switch? You can still do it. You just have to know what to do with the fan’s red or blue wire.

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Wiring an old house for Ethernet

Wiring an old house for Ethernet can be challenging but offers real benefits. Wired Ethernet is faster and more reliable than wireless, so devices that have a wired connection can take advantage of it. Having wired connections also allows you to distribute wireless access points throughout your house for better, faster coverage.

So you even if you’re a heavy wireless user, there’s a lot to gain from having good wired connections. Believe it or not, you can do it with simple tools and very little tearing into your walls.

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Enerlites HOSS: an occupancy sensor switch without ground

The Enerlites Top Greener HOSS is an occupancy sensor switch without ground wire requirements, and it’s pretty cheap too, at $12. A Lutron switch costs almost twice as much.

But the HOSS does come with some compromises. The HOSS does require a neutral (white) wire. But most switch boxes will have the whites in there and accessible, so that’s not a big deal. It’s also a bit trickier to wire than a Lutron, and it doesn’t look as nice.

That said, it’s nice to have an option for older houses that may not have a ground connection available. People in older houses need energy savings too. Read more

How to check a train transformer for safety

In spite of what a certain O gauge magazine tells you, vintage toy train transformers aren’t inherently unsafe to use. Age can take their toll on them, so you want to give them a good safety inspection, but as long as they pass the safety inspection, they can give you a long, productive service life. Here’s how to check a train transformer for safety.

All of my train transformers are at least 50 years old, and I expect my sons to inherit them in workable condition. Read more

9 things your landlord won’t tell you: A rebuttal

My wife found an unflattering piece about landlords in the Huffington Post titled 9 things your landlord won’t tell you. This sorry excuse for an expose just makes accusations, without backing any of it up.

I’m a landlord. Here’s what I have to say about those nine things.

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A cheap kitchen makeover

The kitchen cabinets in the house we live in have seen better days. They were reasonably well-built, but 50 years of raising families–mine is the third family raised in this house–took their toll on them. A couple of years back we painted them, to cover the scars of the years. It was an improvement, but the color dated itself pretty quickly, and we didn’t use the highest-quality paint, so the finish wore fairly quickly.

This time, we repainted them white. We used an expensive Benjamin Moore Decorator White in semi-gloss, because it looks good, but also because we’ve found it to be durable in other projects. And you’d be surprised how many half-million-dollar houses have white-painted cabinets. I’m an estate sale junkie, so I’ve seen a lot of half-million-dollar houses over the years, and I would estimate 40% of them have simple, white cabinets in their kitchens. It’s a look that doesn’t date itself, and is cheap and easy to take care of. (As a point of reference, a modest three-bedroom ranch house in the same county costs around $125,000.)

I’ve also seen people do this to improve the appearance of a house prior to flipping it.

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