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Home Inspector: How to organize your spare cords

A big box of random phone, computer, and audio cords all tangled together is the worst.  Not only is it impossible to find what you need, but the cords get all tied together in knots, and this useless box of cords takes up room on your shelf.  I've come up with a great way to organize cords, which I've been using for the last ten years.

Start by organizing your cords by type, and get as specific as you need to based on the size of your collection.

Next, coil your cords up and do something to keep them coiled.  I have three examples shown below.

Coiled up cord 1 Coiled up cord 2 Coiled up cord 3

Whatever you do, don't use tape.  After tape sits on your cord for a while, the residue will get stuck to the cord and make your cord sticky.

Next, find yourself an extra piece of trim or something similar that's about the size of a yardstick.   For my example, I used a cheap piece of foam-core primed white trim that was left over from some project or another.  Now cut this material into several 8" lengths, and put a hole through the middle of them.  Don't worry about the exact lengths, and don't worry about the exact size of the hole; something close to 1/4" should be good.

Short stick with a hole in it

Now grab a few of your old RJ-11 (phone) cords that you have way too many of and will probably never use again, and cut that cord into various lengths to use as hangers for your sticks.  Feed one end of the cord through your stick with a hole in it, and tie a knot on the end to keep this cord from pulling through the hole.

Wire fed through stick

Now slip all of your cords onto your cord hanger.

Cords hung on wire

Now hang all of your cords onto a bunch of hangers on the wall, which can consist of a bunch of screws or nails, or a piece of pegboard if you want to get super-fancy.  Really long cords get their own hanger.  That's it, that's all.

Organized Cords

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections


Home Inspector: Why is there a lock on my circuit breaker?

I recently had someone send me an email, asking why their circuit breaker had a lock on it, preventing the breaker from being turned off, or tripping. It would seem that this is a safety hazard, wouldn't it?

Lock at circuit breaker

The answer is actually quite simple, but let me first explain why that locking device is there.

Section 422.30 of the National Electric Code (NEC) requires a disconnecting means for all appliances. The idea is that someone should be able to turn off the power to an appliance to safely work on it. You don't want someone in one part of a building working on exposed wires, and then have someone else in another part of the building unknowingly turn the power back on and electrocute the person working on the wires. Makes sense, right?

One obvious disconnecting means is a cord and plug. If you can unplug something, it's disconnected. So there's that.

For small appliances under 300 Volt-Amperes, such as doorbells and smoke alarms, it's good enough to have a circuit breaker that can be turned off. For everything else, the branch circuit switch or circuit breaker can be used as the disconnecting means for the appliance as long as the switch or circuit breaker is within site from the appliance (within 50', unobstructed view), or there is a proper locking device present at the circuit breaker. What you're seeing in the photo above is a locking device at the circuit breaker.

If someone wants to work on the hardwired dishwasher and not have to worry about someone in a different part of the home turning the power on, they can turn the power off to the circuit breaker, and then throw a small padlock on the circuit breaker. A few common places to have locking devices like this are on circuits for dishwashers, electric water heaters, and wall ovens.

Back to the point...

So anyways, getting back to the original question, the simple answer is that this lockout device will not interfere with the operation of the circuit breaker. If the circuit breaker trips, the power will be cut off, regardless of whether or not the handle is allowed to move. To demonstrate, I installed a circuit breaker lockout at my own panel and made a little video clip. Check it out.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections