230V Air Conditioner and HomeKit, part 7: Electrocuting Goldfish

In my previous post in this saga, I’d just reached the point when I start talking about power cords.

Before I go any further, we have to deal with some practical stuff.

Starting with my next post on this project, I’m going to describe how I worked with wires that carry household current. These lines carry 120V AC and go up to 15 amps.

Perhaps you’ve been reading these posts to learn how to start on your own first Maker project. Or maybe you enjoy the tale of how Doctor Doofus, a particle physicist and so-called intelligent man, is fumbling his way through electronics and making a big deal of something that other folks have described in five paragraphs.

What you may not have considered is that following in my footsteps may lead you to burning down your house, or electrocuting both yourself and your pet goldfish.

I’m a physicist, but I’m not a trained or licensed electrician. You may be surprised what a scientist who fixates on sub-atomic particles does not know about practical matters. This project has an element of risk, and though I try to be careful, I’m almost certainly making a false risk assessment.

That does not mean you should consider taking the same risk. You need to be cautious with your own life, as well as the life of your goldfish, Goldy. Any project that involves AC power requires expertise that neither I, you, nor Goldy possesses.

Let’s take a look at a bit of information that I only learned a couple of days ago. I did not know this, but a licensed electrician would: Even if you are working with wire of the correct gauge, you should not screw down braided wire if that wire will carry household current. Braided wire can expand and contract as current is turned on and off. This can lead to gaps in the connection, which leads to arcs, which can easily lead to fires. If you’re going to screw down household wiring, it should be solid copper.

That’s one fact, and as you’ll see in the next part I avoided that issue. But that’s one fact out of hundreds that a licensed electrician knows, either through training or experience.

Also, although I’m being wordy, stretching out my descriptions until they rival the Epic of Gilgamesh, I’m not setting down every detail. I’m not describing every test I did, every piece of electrical tape I applied, every measurement I made with a multimeter. I’m not even linking to every web site I read investigating similar projects. I have some experience with wiring and electronics, but it’s a long way from Heathkits to an electrician’s license.

For Goldy’s sake, I urge you to pay attention:

I am not a licensed electrician. I am describing a project that I did. My descriptions are not meant to be a ‘how-to’. The project I describe involves working with household currents that can cause fires or electrocution. Consult with a licensed electrician before trying to duplicate this project or do any other project that uses household current.

In no way will I be responsible for any damage or harm that comes from you trying to duplicate any step of what I describe in this series of posts.

You should also consider reading a more emphatic warning for a project that also used a Raspberry Pi to control AC power.

Do as I say, not as I did. Goldy would you be proud of you.

In part 8: Power Cords.

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