DIY Lamp Repair - A Fixing Stuff Adventure

The switch on our living room lamp broke, leaving my favorite quiet spot too dark. Being the handy guy about town that I am, I thought I'd take a stab at repairing it rather than search for a new lamp. How hard could it be? As it turns out, it was technically very easy, but physically, this particular lamp was a bit tricky.

Lamps are simple creatures. Generally, they're a series of raceways that the electrical cord goes through to reach the socket for the light bulb. There's hollow tubes, threaded nipples, nuts, washers, lock washers, and screws, but that socket is where all the real action is. The rest is just decoration and structure.

To start, it's an easy operation to unscrew the finial that holds the shade in place. 

This floral shade is way to pretty for my workshop.
With the shade removed, guest of honor was immediately revealed, the socket. This is where the light bulb threads in and receives its life-giving electro-juice. Speaking of light bulb juice, it goes without saying, I hope, that this project should be done, with the lamp unplugged.  

Our switch knob was mysteriously broken off. Those of you with children have undoubtedly heard many times before, "I don't know..." (what happened to it). 

The next series of events was simply a dis-assembly process. First, I took out the little set screw that keeps the socket from unscrewing from the nipple. I use an insulated screwdriver, which not necessary here, but it's my favorite one, a nice comfortable Klein. Unlike the beautiful new one Jeff at Home Repair Tutor used on his florescent light repair last week, mine looks like it's served in front-line combat. I'm jealous.

Removing the set screw.
This socket unscrewed in the middle. Some versions simply need to be popped open to expose the electrical connections.

There was no slack in the wire. I couldn't pull the socket from its housing to get at the screws, so I chucked the whole lamp up on the workbench and fed the cord up from the base, into the vertical, hollow pole. 

Many floor lamps are simple, stick-straight units, but this one has an articulated arm. The power cord is fed through very narrow tubes with tight bends. I had to unscrew each section to get as close to the joint as possible, to feed the cord. Channel Lock pliers did the trick nicely.

Once the retaining nut is off, whole sections come apart easily. Little caps pop off to allow access to the joints. I took the liberty of promptly dropping this one and crushing it under my boot, like an oaf.

Once the joints were open, it was a "simple" matter of man-handling the cord up towards the socket, feeding it and pulling slowly, taking care not to damage the cord. Damaging the insulation is referred to, in technical, electrical terms as, "BAD".  A bare copper conductor, without the protection of the rubbery cord coating, touching the metal parts of the lamp would cause a direct short, hopefully tripping a breaker, instead of much worse. 

A little of the old push 'n pull technique
With enough slack to pull the socket itself out, you can see there is a silver screw and a brass one, just like a a wall outlet. The important thing to watch here is identifying which wire goes where. You can't tell what color the they are. You can mark one with tape as you pull it off or, even better, look very closely at the two wires that make up the cable. In this case, the neutral (grounded conductor - normally a white wire) has ridges on the outer jacket, while the hot (ungrounded conductor - normally a black wire) is smooth. Remember this for later.

Like Ruffles, it  has ridges.
I still needed more slack to install a new socket. It wasn't easy at all. There was no space in those transitions and I had trouble getting the cord to budge. So, I used a trick a salty old electrician shared with me years ago. Normally, electricians use a special lubricant when pulling wire through conduit. In a pinch, he showed me they can use dish soap. I was in a pinch, so...

Yes, it's "green apple" scent.
I fought the cord, bit by bit through the fixture, leaving slack at each elbow. The slippery soap helped, and kept me from damaging the wire.  

With enough slack pulled and more than enough parts strewn haphazardly across my workbench, it was time to quest out into the open world for the replacement parts. I headed out to my friendly neighborhood hardware store with the old socket in my pocket and dreams that their popcorn machine would be in action. Surely they'd have something in stock I could use (besides a bag of free popcorn).

I faced the electrical lighting section at the hardware store. They had EVERYTHING! There's parts for all kinds of stuff that I never paid attention to. Heck, you can build your own lamp with the stuff they have here. 
Note to self: future project - find a shapely, plastic woman's leg and make my own, fragile Christmas Story lamp to display in our front window. The wife will love it!

Of the various sockets, I chose a replacement 3-way rather than a standard on/off only switch. This allows the use of a bulb with three filaments for different lighting levels. This works nicely with a  30/70/100 watt light bulb. It's something you can retrofit onto an existing on/off fixture for a nice upgrade. They were actually the same price.

Returning home, sadly without any popcorn, I cracked the new socket open like an egg. It was a snap-together unit, rather than threaded like the old one.

The base then screws onto the nipple from the lamp and gets held in place again by the set screw. Its easy to peel the two wires apart by hand, since I finally had plenty of slack to work with. 

 Here's a close up of those ridges on the neutral wire. Take a look at a lamp cords in your house. They'll probably have these and you've never noticed it. I think it's a secret communication method left to us by Ben Franklin. The string hanging down from his kite with a key probably had ridges just like this. That dude was smart.

Believe it or not, I've never had a manicure my whole life. Honest!
Remember to use the correct wire on the its corresponding termination screw - with the neutral landing on the silver screw. This is important. If you reverse the wires, the lamp will work just fine, but there's a safety hazard. The threaded shell for the lamp becomes the hot, electrified portion and the contact tab deep in the socket becomes the grounded neutral. This places the dangerous, "hot" way too close to accidental contact should anyone ever change a lamp with the switch on (and who hasn't done that?). Considering the lamp itself is metal, that's a recipe for pain, or worse.

I stripped the insulation back a half inch using wire strippers, twisted the strands together, and wrapped it around the screw clockwise. As the screw is tightened, it pulls the strands tighter rather than pushing back a rat's nest of frizzy copper. I wanted a good connection with no loose copper strands to sticking their electrified noses where they didn't belong.

After that, it was just a matter of reassembling everything I had taken apart, in reverse order. It's probably best to lay the pieces in order on your workbench rather than fling them randomly about like I did, resulting in a pissed-off Easter egg hunt. I fed the cable backwards through all the elbows until there was just enough to fit into the socket enclosure. All the various nipples threaded back in with their retaining nuts tightened.

I gently threaded the lamp in. Finally, the moment of truth, my friends.. (click) ...

Blinded by the light, revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night!!
                                                                             - Manfred Mann's Earth Band
Now comes the victory parade. An adoring family gets to see witness this monumental feat of home repair triumph as it is transported, first to downtown New York for a ticker-tape parade, then to its home, by a comfy chair. Full disclosure: It's cold in New York and surprisingly inconvenient from Phoenix. I skipped that step.

There's nothing better than a nice book under the warm glow of a reading lamp...


Quick and Easy Shaker Drawer Fronts (Dodos vs Rabbits)

I've been working on a hallway organizer furniture project for over two years now. Other, more pressing,  projects keep pulling me away, but this is the one I fall back to putter on, when I have time.

As part of my challenge to clean up all the loose ends around here, I'm attacking the project with renewed effort. To get back in action, I need to make four drawer  fronts.

Initially, I was going with flat, recessed fronts. I even have them cut to size and sanded. The problem is, they simply look too plain. I wanted something a little more interesting.

Plain, like Saltines without the salt. Boring.
Eventually, we hope to redo the kitchen with shaker style doors. I decided to take a crack at them for this project. 

Now, if you actually want to do it properly, check out John's video from Our Home From Scratch. He has a great video on making Shaker doors properly, with tongue and groove assembly. Unfortunately, I don't have a dado (wide cut) blade for the table saw and my test attempts with my narrow kerf blade were tedious and gave less than great results. The normal router route won't work either; I don't have a router table or the proper bits. So, I'm not going to do it properly.

I've come up with my own quick and easy method. I think it's going to work. 

I'm using poplar, since it's affordable, durable and easy to work with. To save time ("quick"), I purchased 1 ½ " x ¾" stock to make the stiles (vertical) and rails (horizontal) rather than ripping boards on the table saw. I used my big, Sliding Compound Miter Saw which made it an operation of absolute sawdust-spewing joy, but it could be easily done with a miter box and saw or whatever other precision cutting methods your evil brain can devise. I mass-produced the cuts, using a stop block clamped to the fence for repetitive precision in my pieces. I was done in minutes.

An operation of absolute sawdust-spewing joy. 
Quick tip:  When I have the tool set up and am making precise, repetitive cuts, I often make several extra pieces, if I have enough wood. It saves heartache later when, I inevitably pull some lame-brained move and screw up a piece (...which I did do).
Here's where I take a weird turn, away from conventional construction methods. I routed a "rabbet" in the back side of each piece. A rabbet is a like a dado but is missing one of the shoulders. Its just a recessed notch. However, a rabbit is nothing like a dodo.

On woodworking joinery, extinct terrestrial avians, and common Lepus currpaeums:

I made a makeshift router table, probably not my finest safety moment,... definitely not my finest safety moment. 
Don't try this at home,... or at work,... or in a restaurant,... or in the shower.
I made the cuts with a straight cutting bit, assembly line style, in several passes. One deep pass would be too deep and would get unwieldy (especially with my makeshift router table setup). There was no need to risk my fingers, trying rushing it through to quickly. The rails (horizontal) got a rabbet their whole length. The stiles got a rabbet that didn't show through on their ends. 

A freshly prepared rabbet.
A glued butt joint might hold, but it wouldn't be exceptionally strong. Since our home is infested with rough-and-tumble children, I beefed it up with pocket holes and screws. I assembly lined all the pieces through the small, but mighty, Kreg Jr. Pocket Hole Jig .

All the parts of the frame are complete. Time for assembly.

It was a standard glue-up. I use those cheap little welding flux brushes to spread it evenly.  

I clamped it together temporarily and drove fine-thread, square drive screws from my Kreg Pocket-Hole Screw assortment. This step was done on my miter saw bench, because it's really flat. My MDF workbench top is a gouged, bumpy surface from years of spills and abuse.

I was pleased to have spare pieces; exuberance with the impact driver split the hell out of one.

Of course, speaking of spills,... flopping clamps, hammer taps, and an impact driver didn't agree with my fresh cup of coffee. Another reason to use the miter bench, the melamine coating is good for cleanups.

I'm just glad I didn't knock my beloved Bad Ass coffee mug off the bench.
Sweet success! The clamps came off as soon as the screws were in. 

When they dried, I took them over to the disc sander to even out a little of the imperfections at the joints,...

I only took a little meat off my pinkie knuckle. the random orbital sander to smooth out the face,...

...and finally to hand sanding, for final finish and to ease the sharp edges. 

Once again, continuing my veering off the beaten track of proven assembly methods, I'm using a technique I found to install glass panels in frames. Instead of glass panels, I'm using 3/16  inch thick plywood panels. 

Using a stiff putty knife, I drove glazing points into the frames, pinning the panels in place. The gap allows for expansion and contraction of the wood. 

With all the glazing points in place, the panels are super tight. 

They don't even move when I pry with the putty knife. I think (hope) it's going to hold. When it's attached to the drawer, there will be even more pressure pinning it in place.

Since it was a lovely December day, I took them out to the driveway to spray them with primer. I keep a couple big, leftover Styrofoam blocks around for this sort of thing. Propping the pieces up on toothpicks lets me get the edges.

It was at this point I realized three things:
  1. That is some seriously dark primer. Painting these things white will mean more coats.
  2. In my zeal to get the panels in, and concentrating on setting my camera, I had lost focus and installed a couple of the panels backwards, rough, un-sanded side out.
  3. Idiot.
With the backwards panels it's going to take some more filler and sanding to to get these rascals smoothed out for final coat. But I think I have a decent solution for Quick and Easy Shaker drawers. We'll see how they last in the long run. If I have to re-do them later, it's a simple swap out.

Followup notes.
  1. On quick and easy: It was both, quick and easy but the many outfit changes (I'm a Grand Master of wearing solid color T-shirts) and the changes in lighting in these photos betray me. I picked away at this over several days, stepping out in the garage for a few minutes here and there between doing other stuff.
  2. Before mass producing the four fronts, I used the old Norm Abram's New Yankee Workshop trick of building a first pre-production copy. I worked out the problems and played with the technique before committing to building all of them. You'll see this mystery prototype in the background. It's assembled without glue, just the screws, but it's holding tight.
Eyeballing the prototype piece on the actual project.

Simple, easy, and inexpensive. What do you think?

The Great Debate: Hiring a Pro vs DIY (Replacing Swimming Pool Equipment Edition)

My whole concept is Do IT Yourself . I write this blog hoping to empower others to do the same by sharing my experiences, triumphs and challenges. Truly, I believe homeowners can do nearly anything themselves with the right tools, materials, and knowledge. I enjoy doing it myself, have saved tons of money, and  have a lot of experience being dissatisfied with the results from people I've hired in the past. I guess I expect absolute perfection for my hard earned money.

However, there are times were the time spent muddling through a project is just not worth possible savings, fun, bragging rights, or the experience gained. Sometimes there are expensive, specialized tools required, that I'd never use again. A mistake I make can cost me, where the mistake a contractor makes, should have to be corrected on their dime. There may be product warranties to consider as well. True craftsmen, can get results even the most gifted DIY'er can hardly hope to obtain. 

So, can I follow instructions, tear out and replace all this mess? Yes, I think so. It's mostly a PVC pipe and glue project. Can I get it done in a few hours and be confident? No. It would probably take me all weekend and infinite trips to the hardware store to do it. 

So, today it happens. I had already cleaned out the dirt around the horror-show above and repaired some of the electrical last weekend (check it out here). We have an experienced professional from one of our local pool stores coming with brand spanking new equipment. 

Here's the scope: 
  1. A new cartridge filter to replace the aging DE filter (the big R2-D2 looking thing) so back-washing and dealing with that messy white powder is a thing of the past. Old leaky here has been a maintenance nightmare. It would need hundreds of dollars in replacement parts if we wanted to save it. A cartridge filter will reduce my maintenance time greatly.
  2. Replace the pool pump. The existing motor is doing fine, since the it was replaced a year ago (home warranty!!!) but, we expect to save about $700 annually in power consumption by upgrading to a modern, variable speed pump. Plus, the unit is tired and has air and water leaks. 
  3. Adding a salt water cell. This is actually exciting. We are going to nearly eliminate our chemical dependency (and cost!!!!) by converting salt water to chlorine. Everyone I talk to who's made this conversion has loved it.
This is coming to us at a heart-stopping cost of nearly $4,000. No, we cannot afford it. But, we also cannot afford to let this beast nickle and dime us to death, while we spawn water creatures in it's foul depths. We are still in swim season here and cannot take advantage of it.  I've spent untold hours and about $1,000 this year alone in chemicals and parts trying to keep this priceless awesomeness... 

No swamp.
...fom reverting again to Dagobah, in the blink of an eye.

The total cost of this renovation includes about $380 in labor (and that's on special this month). Still steep, but I think it's worth it. I don't think I need to surrender my DIY Guy credentials on this one. 

Hire or DIY? The great debate. I nearly always choose DIY. I've hired out for roofing and plan to hire out for window replacement (if we can ever afford it after this pool debacle). I only do so much electrical myself because I have been trained, but suggest most people bring in a pro for anything major. How about you; what's on your hire vs. DIY list?

Homework: There's a neat article Marcie Geffner wrote last year for, titled Remodeling Yeilds Rewards, Vexations where she compares my successful family room remodel experience to cautionary advice from the authors of Home Improvement For Dummies. I do their cautionary, contrasting point of view vs. my gung-ho, I-can-do-anything approach. Doing research, I found their website, which provides lots of info on DIY vs. hire. It's a very good site. I just get a vibe that it's pushing the hire direction a bit hard, especially with an apparent choice of advertisers directed towards for hiring contractors. Maybe I'm a bit sensitive because I love the do it yourself approach. Heck, I have ads for tools and materials on my site. - John

UPDATE: I after re-doing some electrical myself and digging up the pavers in advance of the new install, the work is done. The technician arrived early and lugged in a bunch of new parts and pieces.

He installed the equipment in the existing footprint, using a bunch of the existing plumbing. You can see the salt cell standing vertically in the center and its new computer on the wall.

I did the honors and dumped seven huge bags of special swimming pool salt in the pool. They say it was special salt, but I think its the same stuff they put on those big salt pretzels at the mall. Shhhhhh....

When it was wrapped up, we had a completely new mechanical system,.... and some exciting new financing payments. We're really happy we did it. This winter I hope to drain and re-coat the pool, maybe the decking. Who knows, I may even do some cool new landscaping and a screen to hide the equipment. Next summer should be a great swim season!

A Relaxing Labor Day Project: Underground Electrical

So the pool's a swamp again, despite battling with all the modern chemical weaponry at my disposal. It's time to throw in the towel. We give up. It's either a dump truck full of fill-dirt or we scratch together enough money to replace all of our pool's mechanical equipment. Since a dump truck won't fit into the back yard (and I'm out voted 3 to 1), we're replacing the pool equipment, next Saturday. It's a spendy proposition. Do you hear the sound of our kitchen remodel disappearing? Those new, energy-efficient windows slipping from our grasp?

Even though I'd proclaimed it a no-project weekend, I started excavating the slab the equipment is sitting on. I thought I'd be nice and hopefully avoid the cost creep of having a pool tech digging at $80 / hour before dropping down a new slab. I dug it out pretty quickly.

One of the many leaks dribbling away.

Of course, it wouldn't be a ripping good DIY Guy project experience if it ended as neatly as that, would it? Nope. Remember Murphy's Law, my friends. I noticed this little gem of awesomeness:

The electrical feed conduit is rusted completely through. This is the entry point for a 240 volt pump circuit and a 120 volt light and receptacle circuit, sitting next to 10,000 gallons of highly-conductive pool water where we run around barefoot and soaking wet. Professional electricians would call this condition, "not so good". I let a few choice expletives loose under my breath. I'd have to dig out the rigid conduit 90 degree elbow and replace it, maybe a couple fittings too. Skip the nap, but still, I'd be lighting the BBQ in no time.

"Don't you call me a mindless philosopher, you overweight glob of grease!"
More expletives. There's no 90 degree elbow to unscrew. It's a full 10 foot stick of rigid metal, threaded
conduit, wrapped in corrosion preventing rubber tape. Awesome. Guess what else?!!! There's cement covering it too. Oh, joyous day!! But that's not all; there's a thunderstorm bearing down on me. Sweeeeeeeeeeeet, now this is a holiday, my friends!!! So much for BBQ, it's going to be a carryout pizza night.

I managed to beat through the concrete with my sawed-off sledge hammer and scratch down to the conduit to a coupling using a mini-spade, on my hands and knees. My full size shovel is a flat-blade, not at suited for trenching. I was pretty miserable in the heat.

With the pipe out of the way, I pulled the nasty wire out; it would need to be replaced. The mess of junction boxes also needs to be replaced while I have it all torn apart. They're full of DE filter powder and rusted parts and the switch and plug are junk, all evidence of full water penetration. It's time for a shopping list and a trip to Home Depot.

The conduit on the left and the gounding box on top are brass, and in perfect condition.
The thunderstorm blew in while I was in the store. Luckily, it moved through fast and didn't flood my trench. It simply introduced more delightful humidity. I brought home more than $ 120.00 of assorted loot to straighten out this rat's nest. It sure doesn't look like much stuff when I dump the bags.
Can you tell the new from the old?
I re-jiggered the boxes a bit to neaten the installation and switched to PVC conduit to save cash, time, and corrosion. When it was time to pull wire through the conduit, I grabbed Jack to help by feed it, avoiding damage to the jacket, while I tugged the Fish Tape. Gracie lubed the wire with liquid dish soap to keep it sliding smoothly.

100 degrees and humid after the storm. It's not quite as fun as it sounds.
Gracie and her dinosaurs helped further, by recreating the excavation of the Tanis Map Room from Raiders of the Lost Ark. That mini spade is perfect for her diminutive stature.  

I put all the wiring back exactly the way it was before. I recommend you don't mess around with electrical near a pool if you're not really comfortable with it. Seriously, hire an electrician. There's a whole section of code devoted to it.

It's cleaned up, safe and fresh looking. The new junction box actually has a gasket and does not have the optional big drywall screws driven through it (as can be viewed with amazement in the second photo from the top). I installed a switched cover for the pool light rather than the flip-door style cover.

I filled in the trench with clean dirt, ensuring no rocks were anywhere near the PVC conduit. I soaked it down with the hose every few inches of dirt cover  and compacted it. I don't want this caving in beneath the big paving stones later.

I'll clean up the area and leave it nice and accessible for the pool tech on Saturday.  We are so ready to have this old, sucking money pit of a system replaced so I can spend my weekends doing productive projects (and actually swimming!), rather than repeatedly fighting the endless, loosing battle of the putrid swamp of Dagobah. Yep, I'm really ready for this crap to end.

Generally, you don't see pools this color outside St Patrick's Day
I'm off to the pool store to stock up on some more chemical weapons.

Installing a water heater shut-off switch

Last time, I mentioned I couldn't quite get to a water heater maintenance program without doing some repairs first. I figure step number one is to bring the electrical up to snuff. I decided to install a disconnect switch by the unit, so I don't have to trudge to the outdoor electrical panel every time I want to shut the unit off.

Before I could get going on this part, I had to replace the breaker. My predecessors had installed two, single pole breakers, rather than one double-pole 30 amp breaker. Not cool my friends.
AZ DIY Guy's Scary Warning - Electrical Edition: Don't mess with electrical, unless you know what you are doing. 120 volts of household current can kill you just as dead as much higher voltages, it just lets you suffer longer, and folks can still recognize you in your casket. Plus, electrical issues can do a heck of a job burning your house right to the ground. When in doubt, get a professional electrician. If you do the This project is a snap for someone who's trained; it shouldn't cost too much. Even if you know what you are doing, I recommend you work it like it's live, even if it's not. Research legal requirements in your area before making changes to your electrical system. Finally, don't take my word for this stuff, I might be some random idiot on the internet. 

No. Not cool at all. Those are separate breakers.
I picked up a breaker at Home Depot for about 13 bucks. It was an easy swap; just a matter of turning off the main breaker for a minute while I slipped the two originals, popped the new one in, and re landed the wires.

Of course it couldn't go perfectly. I noticed, for the first time that this particular circuit's wiring was aluminum. I hate that I have aluminum wiring. More on that later.

Cool. Very cool indeed. 
I turned off the new 2 pole circuit breaker and moved inside to open up the junction box to find,... a gob of black electrical tape, discolored wire and nicked insulation (clockwise below). Not good signs.

Since I don't trust ANYTHING in this place, I like to do a quick check to see if the circuit is still live. Especially if there's some sketchy looking wiring where I'm about to stick my fingers. Idiots could have easily landed one of the hot wires to the wrong breaker; it could light me up. No thanks. It's time to reach to the Bat Belt for my trusty non-contact voltage tester.
Apparently, It's pretty serious.
Ahhhhh,... sweet silence. The circuit is dead.

This is scary. The wire nut inside the tape glob is completely destroyed. Worse yet, where is the rest of it? There were no fragments or pieces of more than half of it, not in the tape, not in the junction box. To me, this means some mental giant actually knew this was busted and wrapped it in electrical tape, rather than simply installing a new wire nut. This could burn a house down to save the effort of installing a cheap wire nut. Jackassery! I think it's especially unsafe in that it's an aluminum to copper wire junction.

That's an identical, complete wire nut on the right. 
Back over to the workbench, I set up to prefabricate the switch assembly. Here's the stuff:

  1. Diet Coke Lime  The lime is important. I can't find the reference exactly, but it's in the National Electrical code somewhere,...promise.
  2. Square Box Extension Ring. This will extend the in-wall box allowing for more room to fit the switch and wiring.
  3. 4 In. Exposed Work 1 Toggle Switch Cover 
  4. 30 Amp, 2 pole switch I chose Leviton's extra heavy-duty spec-grade.
  5. Anti-Oxidant Compound This gunk is required when you tie copper to aluminum wiring.
  6. Screws: 8/32's to screw the window box, and one ground screw to ground it. (... to rule them all!)
  7. Wire Nuts know, nut wire.
I clipped the ears off the switch, so it would fit nicely behind the plate.

I pulled the existing 6/32 mounting screws out of the switch, since they're not needed here. Next, I stripped some new #10 copper wire and installed it behind all 4 termination screws, the line side (the "home run" to the breaker) on the black screws, load side (to the heater) on the brass.

No, the WD-40 and the big ol' bottle of blowin' bubbles are not necessary.
I like to put a wrap of electrical tape around the device, leaving a folded, courtesy tab for easy removal later.

Pop the cover on with the two short 6/32's (included with the cover) and we're ready to install. 

The extension ring installs on the wall, screwed to the back box in the wall.

The stripped, bare copper and aluminum wires got a good bit of the anti-oxidization goop. Man! I wish we didn't have that aluminum wiring. At least it's only on a few circuits in the house.

All wired up and sealed in place. I slipped on a 90 degree flex connector, pulled fresh new wire to the heater, terminated it, and sealed everything up.

Flip the breaker and power it up. We should be in business, just in time for the next laundry cycle. Now I can shut the whole thing off whenever I'm finally able to drain it for maintenance.

Look good?
To check the voltage, I popped off the front cover, peeled out a piece of insulation, and exposed the internal wiring terminations for the the heating element. Careful, careful,.. 120 volts from both of the hot conductors to ground and 240 between them. Done!

240,...243.7, whatever it takes.
Next time kiddies, it's on to plumbing. I have to repair or replace that corroded, seized shut-off valve. I'll have to do some research on that one.