Mr. Fantasy (mrfantasy) wrote,
Mr. Fantasy

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Nice cans! or, my ass hurts

Yesterday was the big day. I reserved the whole day (until dinnertime when I was going out with some friends) to redo the cans I've posted about earlier.

I went into the attic above the family room. There's a max of about 3 feet of headroom there , trailing off to much less at the end. I wisely decided to do one light at a time, instead, say, of ripping them all out first. I started with the light closest to the access panel, and in the tallest part of the attic. From the attic it was easy to pull out the old frame holding in the reflector light. The arms attaching them to the joists actually slid on the frame, so once I pulled it up a little I could just pull them out of the fixture, and then work the nails out of the joists.

Then I looked at the electrical connections. I had 3 wires coming into the junction box. I deduced one was from the electrical panel, one was a switch loop, and the last was to the other 2 lights I was hooking up (they're all controlled by the same switch.) I labeled carefully, and then took it apart.

I then attempted to put the new fixture in. You have to put it in from the room, so a lot of my day was walking from the attic to the family room, which meant going through the entire house. Unfortunately the hole was about 1/4" too small, so I had to do some detail work with my drywall saw (which I bought to install my kitchen speakers). I finally got the hole done, but it's a little big.

Wiring took forever, there are knockouts on the old fixture but the 3-conductor cable for the switch line wouldn't fit in them. Luckily I had some NM cable clamps in the basement from another job (installing a new light in the under-porch crawl space in my old house) so I used the round knockouts for that cable. It took many false starts and 15 minutes of looking for my cable stripper but eventually I got everything back together. The first light took me about 3 hours to put in. I stopped for lunch and kept on going.

The second light took much less time--I did the one at the end of the run next so there was only one cable coming in, and now I knew what I was doing. Also, this hole needed less adjustment and I was able to get a tighter fit for the can. Two down.

The third light is near the exterior wall and the attic clearance above the light was less than a foot. I tried to get down there but I simply couldn't--the roofing nails from the sheathing above were scraping my head (lucklily, I was wearing my work hat (seen in this picture from about 10 years ago, in our old house. The hat is from high school and when I bought it it looked really good with my Jams and brightly colored shirts, but that's another story for another time) and I didn't end up bleeding or whatever. I could not pull the light out like I did the others, so I went to my plan B which was to see if I could stuff the can in the existing fixture. When I went downstairs I realized this fixture wasn't nailed to the joists like the others but was clamped in with points that went into the drywall. Pulling those out and cutting the electrical cables allowed me to pull the fixture up and throw it aside in the attic which I could get later. I was easily able to reinsert the third can and rewire it.

Once the cans were in I needed to seal them with silicone sealant to the drywall. To make them fully airtight I taped the holes in the can (where the clips that secure them to the drywall slide in to place) On the two I could reach I also taped the can to the drywall in the attic.

Now with the hard work done I could work on the retrofit kits. They're designed to screw into the existing light socket, but with the added depth of the ballast and the frame for a normal reflector I couldn't get them in. So I cut the reflector mount socket out, and spliced the wire from the retrofit kit in inside the can. I was worried about modding the fixtures but I decided I could get over it, and it was better in the long run since I wouldn't have all this junk crammed up there.

Finally I get the reflectors in and all the frames put in, the bulbs in, and the moment of truth. They work! The dimmers work and everything! The light is very similar to the old incandescent reflectors. The dimmers are better than I thought they would be.

All day today, however, it hurts to stand. My legs and butt are really sore from both the contrortions I had to do in the attic and crawling in and out of the access hole. the hole is one stud width wide (14") so I had to go through it sideways, and I had planks lying across the joists, which would shift as I shimmied out, so I had do do a lot of squirming, kicking, and pulling all day. Fun.

I still want to put more insulation up there, since there's only 6" in between the joists, but so far I think it's helping. It isn't as cold in the family room. Although, I think it's still not completely draft-free in here. I will have to do some more investigations but I know this will help. When I had the hole completely open I could really feel how much air could get out.

I have to make sure I buy an extra bulb, just to have. So far I've only had one CFL burn out, but we use these lights a lot.
Tags: home improvement

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