Household Wiring Woes

MRW Lights

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Joined
Jan 4, 2017
Location
NYC
Well like many of us since the studio/stages are dark we've been doing some home renovations on our "new" house. That led to replacing all of our outlets and adding GFI's to the kitchen and bathrooms and it all seemed pretty straight forward. I was pleasantly surprised to find 14awg solid core romex in the living room where I started, but should have know it was downhill from there... I think the best finds which will ultimately lead to a visit from someone with one of those fancy license papers was the kitchen outlet that tied two kitchen outlets within 3' of the sink non GFI to the 3 outlets in the dining room and then a 3rd leg tied to I'm not entirely sure what yet.... That was followed by the other side of the kitchen with another series of 3 leg outlets tying together two outlets, the fridge, stove and range hood... so that should be a fun game of use this not that and never convection bake with the range fan on... and the last foray for the weekend was discovering that the outlets in the bathrooms are not on the same supply as the light which was a pleasant surprise however.... the downstairs bathroom, upstairs bathroom and GARAGE outlets are all tied together and the upstairs bathroom light is on a circuit with some combination of the upstairs bedrooms, laundry room and maybe boiler closet...

Moral of the story... burn it down and do it yourself!

Dare you open your outlets and discover the adventure within your own home!? Only quarantine will tell....
 

RonHebbard

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Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Well like many of us since the studio/stages are dark we've been doing some home renovations on our "new" house. That led to replacing all of our outlets and adding GFI's to the kitchen and bathrooms and it all seemed pretty straight forward. I was pleasantly surprised to find 14awg solid core romex in the living room where I started, but should have know it was downhill from there... I think the best finds which will ultimately lead to a visit from someone with one of those fancy license papers was the kitchen outlet that tied two kitchen outlets within 3' of the sink non GFI to the 3 outlets in the dining room and then a 3rd leg tied to I'm not entirely sure what yet.... That was followed by the other side of the kitchen with another series of 3 leg outlets tying together two outlets, the fridge, stove and range hood... so that should be a fun game of use this not that and never convection bake with the range fan on... and the last foray for the weekend was discovering that the outlets in the bathrooms are not on the same supply as the light which was a pleasant surprise however.... the downstairs bathroom, upstairs bathroom and GARAGE outlets are all tied together and the upstairs bathroom light is on a circuit with some combination of the upstairs bedrooms, laundry room and maybe boiler closet...

Moral of the story... burn it down and do it yourself!

Dare you open your outlets and discover the adventure within your own home!? Only quarantine will tell....
@MRW Lights You know you've arrived when you meet single conductor knob and tube pulled through the old gas pipes formerly used to supply Natural gas to your chandeliers and wall sconces.

Discovering those new fangled wall switches interrupting the neutrals rather than the 'hots' is further icing on your cakes.

I found all of the above, and more, in 1967; the first year of my apprenticeship.
This was in a 2.5 story + basement dwelling erected in the late 1880's in the heart of downtown Hamilton, Ontario, Canada at the South West corner of Queen Street South and Jackson Street West.

All of the wiring and lighting fixtures had been retrofitted when that upstart AC stuff had the gall to think it could displace Natural Gas from its rightful place at the pinnacle of lighting your modern home, your home with running water and indoor privvies.
Imagine, the NERVE of that AC stuff; never gonna last, especially if they continue to interrupt neutrals.

I gotta tell ya, the switched neutrals totally caught me off guard when I got a rude awakening between my fingers and the back of my hand while relocating a chandelier and the back of my hand brushed against the gas pipe while removing a porcelain wire nut in the pre-Marrette era.

The mistakes you survive become the lessons well learned. Never forgot that lesson and never will.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

MRW Lights

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Joined
Jan 4, 2017
Location
NYC
@MRW Lights You know you've arrived when you meet single conductor knob and tube pulled through the old gas pipes formerly used to supply Natural gas to your chandeliers and wall sconces.

Discovering those new fangled wall switches interrupting the neutrals rather than the 'hots' is further icing on your cakes.

I found all of the above, and more, in 1967; the first year of my apprenticeship.
This was in a 2.5 story + basement dwelling erected in the late 1880's in the heart of downtown Hamilton, Ontario, Canada at the South West corner of Queen Street South and Jackson Street West.

All of the wiring and lighting fixtures had been retrofitted when that upstart AC stuff had the gall to think it could displace Natural Gas from its rightful place at the pinnacle of lighting your modern home, your home with running water and indoor privvies.
Imagine, the NERVE of that AC stuff; never gonna last, especially if they continue to interrupt neutrals.

I gotta tell ya, the switched neutrals totally caught me off guard when I got a rude awakening between my fingers and the back of my hand while relocating a chandelier and the back of my hand brushed against the gas pipe while removing a porcelain wire nut in the pre-Marrette era.

The mistakes you survive become the lessons well learned. Never forgot that lesson and never will.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
Thankfully no 110 tickles for me this weekend, but I did a have a narrow miss when I thought all of the outlets in the room were on the same breaker and my wife casually said... did you chirp that outlet? about two seconds before I went to depress the back and release the wire. Sometimes it's actually helpful to have her on my shoulder... mostly I think she bugs me so she doesn't have to hear me complain about how I hurt myself this time...
 

RonHebbard

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Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Thankfully no 110 tickles for me this weekend, but I did a have a narrow miss when I thought all of the outlets in the room were on the same breaker and my wife casually said... did you chirp that outlet? about two seconds before I went to depress the back and release the wire. Sometimes it's actually helpful to have her on my shoulder... mostly I think she bugs me so she doesn't have to hear me complain about how I hurt myself this time...
On your side of lil' Donnie's walls you've got 120/240, 120/208, then you jump to 277/480 (I believe it is but I could easily be incorrect [I'm often incorrect but I'm NEVER wrong ] )

Up here North of lil' Donnie's walls: We've also got 120 / 240 and 120 / 208. Our next common voltage is 347 / 600.

If you think 120's a pleasant wake up call, 600 either elicits a RUDE awakening or drastically lengthens your snoozing to the point you never again wake.

Fortunately I've only experienced a 347 wake up call while attending a community college for my last session of trade school; my teacher assured me the 347 / 600 on my project bench was switched off when it wasn't.

The project was to wire dynamic braking / plugging on a 347 / 600 motor with a 120 VAC control voltage. I was crouched down below the bench finessing the centrifugal switch. I asked to have the 347 / 600 switched off, heard the clank and the teacher assuring me he'd switched it off.

Oh silly me for not checking: The clank I'd heard was teach' switching off the 120 volt control.

Another lesson taught, survived, and well learned:
Trust NO ONE, trust only YOUR meter, the meter you test each and every time you're about to trust it with your life.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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DrewE

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Joined
Mar 18, 2019
Location
Vermont
I've done some electrical work pre-quarantine in my house (replacing receptacles that had become rather loose over years of use, adding GFCIs as needed, improving the lighting in the basement, installing circuits for the RV, electrifying my shed...). I've only had a few relatively mild moments of questioning. Most of the offences appear to me to have been homeowner improvements by the previous owner, including a couple of junctions not in boxes, a box with two separate circuits going through it, and a few light fixtures lacking the ground connection. All those have been pretty straightforward to correct.

I did, however, previously rent an old farmhouse, dating from around 1800 with many additions and changes over the years. The electric service there was something of a mess and a sort of living history museum of electric wiring techniques over the years. There was some active knob-and-tube wiring (in reasonably good shape), some cloth covered sheathed cable, and some new and not quite so new Romex. Some circuits terminated in a fuse panel with round screw-in fuses, and others in a circuit breaker box next to it. Some were grounded, some were ungrounded. The worst thing I discovered there was that the one outlet for the kitchen (the only one anywhere near the counter--there was another across the room for the fridge) was tied into the fused safety switch for the electric water heater, with the water heater ground being used for the neutral return. Among other undesirable things, this meant that one could overload the outlet and its feed wire without much difficulty if the water heater were not heating--the connection was fused at 30A--but, on the other hand, could readily blow the fuse if it was on as the "leftover" capacity in the fuse was then something like 5A. When the fuse blew, it left a sneak path through the water heater element from the other leg of the service, and that was very confusing to me until I chanced upon the problem. The microwave clock would work fine until one tried to cook something, at which point the microwave brain would reset as the voltage dropped.
 

JonCarter

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Joined
Apr 18, 2011
Location
Meridian, Idaho, US
You know you've arrived when you meet single conductor knob and tube pulled through the old gas pipes formerly used to supply Natural gas to your chandeliers and wall sconces.
Ron, You're an old sparky--can you imagine what it took to pull type R wire through those gas pipes?? I've worked in--and lived in--buildings with old gas piping used as conduit--and just shake my head in wonder. And what's wrong with switching the neutral? Takes two wires to make the light work, right? Switch any one of 'em and the light goes off. :)
 

RonHebbard

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Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Ron, You're an old sparky--can you imagine what it took to pull type R wire through those gas pipes?? I've worked in--and lived in--buildings with old gas piping used as conduit--and just shake my head in wonder. And what's wrong with switching the neutral? Takes two wires to make the light work, right? Switch any one of 'em and the light goes off. :)
Neutral? Hot?? Wd'ya mean??? They're both black, who do you think you're kidding????
Dang electricians, always thinking they can put something over on us plumbers, fitters, and sewage workers.

Drainage and vent pipes; now there's the real meat and potatoes. literally, after our clients' have processed them through their bowels .

Ya can't even see those 'lectron thingies and then they get to babblin' a bout flux (we KNOW flux is for soldering) flux capacitors, magnetic fields, transformer action, fly-backs, fields collapsing faster than they build.

Bull Excrement! Us sewage and drainage guys know crap when we taste it!
Arrrrrrrrgh!
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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almorton

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Joined
Dec 17, 2014
Location
Caterham, Surrey, UK
I recall when I was a youngster (early to mid teens, so this would be early/mid 70s) helping my Dad to replace a light in my great aunt's kitchen, or "scullery" as she always called it. Her house was an old terrace in a North-East England coastal town, probably Victorian, and at some point had been lit by gas (the old pipes were still there but long disconnected) then had been converted to electric in the dim and distant past. It still had round pin sockets, and round bakelite switches that made a satisfying noise when they operated, surface mounted on varnished wooden "plaques" on the walls, and cables that had been surface run and painted over many, many times. We removed the ancient light fitting in the kitchen and were showered in dark grey dust as we pulled it away from the ceiling, a mixture of coal soot, household dust and perished insulation from the cable. The cable was twin core lead sheathed, using the lead as the ground conductor. It was so old that as we peeled back the lead, the insulation just continued to crumble, so we took the not difficult decision to run new cables all the way back to the fusebox, and the landlord was informed that the house needed a complete rewire. To their credit, I think the rewire happened remarkably soon.
 

RickR

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Joined
Sep 18, 2009
Location
Spokane, WA the great "Inland Northwest"
High on my list in a new home/office/RV/cabin is to map out what shares a breaker/fuse. I make a little map with numbers and arrows that nobody but me could decipher, but I guess that's my handwriting. :boohoo: Occasionally these get re-done but they always get used over the years.

My first house had electricity brought into it in 1922. Then the previous owner put in conduit with romex inside. :think::wall::clap: Had to pay a pro to get that straightened out!
 

Ben Stiegler

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Joined
Aug 3, 2017
Location
Sf Bay Area
Ron, You're an old sparky--can you imagine what it took to pull type R wire through those gas pipes?? I've worked in--and lived in--buildings with old gas piping used as conduit--and just shake my head in wonder. And what's wrong with switching the neutral? Takes two wires to make the light work, right? Switch any one of 'em and the light goes off. :)
or hey, switch BOTH - like Dr. Frankenstein and the knife switches (also found on "original" lighting control boards). And how's this for synchronicity? Look at the T shirt I picked this AM
ITried.jpg
 
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Hansentd

Member
Joined
May 31, 2015
Location
Metro Boston
Years ago I was having trouble with the ground in my living room.
Thinking I might be able to replace the outlet I opened up the cover.
Some prior habitant had bugged off from the outlet on the other side of the wall to add that outlet. That's not the distressing part.
The distressing part is that they used a 6in piece of brown 18 guage lamp cord. You know the ones- molded plastic ends, 2 wires- just nipped the connectors off.
Learned my lesson there. Never examine any problems. Just let sleeping dogs lie and never try to make anything better.
 

DrewE

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Joined
Mar 18, 2019
Location
Vermont
My first house had electricity brought into it in 1922. Then the previous owner put in conduit with romex inside. :think::wall::clap: Had to pay a pro to get that straightened out!
Although not standard practice, putting NM-B (Romex) in conduit is perfectly acceptable per the NEC provided appropriate fill factors are observed, which are computed a little differently for cables than for individual conductors. There are even times when it is reasonable and convenient to do so, such as where physical protection is required for a short bit of a longer run. Quite a few people seem to misread "it's not permitted to run NM-B (or other dry-location-only) cable in conduit in wet locations" as "you can't put Romex in conduit" when really all it's saying is that the conduit doesn't magically grant it waterproofing.
 

RonHebbard

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Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Although not standard practice, putting NM-B (Romex) in conduit is perfectly acceptable per the NEC provided appropriate fill factors are observed, which are computed a little differently for cables than for individual conductors. There are even times when it is reasonable and convenient to do so, such as where physical protection is required for a short bit of a longer run. Quite a few people seem to misread "it's not permitted to run NM-B (or other dry-location-only) cable in conduit in wet locations" as "you can't put Romex in conduit" when really all it's saying is that the conduit doesn't magically grant it waterproofing.
@DrewE Up here North of lil' Donnie's walls we used to have BXL, what I learned was termed "Metal Clad" on your side.

We had BX equating to your Metal Clad PLUS BX-L in which the inner conductors were encased in a continuous, seamless, water impervious, LEAD sheath + a lightly oiled paper wrap before he spiraled Metal Clad was overlaid.

BXL was approved for use below grade; nominally 6' below grade on a bed of gravel, + sand, the BXL, more sand, 2" thick creosoted planks, back-fill, tamp, soak with water over night to aid with settling, tamp again, water again, ad infinitum (Sp?) 'til ready for more sand and sod.

We had BXL in a wide range of sizes; I know I installed 14/2, 14/3, 14/4, 12/2, 12/3, 12/4. 8/3, 8/4, 6/3 and 6/4 during my apprenticeship.

We also had lead jacketed three conductor 350 MCM and 500 MCM rated for 13K8 and 27K6 underground distribution, although the 13K8 and 27K6 were normally pulled through Fibre-Duct ( A compressed paper and tar product eventually determined to be carcinogenic and outlawed).

During the first year of my apprenticeship my journeyman and myself, along with a trenching contractor, installed literally miles of 2.5" (for communications) and 4" (for 13K8 and / or 27K6 ) throughout several acres of freshly cleared land which became the West campus of Hamilton's McMaster University. (In a sense, I spent a year of 8 hour days going to McMaster, never to return to receive my degree.)
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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StradivariusBone

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Space Coast, FL
Learned my lesson there. Never examine any problems. Just let sleeping dogs lie and never try to make anything better.
I too am the current inhabitant of a house that was formerly owned by a DIY sparky. I discovered a number of things over the years, but the one that sticks out was one morning when my wife remarked that the bedroom lights stopped working. These are two sconces on a switch.

"One or both?" I inquired, assuming a bad lamp.
"What difference does that make?" she innocently replied.
"A lot, actually."
"Both"
"..."

So off to the breaker panel I go. After some troubleshooting, I discover that the sconces were an addition by the Spendthrift Sparky. Not only were the fixtures attached directly to the drywall without a J-box, the romex in the attic was about 25' too long and just haphazardly coiled about. There was a junction box connecting the two fixtures to the mains and switch in the attic buried under blown-in insulation where one of a few mismatched wire nuts had come loose. The hot lead of course. The box was slightly charred, but not grounded which is why I think the breaker hadn't tripped. It had come loose in just such a way to probably arc a bit and then remain open. I considered it a win after repairing it that I came out with an extra 25' of 12/2 and my house didn't burn to the ground.
 

Dionysus

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Joined
Feb 9, 2009
Location
London, Ontario, Canada
Well like many of us since the studio/stages are dark we've been doing some home renovations on our "new" house. That led to replacing all of our outlets and adding GFI's to the kitchen and bathrooms and it all seemed pretty straight forward. I was pleasantly surprised to find 14awg solid core romex in the living room where I started, but should have know it was downhill from there... I think the best finds which will ultimately lead to a visit from someone with one of those fancy license papers was the kitchen outlet that tied two kitchen outlets within 3' of the sink non GFI to the 3 outlets in the dining room and then a 3rd leg tied to I'm not entirely sure what yet.... That was followed by the other side of the kitchen with another series of 3 leg outlets tying together two outlets, the fridge, stove and range hood... so that should be a fun game of use this not that and never convection bake with the range fan on... and the last foray for the weekend was discovering that the outlets in the bathrooms are not on the same supply as the light which was a pleasant surprise however.... the downstairs bathroom, upstairs bathroom and GARAGE outlets are all tied together and the upstairs bathroom light is on a circuit with some combination of the upstairs bedrooms, laundry room and maybe boiler closet...

Moral of the story... burn it down and do it yourself!

Dare you open your outlets and discover the adventure within your own home!? Only quarantine will tell....
This kind of wiring was VERY common once upon a time. NOW it is considered quite improper.

Used to be standard to bring 3-wire to your kitchen counter (no GFCIS) and then feed off of each leg to go to other places in order to "save on number of circuits".
I was an electician for quite some time and mainly did residential, re-wires and work from houses wired in certain eras (about the time ROMEX was newer) were THE WORST. Especially the tar-paper romex...YUCK

By comparison I could rewire a knob-and-tube house in less than half the time.
People used to cut the weirdest corners, many of which are against electrical code now.
 

StradivariusBone

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Fight Leukemia
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Location
Space Coast, FL
My house is of the era when a single GFCI in the garage was considered OK for all wet locations and as such all the bathroom outlets go dead when it trips. Really fun story, when we bought the house, the bank refused to finalize unless the outlet by the washer was replaced with GFCI (along with a couple others). I pointed out that I was knowledgable enough to DIY it and refused to pay for an electrician to do the work (bank-owned house, long-story). So the bank said, "OK. Fix it yourself then!" So I did. Before we bought the house, I replaced the outlets and replacing a broken pool timer to satisfy the terms of the loan. On a house I didn't own. While my poor realtor watched and prayed that I wouldn't kill myself.

I still don't quite understand how that flew, but what are ya gonna do?

Used to be standard to bring 3-wire to your kitchen counter
I've seen a couple of Youtube videos alluding to this where some kitchen outlets will have different phases in the same box, so by tying together two hots from the same outlet (top and bottom) you get 220. Fun times.

For the next trick, let's see if we can run a moving light distro off my dryer outlet.
 

Dionysus

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Joined
Feb 9, 2009
Location
London, Ontario, Canada
On your side of lil' Donnie's walls you've got 120/240, 120/208, then you jump to 277/480 (I believe it is but I could easily be incorrect [I'm often incorrect but I'm NEVER wrong ] )

Up here North of lil' Donnie's walls: We've also got 120 / 240 and 120 / 208. Our next common voltage is 347 / 600.

If you think 120's a pleasant wake up call, 600 either elicits a RUDE awakening or drastically lengthens your snoozing to the point you never again wake.

Fortunately I've only experienced a 347 wake up call while attending a community college for my last session of trade school; my teacher assured me the 347 / 600 on my project bench was switched off when it wasn't.

The project was to wire dynamic braking / plugging on a 347 / 600 motor with a 120 VAC control voltage. I was crouched down below the bench finessing the centrifugal switch. I asked to have the 347 / 600 switched off, heard the clank and the teacher assuring me he'd switched it off.

Oh silly me for not checking: The clank I'd heard was teach' switching off the 120 volt control.

Another lesson taught, survived, and well learned:
Trust NO ONE, trust only YOUR meter, the meter you test each and every time you're about to trust it with your life.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
Got blown off of a ladder in a YMCA workout room by 347v once. There was a daycare on the other side of a soft partition, I was swearing like a sailor with turrets, but SO HAPPY I HIT THE FLOOR. Whoever installed the light (before the rule on 347v lights having disconnecting means at the device) did not put the marettes (wire nuts) on very well. When I opened the cover one of the wires popped out, the marr flew off and the hot poked me right in the hand. My other hand was grounded on the T-Bar. NOT FUN.
Have a friend who apparently saw a guys chin get blown off by 347v in a hospital ER when working on the lights (hey you can't kill the lights in a working ER). Lucky he was already in the ER.

I too am the current inhabitant of a house that was formerly owned by a DIY sparky. I discovered a number of things over the years, but the one that sticks out was one morning when my wife remarked that the bedroom lights stopped working. These are two sconces on a switch.

"One or both?" I inquired, assuming a bad lamp.
"What difference does that make?" she innocently replied.
"A lot, actually."
"Both"
"..."

So off to the breaker panel I go. After some troubleshooting, I discover that the sconces were an addition by the Spendthrift Sparky. Not only were the fixtures attached directly to the drywall without a J-box, the romex in the attic was about 25' too long and just haphazardly coiled about. There was a junction box connecting the two fixtures to the mains and switch in the attic buried under blown-in insulation where one of a few mismatched wire nuts had come loose. The hot lead of course. The box was slightly charred, but not grounded which is why I think the breaker hadn't tripped. It had come loose in just such a way to probably arc a bit and then remain open. I considered it a win after repairing it that I came out with an extra 25' of 12/2 and my house didn't burn to the ground.
I'd like to say I am surprised but I've seen so many things so incredibly worse than that.

The amount of switched Neutrals I've seen is DISGUSTING (often by seasoned electricians), along with the number of electricians who apparently can't wire a damned 3-way switch properly.

I think one of the worst re-wired I ever had to do was a house previously owned by an industrial electrician (who obviously did not care to learn residential when an apprentice). He had re-wired a good portion of the house and I have to say it was HORRENDOUS.

At least I was kept entertained when I did electrical. But really don't want to have to go back to it as a main gig if this covid-thing continues.
 

ship

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Mar 29, 2003
Location
Illinois
Working on a c.1924/25 Chandileer at the moment for a Masonic Temple - first of eight or twenty four if I get the ball room project. Why to switch the Hot? Lamp sockets I believe original, who re-wired the lights later in the 50's or 70's.. semi-skilled but only just in interesting way done. Insulators on the original Edison lamp sockets crumbling as one screws a lamp into them. Fittings getting loose or stripped in more parts moving.

7 of 8 of the chandileers are still in use + the ones in the ball room, and all recently had bad LED lamp changes to arching sockets and crumbling insulators. All of them un-grounded by the way... So a switch on the neutral... what's the difference - the fixture is very possibly electrified even if the lamp is turned off by way of neutral.

This much less in disconnecting the fixtures for service if "power off" they would still be live. Knowing the joke above as per comment, but to clarify in being speficic.

Garage door openers.... Believe garage door installers do something similar, but been a few years in might be different in wiring up one on the easy where there is a lamp already in the garage I dealt with once.