It's bad luck to be superstitious

How was it not Friday the 13th today?

I am not one for "bad luck", but today has been quite special, so much so I felt it worth some blogging, sorry.

It all started quite innocently - the locksmith was finally coming to fit an EL560 lock on the back door with my Solar System door entry control system. The plan for that door is that it will be "unlocked" during the day, only having access within our grounds. But locked when we leave and alarm set, and locked at night. This means we need a way to "lock" the doors at night. So I decided to install this - you press the button when going to bed and that makes sure all doors are locked.

Yes, it is a mess, and that is partly because of the first issue - there was a wooden stud in the way, even though I was sure I checked. So a lot of chiseling. Plaster and paint will fix.

Installing this should be simple, need live/neutral from adjacent light switch. It is a Shelly Plus 1 running alarm code and linked to the secure alarm network, so simple. Except things went wrong.

  • First off I managed to "borrow a neutral", which does not go well with RCBOs. But easy to sort, get live and neutral from the same circuit. I forgot the light switch was on both down and up stairs lighting circuits.
  • Then, well it did not come on. In fact none of the lights in the south of the house came on, it seems.
  • The light was fed from another light switch - now this is a house rewired only a couple of years ago by the previous owners, so I take no responsibility for this mess
The light switch from hell

Somehow this was not right, no power. I checked for loose wires, and no joy. OK to be fair, one earth and one live were not connected (!) but putting them back did not help. No power on any brown wire in the box, well, any wire at all. I even re-did all the WAGOs, and no joy. I even checked the RCBO in the consumer unit. No joy. But I realised one light was on. So the issue was between the lights.

Just to add to the "not actually Friday 13th", in the middle of this, when testing on another switch I was puzzled that the switched on the upstairs lights did not show live. I was using a simple (and I know they are iffy) electrical test screwdriver, and it was showing nothing. It seems, in the middle of my trying to diagnose this, my screwdriver had actually failed! I got a new one from Screwfix.

At this point it was time to bring the sparky in - wiring an extra switch I could easily do - solving this was getting beyond me. I mean I have A level physics, and a degree, and I could work it out I am sure, but really, to be on the safe side, getting someone who knows the conventions and rules for wiring a house was in order.

So the sparky tried to trace the issue - it looks a lot like a break in live from the light that is working to that light switch from hell mess. But not completely open - showed some voltage. Great. But then we realise the cloakroom was on, and that is a second light on the same circuit, so let's test from there. One touch of the wiring and the circuit trips.

We have now moved from an open circuit to a fault that trips an RCBO, but takes maybe a second to do so. The second working light had been working, but the wiring was in an old ceiling rose shoved behind the ceiling which promptly snapped, so replaced by a nice new joint box and WAGOs. If that was the cause of the fault it should all be sorted now. No such luck!

Still tripping. Arg. OK, so on to the light switch from hell as pictured above. So the plan was to try and work through its nightmare circuits one by one. First step, chop off the 8 way WAGO for 8 of the live feeds. Test, and WTAF, all the other lights in the house now working. The fault is gone, and the short is gone, and the open circuit is gone.

OK, test them all, and not problems found, to connect back one by one, and well, all 8 back and all working. These are a number of outside lights and stuff. But just reconnecting all 8 live wires to a new WAGO and it works. Arrrg!

Then we discover that somehow tripping the RCBOs has killed 5 of the Shelly in the lights, so next to work on that - but in the morning. That should not happen - I know some of the shit involved in electrical interference immunity testing for CE, and this should not kill a Shelly, really!

So that was the power nightmare - somehow two separate and unrelated faults happen when I am doing something minor, and one remains 100% unexplained. In the end, my switch and indicator are fine, as I had wired them.

Now for the lock fun - a simple job as the locksmith had practiced on my office door and the outhouse door already and was all over confident "simple, 2 hours". Then he realised he did not have to drill the whole door width for a power cable as it could be done with a groove, and that the keep was the same place and size for the new lock, and did not need changing. So he was all super confident this would be easy. Spoiler: it was not.

It went OK to start, but then the lock was not working, and the handles not working, and then the keep not engaging, and then the spindles somehow started to slip and stopped working, and well, everything went to shit - and he is on the clock, after 6 hours here, he has to catch a plane. So we now have a door that is "technically" secure, but far from pretty until he gets bank from holiday. With him, and the sparky, alternating in finding impossible shit happening with their jobs, at the same time.

So seriously a lot broken, a hell of a lot. Stuff totally unrelated all happening at once.

Then, to top off the day, just as things calm, and I decide I am doing nothing now but watching TV and drinking whisky, on basis they cannot go far wrong, I get this from my son.

Is this a bad sign, dad?

Err, yes! But at least he has a working screwdriver! It is a really sensitive LED based one though, so lights up if you sneeze too close to it - turns out he just had a loose wire in the switch.

P.S. Some credit to Shelly. Whilst we have had, in the past, some Shelly 1 struggle with heat and fixed by replacing with Shelly Plus , and I am pretty sure we have had a Shelly die before. On this occasion it looks like it was actually intended behaviour - tasmota code has a last ditch recovery mode config reset if you power cycle it several times quickly - which is, of course, what was happening, and resulted in four of them simply being factory reset, and hence easy to fix.


  1. Those terrible screwdrivers detect AC by being waved near it generally - touching it like that is a continuity test and if the screws are correctly grounded then it lighting is probably not unexpected.

    You should really get something more fit for purpose like a Fluke VoltAlert for troubleshooting things like that (though not for proving dead!)

    1. To be fair that one looks like a genuine Neon one, not the more modern LED type, they tend to only light when there's AC present rather than just 'nearby'. But yeah, never trust them. I carry one, simply for simple continuity testing. Actually using it on a live circuit would be a violation of the EAW act, and common sense. Those dry lining boxes don't earth the lug, and getting a wire trapped isn't uncommon :(

    2. Purely from a code point of view, those "screwdrivers" can't be used to prove that a circuit is dead, only that it's live. The same applies to VoltAlert and similar products.

      An "approved two-point device" (such as a CAT II rated multimeter) is the only way to reliably prove a circuit is safe to work on.

  2. Have you considered a multi-tool for doing cuts like that back box? I was sceptical at first when recommended to me but it really is very good and would have saved the chiselling and hacking.

    1. Annoyingly the back box cut neatly with a plaster board saw. It was the hard work cutting and chiseling the wood behind it that messed it up. But easily fixable.

    2. multi-tool would have made light work of cutting the wood stud too

    3. "multi-tool would have made light work of cutting the wood stud too"
      I'm not sure that's necessarily a good outcome!

    4. Most stud walls in the UK aren't structural, hacking out a stud, while ugly, is often done. On ceiling joists, notsomuch


Comments are moderated purely to filter out obvious spam, but it means they may not show immediately.

NOTSCO (Not TOTSCO) One Touch Switching test platform (now launched)

I posted about how inept TOTSCO seem to be, and the call today with them was no improvement. It seems they have test stages... A "simul...