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Thread: electrical scare

  1. #1
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    electrical scare

    Those who have been here a while know that I am nearly a complete zero when it comes to things electrik. I don't do much with electriks and don't like to. But, as a homeowner, certain things are necessary for maintenance. Yesterday, I had to change switches for the light in my office. It is a three-way set-up. Only two switches, that's 'two way', why do they call it "three way"? Nebber mind, I don't really want to know. Ennyhow, I went to the electriks supply store and bought two new switches. First big surprise. I had my credit card ready to pay. Didn't need it. Price was $2.00 for two switches. ONE DOLLAR EACH! I didn't know you could buy anything for only a dollar anymore. Paid the man with real money. If he had said ten bucks each, I wouldn't have known if that was right or wrong. See where I'm headed?
    Back home, smart enough to kill the power to the switch. It is right off my shop where the breaker box is. Flipped the switch, lights went off. Started working. Changed one switch, putting the various colored wires right back on the new one where the old ones came off. Not bad. Haven't even fried myself yet. Yet. Went to other box. Uh-Oh! Sumptins different. These wires on old switch go in little holes instead of being wrapped around a screw. But won't come out. Pulled hard, stayed stuck. So, got cutter and cut then stripped. Noticed new switch had little holes too, so stuck a couple wires in there. Then the fireworks started. Got a big spark and zap. Backed away. Gathered my nerves. Changed pants. Went to breaker box and shut off the main for whole house. Went back and tried to connect the ground. Yep, I know which that is even if I don't understand the principal of it. More 'fun'. Came completely out of wall and I now have the ground wire in my hand. Looked in box and tried to make sure no nekkid wires were touching anything. Turned house back on. No smoke or sparks. Called electrician. Got voice mail. Call never returned. Called another. He is busy but 'might' call me this afternoon. So, I'm typing in the dark. But, I'm not fried. Keep me away from electriks.

  2. #2
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    3 ways confuse me every time. When wiring the house I could do them no problem. Then I don't do them for a whileand I forget how to wire them and have to sketch it out to get it in my head again.

    I am betting that your new switch and your old switch are not identical. You have a wire in the wrong place. Get some candles, a flashlight, whatever and just wait.
    God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway,
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Horton View Post
    3 ways confuse me every time. When wiring the house I could do them no problem. Then I don't do them for a whileand I forget how to wire them and have to sketch it out to get it in my head again.

    I am betting that your new switch and your old switch are not identical. You have a wire in the wrong place. Get some candles, a flashlight, whatever and just wait.
    You forget. I do the candle thing often. No elektriks at rendezvous.

  4. #4
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    There should have been another hole next to the one with the wire in it. If you push a pin or small screwdriver in it, the wire will come out. Electricity can be exciting, especially when you drill a rathole for the bathroom heater wiring and hit the 220 for the central air. Been there, done that, still have the drill bit.

  5. #5
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    Chuck, that's my thought too, but why the sparks when the power to that circuit was off? That's the real question. Surely it's not on two circuits!?!?!? I don't guess it would keep it from working, but if that's what happened, someone flubbed up!
    Let us know how it turns out, Frank. Jim.
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  6. #6
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    If you got sparks when the breaker was off... then it seems to me you have two circuits in that box.

    That's why it's good to have a tester with you when you open up boxes like that. It's a simple little neon lamp on two leads, like this:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Not expensive at all. touch one end to the hot, and the other to ground and see if there's light or not. I usually do that for all the hots in the box, especially if there is even the slightest question of their being more than one circuit.

    Here, I googled and found a quick/simple guide that illustrates the most common ways to wire up a three way switch.

    best,
    ...art
    There's usually more than one way to do it...
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  7. #7
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    I have to admit I often work on circuits hot (without turning off the circuit breaker) - but maybe that's not a good idea for you

    One piece of advice. Before you touch or grab any wire (even if you think the power's off), brush it with the back of your fingers. If it's hot, you'll feel a tickle but your fingers will close and come away from the wire. It's not dangerous if you're wearing rubber sole shoes and not standing in water - and don't have your other hand on a pipe or other ground. Put your other hand in your pocket to be sure.

    Of course, a meter or some other indicator (like the one Art posted) will also work, but you don't always have one right at hand.

    Mike
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    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  8. #8
    Mike,

    I've worked on everything from wiring my shop to radar and communications equipment in air traffic control centers to MR scanners, CT scanners and x-ray equipment. Only when there is no other way to trouble shoot or align something will I work on it live. I have only been shocked a couple of times since 1969. Sometimes you have to work on stuff live. I wouldn't make it a SOP though.
    Ken
    ------



  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Fitzgerald View Post
    Mike,

    I've worked on everything from wiring my shop to radar and communications equipment in air traffic control centers to MR scanners, CT scanners and x-ray equipment. Only when there is no other way to trouble shoot or align something will I work on it live. I have only been shocked a couple of times since 1969. Sometimes you have to work on stuff live. I wouldn't make it a SOP though.
    Yep, I know it's bad practice. Sometimes I'm just too lazy to walk to the breaker box to turn off the circuit. But even when I turn the power off, I brush the wire before I grab it.

    Mike

    [Let me point out that I'm talking about residential circuits, not commercial circuits which may be at quite a higher voltage.]
    Last edited by Mike Henderson; 07-04-2008 at 12:49 AM.
    Ancora imparo
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dale Johnson View Post
    There should have been another hole next to the one with the wire in it. If you push a pin or small screwdriver in it, the wire will come out. Electricity can be exciting, especially when you drill a rathole for the bathroom heater wiring and hit the 220 for the central air. Been there, done that, still have the drill bit.
    Dale, I thought you were my friend. Now you want me to go poking screwdrivers and pins into holes of things that are going 'spark' and 'zap' when it's not supposed to.....? Not this elektrikal fraidy cat.

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