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Thread: Electrical help needed!!!

  1. #1
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    Electrical help needed!!!

    Hey, folks,

    So here's the thing. Doorlink's redoing a bathroom. Part of that means rewiring a switch (two, actually, in one box). No big deal. But nothing is ever simple in this house.

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    Big deal, you say. Looks normal. All I need to do is take out the switch that controls the light, and put in a new switch with a motion sensor. That switch is on the left.

    Then take out the switch that controls the fan, and put in a new GFCI outlet, with switch included. That one's on the right.

    Or reverse the two, depending on where the 12/2 w/g comes out of the back of the box. No problem. Only, look at this:


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    It's that red wire that bugs me. The only time I've shocked myself in this house involved a red wire, done by the same guy.

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    Any recommendations? I can't figure out why he wired it like this, but he must have had his reasons.

    Help!

    Thanks,

    Bill

  2. #2
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    Big guess here, but the red wire takes the power to the fixture. Pull the light and see if it has a red wire. If so, it is incoming power.

    Really hard doing and making judgements with pictures. If you can kill the power, just kill it and replace the switch. (you probably already knew that)

    Is all that switch controls a light fixture? He may have used the light box as a junction box, but that doesn't explain the white wire coming. I can't figure out what he did. Oh, stay away from the push in switches and plug-ins. Always use ones with screws.
    Last edited by Steve Southwood; 08-12-2011 at 05:37 PM.
    If you don't take pride in your work, life get's pretty boring.

    Rule of thumb is if you donít know what tool to buy next, then you probably donít need it yet.

  3. #3
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    red wires normally are used in three way switches bill and can be hot like a black wire.. what happens is one switch transfers the juice threw the red wire and the other on the black side .. look up 3way swicthes wiring diagram and you will see what i am trying to say not an electrician..
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  4. #4
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    Are the light and the fan all one unit? If so, the red wire might be to identify which is which - red to one and black to the other...

    As Larry has already said, red wires are sometimes used as travelers in a three-way switch setup, but that doesn't appear to be your setup.

    FWIW, red/black/white cabling is also used for 240V~ circuits, with red and black being the "hots" and white the neutral. That's not likely your situation either, though.
    Jim D.
    Adapt, Improvise, Overcome!

  5. #5
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    Light and fan are separate. I disconnected everything, to test. Thought I had it figured out, but now one fixture in the kitchen doesn't work. Blows my theory that this box was the terminal connection...

    weird: red wire brings power in!

  6. #6
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    ok, so:

    As far as I can tell, wire one comes from the panel, and enters the box. It's the only one powered. It has a black, a white, a red, and a ground.

    Wire two goes from the box to the light. It has a black, a white, and a ground.

    Wire three goes from the box to the fan. It has a black, a white, and a ground.

    I've proved this, because this configuration works:

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    As you can see, the black lead from wire one is connected to the fan switch, which works.

    The red lead from wire one is connected to the light switch, which works.

    Bizarrely, in this configuration, the kitchen fixture is not powered.

    OK, take two:


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    In this one, I ran a (black) connecting wire between the power for the light, and the power for the fan. In other words, connected the two connections.

    In this configuration, the fan works. The kitchen fixture works. The light is not powered.

    Ideas? I'm likely just being dumb!

    Thanks,

    Bill

  7. #7
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    The red is the Constant hot? I am going to back off from this. Distance is too great and I don't want to offer anymore, what could be bad ideas. If you was next door I would feel better.
    If you don't take pride in your work, life get's pretty boring.

    Rule of thumb is if you donít know what tool to buy next, then you probably donít need it yet.

  8. #8
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    It's bizarre. I have figured out a work around, one that works, but I can't imagine what the wires look like behind the wall in that case. Besides, it's a shallow new work box from the fifties, which just held regular switches. I need a deeper box for a GFCI and a motion sensor, so I've resolved to open up the wall, get a good handle on the wires, and install a new old work box.

    Also, I discovered a faulty ground in the vanity light, so I guess it's good I'm going through this.

    More questions tomorrow, but they should be easier...

    Thanks,

    Bill

  9. #9
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    Looks to me like the switch on the right wouldn't work if the one on the left was turned off...is this correct?

    If so, I'd say that they fed the circuit from the light bringing the white and red down for feeding other circuits, then back fed from the switch to turn on the bulb(s) using the black wire.
    Darren

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word ďboo.Ē Ė Robert Brault

  10. #10
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    I'm surprised that nobody else has mentioned it, but you really ought to replace those "back-stab" switches with ones that have screw-post connections.

    The back-stab (only) switches and receptacles have had some significant problems over the years.

    The newer ones have a screw that tightens the connection after the wire is 'stabbed' in.
    Jim D.
    Adapt, Improvise, Overcome!

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