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Old 08-22-2010, 03:52 PM   #1
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3-way switch help


I have my garage wall open and decided to add two additional outlets to the one that was there. I fed the power from the breaker to a new GFCI outlet, then through one other new outlet and on to the remaining, existing, wiring. This wiring goes to an outlet in the ceiling for the garage door opener and into a fourth bedroom's outlets on one wall.

Now when I turn on the light in the garage (two switches, one in laundry room and one in garage) it trips the GFCI. The light switches are connected to a separate circuit breaker (not the one the outlets are on).

In looking at the light switch in the laundry room the switch is piggy-backed off an adjacent switch that lights the laundry room. This is a black wire connected to the bottom pole of the switch. One of the top two poles of the switch (same side as feed) is connected to black going into two wire romex, the other pole is connected to white in this same romex. The switch in the garage is set up the same way; bottom pole is fed by black coming in one romex and the top two black and white going out another romex.

The light is single porcelin outlet with only two wires attached (white and black from same romex). No other wires except the bare ground (not attached to anything) are in that box.

If the light bulb is removed the switches can be turned on or off without tripping the GFCI. With the bulb in place both switches trip the GFCI.

With the circuit breaker turned off the lights work normally.

Can somebody shed some light on this for me? Do I remove the GFCI and put in a regular outlet and operate as before or is there a way to fix this to work as (I think) it should?

Thanks all for your help, I have learned a lot lurking here!

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Old 08-22-2010, 06:24 PM   #2
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3-way switch help


You're going to have to clear this up for me ..

Quote:
I have my garage wall open and decided to add two additional outlets to the one that was there. I fed the power from the breaker to a new GFCI outlet, then through one other new outlet and on to the remaining, existing, wiring. This wiring goes to an outlet in the ceiling for the garage door opener and into a fourth bedroom's outlets on one wall.
This sounds like you found a power source or came directly from a new breaker ran your wiring to the gfci then to another new receptacle then went on and connected it to existing wiring ....??? Can you clear this up? Maybe post a diagram of what you did....

If you connected into another circuit after the gfci or a multiwire circuit that explains everything ... all you needed to do was extend your power to the gfci and new receptacle at which point that branch would end...it would not continue on to another circuits wiring.

Somehow you have connected the new branch circuits neutral to the neutral for the lighting circuit. This is causing the gfci to trip. The gfci is 'seeing' current on the neutral that is connected to it but no current on the hot wire that is connected to it and trips out.... the current that the gfci is 'seeing' is coming from the lighting branch circuit neutral when you turn the lights on. Find where you connected into the lighting branch circuit and you can fix your problem.

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Old 08-22-2010, 07:34 PM   #3
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You're going to have to clear this up for me ..

This sounds like you found a power source or came directly from a new breaker ran your wiring to the gfci then to another new receptacle then went on and connected it to existing wiring ....??? Can you clear this up? Maybe post a diagram of what you did....
Thanks Stubbie! I used your diagrams to run 220v to my shed via subpanel, inspector only pointed out 1 place he would like to see clamped.

The power is coming from the existing CB, I cut the romex in the wall (between the first outlet and the main panel) to add the GFCI inline first, then added a second outlet about 6' away from the first, then on to the first existing outlet. Everything else is as it was.

I need to get in the attic and do some wire tracing to find out what I have. The 3-way switches do not seem to have the correct amount of wires, could they have tapped into the common for the garage door opener outlet for that? The light and that outlet are only about 1 foot apart.
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Old 08-22-2010, 10:44 PM   #4
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Now when I turn on the light in the garage (two switches, one in laundry room and one in garage) it trips the GFCI. The light switches are connected to a separate circuit breaker (not the one the outlets are on).
This is telling you that somehow in your new wiring you are connected to the circuit the lights are on ... this is why the gfci is tripping.

Can you post a drawing of how things are connected?
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Old 08-23-2010, 06:51 AM   #5
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3-way switch help


Stubbie - I appreciate your help to sort this out!

I think my problem was pre-existing. All I did was cut the romex between the circuit breaker and first outlet and added two outlets, the first one after the CB being a GFCI. The romex from the cb to the gfci is the original wire, I added new romex to get to the second new outlet and after that is the original wire. I have a little plug-in circuit tester; the outlets all show wired correctly.
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Old 08-23-2010, 07:24 AM   #6
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In the pre-existing wiring you need to check for:

1. Lights drawing power from one circuit and using the neutral of a different circuit, this is a no-no.

2. Cables from two different circuits coming into the same box (okay so far) and there their neutrals are tied together, which is incorrect.

3. In switch boxes or receptacle boxes or light boxes, bare parts of wires touching where they should not -- including neutral to ground.
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Old 08-23-2010, 08:22 AM   #7
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3-way switch help


Thank you Allan, this will be my plan for this evening. One wire at a time. I wish houses came with a wiring schematic.
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Old 08-23-2010, 10:30 AM   #8
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HAllen

I agree with AllanJ. All those things need to be checked.... But the #1 thing is to clear up your statement that the gfci and other receptacle you added are on a different circuit than the lights.

I'm understanding that all you did is something similar to the drawing below ... how are you connected at the gfci. Is the downstream receptacle a protected receptacle off the load terminals of the gfci ? Be sure you have the wires connected correctly to the gfci or it will trip. If your gfci protecting everything downstream of the gfci then both hot and neutral of your romex cable to the next receptacle need to be on the load terminals, ..make sure you did that. If not correct it and retest.
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Old 08-23-2010, 11:14 AM   #9
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3-way switch help


Stubbie,

Your diagram is exactly what I did. The two new outlets are within 6 feet of the main panel and goes down the inside of the wall from there.

The line and load sides are clearly marked (load side even had yellow tape covering the terminals so you would not hook line wires there.) I have installed these before and are familiar with their requirements.

I need to learn how to draw those diagrams.

Last edited by HAllen; 08-23-2010 at 11:28 AM.
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Old 08-23-2010, 05:33 PM   #10
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Ok that is good. The fact that if you turn the lights on the gfci trips makes it very suspect that somewhere downstream of the gfci you are tied into the neutral on that lighting branch circuit. This is providing for a parallel path for neutral current to use to get back to the breaker panel and to the source transformer. This is also reinforced by the fact if you take the bulbs out of the lighting circuit the gfci doesn't trip.
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Old 08-24-2010, 06:43 PM   #11
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I have looked in the boxes I know are on the circuit and do not see any touching or loose wires. There are five wires running in/out of this box which contains the switches for the garage and laundry room lights.

I think it is going to require disconnecting wires one at a time to find my crossed one.
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Old 08-28-2010, 08:49 AM   #12
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Cooler weather prevails in Texas and I have been able to work in the garage to find my crossed wires. In the switchbox on the garage wall there are two switches; one three way that is connected to another in the laundry room to power the garage light and another switch (single pole) that turns on and off the outside driveway light. The single pole driveway switch is wired into the outlet circuit I added the GFCI to. All the white wires were tied together (my crossed circuit point).

I have separated the two circuits and now the circuit with the new GFCI outlet is fine. That leaves me with no white wire in the box to complete the light circuit. I am guessing I need to run another single white (common) wire into the switchbox to fix this.

Is this the easiest (or best) way to do this or do I need to do something else?
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Old 08-28-2010, 12:16 PM   #13
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3-way switch help


I ran the extra wire and everything works as it should. Why would a builder wire it this way? To save $3 worth of wire?

Thanks for everyones help!
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Old 08-28-2010, 03:17 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by HAllen View Post
The 3-way switches do not seem to have the correct amount of wires, could they have tapped into the common for the garage door opener outlet for that? The light and that outlet are only about 1 foot apart.
if a 3 way switch doesn't have 3 wires.....maybe it was an extra 3 way used as a standard 2 pole.....all the wires are black and white and the previous electrician should have taped the wire that would be red or common...the white or black on the right switch could be your common...previous electrician didn't use 14 x 3 but should have taped to indicate to the next guy...it looks like the standalone black on the right switch is your common

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Old 08-28-2010, 09:15 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Aaroncarpet View Post
if a 3 way switch doesn't have 3 wires.....maybe it was an extra 3 way used as a standard 2 pole.....all the wires are black and white and the previous electrician should have taped the wire that would be red or common...the white or black on the right switch could be your common...previous electrician didn't use 14 x 3 but should have taped to indicate to the next guy...it looks like the standalone black on the right switch is your common
After I separated the white wires in the switch box there was not a common to hook the light to.

My neighbor (had same builder) was changing his ceiling fan in the master bedroom. There were two switches on the wall, one for the light in the fan and one for the fan. The builder ran one 2-wire with ground romex and used the bare ground as a hot. He had pulled some insulation from another wire and shoved it onto the ground until it was up into the romex sheath. Bad stuff!

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