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Old 06-05-2009, 01:18 PM   #1
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adding outlet from light switch


Hello. I'm looking for some help with a small project on my garage... apologies if this has been asked before.

I need to add an outside outlet to my detached garage, so I branched off an existing circuit, which fed two fluorescent ceiling fixtures with two separate switches.

Feeding the first switch is a red and a white wire. Going into the second switch was a short black wire jumped between the two switches and another black from the feed. The bare ground was screwed to the metal box the switches were housed in directly from the feed. This is apparently how it has been for many years.

I also had to move this double set of switches to the opposite side of a new in-swing entry door because they were now hidden when the door was opened. No big deal with that as there was enough wire in attic to achieve the move.

The way I added the outlet is I twisted or (pigtailed?) three wires of each color together using large wire nuts. Short pieces for the switches were twisted with along with the original feed and about two and half feet of new Romex for the new outlet below.

From there the switches were rewired exactly as they were before. The lights work fine but the outlet does not. I didn't know what to do with the two hots (black and red) coming from the switches after I pigtailed everything and have a feeling this is my problem - among other things . I tried different scenarios i.e. disregarding the red then the black; then used them both figuring they were both hot.

Anyway my plug-in tester has two different readings at the new outlet depending on me flipping just the first switch: "Hot ground reverse" or "Hot neutral reverse". But all the connections to the fixtures are correct as far as hot and neutral to the proper color screws...

If I kept your attention for this long, I appreciate it. Thanks in advance for any suggestions too!

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Old 06-05-2009, 01:46 PM   #2
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adding outlet from light switch


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Feeding the first switch is a red and a white wire. Going into the second switch was a short black wire jumped between the two switches and another black from the feed. The bare ground was screwed to the metal box the switches were housed in directly from the feed.
Bit of brain freeze here..

Just to clarify, how many cables ("Romex") are going into the switch box?

From what I'm getting, the first switch is a 3-way (has 3 connections not including ground) and the second switch is a regular ol' two-way switch (2 connections not including ground), right?

Quote:
The way I added the outlet is I twisted or (pigtailed?) three wires of each color together using large wire nuts.
So.. you have a white, black and red going to the new receptacle?? If so, that's one problem. You should (when all is said and done) have only 2 wires going to the receptacle, usually black and white (plus a ground!).

I think you're wiring the receptacle into the middle of a 3-way switch circuit, and not the feed to the circuit.

Please be very careful -- It sounds like you are on the train to shocksville. Don't plug anything but that tester into the receptacle until you have this sorted out!

If you could post a pic of the inside of the switch box, that may help clarify..

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Old 06-05-2009, 02:46 PM   #3
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adding outlet from light switch


Scott, you are right. The first switch is a 3-way and the second is a 2 way as you described them i.e. three connections in the first and two in the second.
It seems that I need to take the switch box back apart and use regular 2-wire (one black, one white and a ground) from the switch box to the new receptacle. Do I add the new receptacle feed to the original feed minus the red wire which will end in the first switch?

BTW I haven't and won't plug anything into the socket until I get it right.
Thanks for the help. I appreciate it!
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Old 06-05-2009, 02:57 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by tad View Post
It seems that I need to take the switch box back apart and use regular 2-wire (one black, one white and a ground) from the switch box to the new receptacle. Do I add the new receptacle feed to the original feed minus the red wire which will end in the first switch?
That would be true if you have power going to that box, not just switch legs. What/how many cables are going into the box?

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BTW I haven't and won't plug anything into the socket until I get it right.
Good deal. If you were getting a "hot ground reverse" from your tester, that means that the ground pin on the receptacle was hot. That would probably make the outside of anything you plugged into it hot also. Very bad.

Never connect anything but a bare or green ground wire to the green grounding screw.
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Old 06-05-2009, 03:12 PM   #5
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adding outlet from light switch


Doesn't sound like you have a neutral in the switch box. Without that, you can't wire in a receptacle. You need to find a source that has the hot AND the neutral... probably gonna be at the light in this case.
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Old 06-05-2009, 03:25 PM   #6
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Going into the box is a cable containing four 12 gauge wires: one red wire, one black wire, one white wire and a bare copper ground wire. The red wire went into the first switch as did the white. The black ran directly to the second switch and another 3-inch black wire was ran between the two switches. The bare copper ground wire was screwed to the back of the metal box.
Thanks for the help fellas
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Old 06-05-2009, 03:45 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by tad View Post
Going into the box is a cable containing four 12 gauge wires: one red wire, one black wire, one white wire and a bare copper ground wire. The red wire went into the first switch as did the white. The black ran directly to the second switch and another 3-inch black wire was ran between the two switches. The bare copper ground wire was screwed to the back of the metal box.
Thanks for the help fellas
OK, thanks, that cleared it up.. Like HouseHelper said, you don't have a neutral going to that box. You're going to have to find some place else from which to tap in the receptacle line.

Either another receptacle or (possibly) the lighting fixture location would be your best bet.
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Old 06-05-2009, 05:39 PM   #8
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Thank you for hanging in there with me. Bummer that I can't just tap off the switches.
I do have a quick follow up question if you don't mind... If there is no neutral wire in that box, then what is the purpose of the white wire or - sheesh. it's so confusing - the red for that matter? why not just have a black, white and ground if the white is also 'hot' or not 'neutral' ?
I have a homeowner wiring book but it doesn't address this that I can find anyway. Thanks again for the help. I really appreciate it.
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Old 06-05-2009, 06:20 PM   #9
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If there is no neutral wire in that box, then what is the purpose of the white wire or - sheesh. it's so confusing - the red for that matter? why not just have a black, white and ground if the white is also 'hot' or not 'neutral' ?
You should be able to find plenty on the subject under 3-way switches -- though it probably won't cover the connection of a second switch (your 2-way switch) to that wiring. You'll see that 3-way switches are usually wired with 14-3 or 12-3 cable so that there is a white, black and red. All 3 of them will be hot at one time or another depending upon switch position and how it's wired.

BTW - It's a bit confusing because the white should really be marked with colored electrical tape or a sharpie (in any color other than green or white). The marking is so that some one else working on the circuit knows that they are hot.
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Old 06-05-2009, 07:16 PM   #10
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adding outlet from light switch


It doesn't sound like a 3-way at all. It sounds like two single pole switches. The white brings power into the box, and the red and black switch it to two different places. The red goes to one load, and the black to another.
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Old 06-05-2009, 08:37 PM   #11
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adding outlet from light switch


I had to read a little carefully, but the OP said..

Quote:
Feeding the first switch is a red and a white wire. Going into the second switch was a short black wire jumped between the two switches
Quote:
The first switch is a 3-way and the second is a 2 way as you described them i.e. three connections in the first and two in the second.
..so probably there is a 3-way in there.

Not sure what that configuration would accomplish though. It must have done something..
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Old 06-05-2009, 09:07 PM   #12
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Errr, so this is what I was picturing. The question marks indicate a jbox where anything can go wrong and nothing is as it seems.

BTW - I ruined the last 30 mins. of my life trying to figure out exactly how that configuration could work in a useful way.
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Old 06-05-2009, 09:18 PM   #13
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adding outlet from light switch


Don't tap off a switch. Tap from the first j-box in the garage. Tap straight to the outlet and make it a GFCI.
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Old 06-05-2009, 09:24 PM   #14
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Don't tap off a switch. Tap from the first j-box in the garage. Tap straight to the outlet and make it a GFCI.
What if the first jbox the OP sees is fed from a 30A OCPD, or just has 2 ungrounded conductors in it and no grounded conductors?
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Old 06-05-2009, 09:40 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by ScottR View Post
Errr, so this is what I was picturing. The question marks indicate a jbox where anything can go wrong and nothing is as it seems.

BTW - I ruined the last 30 mins. of my life trying to figure out exactly how that configuration could work in a useful way.
I guess I didn't read that much. But in your pic, one switch is powering the other. What use is that? A pic from the OP would help alot.

P.S.: But he describes it here:

Quote:
Going into the box is a cable containing four 12 gauge wires: one red wire, one black wire, one white wire and a bare copper ground wire. The red wire went into the first switch as did the white. The black ran directly to the second switch and another 3-inch black wire was ran between the two switches. The bare copper ground wire was screwed to the back of the metal box.
I imagined this as meaning one of the wires, red or white, being tapped to the other switch. It could be that the white wire is hot, and a jumper comes from there to the second switch. This is equivalent to my pic.


Last edited by InPhase277; 06-05-2009 at 09:46 PM.
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