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first time diy 11-27-2009 02:31 PM

bathroom light switch/outlet replaced and now triggering breaker
I tried to replace the electrical light switch/outlet combination in my bathroom just now as we used to have to always hold the light switch at a certain angle to have the light turn on. When removing the wiring from the outlet/switch after turning off the main power, there was a spark as if one of the wires was not grounded or turned off properly which was a little freaky.
After replacing this outlet/switch with a new one and rewiring back to the same wires. (2 black wires on the left side -top and bottom, and 2 white wires on the right side - top/bottom, with one ground in the middle)
Now there is power seemingly going to both the outlet (tested with something plugged in and is providing power) and the light switch has the light indicator on to show power, but when I turn the light on it hits the breaker switch and nothing comes on - just lose power to the bathroom

HELP!!! I'm not very comfortable with electricity at all and having this issue now is making me wonder why I even tried to begin with!!
Any thoughts/ideas on a possible remedy to this problem would be greatly appreciated


joed 11-27-2009 02:36 PM

There should be a double screw on one side witha tab. That gets the black power wire
There should be silver screw on the other side of the receptacle. That gets the white wire.
The remaining black wire goes to the single screw opposite the switch. This is the switched wire to turn on the light.

first time diy 11-27-2009 02:43 PM

The double screw you are referring to on the one side, the bottom screw is silver and the top screw is green (this is where I currently have both black wires hooked up to)
on the other side, there is a brass screw on top (white wire attached to it currently) and then the next two screws are both black (the first or middle screw has the ground to it and the bottom screw has the other white wire.
should I connect a black wire to the 2 screw sided green screw (as this is the top screw and the light switch is on top) and then also attach the remaining black wire to the middle screw (top black screw on the 3 screw side) with the white wires connecting to both bottom screws on each side and the ground attaching to the brass screw (3 screw side)

does that make sense?

first time diy 11-27-2009 03:38 PM

There should be a double screw on one side witha tab. That gets the black power wire
There should be silver screw on the other side of the receptacle. That gets the white wire.
The remaining black wire goes to the single screw opposite the switch. This is the switched wire to turn on the light.

Tried the above and it definitely doesn't work unfortunately,
When I turn the power back on at the breaker, even though the light switch is in the off position, the breaker turns on the light. when the light switched is moved to the on position (since the light is on from the off position) then it triggers the breaker switch down in the basement again.

Any other ideas would be greatly apprciated - going crazy here trying to figure this out...

user1007 11-27-2009 04:03 PM

Not to hurt your feelings but it sounds like this project may be beyond you and I would call an electrician. If I read your post correctly, it sounds like you have connected a hot black wire to the green terminal? That is for the ground wire only. The black wire goes to brass screw. White to silver one. Green ground wire goes to green. I couldn't tell if you have some switch outlet combo or if they are side by side in the box. If this is a bathroom, you should also have a ground fault circuit interruptor installed. The good news is the circuit breaker is doing its job. You have a potentially dangerous situation they way it sounds like you have this wired.

Scuba_Dave 11-27-2009 04:13 PM

If there was a spark then there was live power
Sounds like you had 2 circuits (or at least 2 hots) going to this box
Did you verify power was off to the light AND the outlet ?
How many cables going into this box & how many wires on each cable ?

By turning the light on/off sounds like you are connecting the 2nd hot, which trips the breaker
Or it is grounding/connecting hot to neutral, which will also trip the breaker

Possibly you mixed the wires when you removed them or the old switch/new switch are slightly different in how they need hots etc connected to them

Do you have a power meter to measure voltages/live wires?

frenchelectrican 11-28-2009 12:38 AM

Scuba Dave is pretty much on the target and after I was reading the OP's statement and it kinda drawned to my mind I am pretty sure you have two circuits in that combo switch / recepectale.

Oh by the way if you are aware the codes required GFCI in the bathroom.

Before you do anything more look at the switch box and take a close look bare conductor is for green screw only!
Next step is the netural this part you will have to check little closer you will have to indentify which pair of conductor per cable is correct one that black and white is for receptle unless you have pigtail connection this will get compounded a little.

And I know one pair is switch loop so what you will need to buy a simple neon test light to indentify which pair is power and switch loop so do one pair at time { yeah unscrew the bulb[s] at the luminaire so that way you know ya can hit the right pair }

if both black conductors are lit with test light becarefull somecase you will have two circuits it can end up 240 volts if not heeded { that only if you have turn off two breakers }

If that is correct then you have to break the tab apart to get it running properly and do yourself a big favor if you still have the old switch look at the two brass colour screws { the one they are close together } and see if brass bridge tab is there or gone compare between the new one you will see the diffrence.


HouseHelper 11-28-2009 07:23 AM

Sounds like you have a hot/neutral feed for the receptacle AND a switch loop from the light where one wire is hot and the other is the switched hot to the light... two separate circuits fed by two breakers. You will need to determine which breakers control this in order to kill all power. You will also need to determine which set of wires is the switch loop.

Since different manufacturers construct combo switches differently, and there are several ways to wire them depending on what you want to accomplish, the brand and part number would help in determining the proper wiring scheme. Pictures would help also.

joed 11-28-2009 10:34 AM

A green screw is always a ground. You should not be connecting a black or white to that screw. Can you ost a picture?

Scott3229 11-28-2009 11:38 AM

am i misunderstanding this or do you have a black wire connected to a green screw? if so you have a ground fault, and if your black and white wire are connected on the same side you have a short circuit.. a pic would be helpful

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